Florence feels like a children’s book for adults, and I mean that in the most magical way possible; it is spare, simple, and effective.
Florence is the story of 25 year old Florence Yeoh and the experience of her first love.
Developed by Mountains, Florence comes from the mind of Ken Wong (lead designer of Monument Valley), and is published by Annapurna Interactive. It is currently (at the time of this writing) only available on iOS, but will be coming to Android later this month.
Florence is presented in chapters, compact and poignant. From the first chapter where you are getting to know Florence, to the final chapter when you feel far more connected to her, it’s less like an interactive novel, and more like being placed into someone’s shoes in a strikingly powerful way.
I make no secret of the fact that I like games with few or no words; I feel like the limitation pushes the storytelling in unexpected ways. Florence proudly stands among Virginia, Journey, and Abzu in this manner. It is a story beautifully and vividly told through the simplest of actions.
Florence is innovative in unique ways. One moment it can show you how conversation comes easier the more you get to know and like someone, and the next, it can show you how helpless it feels to know something is wrong and not be able to do anything productive about it. It illustrates certain realizations in ways I didn’t know possible. There were more than a few story beats that found me in tears, both of joy and of sadness.
The storytelling is is truly magical. Powerful moments come to life in ways that are so simple, yet so overwhelmingly effective. It’s as though the path from point A to point B travels directly through your heart.
The controls are simple (there’s that word again), yet often exploratory. You may not know exactly what you need to do in a given segment, but the “solution” has purpose. Everything about Florence is instilled with purpose. The experience has a distinct and linear narrative, yet it feels as though it is an adventure.
The music, by Kevin Penkin, is entirely appropriate and never overwhelms the experience. His music immediately reminded me of Joe Hisaishi, and I am often loathe to compare one thing to another. His scoring was spirited, melancholy, and another effective component of the overall experience.
I think it is quite the feat to build two believable characters without a word. You immediately know who these people are, where they are coming from, and where they’d like to go. The beauty of the experience lies in many places, but often in how those two worlds merge and unfold.
Florence has a style and method all its own, and I’ve rarely seen such effective (or moving) storytelling. There isn’t a single person I wouldn’t recommend this game to; it is as close to a perfect experience as I’ve encountered in gaming.