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TVG investigates if there's trouble in paradise at the Flower, Sun and Rain hotel...
- Entertaining characters.
- Unique puzzle system.
- Quirky Story.
- Extremely linear.
- Very cryptic puzzles.
- Lots of back tracking.
Grasshopper Manufacture inc have made some crazy games over the past few years. They're the developers behind home console titles killer 7 and No More Heroes, and is fronted by self proclaimed 'punk game designer' Suda 51. Flower, Sun and Rain (FSR) is its latest offering on the Nintendo DS and it proudly carries on the tradition of Suda 51's quirky off the wall narrative.
This DS title shares lots in common with titles such as killer 7 and No More Heroes. The guitar strums and synthesiser pad sounds as you navigate menus will feel familiar to anyone who has played the home console offerings of Suda 51. Another incredibly strange aspect of this game, also specifically a nod to killer 7, is that each character's voice is scrambled, reversed and otherwise distorted beyond all recognition. However, unlike killer 7 or No More Heroes, the game's tone is relatively mellow and light hearted.
FSR puts you in the role of the overly helpful Sumio Mondo, a man who is a professional "searcher", renowned for his mystery solving skills. Mondo is hired by Edo Macallister, the manager of the Flower Sun and Rain hotel, to stop a terrorist attack on the holiday island of Lospass.
He initially fails this task, resulting in a mid air plane explosion across the sunny skyline at the end of the day. The following day he wakes up to find out that it was all a dream, and that these events haven't happened yet - only to once again find himself unable to stop the plane explosion at the end of the day. And so begins a Groundhog Day style repeating of daily events as Mondo slowly loses his mind as he lives the same day over and over... Ironically, you'll probably also find yourself slowly being driven insane from reliving the same day over and over in this game too. This won't be an act of post modern game design, its simply down to its awful gameplay mechanics.
At its heart, FSR plays similar to a point and click adventure game, revolving around exploring areas, talking to people, examining objects, and solving puzzles. The game is rich with dialogue, and sometimes while talking to people you may already get an idea in your head about how a particular puzzle is solved, but you must jump through the game's hoops and still have some conversations before you get a chance to solve the puzzle.
The puzzles in this game are simultaneously its most unique feature and its most frustrating element. Mondo carries a tool with him that he calls 'Catherine'. It's essentially a briefcase that can plug into anything mysterious and simplify its solution into a numerical code. The way it plugs into an object (which could range from anything from a man's eye socket or a bicycle to a PDA device) is purely trial and error: finding out by process of elimination which of the 9 universal jacks will work. The next part of the process involves scanning through the 49 page guidebook for painfully cryptic clues.
Adding further to the frustration, you are required to travel across the island solving more mysteries completely on foot. This means a good few minutes of dawdling down a highway to get to your destination, followed by a few minutes of travelling back because you now have to talk to someone else at the other end of the island. After a while, even Mondo begins to complain to the other residents of the island about why he must do so much walking. And suddenly the game develops some interesting qualities as it acknowledges some of its faults within the self referential humour.
Tantalisingly, the content within game is very well written and brimming full of character. During your time on Lospass Island, you'll meet some real characters, such as a shady systems engineer who is obsessed with football and a retired masked wrestler (still wearing a mask) who has now decided to become a pirate. The writing in this game has its tongue in cheek moments: a very vocal kid starts levelling some criticisms at the game such as mentioning Mundo's compulsion to help everyone who he comes across, why the 2D and 3D character art does not match, and that the music has mellow remixes of well known classical and pop songs. Moments like this really show the game's character and help it to stand out from other adventure titles on the DS.
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