Florence is a bittersweet game. Its narrative can be described as such as well, with its joyous moments being extremely touching and wonderful, while its lows are crushing and devastating. But the game as a whole feels to me as bittersweet as its story: it has so many good ideas and moments of gameplay that evoke the emotion and feelings of the story so well, yet the experience as a whole had left me wanting more.
Florence is a mobile game developed by Annapurna Interactive for IOS and Android that tells the story of Florence Yeoh and her mundane life until she meets a cello player named Krish. The game follows their relationship in its dizzying highs and its gut-wrenching lows through small interactive vignettes where the player must complete small tasks, such as brushing teeth or packing away various knick-knacks, to progress the story. These story beats are presented much like a comic and I wouldn’t hesitate to say that Florence is more of an interactive-comic than a game because of this.
Therefore the story is the key component here, and quite honestly it does its job. It’s a simple story set in the mundane of two very normal people who fall in love, and its mundanity is what makes it resonate so much. People can relate to the story very easily because we all have had this sort of experience before: waking up to go to work, meeting someone by chance, falling in love and drifting apart. It’s quite refreshing to see such a normal story being told in a video game since a lot of the medium focuses on the extraordinary in its quest to maintain interest and retention of players; so I welcome Florence’s normal story.
The gameplay also expertly reflects a normal life with its aforementioned small tasks. For instance, I really adored the moment where Florence first goes on a date with Krish and you are tasked with putting together a puzzle which forms the word bubbles for her. Bit by bit the puzzles become easier and easier as Florence becomes more comfortable with Krish, eventually leading to a fully formed speech bubble when she falls for him. It’s a beautiful moment which embodies not only the story itself, but what it is like to become more and more comfortable with another person; it fantastically synthesises gameplay and theme in these moments. It’s more mundane moments are also well done with common day-to-day tasks being made into mini-games in really smart ways, such as the tedium of work, moving in or cooking. I simply adore what the game does with the capabilities and features of mobile devices to express these moments: all the games use the touchscreen in smart ways and it even plays with the orientation of the screen at points to emphasise the ideas and feelings of the vignettes.
However, there are some heavy-handed moments that I feel lack the sweet subtlety of the better moments of the game. For instance, later on in the game, Florence and Krish begin to drift apart and this is shown to us in a mini-game where the pieces of a puzzle of the two literally drifting apart. It’s this sort of need to focus on the big broad moments in of the story in big ways that eventually makes the game partially fall flat. I wish there was more of the earlier section of the game’s small moments since a relationship and life isn’t all big moments, its small moments that add up to bigger ones; the game simply put is far too short and focuses only on its broader points. I wanted more moments of Florence and Krish’s life showing their adventures together, the slowing down of those experiences, the mundanity setting in and their eventual separation.
This isn’t to say that the game isn’t worth your time. It’s a beautiful little experiment that I hope we see more of in the future. I want more small games like this that reflect our own lives; normal stories with normal people in them since we have more than enough extraordinary stories in games. Certainly one should be wary of the game’s shortcomings in length and pacing. However, it’s well worth your time if you want to see what video games can be: reflective of our lives and not just simple entertainment.