Florence is a game originally released for phones, meaning Android and iOS, and as a result, I never had the chance to play it. I treat my phone as more of a ‘making calls and memes machine’ rather than a games machine (other than Candy Crush and Pokemon GO). Though Florence was always that one game I was going to make an exception for, and never got around to it.
Two years later, Australian studio Mountains’ highly acclaimed title, Florence, makes its way to PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch. And, naturally, I bought it day 1 to see this internationally acclaimed game and why everyone thought it was just so darn good.
Comfort, change and cello’s
Florence is both the title of the game and the main character. Florence Yeoh is a 25-year-old young lady who works a boring job in Melbourne and finds herself in that sort of quarter-life crisis rut of work, social media, home, sleep, repeat. One day, however, the battery on her phone dies during her morning commute and she hears something. The loveliest sound that sweeps her up, heart, body and mind, compelling her to find the source.
A young man, Krish, plays his cello, busking on the streets of Melbourne, and Florence is absolutely entranced. The two, through coincidence, meet up and start going on some dates. Things progress, as they do, and the two moves in together, and Krish helps Florence follow her passions. The game documents their relationship, the ups and downs, and offers an uplifting view of an angle many folks use to cause drama. Relationships, our encounters with people, how we can learn from each other and grow, and how despite everything not being smooth sailing or having an ‘ideal’ outcome, sometimes that’s okay. Sometimes, that experience gives us just what we need to learn, grow and become better people.
And that message is what really made the game stick out to me in a way a lot of other games would use cliches, Florence uses growth and positivity to create a narrative that says change can be hard, people might not gel with you in a way you expect, things could not turn out the way you wanted, but you will learn, you will grow, and you will be okay. Maybe along the way, you’ll find where you were meant to be.
Also, on top of all that, there’s a beautiful soundtrack that perfectly captures every moment, relaxed, tense, inspirational, and everything in-between.
An interactive picture book
When I first played Florence, there was a sense of familiarity I couldn’t quite put my finger on, and it only hit me after I’d finished that it reminded me of those really cool picture books for kids where every page has an ‘interactive’ element. Whether that’s a flap that can be moved, something soft on the page to touch, every page adds this sort of ‘hands-on’ element to the story.
That’s exactly how I felt playing this game. It’s told in 20 chapters and, at least on the Switch, is one of the few games that makes use of the touch screen functionality. The chapters are told through a mixture of scrolling through images and more interactive set pieces, such as packing and unpacking Krish’s things as he moves into Florence’s apartment, or putting together the puzzle pieces of conversation for Florence as she talks to Krish, only for the puzzles to have less and less pieces as Florence finds him easier and easier to talk to. And again, for the puzzle pieces to turn jagged and nonsensical as arguments between the two break out.
There are dozens of little interactive elements that put the player in the middle of Florence’s complicated and developing life, all with minimal text, a story told entirely through images and small, interactive moments. And it works. As simple as the elements seem, they’re the perfect way to show how Florence feels through every interaction, and as a result, makes sure the player feels the same things
Love, loss and growth
All in all, Florence is a story that consciously eschews a lot of common video game ideas. No violence. Love, emotions and how we portray them in a visual sense. There’s no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ choice. There’s no choice, really, and that’s okay. Not every story needs one, because this isn’t the story of the player.
This is the story of a young lady finding her feet.
And it’s very, very good.
If you would like to play Florence, visit their website @ http://florencegame.com