The Flower Collectors is an engaging, tense, and topical murder mystery that takes place entirely within the confines of one small apartment in 1970s Barcelona.
I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: The Flowers Collectors is Rear Window in video game form. Instead of observing a New York courtyard in the 1950s, we are sitting on a balcony above 1977’s Barcelona. And just like the movie that inspired it, The Flowers Collectors tells a story of murder full of intrigue and suspense – and it tells it well.
You play as Jorge, a bitter ex-cop who retired after an accident landed him in a wheelchair. Stuck alone in his small apartment, Jorge spends his days watching the plaza below his balcony and spying on the neighbors through his binoculars.
One stormy night, he witnesses a man gunned down in the street – a murder that sets off a chain of events that will impact the fate of the entire country. Jorge teams up with Melinda, a young and idealistic journalist, to solve the murder.
Since you, Jorge, can’t leave the apartment, your role is to observe. You interact with the world through a pair of binoculars or the telescopic lens of a camera. Melinda is the one doing most of the, hmm, legwork.
It doesn’t mean you’re stuck passively watching as the mystery unfolds without you. No, you take notes, pictures, and guide Melinda around so she can gather clues and evidence. You play the detective, while she’s running around talking to people. At first, I thought it could’ve been nice to play as Melinda as well and explore the streets of Barcelona. But I quickly realized that playing as Jorge alone creates a strange mix of empowerment and helplessness.
You feel in control as you survey the cafe where a waiter is flirting with a local singer, or when you spy on shady meetings between even shadier characters. But yet, you rely on Melinda to feed you information through a transmitter – to tell you what they’re actually saying. At times it can be a little frustrating, having to sit back and wait for her to finish interviewing witnesses or eavesdropping on a secret meeting. But that’s part of the deal – you observe, she acts. Most of the time.
You do get to talk to certain characters, and even make some choices that might come back to bite you in the butt later on. There are also moments where you need to spot specific (often annoyingly vague) clues within a limited timeframe or help someone evade patrolling cops. The Flower Collectors might take place in a rather small location, but it always manages to keep you on your toes, so to speak.
Historical, Political, Personal
The Flower Collectors is not just a murder mystery; it’s a historical murder mystery. The game is set in 1977’s Spain, around the time of the country’s first democratic elections in over 40 years. Naturally, this historical moment plays a big part in the game’s story.
The game revolves around a conspiracy and a threat to democracy that feel very relevant in this day and age. The Flower Collectors is, at least at times, a political game, and it deals with that important, and historically fascinating subject pretty maturely.
When it’s not about politics, it’s about two people with very different backgrounds and views working together to solve a murder. The two main characters, Jorge and Melinda, could not be more different. Jorge was once part of the Policía Armada, an armed urban police force established under Franco’s dictatorship. This dark time in his life left him jaded with little faith in his fellow man. His cynicism is contrasted by Melinda’s passionate, yet often overzealous idealism.
The idealistic and generational gap between the two makes for an interesting and, again, topical story. Learning more about Jorge’s past and seeing how the younger Melinda reacts creates an intriguing conflict, which leads to some suspenseful moments where you’re never too sure who’s on your side.
Sadly, the game’s dark, mysterious atmosphere is somewhat hindered by its visuals. I’m not talking about how, for some reason, this version of 1977 Barcelona is populated by humanoid animals. That’s a fine artistic choice, albeit a somewhat weird one. I am referring to the lack of details in the environment.
The Flower Collectors often looks… unfinished. The basics are there, but someone has forgotten to add all the details that create a rich, believable world – like the textures haven’t finished loading in yet. Characters also move around like robots on rails, with floaty animations and some janky path-finding. The studio’s previous game, The Lion’s Song, has some really nice pixel art, so it’s a shame The Flower Collectors doesn’t look as good.
However, the game is great to listen to. The sounds and music from the plaza envelop you as you scour it for clues, and most of the characters speak in a subtle Spanish accent. It all paints a picture of a real place full of real people living real lives.
Another One for the Collection
The Flower Collectors is a great mystery game. Gathering clues and piecing them together into a timeline to slowly reveal the conspiracy behind them is very satisfying and absorbing. To some, solving a murder just by observing, spying, and taking pictures might not seem like the most thrilling thing to do. Still, it does make you feel like a detective if that’s what you’re looking for.
I didn’t really appreciate the game’s visual style. The choice to have humanoid animals à la Bojack Horseman instead of people seems a bit odd. However, I guess it does help you immediately tell every character apart, even from a distance. Still, the music, voice acting, and writing successfully carry most of the weight.
The Flower Collectors isn’t a very long game, but if you enjoy a good mystery like I do – I’d recommend you add this to your collection.
Developer: Mi’pu’mi Games
Publisher: Mi’pu’mi Games
Release Date: Apr. 21, 2020
Genre: Adventure, Investigation
Available On: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Our The Flower Collectors review copy was supplied by the developer.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.