Florence – Another Gem for Publisher Annapurna?

Florence - Key Art

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain, and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling (…) To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.” – Sylvia Plath

Developer: Mountains
Released: 13th February 2020
Price: £4.79 (PC/Mac) £2.99(Android/iOS), £4.99 (Switch)
Engine: Unity

Platforms: PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Switch
Available on: Steam, GOG, Google Play, App Store, Nintendo

Overview

Although short and sweet, Florence delivers a relatable and emotive narrative experience. Disaffected, lonely and stuck in a rut, the 25-year-old protagonist stumbles across a handsome cello player and love blossoms. The player follows Florence through the various stages of her relationship with Krish, from flirting to fighting, from helping each other grow … to growing apart. 

Florence Screenshot - First Date
Florence and Krish’s first date.

Narrative and Styling

Within any interactive fiction, narrative is key and Florence successfully delivers the intimate, yet familiar tale of first love and self-discovery. The player is escorted on a heartwarming journey that is both charming and hopeful, despite the inevitable emotional turbulence.

The game’s soundtrack is stunning and largely consists of piano and strings. It ranges from peacefully upbeat to severely melancholy and is perfectly synchronised with the tone of the game.

Florence Screenshot - Colour me Happy
Wiping the mirror reveals a more content Florence.

Florence is a mostly visual storytelling experience and consists of some beautiful artwork with a sketchy cartoon style. Colour is utilised to great effect in the game, it is used in some obvious ways to represent emotions, such as yellow representing happiness and red speech bubbles to depict anger. The underlying mood of each scene is also subtly represented through the specific colour palette chosen, emphasising the fluctuating nature of love and relationships.

Florence Screenshot - Yellow Music on a Grey Day
Following the yellow music on a grey and gloomy day.

Gameplay

Jigsaw puzzles, colouring and maths problems are among the gameplay components dotted throughout the narrative. They are all fairly simplistic and in no way challenging, however, that does not detract from their value. The regular interactivity serves to keep the player connected to Florence and her story as well as providing an element of fun.

As with the game’s aesthetics, there is also some clear symbolism in the way these mechanics are implemented. For example, the jigsaw puzzle part of dialogue varies depending on the tone; the round-edged conversation puzzles get easier over the course of the first date, whereas argument puzzle pieces had jagged, angular edges and often culminated in a timed version to determine a ‘winner’.

Florence 4x Screenshot - Symbolism in Puzzle Mechanics to Represent Tone of Conversations
Four screenshots of different types of conversations.

Summary

Florence is a beautiful work of interactive storytelling that is emotional and poignant despite its very short playtime of around 30 minutes. The storyline and artwork are the focus of this title with more traditional gameplay taking a backseat. The interaction is simple but meaningful and serves to highlight the characters’ emotions and the mood of each scene. The price to playtime ratio is something to be aware of but overall, the game is a touching and enjoyable experience that I would highly recommend to fans of the genre.

Want more game with distinctive and beautiful artwork? Maybe take a look at Still There, GRIS or When the Past was Around.

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