In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock put out Rear Window, a mystery thriller about a man who breaks his leg and, with little left to do, spends all day looking out his window at his neighbors. Along the way, he solves a murder. The Flower Collectors follows the same idea, with a paralyzed man witnessing a murder from his apartment, and working together with a liberal journalist to solve it. Is it a mystery worth solving though?
Taking place in the 1970's Spain, the government is about to have its first major election after the death of its dictator, and things are getting dicey between two political groups. You play as Jorge, a former police officer who, for reasons he doesn't quite want to go into detail about, is paralyzed from the waist down. He has made a habit out of using his binoculars and balcony as an escape, using his talents as a sketch artist to draw out people's lives. One night, a murder plays out in front of his apartment, and a young journalist named Melinda seeks refuge. Soon, the two become an unlikely crime-solving duo.
Full of political and social themes, The Flower Collectors doesn't take long to tell a story about a fascist regime and how they use organizations like the police and church to further their agenda. It's a story that manages to resonate right now in a particularly interesting way, with police brutality against minorities playing a major role in the plot. It may not be a deep analysis of the issue, but it does make it clear how harmful they can be to a community, and how destructive such actions can be against democracy itself.
Even just the characters involved in The Flower Collectors are an interesting bunch. Jorge's past may not be as honorable as he claims it is, and there's a lot of mystery involving the events that lead up to his accident. Outside his window, you'll get to see many colorful characters wander the streets of Barcelona. There's a lounge singer falling in love with a waiter, a pair of mechanic sisters hiding away in their shop, a homeless man who saw more than he should have, a shady politician who frequents the kind of places his type usually don't, and more. Each character has little stories that you'll have to figure out with little more than observing them from a distance.
You'll spend so much time observing that it's a good thing what you're looking at is beautiful. The Flower Collectors' world of anthropomorphic animals certainly stands out, and the plaza outside the apartment always feels alive. Even if you aren't observing it, there are kids playing in the street, a nervous priest talking to himself, a cabaret full of ads for its singers, and other little details I enjoyed looking for. It's a great slice of city life.
As for actually playing The Flower Collectors, since you're trapped on a balcony with little other than binoculars, a camera, and a walkie talkie, most of the game you're just looking around and talking. You'll take photos of a few interesting events, and occasionally ask your journalist friend to go check out something up close. Each day ends with you gathering the facts and pinning them to a board to try and further solve the mystery of the dead body. Occasionally this means the game devolves into little more than pixel hunting for the correct thing to look at, something that always ends up kind of frustrating. Still, it's more good than bad before the end.
By the end, I really loved my time with The Flower Collectors. It feels like the game genuinely has something important to tell, and went out of its way to tell that story. Even when the gameplay was little more than just looking for the right thing to select, I was always entranced by Jorge and Melinda's murder mystery, and how important it is to fight for those that may have some difficulty fighting for themselves.
TechRaptor covered The Flower Collectors on PC using a copy provided by the developers.