Do not play Florence if you’re on the subway. As a matter of fact don’t play Florence on any sort of public transportation unless you’ve come to terms with ugly crying in public… which I have not.
Florence is a mobile game by Australian developer Mountains. It’s a story about finding your first love and finding yourself. I should note that it’s difficult to review Florence without giving away all the moments that make it feel so special. Before diving into specifics this is your fair warning that spoilers may lie ahead.
The story follows Florence Yeoh, a 25-year-old woman who basically works, sleeps, and keeps up with friends via social media photos; a perfect representation of most of our day to day lives. It would appear nothing too exciting is going on in her world until one day fate steps in and she meets Krish; a handsome cello player who sweeps her off her feet and opens her eyes to the world outside her own bubble. Players will follow Florence on her journey with Krish and learn how to navigate their first date, how to make compromises within their relationship, how to deal with their first fight, and how to handle heartbreak.
This interactive experience plays like a digital graphic novel with beautiful artwork that appears hand drawn and fit into panels illustrating the narrative. Players must tap, swipe, or brush their finger across the screen to complete tasks. At first, Florence’s day to day activities are actually quite dull between hitting the snooze button, matching numbers on a spreadsheet for work, eating dinner in front of the TV, getting ready for bed, rinse and repeat. The only thing that breaks up her routine is the occasional phone call from her nagging mother. From the start it would appear that Florence has nothing in her life motivating her to follow her passions, whatever they may be. It leaves you wanting to scream out to her to wake up and break away from the monotony of it all. Thankfully the game doesn’t linger on these boring tasks for too long. They are really just to get a sense of Florence’s lifestyle and illustrate that feeling of being stuck; a feeling I think many of us can relate to at one point or another.
Voice over is absent from the game but you won’t miss it; facial expressions, music, sound effects, and blank speech bubbles are able to convey everything needed to follow the story. To guide Florence through conversations with Krish players must fit puzzle pieces into the empty speech bubbles. The amount of puzzle pieces and the colors of the pieces indicate the complexity of the conversation. The more pieces needed to fill the speech bubbles the more complicated the message while fewer pieces indicate how comfortable they are talking with one another. Puzzle pieces that are light in color tones signify a calm and ease to the conversation, while brighter colors indicate anger and hostility.
The game play is by no means difficult; in fact it’s impossible to lose. The most challenging part of the game is the emotional journey players should expect to take. Anyone who has been in a relationship will be familiar with the ups and downs that come with being committed to someone. When things are great, they are really wonderful. But when cracks start to break things can become more difficult and uncomfortable to deal with. Florence forces players to face these moments head on. So why play a game that mirrors real life? Shouldn’t games offer an opportunity to escape reality? Sure, but I think what Florence is doing here is bold – it’s forcing players to evaluate their own decisions. I also believe Florence offers a window into the complexities of relationships and sometimes it helps to reflect on your own situations from the outside looking in. The game may mirror real life but it offers hope, inspiration, closure, and new beginnings.
Florence is a short 30-minute game but it’s not one of those where you mindlessly pop bubbles or match colors to pass the time. What’s refreshing about the brevity of this game is the emotional highs and lows this interactive story will send you on, with a powerful message that you’ll find yourself thinking about for days after. You can download and experience Florence yourself on iOS or Android today.
Check out the trailer below: