Florence is a Mobile Game Like No Other

It’s no secret that the mobile phone game market is oversaturated. Just browsing the most popular releases brings up nothing but a bunch of godawful freemium garbage, all with the same generic roaring-with-lots-of-teeth character as their app icon.

But if you dig deep enough, sometimes you can strike gold. And no, I don’t mean micro transactions, but a game that functions without them. An app that doesn’t just copy other popular apps to carve its identity. A game like Florence. 

Released for iOS in Feburary of this year, and Android mobile devices the following month, Florence was developed by an Australian studio called Mountains, an up and coming studio who, on their websitedescribe themselves as a studio that "make games that linger in hearts and minds". This is exactly what Florence does. Pitching itself as "an interactive story about love and life", the majority of Florence's gameplay requires the player to respond to various on-screen prompts, that when completed help to further unpack a simple yet beautiful story.

When you start the game it insists that you play the game with headphones, a well advised suggestion that allows for full immersion in the story, as Florence is a real treat for the senses. The beautiful piano music will pull at your heart strings as you drift through the life of Florence, a twenty-something single business worker and aspiring artist. Using those on-screen prompts mentioned before, player's guide her through her daily life; waking up, going to work, doing accounting on her computer. All simple things, but still enjoyable to click at in order to advance the story. Gestures at the beginning of Florence range from moving your finger left and right to clicking on things to match them, but as the story advances, the actions you are asked to perform in order to advance the story move away from the mundane, becoming richer and more complex - just like the direction of Florence's life when she meets and falls in love with Kish, a budding musician.

The on-screen prompts aren't just there to advance the story along though, they also function as metaphors for the story being told. The best example is in the scenes where Florence and Kish talk to one another on their first date. Their conversation, starting off awkward and stilted, is made up of speech bubbles that the player must put together like puzzle pieces. The more they talk however, the simpler these speech bubble puzzles become, requiring less pieces to be placed together as they become more comfortable around each other and their communication becomes more heartfelt. The combination of these frantic speech bubble puzzles and the ever increasing pace of the music, leads up to an incredibly beautiful climax as the two characters finally overcome their insecurities and share their first kiss.

Florence is a very quick play through, and most players will most likely have it completed in one session. But that's because once you start playing it you won't want to put it down. I commend the developers Mountains for what they've created here and am excited to see what they have to bring to the mobile phone market in the future. There is something truly impressive about how they challenged the status quo of mobile gaming to produce a game like Florence, a game that could potentially be overlooked as it gets buried under the mountain of garbage mobile phone app stores have to offer. Florence defied all odds and has become quite the sleeper hit, scratching the itch many phone users had for a truly meaningful interactive story that can be played in the palm of their hands. You can too, for the one off cost of £2.99 (no shady in-app purchases to be made here, folks). Check it out, you won't be disappointed.

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