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Brilliantly Baffling: Japanese auteur delivers on the DS

Take the briefcase and run.I was clear-headed and sane when I arrived, driving Giggs my Toyota Celica and carrying my briefcase Catherine. But on Lospass



Take the briefcase and run.I was clear-headed and sane when I arrived, driving Giggs my Toyota Celica and carrying my briefcase Catherine. But on Lospass Island, everything shifted towards the strange. The sun sat perpetually overhead, casting a never-dilating disc of shadow beneath my feet. Trees, lush and tropical from a distance, thinned into non-existence, then emerged obliquely as I passed. And the island itself looked as though a tiny digital image had been enlarged and laid upon the ground, the pixels assuming monstrous proportions, stretching into a blurred and bloated landscape that was only sensible if viewed from far above-say, from a jet plane moments before it exploded.

Every day concluded with that horrific bloom overhead-plumes of flame and a stain of smoke. I knew it was a disaster that I had been summoned to stop, but I couldn't even leave my hotel, the "Flower, Sun, and Rain," with guests blocking my way, insisting that I help them find things they had mislaid-briefcases, balls, cocktails, afro wigs. Only the girl in white didn't trouble me as she glided through my dreams trailing my trail after her pink crocodile Christina. And then the phone would ring, my coffee would arrive and the day would begin again until again it ended-BOOM-up in the bright turquoise sky.

Who was I? Why was I? Did everyone undergo such introverted scrutiny when visiting luxury tropical resorts? Running across the endless island, listening to leisured remixes of jazz and classical standards, I started to discover the truth. I was living my own question and dying my own answer. But then, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. I don't want to ruin any surprises for you-you who have not yet been me. So come see for yourself. Take a trip to Lospass Island. Lose your past. Lose your self. Lose your life. Lose your mind.

THE GOOD: Flower, Sun, and Rain was created by Suda 51, one of the few auteurs of gaming. He is best known stateside for Killer 7 (meh) and No More Heroes (bleh), whose success is perhaps due more to America's predilection for action than the quality of the games. In Japan, however, Suda 51 established his reputation with surreal, cerebral fare like FSR. In turns mysterious and maddening, enchanting and annoying, FSR is an ingenious example of how videogames can transport players into other psyches. It joins classics such as "The Tell-Tale Heart," Pale Fire and Lost Highway in climbing inside the head of a man not wholly sane.

THE BAD: There's an old joke that goes "There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don't." Math nerds and numerologists will find enough in FSR's puzzles to keep them entertained-likewise anyone who has spent time typing out words using an inverted calculator. Otherwise, the numerical answers to all of the game's brainteasers eliminate any topographical, musical and logistical challenges. At its best, FSR is like a drugged-out Professor Layton, but the lack of variety in puzzles may alienate gamers before they even have a chance to unravel FSR's convoluted, moody mystery.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Brilliant, baffling, and bizarre.

Is that a ninja in the background?What's In A Name

Flower, Sun, Rain's developer, Suda51 worked as a funeral undertaker before getting on with a Japanese studio, Human Entertainment, in the 1990s. He started his own firm, Grasshopper Entertainment, after Human disbanded in 1998 and released the post-modern puzzle game Flower, Sun, Rain in 2001 for PS2.

Known for his emphasis on cerebral narrative, Suda, whose real name is Goichi Suda, has said that his favorite author is Franz Kafka. His studio is currently developing several games for the next generation consoles including updates on his No More Heroes franchise.

Flower, Sun, and Rain ★★★★✩
Rated Teen; Nintendo DS

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