Reading something like a tropical reinterpretation of Twin Peaks by way of Groundhog Day, Goichi Suda’s newly translated 2001 mystery game, Flower, Sun And Rain, is set in a world even more indulgent of its creator’s perverse imagination than that of the excellent No More Heroes. The game follows the tribulations of likeably incompetent sleuth Sumio Mondo as he relives the same day over and over in an attempt to prevent a terrorist blowing up a plane, but whose ambitions are derailed by a succession of increasingly eccentric encounters.
As a script, Flower, Sun And Rain is, for at least two thirds, hugely witty and effortlessly mad, eliciting enough regular laughs to cover for the game’s otherwise painfully tedious forms of interaction. But as any notional gesture towards a cogent plot unravels, the game gives you less and less incentive to continue – and in fact mocks you for doing so. Characters frequently launch postmodern assaults on the fourth wall, pointing out the game’s clunky mechanics, audiovisual failings and the near-negligible level of challenge from the puzzles – all of which are limited to a numerical input and rarely derived from an act of logic. Players need only refer to the island’s guidebook, flipping through until the subject at hand presents itself, then scanning the page for a tangentially related figure. When faced with one of the many unnecessary journeys from one side of the island to the other, involving between five and 15 minutes of walking, the player is goaded by the observation that it’ll be hard on the legs. “Can’t I just warp there or something?” asks Mondo plaintively. Would that we could, Mr Mondo.
There’s more than a touch of Penn & Teller’s Smoke And Mirrors in the game’s mischief – and, for a brief time, it is strangely amusing to be a participant in your own ridicule. But while the game’s sadistic ineptness might be part of the point, it rarely feels like much of a consolation.