"...the story is so beautifully told through simple imagery that it's hard not to form an emotional connection."
Florence is a mobile game everyone should play. In a time where everyone's lives are busy and we can barely make time for those epic, long adventures, Florence can completed in less than an hour. Its own story is perhaps more moving, powerful and relatable than most other games I've ever played. It really struck a chord with me, during a time where I needed a good reminder that life is full of ups and downs, and there's always something good on the horizon.
You follow the life of Florence Yeoh, an ordinary 25-year-old, as she meets and falls in love with a cellist called Krish. The game chronicles their life and relationship together, from travelling across the country and taking pictures, to meeting each other's families, and moving in together. Florence presents the best and worst things about being in a relationship, from lie-ins together to small arguments over grocery shopping. It's both hopeful and heartbreaking.
The most striking thing about Florence is its visual style. It looks just like a graphic novel that you might find tucked away at the back of a bookstore, or a short webcomic that you'd read on your laptop in a cafe while drinking a warm cup of coffee. You scroll down or across the screen to read through the story, and the sketchily-drawn characters are simple but perfectly capture every emotion in every scene. There are pops of colour throughout which reflect a bevy of emotions: yellow for those happier, homely moments; pink for the more romantic ones; and greys are used for times when the mood dips. There's a colour for every scenario, and every second of the game is gorgeous as a result.
The visuals and this style do so much to enhance Florence's very ordinary life beyond a simple "story about love and relationships", and that's largely in part to the lack of dialogue. Yes, Florence and Krish's relationship is nothing out of the ordinary, but the story is so beautifully told through simple imagery that it's hard not to form an emotional connection. It might honestly be the best example of capturing the rise and fall of a relationship I've ever seen before.
The game's style goes beyond its visuals and utilises mobile and tablet screens perfectly. Most of Florence is played in portrait mode, and a lot of the time you're simply scrolling down, or tapping on the screen to move on to the next "page", but there are certain sections that require you to hold your phone landscape, and these moments are among some of my favourites. One particular scene stood out to me: very early on Florence walking through the streets, looking at her phone, when she hears the sound of a cello and musical notes glide across the screen. They remind me of the pages in the middle of comic books that you have to turn to properly see the image, and that act of turning the screen, or the page, is really impactful and made me feel more involved and invested.
Florence also uses various little minigames to help tell its story, or simply just reinforce moments in the main character's life to the player. These involve things like brushing your teeth by using the touchscreen, or moving Krish into the flat; think WarioWare style minigames without the silliness. These little games are designed to hammer home the emotional impact of each scene. In the latter example, moving Krish into the flat shows that to accept Krish into her life, Florence's life, and way of living also has to change, and that's a big thing for her. Moving her photographs or ornaments out of the way to make way for Krish's really touched a nerve with me.
Some of these games work better than others. With one or two of them, I found the touch screen controls were very particular and I had to try multiple times to move items across the screen. Other times, in the same section, it would work perfectly, but there are so few of these instances that it's only a minor problem, and each one of these emphasises just how important each moment in Florence's life is, as big or small as they may initially seem.
Kevin Penkin's music is yet another highlight of the game, at times whimsical, and others melancholy. I love the minimalist piano used throughout; the title theme is a particular standout to me because it gives me a warm feeling whenever I hear it. The music is the perfect accompaniment to the game's visuals, both evocative of Florence's life while also capturing every inch of emotion drizzled throughout the game. The songs synced up perfectly as I was playing through, with the sound picking up the pace whenever anything exciting happens, or becoming more discordant when there was tension in the air.
For something that you can fit into a long lunch break, Florence is a beautiful and memorable story that has stuck with me ever since I finished it. I laughed and cried along with Florence as she made her way through life, and it helped me get through some particularly tough times. The developers at Mountains have done a phenomenal job at elevating an everyday story to a beautiful, whimsical and sometimes sad adventure, and they've reminded me that if things don't work out, there's always something else to look forward to.