The Flower Collectors – Review

In The Flower Collectors, we spy on a plaza from a balcony and solve a murder mystery. Should you keep an eye on it? Here’s what we think.

The Flower Collectors defines itself by the limitations it imposes on you, rather than the powers you are bestowed with. Unlike most video games that give you superhuman combat abilities or flatter your intellect, this game puts you in a wheelchair and restricts your movement to a small apartment and its balcony. You see, what Mi’pu’mi Games has crafted is a disempowerment fantasy. In making its protagonist less powerful than the other characters of his world, The Flower Collectors becomes more powerful as a video game.

It all happens in Spain, in the year 1977. The decades-long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco has come to an end, and an uncertain future awaits Spain as the country makes its way towards democracy. The entrenched and traditionalist right, which has long suppressed the progressive left under Franco’s rule, is refusing to go down without a fight. It’s during this heady climate that we find ourselves in a quiet Barcelonian neighbourhood. We control the bear-headed Jorge, a former policeman who enjoys spying on the plaza outside his apartment building and sketching anything he finds interesting enough. Jorge’s ordinary and restrictive life finally sees uncommon excitement when the plaza becomes a scene of murder. Literally overnight, everyone from the local priest to the mechanic ladies to the local bum, is a suspect.

The Flower Collectors screenshot

Confined to his wheelchair and often in pain, Jorge can neither fight nor go exploring. This gives him a very unique position among video game protagonists. In having such limited options, Jorge is forced to play up his strengths: his experience from the police force, his deductive abilities, and his observational skills. Aided in the field by a politically opposite reporter named Melinda, Jorge uses his balcony as an overwatch. From there, he can quickly survey the scene, direct Melinda to points of interest, and alert her when necessary. It could be easy to deride The Flower Collectors as a game about just looking at things and zooming in. Doing so would miss the point.

Despite making it wordlessly clear what Jorge can’t do, the game itself is built around what he does do. In choosing to act, to assist and be assisted, to inquire and challenge not only his surroundings but himself, Jorge comes across as both more interesting and more relatable than a truck’s load of video game heroes. As the murder investigation gets increasingly political (to no surprise), Jorge’s prejudices come to fore. Here, Melinda serves as an excellent foil. Young and rebellious, Melinda is quick to speak out when Jorge complains about a Spain that he thinks is changing for the worse.

The Flower Collectors screenshot

So much of The Flower Collectors fits together like a perfect jigsaw in itself, and I’m not just talking about the mystery. Each time I thought the game would slip up, it surprised me with its elegance instead. Take for instance, my original apprehension that the game would be thoroughly linear sequence of point and clicking. It turns out that how well you can use your observation skills will affect the investigation and the outcome of the case, which adds a needed element of (not very stressful) challenge. Furthermore, you are often forced to make high-wire decisions that will impact you and the people around you.

At about 3 hours of playtime, The Flower Collectors is just the perfect length for a game of this type and scope. Its steady pace and focused mystery makes sure that even when you’re restricted to an apartment, you are never starved of adventure. It wears its politics with refreshing grace, too. It doesn’t spend a moment delving in both-sides rhetoric or sanitising the brutalities of fascism. The perfect use of its setting is just another jigsaw piece that fits well into The Flower Collectors’ poignant picture.

Following up on The Lion’s Song, Mi’pu’mi Games is proving to be a teller of thoroughly human stories. The studio understands the contrast of power with challenge as it applies not only to narrative, but especially gameplay. It’s inspiring that in a year of games filled with powerful heroes bearing guns or swords, the character I felt most empowered by, was a homebound man in a wheelchair.

Developer: Mi’pu’mi Games
Country of Origin: Austria
Publisher: Mi’pu’mi Games
Release Date: 21st April 2020 (PC)

This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the developer. The PC version of the game was played for this review of The Flower Collectors.

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The Flower Collectors confronts power and limitation across various contexts, all while you keeping engrossed in an intelligently-designed and politically-charged mystery.

This Article was written by: Rahul Shirke

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