Spying is part of a day's work for a detective. Snooping on suspects and rummaging through their dirty laundry isn't the most glamorous side of the job, but it's a way of getting answers from suspects with tight lips. Mi'pu'mi Games' mystery adventure The Flower Collectors embraces the art of snooping and has you peeping on a whole street from the balcony of your apartment.
You play as Jorge, a grizzled ex-police officer who uses a wheelchair and has a habit of watching the comings and goings of the plaza below his apartment balcony. One night, Jorge witnesses a murder in the plaza square and decides to don his police hat once more and investigate. Binoculars in hand, you'll need to solve this mystery by spying on neighbours—following their movements and learning their secrets.
It's obvious that broad strokes for the set-up have been taken from Hitchcock's Rear Window, but The Flower Collectors parts from its inspiration in every other aspect. Instead of a building block in a sweltering hot summer in '50s New York, this murder investigation is set in a sunkissed breezy plaza of Barcelona in the '70s—although everything is far from calm.
Mi'pu'mi Games does a great job capturing the atmosphere of the time period, something that the developers also did masterfully in A Lion's Song. Spain is facing the political fallout of a post-Franco rule, and fascism still grips the country. There's brutal repression on minorities, artists, journalists, and anyone else who doesn't embrace Spain's order and tradition. It's a time of unease and distrust, and this murder might well be the boiling point for this quiet plaza. In this way, it's thematically very different from Hitchcock's thriller.
Also every character is an anthropomorphic animal, which would have made Rear Window a very different film.
To help you solve this murder is Melinda, a young, rebellious journalist. The two of you team up together, Jorge acting as the eyes in the sky (on the balcony) and Melinda doing to ground-work. Using a pair of binoculars, you can look over the balcony and down onto the plaza, seeing what activity is going on below.
You'll need to watch what characters are doing, look for evidence from afar, and guide Melinda through tricky situations as she infiltrates some sketchy scenes. When you've gathered clues and information you can hang it up on a crime board and link everything together. There's not much puzzle-solving or real investigation to do as the story is pretty linear, but there are some really fun moments, like tracking a character as they move through their apartment by peering through the building's different windows.
Having the mystery unfold before your eyes is cool, but unfortunately, there's an overall lack of polish and detail in the animation that pulls you out of the story. The character animations are pretty clunky, with over-exaggerated body movements that echo The Sims' over the top animations. It's not a big deal overall, but at times it has the effect of pulling the game's punches in moments when it tackles heavy topics like police brutality.
Although it's character's are a little awkward, The Flower Collectors tells an important story of how a country's turbulent past can ripple into the present. Scanning the plaza, searching for clues and following suspects is a fun investigative tool and a clever way of having a story unfold.