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PSP Fanboy review: flOw

The best-selling PSN title will be available on the PSP tomorrow. This experimental title received a lot of attention when it sailed to the PS3 due to its unique style and premise. Less of a "game" and more of an "experience," players titled their SIXAXIS controllers to guide an ever-growing creature through a series of primordial stages. Players would consume other creatures along the way, expanding in size and capability.

flOw is a rather accurate recreation of the PS3 title -- an impressive feat, considering the reduced processing capabilities of the handheld. Just like the PSN original, flOw will look and feel unlike anything else on the system. However, those that have played the original will find little reason to revisit the title, and many may find the technical shortcomings of this SuperVillian-developed effort to be an ebb to an otherwise engrossing experience.

Gallery: flOw

To truly appreciate flOw, one must accept the fact that the game is not about a goal, it's about a journey. Each of the five levels can be completed in five minutes, or thirty. It's all up to the player and how they'd like to progress. Players are given a creature and must simple eat the other creatures they encounter. As players consume more, they expand in size, health and capabilities. Players do have health, typically represented by circular orbs within their creature's body. Those are the targets players must consume when facing hostile creatures.

Each creature in the game has its own behavior, and players will spend some time learning the best strategies against each enemy type. When players want to progress further into a level, they must simply eat the red orb to go further into the darkened abyss. Larger, more menacing creatures will await, until players discover the next unlockable character/level.

It's true, one can simply hit every red orb and get to the end of each level rather quickly. But what's the point? The joy of the game comes from seeing your creatures grow, and learning how to best use their powers. The later creatures are truly frightening. The first creature you get access to has almost no special powers. However, you'll get creatures that can perform boosts, spin to lure in small creatures. Our favorite creature is the fourth: it'll let you phase in and out, and will let you poison other creatures. You will be unstoppable.

The PSP port does a great job of looking and sounding like its PS3 counterpart. However, it's clear that things had to be watered down for the handheld. There's some great particle and lighting effects on display, but creatures have clear aliasing problems. Worse still, the framerate suffers quite a bit, especially in more crowded areas. For a game that's all about immersion, the choppy framerate does a good job of disrupting the "flow."

What is improved is the sound: popping a pair of headphones makes the experience a truly absorbing one. The music and sounds come to further life on the handheld, and it feels far more prominent and intimate than in the console version.

Regardless of the technical shortcomings, it's still a good looking game, thanks to its innovative style. Those that missed the PS3 version will find that flOw looks unlike any other game out there -- it's quite unique, especially for a handheld title.

Is flOw for everyone? Certainly not. There are those that will simply not "get" what the game is trying to achieve. It's not really action-packed, nor does it feature a lot of content. Even those that take it slowly will only be able to get a handful of hours of gameplay out of this downloadable. The gameplay is rather simplistic, but that's part of its allure.

We applaud Sony for bringing this title to PSP. We really hope it's the beginning of a long line of downloadable titles for the system. It may not be a perfect port of the PS3 title, but it still does a great job of offering a unique, soothing experience on the go. If you missed the PS3 version, and feel like trying something different from the norm, give flOw a shot. For only $8, it's worth taking a chance.

PSP Fanboy score: 7.0

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