- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at a multimedia title for the entire family that can be downloaded on the PlayStation 3 from the PlayStation Network.

Flower (from Sony Computer Entertainment, $9.99) — Gamers commune with nature’s colorful elements as they enter a peaceful world and control the wind to blow around flower petals and help a landscape bloom.

A player uses the SIXAXIS wireless controller to manipulate a line of petals among breezy fields to meet objectives. Tilt the controller to move and hit any button for a boost of wind. Touch a petal to a bud and watch it explode in color or dive over a barren field and feel it come to life as color-saturated as a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.”

Musical arrangements and the hint of outdoor sounds paint an aural canvas complementing a vibrant dream, plush in wild grass, ocean waves and summer sun.

For each level, a player is first shown a noisy urban scene before he picks a flower petal that takes him away to his next airy adventure.

Young children just understanding the magic of interacting with an on-screen visual will love the moments while the gamer in need of respite from the harsh world of solving, shooting or beating things will feel a great sense of relief.

Magic Ball (from Tik Games/Creat Studios, $9.99) — “And now,” as a certain British comedy troupe says, “for something completely different.”

A Breakout-style challenge finds players controlling a soccer ball that ricochets around colorful, high-definition, three-dimensional environments. The goal is to use the orb and an ample supply of powerups to destroy everything on the playing field.

The ball is fired from the bow of a ship and the ship acts as a bumper to help control the ball and keep it out of bounds, adding a bit of a lesson in geometric angles.

Almost 50 swashbuckling and medieval landscapes must be reckoned with. The player might need to wipe out a forested terrain filled with dragons, a castle of knights or pirates battling skeletons.

Cascading upgrades, grabbed with the bow/bumper, come in three varieties. They can affect the ball (such as turning it into a spiked iron sphere or speeding it up), the environment (causing earthquakes and lightning strikes, for example), or provide the temporary use of weapons attached to the bow, including lasers, cannons and machines guns.

This casual gaming delight offers online and off-line competitive and cooperative action and is a bonding blast for parent and child.

Cuboid (from Tik Games/Creat Studios, $9.99) — Now let’s finish with a spatially oriented puzzler of mind-exercising proportions. Through each of the 66 levels, which are presented within gorgeous, three-dimensional ancient ruins and classic architecture, the player must flip a rectangular block toward a glowing square exit. The block is positioned precariously on top of a tiled grid that often is floating in midair.

The nightmarish realignment maze is further complicated with time-based and fewest-move variations. Toss in hazards such as weakened wooden tiles that allow the block to fall through and helpers such as trap-door triggers and teleportation switches.

The design and soothing musical score beautifully complement the action. As the ornately etched block falls on stone tile, dust creeps out or a haze of colors is emitted to highlight areas of interest.

For 10 bucks, Cuboid is a must download for the family that plays together. They quickly will gather around the screen, offering plenty of advice on the player’s exit strategy.

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