Before you even launch Flower you've read everything you're going to be told in words about how to play it: "Tilt Controller to Soar. Press Any Button to Blow. Relax, Enjoy." It might not be quite so concise as Pong's "Avoid Missing Ball for High Score", but Flower's instructions are still unusually succinct and, like those displayed on the side of Nolan Bushnell's arcade cabinet, they are given outside of the game experience, in the PlayStation 3 XMB.
Once you land inside the game, you learn only by doing. For that reason, at first glance Flower appears to be the most beautiful tech demo in the world: no more, no less. You soar over Elysian fields, wheeling down through Zelda-green tall grass and then back up again into a SEGA blue sky. The camera fisheyes to take in a perfect pastoral world in glorious widescreen, one without evidence of man or animal.
It's the experience of a dream, a game in which you play not as a space marine or a plumber or a busty archaeologist, but as a gust of wind. Your disembodiment is profound because this is a game played almost without touch. Rather, you tilt the controller to direct yourself around the scene, the only clue to your presence the petals that are swept up into the air with your passing. The control of movement is as sublime as any we've felt on PS3, and, free of a character to move and all the messy physics that a body imposes, the result is the purest of interactions between gamer and game.
But once you've grown accustomed to the bright, hyper-real idyllic environment, and once you've satisfied your appetite for flying around unfettered, loop-de-looping unseen beneath the clouds without so much as a reticule in sight, a single question dominates: um, so what now?
Then you start to notice the results of your actions: the particle effects and whooshes that fire every time you fly close to a flower and sweep up its petals. And then you notice the arrangement of those flowers on the ground, their placement not random enough for nature; as purposeful and ordered as crop circles. And then, when you trigger all of the flowers in that formation you see the bursts of energy and change that tear across the ground, sprouting new life and colour below. Ah. So there is a game in here after all.
It is, in fact, a game of vibrant cause and effect: you start small, scooping up a single petal into your breeze before scooping up more and more into your conga line of confetti, until it flutters back tens of metres. In one level each group of flowers you open triggers a new gust of wind, one that powers a wind turbine high above. Trigger all of the interactive spots in a field and you might tear off down a gulley, snaking through rock formations while desperately trying to steer over new petals and pollen to add to your train. Each petal you collect triggers a sound sample, notes fluttering over the sparse piano to create a intertwining soundtrack, a freeform marriage of sound and interaction just as mesmerising as that first heard in Rez.