In a world where it is ever easier to make games that feel limitless, it is refreshing to encounter one that remembers the creative value of imposing limits. The Flower Collectors does that by placing you in control of a former cop, forced by injury into a wheelchair and, consequently, retirement.
Apparently both unwilling and unable to leave his apartment – it is suggested during the course of the game that his apartment block isn’t exactly wheelchair-accessible – Jorge’s world is limited to his living quarters and the view from his balcony, encompassing a small plaza and a couple of streets. After witnessing a murder in that plaza, Jorge finds himself working with a young journalist to crack the case from his vantage point, above a tiny slice of 1977 Barcelona.
You do this with a pair of binoculars, a camera, and a walkie-talkie that allows you to keep in touch with your co-investigator Melinda as she makes forays out into the streets below to do the things Jorge can’t. Observing the local residents and their response to the murder from up on high, you work with Melinda to collect clues and piece them together to try and find out who this man was, who murdered him, and why he was killed.
Though at times there’s an element of uncomfortable voyeurism to The Flower Collectors’ privacy-invading mystery-solving – of which I would suggest the game is well aware – there’s something undeniably enjoyable about keeping watch from Jorge’s balcony and piecing things together in this compellingly original take on the detective genre.
There are times you wish your detective skills would be more thoroughly challenged, but, aside from a couple of bits of filler, this is a game that’s clearly prioritising the momentum of its narrative over puzzle-solving. In service of that goal, it makes sense that progress should be swift and friction-free.
The Flower Collectors narrowly scoped space is not reflective of what it is doing with that story. On the contrary, it does a great job of taking large historical events and broad areas of social conflict and showing how those things manifest on a local or individual scale. History, this game reminds us, is not abstract. It has consequences for the people that live it.
While ostensibly about a murder, the game is really concerned with Spain’s fascist past and its transition into democracy. It not only does a great job of educating the player about this specific moment in time, but critiques the role of the police, the church, institutionalisation, generational divide, and prejudice in a way that resonates outside of the specific contours of the game’s setting.
Without spoiling anything, Jorge’s perspective on these events shows a level of naivety that makes no sense, given his past, threatening to undercut the game’s critical potential, but it’s something I was happy to overlook. If combining a thoughtful consideration of some weighty themes with a fun and original genre-murder mystery has led to a little compromise here or there, I’ll happily take it.
Games often strive to reflect our lived experience of the city by recreating them on a one-to-one basis, but traversing huge spaces from one
end to the other rarely replicates our day-to-day experience. We spend most of our time in relatively small areas around our home or place of work, and by focusing on a small area like that, The Flower Collectors feels very relatable.
A fantastic A Room With A View-style detective premise used to delve into Spain’s shameful fascist past.
Format: PC (tested)
Developer: Mi’pu’mi Games
Publisher: Mi’pu’mi Games
Release: Out now