Flower, Sun and Rain
Sumio Mondo is a Searcher by trade, meaning if you've lost something, Mondo is the man that can find it
- Absolutely bizarre, clever script, great soundtrack
- Absolutely bizarre to a fault, too much backtracking, muddy visuals
While I salute Flower, Sun and Rain for its innovation and uniqueness, its mind-boggling puzzles met with surreal gameplay makes for one hell of a trip in every sense of the word. One moment a modern masterpiece and the next an absolute chore, Flower, Sun and Rain is an intriguing adventure that you should only think about embarking on if you're in it for the long haul.
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I was always convinced that the hardest review I'd ever have to do write would be for Noby Noby Boy, in the case that — while the game was fun — I was pretty confident that reality would come crashing down around me if I tried to put it into words. I passed on that assignment and, for the moment, avoided any space/time paradoxes. Still, a fan of the bizarre and always looking for a challenge, I happily accepted the task of taking on Suda 51's Flower, Sun and Rain. One week later, here I am: red-eyed, confused, and still reeling from the game's closing cinematic. Forecast is cloudy, with a chance of a reality-crushing apocalypse.
Time stood still
All right — let's give this a shot: Sumio Mondo is a Searcher by trade, meaning if you've lost something, Mondo is the man that can find it. It's these impeccable detective skills that find Mondo summoned to the tropical paradise of Lospass Island, hired by the ever-smiling proprietor of the mysterious Flower, Sun and Rain Hotel. With the entire island under threat of a deadly terrorist plot, Mondo has been tasked with tracking down and disarming an airplane filled with explosives. And he'll get to it, eventually — right after he makes drinks for an alcoholic angel, helps a depressed luchador re-discover his passion for wrestling, and babysits a loud-mouthed, reality altering brat.
Whenever someone asks me to describe Flower, Sun and Rain to them, I usually sum it up in one sentence: "Groundhog Day meets Twin Peaks." Every morning, Mondo wakes up to the phone in his hotel room, collapses out of bed (literally), helps a bizarre character with an even more bizarre task, then watches the sky burst into flames as a 747 explodes in the skyline. Fade to black, cue the music, and the day starts again from square one. From creating a makeshift afro wig for a pair of action stars turned comedians to re-uniting an engaged couple by tuning a busted church organ, the puzzles only get more and more insane as each day passes - or reboots, as the case may be. While its mind-boggling presentation is sure to alienate more traditional gamers, there's no denying that Flower, Sun and Rain is an experiment that absolutely thrives in its bizarre environment. When it works, it really works. When it doesn't... well, be sure to buy a protective case for your DS.
A mystery steeped in mystery
The bulk of Flower, Sun and Rain is spent navigating the blocky, polygonal world of Lospass Island. Various objectives get in your way, and using your trusty briefcase computer (named Catherine, nonetheless), you "jack-in" to anything and everything via an assortment of cables. After jacking-in to, say, a martini shaker, you're presented with a number of empty black boxes. Via Catherine, you spin a combination lock and decipher a code to solve the puzzle based on a series of obscure hints. Input the correct numbers in a puzzle, you get a "Hit" and proceed to the next task. You get a "Blank", you start over. Make sense? That's what I thought.
Most of the game's puzzles are presented to you via the Losspass Island guide book — a tourist brochure featuring everything there is to see and do on the island that time forgot. Each puzzle is suspiciously related to the guide book, but figuring out the answer to a specific query can range from simply scanning the page for a number that fits the designated blanks to spending the next hour writing out math equations via the DS' touch screen. While the "Aha!" moment you get for solving many of FSR's puzzles is incredibly satisfactory, the frustration that comes with the territory is sure to wear on even the most patient gamer. While FSR's puzzles are intriguing, the game runs the risk of sometimes feeling more like homework than fun.
Waiting with a smile
There's also quite a bit of frustrating backtracking throughout the title. One particular quest had me running down five flights of stairs to talk to character A, back up to the fifth story roof to talk to character B, then back down to the lobby to talk to A again just so I could trigger an event back up on the fourth floor. Throw in the fact that you're tasked with traversing the entirety of Lospass on foot, and you've got a game best played in increments.
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