Florence doesn’t need voice-over it’s mechanics tell the story for you. As an aspiring game designer, the pinnacle of design aspiration to me has always been to let game mechanics tell the story. I think I have found said game and on the most unlikely of places, the iOS App Store, it’s name – Florence.
I first heard of Florence on the games industry 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 game at all. In my opinion, it is very much a game as it has you (the player) controlling the pacing of the story via your inputs on the device. Due to its limited input, I think you’ll find some sections of players saying “this isn’t a game” – in that case, is the first Mario game a game due to its even more limited inputs (a d-pad and two action buttons).
Florence is a very short game, in fact, I think I finished it in around 25 minutes but that doesn’t detract the experience and I believe the price point is fair for an experience of this quality. I say experience because when a game can connect 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.
I won’t spoil too much but I would really recommend buying the game playing it than reading this. We learn about 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 want what’s best for you but forcing that decision onto any person is a sure fire way to mark them not listen, even as an adult.
Florence then meets a man who she falls head over heels for, this is the part that really got me. At the 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 find someone you love the first time of asking and this game shows that as Florence’s relationship deteriorates again the conversation shows this by changing up the visuals and colours.
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 of a picture of Florence & Krish arms wrapped around each other with expressions of anguish etched across their faces.
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 struck 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 too 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.