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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: Flowmo (iPad)

Review by Matt S. 

Flowmo lasts for around 30 minutes and in that time there's not a second of the experience that fits a conventional description of what constitutes a game. There's no definable characters, there's no linear narrative. It's abstracted in the extreme.

And it's wonderful.

Flowmo is as much a puzzle for the mind as anything else. The first time you'll play it you'll sit back and wonder what the heck is going on. The only clues you'll have are particles flying around sheer blackness, and a few coloured balls that pass for planets. There's a soundtrack in the background, and the game shifts from scene to scene without any need for player input.


And when you'll try and do something in the game, you'll feel like you've got no impact over what happens. You can manipulate the coloured particles, sure, but there's no high score, no definable enemies to shoot and no online multiplayer. It all seems like a non-interactive art project, rather than a game.

And that's what Flowmo is, but it's disingenuous to suggest that that is in any way a bad thing. Flowmo excels at being a fundamentally different experience. This is a game where the player is asked to work things out for themselves; other than a note that it's best played with headphones, there's no instruction or menu screen to be seen. Players are dropped immediately within the experience and as such Flowmo is immediately fascinating.

Flowmo is also a game where the narrative is told as much through the music as what is happening on the screen visually (hence the hint to use headphones). Reading meaning through music is something of a lost art in the world, but if you think back to how symphonies work, then the swirling particles on the screen in Flowmo act as though a visualisation of the music, rather than the convention for games where the music supports the visual experience.

Flowmo quickly becomes hypnotic. The glowing coloured particles against the black backdrop is welcoming, and creating swirls and patters of particles by taping on the screen and dragging the finger speaks back to the very core of play - interacting with an environment because it's fun to do so. The game allows for multi-touch and you'll find yourself trying different combinations of touches and swipes just because. It's not quite clear enough the impact a player's actions have on the game, but that goes back to the initial point - Flowmo challenges you to figure things out for yourself. After playing through a couple of times it all makes sense.

Ultimately though, how enjoyable this game is depends greatly on your capacity to enjoy the kind of abstract experiences of games like Proteus. With no definite goals and a visual style that is very difficult to connect with, Flowmo is a game that really demands work to love. There's an emotional intensity in there and the developers are making a very strong point in the game, but to say that everyone would appreciate it would be unfair.



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld


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Review: Flowmo (iPad)
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