What does love feel like? This is a question that has confounded scholars, poets and musicians for centuries. Each of whom will have a different take on the way it makes them feel. Most people will be lucky enough to ‘find’ and be loved in their lifetimes (even if that love is to accept themselves). When that happens, they will innately know the feeling. It is this very notion of ‘love’ that is at the heart of Annapurna Interactive’s beautifully crafted Florence.
Florence Yeoh is a regular 25 year old woman with a stable job in finance. She enjoys browsing through Instagram during her commute to and from work, and has a complicated relationship with her mother. When not working she is fond of consuming her food in-front of the television, browsing through her social networks, and has a simple and effective daily routine for hygiene. These seemingly mundane tasks are easily carried out through a series of touchscreen sequences. Each of which play out like small mini-games. Whether it is solving a spreadsheet, brushing teeth, browsing through photos or prematurely ending a conversation with her mother; you have the power to influence and take part in Florence’s life. None of the touch interactions are challenging by any means. Rather the interactivity they provide serves to enhance the story, and helps you to become more engrossed in this young woman’s life.
What was of particular interest to me, is how these simple interactions helped to build a repertoire between the player and Florence. At first glance, helping Florence to brush her teeth might seem truly irrelevant. Yet, it is these small interactions that helped to lend a ‘real world’ persona to this digital character. The ability to partake in Florence’s most intimate of daily rituals allows you to care about who she is and what she enjoys. As the story develops, so does the interactivity. The interactions begin to slowly move on from the familiar. Being replaced with engrossing choices that may, or may not, have consequences in Florence’s life.
Another interesting aspect of Florence is how there is almost no dialogue at all. Save for brief moments when conversing with her doting mother and the inevitable chapter and location markers. Rather, the entire 40-minute long narrative is expressed through wonderful uses of colour, emotional expressions, visual cues, music, and a myriad of touch screen interactions. When put together, these elements offer engrossing snippets of Florence’s life, making it incredibly compelling to keep progressing through her tale.
Florence’s story is both familiar and relatable. She has dreams of being an artist that have been pushed to the wayside in favour of pursuing a career that helps her pay the bills. That is until she meets Krish, a charming twenty-something cellist whose music sweeps Florence off of her feet. It is here that the story takes an interesting turn. With Krish serving as Florence’s muse, a beautiful love story begins to develop. This relationship forms the focal point of Florence, and is the quintessential point in the experience that showcases the sublime subtlety and magic of the aforementioned gestures, interactions, and interactivity.
During their first date, for example, the conversation puzzles are overly complex with many pieces. A natural circumstance of the situation, whereby two people are trying to get to know each other and develop a level of comfort and familiarity. However, as the relationship develops and matures, those conversation puzzles become simpler. Eventually progressing to a point whereby no assembly is required to progress. It is a fantastic way of dealing with the progress of time, which inevitably leads to the development of a heart warming relationship. It also showcases how simple mechanics can be used to meaningfully express emotions and thoughts without the use of dialogue. Florence is filled with these kinds of subtleties, offering beautiful moments that blend the story, visuals and interactivity into an unforgettable experience.
There is no denying that Florence is a gorgeous game. The way in which the story unfolds around Florence is like an interactive graphic novel come to life. Better still, the way in which players can take part in her life makes the game truly memorable, replete with an intense and compelling desire to be a part of this young protagonist’s life. Without spoiling the story, Florence’s tale of love is engrossing, heart warming, and utterly melancholic. The game does a sensational job of embroiling players in Florence’s life, eliciting emotions of happiness, laughter and sadness for those who play. A pity then, that the entire experience can be completed in less than 40 minutes. Leaving those who play yearning for more.
Although Florence is a short and sweet look into the love life of a 20-something young woman, the experience is one that I feel is well worth enjoying. Granted, it features a story that will leave you wanting for more. Much like many of the most compelling artistic works, however, the feelings it elicits will forever be remembered and cherished. Much like love, actually.
|Time Played||<1 hour|
|Acquisition||Purchased from the Apple App Store|
Owner, founder and editor-in-chief at Vamers, Hans has a vested interest in geek culture and the interactive entertainment industry. With a Masters degree in Communications and Ludology, he is well read and versed in matters relating to video games and communication media, among many other topics of interest.