Some things seem almost beyond words. That feeling of tranquility that accompanies a soft breeze and the rustle leaves, a stirring orchestra that captures a melody, or even the muted warmth of sun on a cool day. Playstation Network's flOw for the PSP seems to be an extension of such things, something that's beyond description and better left at the hands of experience.
flOw places an organism in a sea of color, other organisms floating to and fro. The object of flow is to "eat" the other organisms for growth. Each organism will contribute to the body of the first, letting it grow in size. Every bite comes with a sound, reverberating across the length of the organism and providing music to the ambiance of the background. Once the player eats a red-marked organism, they will shift into the background, indicating a deeper section that provides more food.
As it progresses, the food gets more varied, and it too will grow into sentient organisms. This means both competition for food, and the element of danger. If another organism hungers for the player, it will glow red and chase the player. However, the game never gets tense, forcing players back into the foreground if they are eaten too much. Even eating and being eaten is just the way of life in flOw, making it no more or less stressful than any other moment.
Which is part of the beauty of it. flOw has a sort of cool, airy, and breezy approach that would almost be spoiled by any sense of urgency. Even the most active part of the game, acquiring food, slips seamlessly into the melodies of the background. All of which contribute to the entire experience. Even when at rest, the game puts the organism on autopilot, drifting blithely onscreen. The innate serenity of the whole thing is on a level almost completely unheard of in games previously.
flOw is a quiet title that deserves a bit of thought. Simplistic but gorgeous, flOw is better represented by a thought-provoking painting than a series of words, and seems to exist as a form of artistic expression rather than the conventional concepts that make up games in general.
However thought-provoking flOw may be, it's still a game. Because of that expectation, it suffers, even if only a little. It's not something that can be called "fun" in the traditional senses, and worries of good control-schemes and cameras take a backseat to artistic expression and a built-in ambiance. The lack of clearly defined goals, menus, terror, drama, and conflict makes it feel slow. As if better suited for a hammock than a computer chair.
Regardless of the lack of traditional elements, flOw may not be the same as other games, but makes it no less exceptional in its own right. It's atmospheric and calming, the lazy Sunday of the gaming industry. Looking at it from the roller coaster-speed expectations of other games and genres, flOw looks like slow-moving pedestrian astride the Autobahn. Looking at it from the opposite point of view, it's looking at the hustle, bustle, and stress of a crowded city street from a hot tub settled on the balcony.
Bottom Line: There really aren't words that can do flOw's zen justice, but it's an experience without rival that should be explored at least once.
Recommendation: Buy It. It's not for everyone, but worth a play through if only take part in the experience.