If there's one thing more disturbing than a man who names his car, it's a man who names his briefcase. Meet Sumio Mondo, a curious Keanu Reeves lookalike, who – with surprisingly little embarrassment – happens to name his Giggs and Katherine, respectively.
When it comes to his starring role as a self-confessed searcher in the frankly bizarre Flower, Sun and Rain: Neverending Paradise, though, Sumio's more Bill Murray than Kenuwee.
You see, he's been sent to the distant island of Lospass (literally translated as 'lost time'), to defuse a bomb on a plane that's about to take-off. On the way to the airport, however, he meets various people who need him to search for their lost items. Sadly, he can't prioritise and the plane explodes in mid-air. Bummer, huh?
But what's this?
Next morning, he wakes up in the Flower, Sun and Rain hotel and the events of the previous day haven't yet occurred. Cue a series of Groundhog Days as you attempt to solve everyone's problems and make it to the plane on time.
The journey begins with an introductory 3D video sequence, though what exactly it introduces remains a mystery as the majority of shots are simply of Sumio's beloved Toyota Celica racing around Lospass. Upon reaching the hotel you are introduced to the oddball staff and acquainted with the basic controls, including your first lost item to locate. Each day trundles on with yet another trivial distraction to solve.
When it comes to the repetitive tasks you have to perform, the gameplay is trivial, quirky and at times downright frustrating. In fact, it doesn't take long to realise that frustration is not only a key concept of Flower, Sun and Rain, but is actively encouraged and referenced throughout your uncanny adventure.
Examples include the recovery of a missing football-shaped briefcase, and an urgent cocktail-making session on behalf of a rather drunk woman. But at the completion of every solution, you're cruelly rewarded with the vision of that terrorist plane crash, which you're once again no closer to understanding or preventing.
Logical number-crunching is the flavour of the day where gameplay interaction is concerned, with fantastic stylus swishing used to crack code combinations which, amazingly, solve mysteries. Sumio accomplishes this by chatting to hotel residents, who offer conversation on subjects ranging from boxing to home theatre.
Each topic is also covered in the handbook, which helps guide you to the fitting digits. Reliable briefcase Katherine contains a dial by which you can input code numbers, as well as a universal jack plug at the other end which fits into almost any clue you can think of. Still, the majority of code solving requires nothing more than a simple scanning of the trusty hotel handbook, with some text thrown in between, presumably to throw you off track.
Less imaginative is the constant plodding from point A to point B around the island with no teleportation device, car or other mode of transport in sight. Even a pair of sodding roller skates would've been nice.
But despite the feeling you're getting nowhere fast, Flower, Sun and Rain has a good deal of wit and humour to keep you mildly amused. Each character willingly mocks their imperfect environment, in addition to relaying more crafty puns than you can shake a stylus at.
The visuals are interesting, too, if a little simplistic. They resemble a maths lesson – think jagged pentagons and cuboids – and are certainly an ambitious effort considering the DS's limited graphics.
So from the underlying concept to the overly repetitive tasks, sharp dialogue and quirky characterisation, there's no doubt that Flower, Sun and Rain offers a strong combination of the bold, unusual, frustrating and eccentric. Even the background music, which consists of funky electro remixes of classical music, will have your foot tapping mercilessly.
As the antithesis to the type of games currently being churned out for the DS, Flower, Sun and Rain will appeal to a certain niche audience. It's definitely an acquired taste. Much like caviar or a marmite sandwich, take a big bite. You might not spit it out into your napkin.