It’s always a plus when the States receives a game that previously was a Japanese exclusive (on PS2) for nearly seven years. However, the gameplay in the crime-solving adventure Flower, Sun and Rain could have most definitely stayed there. That’s not to say the game is bland. After all, it’s from developer Grasshopper Manufacture and its enigmatic leader Suda51, also responsible for the captivatingly bizarre and stylish Killer 7, Contact, and No More Heroes. There’s just plenty of nonsense and boredom getting in the way of the most entertaining aspect of the game: a fun and intriguing story.
You play most of the game (and that’s all we’ll say about that) as Sumio Mondo, a searcher who has been employed by the manager of a hotel – Flower, Sun and Rain, from which the game gets its title. The suspicious manager, Edo, gives you the job of finding and stopping a terrorist that has placed a bomb on a plane. However, the game takes place on an island that is trapped in time, and each day repeats itself. Each day, Sumio is tasked to help someone different, solving a new puzzle along the way and getting closer and closer to finding the terrorist. But it often seems that you’re performing tasks completely unrelated to the main mystery, as Sumio himself will bemoan while reflecting over a cup of coffee the following morning.
Herein lies a rather large problem. Solving each day’s mystery involves a crapton of walking and reading. You go one place to talk to someone, the trail leads to another person, then another, and another. Then, after all that fun bustling around is over and you know what you really have to do to crack the puzzle, you walk somewhere else – sometimes for ten full minutes (we spent this time holding the d-pad down and surfing the net) – and finally… jack into an item by reading a book.
Yup, that’s right. In his briefcase, Sumio carries a device called Catherine. “She” is basically a medusa-like tangle of plugs that can jack into anything from a PDA or stereo speaker to a mop or a human eye in order to decipher or unlock its secrets. But, to successfully jack an item or person, you must consult the island’s guide book and find its access code. This typically involves wading through pages and pages of useless, hard-to-read-on-the-DS writing just to find the page with, say, the word “lighthouse” on it. Then, you punch in any numbers around that page and hope that’s the code. Really, the hardest your brain will work is the simple brute-force searching involved. Lame.
But just think of these as barriers to overcome while unveiling more of the game’s quirky story, which involves a famous wrestler dropkicking you (spoiler: twice!), a pink alligator, a woman living under your bed and a little kid cleverly ripping on the game’s mechanics and ideas. There are definitely some laugh-out-loud moments included in this magnificent script. Match that with a soundtrack that takes original songs and remixes them unexpectedly - there’s nothing like an electro George Gershwin – and you’ve got a lot to love. As long as you like long walks and a big, thick book, that is.
Jul 7, 2009