Hanamushi: Flower Insects
Rewind the hands of time back to 2005, a time when Jayisgames introduced us to the gorgeous yet disturbing work of Hanamushi, a website by Japanese artist, Enu (Akira Noyama), with a distinctly surreal and unique vision. Today, Hanamushi has been updated, adding a most startling, stylish, and downright beautiful point-and-click adventure game, Flower Insects, that will simultaneously mess with your head while leading you on a not-so-gentle tour of the revamped website.
Just click through to the Hanamushi website where you will be confronted with what looks like an unfinished drawing with various links to the website underneath. First, before you do anything else, notice the link at the lower right with the two flags. Click on it to make sure the US flag is on top, as this sets the language for the site to English. Then, find the missing pieces of the doll and her wind-up key, click on them to put everything into place, wind up the doll, and begin. Be prepared for a journey through the mind of the artist behind Hanamushi, a world that looks like it was illustrated by Terry Gilliam on a mind altering substance.
Journey through the land of melting lollipops and bizarre creatures by clicking hands at the top of the screen to move left or right, up or down. Hover the cursor carefully and notice the changes to find clickable areas that yield various bits of clothing or other fashion accoutrements. Collect them all, for they will aid you in your search for... well, that would give away a major plot point. The clothes and other things are not just for playing dress-up with the pretty dolly, they will in fact aid you in your quest, allowing you to enter certain areas or accomplish certain things. Within this bizarre world you will encounter mini-games as well, iterations of old classics such as Simon, Mastermind, Towers of Hanoi, etc., but so brilliantly and uniquely presented you might not recognize them right away for what they are. In the end you will be collecting a staggering 48 pieces of apparel to aid you.
The world of the Hanamushi game is comprised of many scenes and layers; move far enough in one direction and you will discover that space is truly curved, and forward momentum in one direction will eventually place you back where you started. As with the universe, peer as far as you can see forwards and you will find yourself staring at the back of your own head, metaphorically speaking. If you find you need a breather the game automatically saves your progress, allowing you to come back again and again until you have explored every inch. Even when the game is nominally over there are still more wondrous things to use and explore. There is even, if you can find it, a way to erase your progress and start afresh, ready to tackle the game once again.
Analysis: What is most amazing and astounding about this wicked cool game is the fact that the website links are actually incorporated into Hanamushi's exceptional universe, allowing you to explore web content while simultaneously playing a game. How many banner games or portfolios can claim that? It is definitely worth the time to explore these little side worlds while exploring this microcosm of weirdness.
The downside to a game that is so thoroughly artistic is that the mechanics of the gameplay can become a little difficult at times. The washed color palette is visually stunning but can cause difficulty in the color-based puzzles even for folks with normal eyesight. You will find almost no explanations, so the dynamic of first figuring out what a particular mini-game is about may grate on those who are impatient. But for those who are looking to delve deeply into some pretty dark depths, the new Hanamushi game is something to savor.
It is almost impossible to describe the joy created by wandering in the strange, surreal universe that Hanamushi has created. The synthesis of art, animation, game, and experience is nearly flawless, and will leave the casual gamer breathless as they wander deeper and deeper into the morass. Stunning beyond all belief, this is not necessarily a game to play all in one go. Rather, the Hanamushi game is something to consume in small bites, lest you find yourself deep in the abyss that is the imagination of an extremely talented and (perhaps) disturbed individual. Take the time as well to check out the flash games, animations, and fantastical art when you stumble across the links. Well worth the effort, Hanamushi's work is simultaneously stunning, amusing, deeply disturbing, yet deeply and profoundly beautiful. Dive in, and relish the experience.