The world of video games is suffering and the symptoms are clear. Check out the games lineup for the more sophisticated consoles and you will see there's nothing new under the sun; the vast majority of games are copies of tried and tested formulas. The problem is the cost of developing a new game: it's so high, no one can take the risk of coming up with something original. The result? The most capable gaming platform around at the moment, the PlayStation 3, has a lineup of games that is as exciting as a sermon at your local church. To add insult to injury, the cost of a new game can be north of a hundred dollars. There is, however, a ray of light.
Sony is now offering a line of new, smaller games to its PS3 console through its online shop. Following a recommendation in The Age, we took the plunge and downloaded one of those games, Flower, for $13 (AUD). And let me say this: Flower is not only cheap, it is also wonderful and original!
You play a flower which you pilot through fields in order to make other flowers blossom, an act through which you make dreary looking scenes come to life. The graphics are PS3 quality, meaning they're superb, but the nice thing about the game are the controls: effectively, this is a flight simulator game where you fly a flower, but you fly it by tilting the joystick instead of using the stick. With its calm music and forgiving nature the game has a pre-bed-time appeal for our two year old Dylan, whom we managed to teach some colors through the onscreen flowers (later levels are too dark for his comfort, though). Overall, Flower is a game with a green agenda that will not disappoint.
Our Flower experience gave us the appetite for more, so for $13 more we've downloaded Zen Pinball. It's a "simulator" of four pinball machines, and let me tell you this: it really feels like the real thing, both in the look, in the physics of the game, and in the actual feel. Through the vibrating controller and the very realistic surround sound effects you do feel like you're playing a real pinball machine. You can play online, but we like to play the two player mode; indeed, Zen Pinball is proving to be a good option for a short video gaming stint.
Overall, we like the option of downloading games on the cheap. It's like renting only that we keep the game and through DRM you cannot pass it around. At least you don't need to mess with game discs...
Another positive of the PS3 online shop is that you can download playable game demos. We've already tried Lemmings, a World War 2 flying game, and a Formula 1 game. The last two are not worth buying, but having the option to suss them out is a quite useful.
Overall, I recommend you try the download option, especially Flower.