Blissful waves of Zen gaming


Gulping down 20 squirrels and 16 linebacker-sized doughnuts in the course of 10 minutes can really change your perspective on the universe. Particularly when you're a 150-foot, rainbow-colored caterpillar winding around a world that quickly becomes too small for your snaky girth. This isn't what Thorstein Veblen meant when he coined the concept of conspicuous consumption, but it fits.

Such is the vibe of Noby Noby Boy, a $5 download offered on the PlayStation Network. Springing from the brain of the guy who gave us Katamari Damacy, Boy shares the chomp-till-you-drop philosophy of Pac-Man and Katamari's whacked-out sensibility. Unlike Katamari, there's no story to this endless eating. There's also no score, aside from the fact that every inch you add to Boy's length also extends Girl, a measuring stick that unlocks areas and objects for Boy to gobble the longer she gets.

In the absence of an actual, you know, point to the proceedings, there's the Zen payback of contributing to some kind of greater good, maybe like the vibe you get when you pitch your Mountain Dew bottle into the recycling bin. It's the sort of thing that causes nongamers to grouse about how effort toward something meaningful could change the world. Whatever.

If changing the world is the goal, download Flower, another bite-size PSN offering in which you control a gust of wind that flits between flower buds, collecting petals into a colorful jet stream. There are minitasks and rewards here: Clearing an area unleashes bursts of wind and light that revitalize your surroundings. Still, the lack of a specific "point" to the proceedings is palpable: Flower's the essence of Zen gaming, an experience that encourages you to stop for a few moments to take in the wildlife and blades of grass, which is the last thing a button-mashing PS3 owner is likely to do.

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