I've got that DS feeling ... that this game isn't very fun.
Flower, Sun, and Rain is a 2001 PlayStation 2 game from infamous developer, Goichi Suda, otherwise known as Suda51. The title was recently downported to the DS and released in America, a region the game had never been released in prior. Like most of Suda's other work, the game is out there, featuring weird characters, a bizarre storyline, and extremely unconventional gameplay. In most cases this style has paid off well for Suda and his studio,Grasshopper Manufacture; unfortunately, Flower, Sun, and Rain falls flat. Tedious gameplay, obscure puzzles, and awful presentation are only a few of the game's shortcomings.
Players assume the role of searcher Sumio Mondo, who has been summoned to the hotel Flower, Sun, and Rain on Lospass Island. Here, Mondo meets up with Edo Macalister, the hotel manager who has requested Mondo's presence. Edo tasks Mondo with diffusing a bomb in a plane at the airport, which threats to destroy the island. Over the course of the game, players will continuously try and reach this bomb by solving puzzles at the hotel presented by patrons or even inanimate objects in the hotel's rooms. Players soon learn that each day they are unable to reach the airport and they die when the plane explodes. Similar to Groundhog Day, Mondo is magically resurrected and placed at the beginning of the day and given a new chance to reach the bomb. Each new day will bring players closer and closer to the airport and the story's conclusion. Thankfully, each day brings a new set of puzzles, cutting out possible tedium.
Puzzles, the centerpiece of the game, are performed in an unorthodox way. Rather than having a variety of tasks to accomplish, each puzzle is the same. Players make use of a special machine, "Catherine," which allows them to jack into either a person or object. Players will systematically figure out which jack fits into any given target and from there will enter a numbered code via Catherine. If the code is entered properly, players will find success and are able to move on to the next task.
The game's major problems arrive when searching for these codes. Typically, players will have to sift through massive amounts of worthless dialog with patrons, search rooms for hot spots that are unrecognizable by sight, and read through mindless text (i.e. books and pamphlets) available in the hotel. Somewhere within all this text is a number that is of relevance to the puzzle. Additionally, most of these numbers are not available until a number of ordered events occur. These tasks are arduous, unenjoyable, and comprise the entirety of the game. While some of the game's dialog is humorous and enjoyable, much of it is too wordy to even keep your attention. Furthermore, clues are few and far between, and the numbers are typically meaningless, making them that much harder to find. This often turns figuring the answer out into a guessing game, where you enter any numbers you have seen come up in hopes that they match the number of spaces available in Catherine. In one instance, the relevant numbers were on a page in the hotel's handbook describing some camera shutter speed information.
The game also falls flat in its presentation. It's hard to say whether the extremely blocky, low polygon models were intentional designs or simply bad direction, but they don't do the game any justice. The texturing is some of the worst seen in a DS game; the colored pixels are large and extremely noticeable. Furthermore, the sound is tinny and the voices grow quickly grating. Some of the tracks are catchy, but sound so horribly compressed that they too grow annoying.
Mondo also seems to walk extremely slow most of the time, and the levels are typically unnecessarily large. The camera can be quite frustrating as well. With the game's entirely automatic third-person perspective, the camera is often in a position where it obscures certain details of the world around you, which is problematic given the investigative gameplay. Controlling the game does not tend to be an issue as players can only walk around and interact with things through the touch screen. If players choose to, they can use the D-Pad and buttons; however, they will need to use the touch screen to interact with Catherine and to jot down notes within her for future use in the puzzles.
Flower, Sun, and Rain is largely unenjoyable. If players connect with the storyline, they may be able to tolerate the slag through all of the game's unimpressive features and its one-dimensional gameplay. While finding numbers to solve puzzles had potential to be fun, it falls flat thanks to its sub-par execution. It's hard to recommend this game to anyone, though the most diehard Suda fans will probably find something to enjoy here.