A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that flOw is a unique puzzler and simulation game that puts kids in control of a microorganism that eats others to evolve and survive. Jenova Chen made the game as part of his Master's thesis on "flow states" -- emotional zones in which participants feel immersed and compelled to continue in a game or activity. Because of its design, flOw is made to hook players using its graphics, sound, simple gampleay, and scaling difficulty by level. The online game has no save feature, which also encourages players to stick with it rather than lose progress.
What's it about?
The player begins as a small worm-like microorganism in an aquactic environment. The microorganism and swim and eat other creatures. As it eats others, the microorganism grows, gaining body segments and flagella that let it swim more quickly. Moving between levels, the microorganism can attack and eat the cells of increasingly complex \"enemies\" until it reaches the bottom level. The organism never dies, but if its cells are all eaten by enemies, it gets kicked up a level to regain its health by preying on smaller creatures. On this last level, the organism fights a highly-evolved version of itself. If the organism defeats its counterpart, a yellow cell or egg appears and floats back to the top level of the game, hatching into a new kind of creature for the player to use in a second playthrough.
The game is available to play for free online (http://www.jenovachen.com/flowingames/flowing.htm) or as for $5.59 on the PlayStation Network. The PlayStation versions have extra creatures to play that they online version does not have.
Is it any good?
FLOW is a beautiful example of game design and draws the player into guiding, protecting, and growing the microorganism. flOw looks and sounds beautiful and the game uses a minimalist, abstract graphic style and subtle audio effects to give the player feedback about her performance in the game. As the organism grows, it gains body segments and flagella -- or wings -- that allow it move more quickly. Some creatures fight back by eating the organism's cells. Larger creatures can have multiple cells and take strategy to defeat.
While its gameplay is not deep or varied, the game's visuals, sounds, and scaling difficulty make it fun to play. Because the game was designed to keep players playing it, not only is it useful for talking about creatures and their needs, but it's also helpful for talking to kids about how to manage their time around playing games and become self-aware of the feelings and behaviors they have while playing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss organisms' needs and compare and contrast the needs of different creatures and people.
Families can discuss how flow states can help and hinder people and how to manage time and behavior to avoid addiction.
Families can talk about games that teach. Did you learn anything about science from this game?
- Platforms: Mac, PSP, PlayStation 3, Windows
- Subjects: Science: animals, ecosystems and the environment, life cycle
- Skills: Self-Direction: achieving goals, goal-setting, work to achieve goals
Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, making conclusions, prediction
- Price: Free (online), $5.59 (PlayStation Network)
- Pricing structure: Paid, Free
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Release date: April 14, 2006
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptors
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.