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There are few video games that catch the full attention of my wrath immediately upon starting, and Flower, Sun, and Rain is among them. From the opening cinematic, FSR overwhelmed me with its ability to frustrate, confuse, offend, and so thoroughly debase the concept of a video game so as to nearly deplete my desire to continue this hobby of mine. It would be difficult to find a fitting place for Suda 51's puzzle adventure; no one has such bad taste.
Flower, Sun, and Rain tells the story of Mr. Mondo, a searcher, who predictably makes it his business to find lost objects and people. The manager of a hotel on the island of Lospass asks Mr. Mondo to find a terrorist who has placed a bomb on a soon-to-depart airplane. After checking in at the Flower, Sun, and Rain Hotel, Mr. Mondo begins his involvement in the strange events that transpire on Lospass Island, and he soon witnesses an airplane explode in mid-flight. After passing out, Mr. Mondo awakes the following morning to find that the day has begun again due to a distortion in time. Each day, Mr. Mondo makes meager progress to the airport before once again witnessing the explosion in the sky.
Most of the game's eighteen days are very similar: wake-up, watch the same boring cutscenes, attempt to make it to the airport, discover a contrived barrier, engage in pointless conversation, solve a puzzle or two, and watch the airplane explode before the day begins anew. If this sounds monotonous, that's because it is, but there's so much more to detest on Lospass Island.
As previously mentioned, the nightmare begins even before the start of a new game with a pretentious and unnecessarily long opening cinematic. Upon starting a new game, players immediately notice how offensively ugly the game looks. The character models are polygonal abominations and the environments are blocky, undetailed, hideously colored wastelands with the power to bring vomit to the throat. Primitive textures create monstrous landscapes and indecipherable landmarks. The textures are so awful, in fact, that they actually interfere with gameplay. How can the player inspect the PDA and find a puzzle if the PDA looks like a random stain of pixels on the table? FSR is easily one of the ugliest DS games to date.
Also immediately apparent is the lack of quality in the schizophrenic music and irritating sound effects. In few games do I readily turn off the volume, but I couldn't help myself with FSR. The entire soundtrack isn't botched, only the majority, but don't consider turning up the volume yet; the sound effects will deafen you. Dialogue is accompanied by extremely repetitive mock-speech, the result of a terrible decision. Other sound effects, such as a car driving by, are painfully low quality. The sound of FSR is that of ear drums bursting at the seams.
It takes slightly longer to realize how incomprehensible and juvenile the plot and characters are in FSR. The only possible merit lies in the game's bizarre reality and occasional humor and fourth-wall breaking, although this is marred by a lack of coherence. The characters Mr. Mondo meets each day are mostly unrelated to the story and only serve to spout countless lines of ridiculous dialogue. They quickly become mere obstacles - barricades to the completion of the nightmare they reside in. When it occasionally surfaces, the plot might have been engaging in any other game but here it is just another cause for headache.
Had that been the extent of FSR's offenses, I would not be so merciless in its execution. The disregard for the gamer's well being that characterizes the graphics, sound, and plot, however, spills over into the worst possible facet of the experience: gameplay.
By far the most vexing element of the FSR experience, the gameplay could easily generate suicides. Each day typically consists of at least one puzzle and some exploration. These words do not aptly describe FSR's gameplay, however, because what it consists of can hardly be called puzzles and exploration. Exploration here means repeatedly walking through the same repulsive locations every day, only making slight ground each time. Even worse, to further the plot, the game requires that Mr. Mondo take very specific actions that are never explained to the player. For instance, to get a puzzle to activate, Mr. Mondo might have to walk from the hotel to the diner, talk to an NPC, return to the hotel, and then walk all the back again. Other times, the game requires that Mr. Mondo speak to employees of the hotel in a certain order, which can be as absurd as talking to employee X twice, then employee Y, and then X again. To top it off, Mr. Mondo can't even walk in a straight line.
To make FSR truly unplayable, however, the developers implemented a special puzzle solving system. Every puzzle is solved the same way: by jacking into an object or person using Mr. Mondo's strange device called Catherine. First, players must select and find the correct jack out of nine different types. The game gives no indication which jack is required. There is no punishment for selecting the incorrect jack. In other words, it's pointless. Secondly, players must input a number to solve whatever numerical puzzle or riddle presented. This could be viewed as lacking in creativity, but excusable if it was the only problem. But, it isn't.
Most of FSR's puzzles rely on an in-game guide to Lospass Island, a fifty page tourist's pamphlet. To find the answer to any given puzzle, Mr. Mondo must thumb through fifty pages of text, numbers, and figures to find the page related to the inconsequential events of the day. Once found, he must piece together the numbers on the page in a way that could fulfill the few hints he received outside of the guidebook. Not only is searching through the guidebook a chore, but half the puzzles are insultingly easy while the other half require leaps of logic and convoluted patterns of thought. If that weren't enough, the puzzles are simply irrelevant and solved in the most dull and inane manner possible. This just isn't fun and an entire game cannot be built around this one mechanic.
Flower, Sun, and Rain is barely a video game at all. Calling it such is almost too high of praise for a blemish such as this. FSR manages to fail in almost every way, and so completely does it fail that I could scarcely finish half of the adventure. Had I actually completed the game, I fear I'd no longer have a DS or my sanity. I'd have destroyed the former out of anger and FSR would have effortlessly dispensed with the latter. For no reason should anyone check into the Flower, Sun, and Rain. Your stay will only cause you pain.