RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jun 3rd 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Music, RF Jamz, Flower, Game music

From the thatgamecompany website

Thatgamecompany is responsible for some of the most beautiful and serene video games I've ever played. Starting with the simplistic, petri dish-esque flOw, and finishing with the desert exploration of Journey, their games have gotten a little more complex with each title, but still maintain a masterful balance of minimalistic controls, stunning visuals, and emotional impact that, in my humble opinion, has yet to be matched. However, while Journey may be the fan favorite, and is completely deserving of every accolade heaped upon it, for me personally, it's thatgamecompany's middle title, Flower, that stands above the others.

With large vistas of lush, green fields and what may be the best use of the PS3's ill-fated Sixxaxis motion controls ever, it remains my favorite game to play when I've had a stressful day and need to relax while letting all my cares melt away, even now, eight years after its initial release. A large part of this is due to its wonderful soundtrack, which I'd like to highlight in our second episode of RF Jamz.





If you're not familiar with this game, you essentially play as a flower pedal, or more accurately, a collection of flower pedals floating in the breeze. Using a single action button and the aforementioned Sixxaxis controls, you control the breeze itself, and eventually gather a long trail of multicolored pedals to affect change in the environment. It's a unique concept, and one I've never seen even close to being repeated.

As pleasing as the gameplay is though, the score is what transforms Flower into such a moving experience and elevates it to another tier. Consisting mainly of piano and strings, it flows with the action on screen seamlessly enough to make you want to float away with the flower pedals animating in front of you.  Even though the game's concept is a bit abstract, there is a story being told, if you're willing to hear it. And interestingly enough, I've always considered the last track on the Flower OST to be the perfect place to begin the journey.


"Lazy Daydream" is a slow, melancholy piece, and the imagery in between the game's levels matches it. When you first begin, there's a wilted flower sitting in a pot on a window sill of a typical urban city. As we enter the first level, we see blurred traffic streaming by in the hustle and bustle of daily life. But this lonely little flower, not yet budded, is alive with hope. It dreams of sunshine and vast meadows. It's as if we enter into its dreams as the game begins.


The first level introduces us to "Life as a Flower", a soft, pleasant song that takes its time without a care in the world. As the player, we're slowly getting accustomed to how the wind controls as we tilt the PS3 controller and hold the X button. We start with just a single pedal, and as we find more, they break off their stems and tag along with us. "Life as a Flower" is a tune of discovery, letting you know right off that bat there is no pressure, only exploration and reveling in the scenery around us. On playing this game for the first time, it didn't take long for a loose, lazy grin to appear on my face and to start forgetting my troubles. In the second level, "Splash of Color" has a similarly nonchalant tone. We're still in our own little happy place of discovery, and with each new group of flowers we bloom, we bring color and growth to the world. Only now, we're not just invigorating the grayness in the land, we're changing things, and the compositions of the music get more depth to accompany our actions.


By the time we get to the third level, "Sailing on the Wind" gets downright uplifting. By blooming several groups of flowers in the same area, we can create passageways in rock cliffs, ride wind currents, and bring life to an entire group of windmills with our rainbow of flora. All of a sudden there's not just a calmness I'm feeling anymore; there's a joy and appreciation of nature in there as well.


Moving on with our story, the fourth bud looking out over the city has a different dream. "Nighttime Excursion" takes place in a nocturnal landscape under a full moon and dark clouds. It's still a pleasing piece, but now, as we continue to bring light to hay stacks and activate wind turbines, we start seeing more signs of urbanization encroaching on nature. Our pedals glow in the twilight, creating gorgeous imagery reminiscent of fireflies and magic, but what we're also doing by this point is bringing power to street lights. They help light our path, but midway through the level, "Nighttime Excursion" takes a somber turn, and the end of the stage hints at things to come. There's more artificial light in the distance, and the evening sky flashes with lightning.


"Solitary Wasteland" is aptly named. As we start exploring the fifth level, we can see metal girders and gridwork piercing up from the ground. We can hear rain and thunder, our pedals' glow is gone, and instead of lighting up fields of greenery, we're powering large conduits feeding into power lines and transformers. This is one of the longest and most meandering tracks in the game, with harsh thrusts of piano chords emphasizing the shock our shadowy pedals receive when singed by the electricity arcing through the metal jungle. There's no gratifying ending to this level, or this song, only a relief of getting through the maze.

Thankfully, the fifth level is the only one in Flower with any real tension, and as we begin the sixth, my favorite song in the game, "Purification of the City", starts, and it's pretty self-explanatory. Coming out the other side of the ominous  technological wasteland, we find a flower that gifts us with a more powerful glow than we've yet seen. Daylight has broken, and with it, we find our newly strengthened pedals have the power to break through the girders entangling the city that populates the sixth stage. The song practically cheers us on, and we bring color not just to the vegetation, but to the city itself. With every bunch of flowers we bloom, we paint tall buildings in deep reds and blues. Breaking the chains around the buildings, they repair themselves, and we even zip down an abandoned highway on a racing wind current.


"Purification of the City" is a soaring track that acknowledges the trials we had in the level before and the accomplishment that comes with triumph. I still remember hearing it for the first time and the squishy good feels it gave me in my heart. As the song reaches its crescendo, it's perfectly timed to the final part of the level, when we climb higher and faster into the sky, shattering every piece of encroaching metal we come across and bursting out the top in a breathtaking display.

I'm sure a good portion of my thoughts on this game and its music may sound like hyperbole, and I'm willing to admit that it may have struck me in a more emotional way than a lot of other gamers, but what I can say objectively is that it's not often that a video game can truly move me. Too often, the limitations of the medium are such that it's difficult to convey really heartfelt stories with proper realism and gravity. But Flower, with its one-of-a-kind concept and vibrant images, makes it very easy to get caught up in, especially if you can appreciate the story underneath, and the soundtrack is a huge piece of that. I feel like music is the one piece of creative artistry that the games industry has not just learned to do well, but time and time again has simply knocked it out of the park in terms of accompanying the rest of the project to bring an extra level of connection to its audience.

If it weren't obvious by now, I highly recommend Flower if you're into a more slow-paced, relaxing type of game. It may sound like I've spoiled it, but I purposely didn't include gameplay videos in this article because the gameplay, visuals, and music together are the experience in a way that can't be ruined with mere words. Besides, its soundtrack is a touching album that even manages to stand on its own. I've listened to it as I'm falling asleep at night on many occasions, it would make a great ambiance to a nice mellow walk in the park on a summer day, and I haven't even talked about the epilogue level and its soothing track, "Peaceful Repose." Basically, I need to end this article now because I'm running out of superlatives. So just give it a listen, and let some peaceful nature into your life.


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Comments
 
Great article!  If any of you have listened to the Playcast, you may know that when it comes to my analysis of music for games, it tends to be the one area that I typically lack the most focus on. With most games, I feel that if I am not irritated by it, or to the point of being overly impressed, that it is adequate and fits its intended purpose. Not the most exciting way to look at game scores I know, but it seems that I'm so concentrated on gameplay and focused on the task at hand, the music often fails to garner my attention.  I'm trying to be better about this and often going back to listen to each game's soundtrack after I finish it. Having said that, I really appreciate these articles, since they remind me to keep my ears alert as to not miss out on such an important aesthetic.

I have the thatgamecompany collection for the PS3, but have not gotten around to playing it yet.  However, that is something that is going to change in the very near future. Wink
 
While I've yet to play this game, I can attest to the chill effect of the soundtrack.  The other day I left the songs playing on my laptop while I cleaned up, and while my children exclaimed ("Where is that coming from?"), my wife only asked what it was.  This is important if you know that she is in graduate school and often listens to classical compositions while doing homework.
 
@singlebanana: That's a great collection that I've been meaning to pick up. There's not a whole lot to flOw, so it didn't hold my attention for very long, but put next to the other two games it's very easy to see the evolution of thatgamecompany's work.

@bombatomba: That's cool that she was interested in it as a classical music fan. As good as video game music has gotten, it's still relatively rare that a soundtrack can stand on its own, and even rarer for it to feel like it's NOT from a video game. The Flower OST is definitely one that, if you didn't know it was composed for a game, you would never guess.

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