In contrast to the finer examples of videogame detective fiction - the Phoenix Wright games, for example - Flower, Sun and Rain's plot and puzzles never seem to meet in the middle. The strictly numerical codes by which every problem is solved are laboriously laid out in text - lost-and-found notes, or the hotel's guide book - and then signposted with painful awkwardness in the dialogue. You won't ever use deduction or intuition to solve a problem. Worse, you'll often find yourself a few steps ahead of the game: the solution will be clear, but you're forced to to-and-fro between a few more heavy-handed hints, or open your guide book at a certain juncture, before you're allowed to input the code and move on.
You can't divert from Flower, Sun and Rain's meandering, infuriating trail of breadcrumbs for one second. This game has a mind-numbingly dogged linearity. At first, this is an annoyance, but as the physical scope of the game expands, it takes tedium and irritation to new heights. Where Phoenix Wright sensibly flattened its world into a 2D slideshow of pertinent elements - people, places, objects, text - Flower, Sun and Rain makes you take every step back and forth between them in a crudely rendered 3D world, broken up with needless, vestigial loading animations. It even counts every pace you make, to add mocking insult to weary injury.
If there were any satisfaction to be had from teasing out the puzzles themselves, this might be bearable. But the reduction of every interaction in the game to a meaningless, arbitrary copy-and-paste or, at best, simple bit of code-cracking, makes Flower, Sun and Rain an entirely unrewarding game design.
All of that said, we still can't bring ourselves to entirely slate this little oddity, and we have to applaud Rising Star Games for taking the trouble to translate and release it, and for keeping the cheeky, off-the-wall charm of Suda 51's writing intact. Although the DS graphical downgrade is a little clumsy, the stylised characters and beautifully observed interior design - every inch the glossy, late-nineties, post-modern luxury hotel - survive it well enough. There's a pleasantly louche atmosphere to the whole thing, thanks in part to the strangely hypnotic electronic remixes of Erik Satie, Bach and Gershwin that provide the soundtrack.
In the end, the game's dated feel is a double-edged sword. It might be odd to feel nostalgic for a time that's less than a decade ago, but Flower, Sun and Rain will make you feel exactly that. It won't fail to surprise and entertain you with the unhinged mood and unique frame of reference you expect of Suda 51 and his Grasshopper studio, either. Whether that will be enough to compensate you for its turgid and alienating gameplay depends only on how dedicated you are to the pursuit of the cruel and unusual.