Seeing Is Definitely Believing
HIGH A brilliant concept and exceptional writing.
LOW I really wish there were touch controls.
WTF A game with leftist politics?
If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect from videogames — at least those in the triple-A sphere — it’s that their politics are usually awful. We even wrote a piece here at GameCritics highlighting that very fact. Whether it’s a slight skewing towards the right or aggressive centrism, too many titles never say the right thing at the right time. It’s concerning, but not surprising since most big-budget games can’t afford to ‘alienate’ their playerbases. Thankfully, many indies don’t suffer from the same fear.
The Flower Collectors is an adventure set in Barcelona during 1977. Players control Jorge, a retired cop confined to a wheelchair. Jorge is something of a curmudgeon, and confused by a world that’s constantly changing. He spends most of his time sketching the people in his part of town, trying to capture every detail he can.
The game is played from a first-person perspective from within Jorge’s apartment and balcony, using his vantage point to solve puzzles and mysteries. The opening moments have players using a pair of binoculars to watch people on the street while capturing specific moments for Jorge to draw in his sketchbook.
For example, I was instructed to find a “scene with contrasting characters.” I saw a priest speaking to a homeless man and Jorge began drawing. It’s not incredibly dynamic, but I loved how players are acclimated to the play mechanics in this context by getting them used to scoping the area out and finding specific things. After the sketches are done, Jorge consults a board and places each picture with its corresponding label.
Things changed once I heard a gunshot outside my apartment, and I was introduced to Melinda, a young journalist trying to get to the bottom of a series of conspiracies. Jorge and Melinda clash as they reflect different attitudes and react differently to the climate of Barcelona in the ’70s.
Melinda’s a staunch leftist and progressive, hungry for the truth. Jorge is set in his ways, seemingly bitter in an evolving world. The two bicker about small things, like Jorge insisting on calling women “girls”, or his critiques of socialism. Melinda is uneasy trusting a cop to help in her crusade, but the two learn to work together as Jorge uses his vantage point to guide her while communicating via radio.
The same ‘spotting things’ gameplay elements return, but now modified slightly. Jorge has a camera at this point, and must piece together crime scenes on his board. Playing detective is great and figuring things out never feels frustrating. It’s a smooth ride and cracking each case throughout ten chapters is exciting.
The writing in The Flower Collectors is exceptional and deals with themes like politics, grief, depression, homelessness, and police corruption. Seeing a game not only acknowledge socialist and leftist themes but embracing them feels like a revelation in the current real-world climate where the hard-right claims so much ground.
Politics aside, the dialogue feels ripped from the best political thrillers of the ’60s and ’70s, with the main point of influence (obviously) being Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, while also taking cues from films like The Conformist.
The visuals are incredibly stylish, with every character portrayed as an anthropomorphized animal (Jorge is a bear and Melinda is a cat) reminding me of comics like the landmark Maus, in which different ethnicities and religions were portrayed by different animals. Barcelona itself is gorgeous as well, with bold lines and a wonderful color palette that looks great in both day and night.
The Flower Collectors is a short but sweet experience that succeeds based on the merits of its writing and storytelling. It’s a game that successfully tackles political corruption and champions the left, yet still manages to be an engaging addition to the Adventure genre — something I wish more of its peers would do. While we probably won’t see a major studio adopt these politics anytime soon, I’ll always know that there’s at least one out there that does it well.
Disclosures: This game is published and developed by Mi’pu’mi Games. It is currently available on Switch and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated T for Blood, Violence, Language and Use of Tobacco. Violence plays a large part of the game’s narrative but it’s not gratuitous or gory. Still, I feel like the game is better suited for adults, as its themes are a bit dark for young children.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All the dialogue here is subtitled, with various visual cues used to solve puzzles. While none of these things can be resized, the game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable.
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