Florence is an interesting game because of many reasons, but what’s impressed me the most is that it has managed to reach the holy grail of game design – letting your game mechanics tell the story.
I first heard of Florence on the Games Industry dot biz podcast, on the show they were discussing how mobile games should be looking into narrative experiences more thoughtfully and discussing whether Florence, is even a video game at all. In my opinion, it is very much a video game, as it requires the player to input into the mobile device to progress the story, therefore it’s a game. We’re at the point now with so many different platforms we can afford to take risks to stand out, and Florence very much does that.
The game itself is very short, in fact, I think I finished it in around 25 minutes but that doesn’t detract from the experience and I believe the price point is fair for an experience of this quality. When a game connects with you on an emotional level in my eyes it moves beyond the realms of being a game, it becomes an experience like The Last of Us or Spec Ops: The Line.
We meet Florence in a difficult period in her life, she is bored, craving adventure and bursting with suppressed creativity. The mechanics & pacing in the opening chapter translate this perfectly having you solve simple puzzles to show mundane her day job is, the awkward conversations with overzealous parents who always think they know what you need, when you need it and how you need it – sometimes they can be right, and always only want what’s best for you. I think I am suppressing some things here myself.
Naturally, Florence meets a man (Krish) for who she falls head over heels, this is the part that really got me. At first, the conversation puzzles were longer and more drawn out to signify how awkward it is on a first date but as we grow into conversations and we let down our barriers once we know we like someone conversation just flows, the game shows us this by making the conversation puzzles easier, in turn, speeds up the conversation. It’s mechanical perfection.
We don’t know that this is Florence’s first time loving someone, but from the brief backstory we got in the first chapter, we can assume it is. I think it’s very rare in life that you stay with your first love forever, the game shows that Florence’s relationship deteriorates by changing up the visuals and colours to indicate this.
One particular puzzle stands out that I actually had to have my wife do for me as I couldn’t find the patience to finish it, it was a picture of Florence & Krish arms wrapped around each other with expressions of anguish etched across their faces.
In this puzzle mechanically the game is testing you and your patience as when you place a picture piece in place it pulls apart. On a personal level, this really stuck with me after being in a 7-year relationship that ultimately went nowhere but we were both too scared to end as we still cared for each other. Maybe subconsciously I knew what was coming so I refused to partake in it OR I am just crap at puzzles!
Overall Florence is the perfect short form narratively driven mobile experience of which I hope to see lots more of in the future.
– Mark Gregory (@markgregory_)