The Flow Experience is a game that sets up expectations to be one thing but actually delivers something slightly different. When I played the demo in Steam Next Fest, I thought I was going to get a relaxed and zen like gentle dodge em up. It is… for the first few levels! The Flow Experience is actually more tricky than initially expected. Set your expectations of relaxation off though and you’ll find a great addition to the dodge em up genre.
Each level is based off a symbol from a different culture but aside from having a different colour palette and symbol, its the songs and rhythm that make dodging attacks in The Flow Experience shine. Not only is the music taken from some fine chill out tracks, they come from different parts of the world giving the game a totally different vibe.
You play as a tadpole in the stars and can move, dash and raise a shield for a brief time. Dash and shield moves require a charge though and when you use your shield, you cannot move. This is key because each level has different types of attack, denoted by colour. Purple attacks are like homing missiles so you can only evade them with a shield. However, trigger it in the wrong place and you’ll get caught up in other attacks that you can’t shield (blue attacks) or ones you can but your shield has ran out (red). Whilst this works nicely initially, as the difficulty ramps up from easy mode to normal and then hard, the charge and stop states of these actions caused me more deaths than anything else and I found it tricky to get into a flow state. Instead, I felt like I was knee-jerk reaction flinching to sparse but very fast attacks and I’m not sure that aligned with the games marketing!
The lack of flow state is also caused by a game design decision that I’m still wrestling with myself over. Levels are semi-randomly generated. Each level has its own unique attack patterns but after every 4 or 8 bars of music, its picking from a couple of options. This means you’ll know roughly what is coming up next but not enough to ever feel comfortable. From a rhythm perspective, this is a big no-no for me personally but I can also see the merits of it too. It does feel like its going against the grain of its title though – its more difficult to get into a flow state if you can’t zone out.
These design issues aside, The Flow Experience does offer a unique spin on the dodge em up formula. Yes, it is largely derived from its theming, music and visual excellence but that goes a long way in a game like this. Whilst the attack options all vary, they run in sync to the music beautifully and there are some moments of genius when it all aligns. I just expected an easier ride after all the PR blurbs and I’d love an anchored level design option to ensure I play a definitive version of each level too. The game does offer you some health points if you get stuck and believe me you will – as you’ll need to be quick on the reflexes to get through those hard modes. Genre fans will enjoy this challenge and you should keep this on your radar.
The Flow Experience
Offers a unique blend of chill out rhythms and fast reaction based dodging.
Excellent soundtrack and visual identity.
Plenty of difficulty options to unlock as you play.
Character movement feels solid.
Attacks sync to the music excellently.
The "pick from a selection of attack patterns every 8 bars" level design will be a turn off from some.
Attacks are very fast and go at odds with the rest of the games design.
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