Review: Florence for iOS

Category: Features, Gaming, Reviews

Two train rides home is all it took for me to complete what could easily be my game of the year. Florence is the first title from acclaimed Monument Valley designer Ken Wong’s new studio Mountains.

The game tells the story of a young woman, living in Melbourne, who falls in love and then follows the relationship as it moves through its stages and ultimately (spoiler alert) ends.

As the game progresses Florence experiences different stages of the relationship that we can all identify with. Chapters of the game, such as “First Dates”, “Moving In“, “Dreams” are aptly named and done so to not only encapsulate their experience but also emotionally prepare you for what you know is to come. With each chapter I felt like I was right there with her – as ridiculous as that sounds – experiencing what she was, feeling what she felt. To love is to be human and Florence’s story is one that, as humans, we are all likely to have experienced in one way or another.

Florence

It doesn’t hurt that the game is beautifully scored either. Whilst the hand-drawn aesthetic and story board nature of the visuals are stunning it’s the game’s music that really just blew me out of the water. Hauntingly beautiful classical styled pieces underpin the game’s story and perfectly capture the moment you’re experience. It’s truly fantastic stuff that deserves recognition.

The game’s not for everyone and that’s totally OK. You’re not shooting anything, there are no jelly beans of the same colour to line up and ask for your credit card to play again, it’s very much a story that has a start, a middle and an end that invites you to participate along the way.

It’s mechanics are subtle and help to progress the story. One of my favourites is the simple jigsaw puzzles that are a metaphor for the sentences we construct while talking to our partner. Initially there are many pieces and we put them together slowly or clumsily like on a first date but as you feel more comfortable it’s much easier so the pieces you have to connect grow larger and there are fewer until it’s so natural you don’t have to connect anything at all and the game uses a single piece you simply move into place.

Two train rides home is all it took for me to complete what could easily be my game of the year.

For a lot of people Florence wont be a “game”. They’ll take one look and dismiss it as a story you occasionally push a button or flick to the next page and they’re entitled to think that but I’d argue them wrong. For me, its interactive nature and subtle game mechanics very much prove it so, which because of its medium is a hundred times more emotive and engrossing than any story could be.

Florence from Mountains is available for iOS via the App Store for A$4.49 now.

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