Florence is a visual novel and mobile game about young love and the many highs and lows which inevitably accompany it. Developed by Melbourne game studio Mountains, Florence was inspired by slice of life graphic novels and web-comics, to create an artistically stunning game which is intimate and very personal. Released last month on Valentine’s Day (of course), it was a game both my girlfriend Olivia and I were excited to not just play, but to experience together. So on Valentines day, we sat down and played through it together in one sitting and wanted to share our thoughts about it!
To give more context, it follows the story of Florence, a 25 year old woman who lives in Melbourne Australia, and whose life has become dull and grey. She is stuck in a rut, filled with adult chores, work and mind numbing routines. But when she meets Krish, a talented cello player and they start spending time together, the colour starts returning to her life and the world. It has seen a lot of success already and celebrated for not only its story, but how the art and the mini games or ‘game elements’ were integrated throughout to make a cohesive experience.
If you want to learn more about it and other awesome mobile games coming out this year, you can check out my article on Geek Bomb on mobile games I’m dying to play in 2018.
Warning, there are spoilers ahead, so we recommend you play it first before continuing, but if you need some more convincing, stick around and we know you’ll still enjoy it despite knowing a bit more before jumping in.
Seamus: Where do you want to start? What was the main thing that stuck out to you and that comes to mind now that we have had a week to digest it?
Olivia: So initially when I saw the art for the game, being a graphic designer that’s what I’m drawn to, the colours really captured my eye. It’s really pretty, the colour palate is very pastel, with the main colour being yellow, which within the game largely represents Florence’s happiness. But colour in general is important in conveying her emotions, helps the player to visualise and empathise with her various moods and situations.
Seamus: To give some context, at the start of the game, her life is just grey, everything is colourless because she is going through a rut, stuck in routines. Her life isn’t very joyful, or emotional.
Olivia: Exactly, so when she is following the music, when she finds Krish the first time, the yellow flow of the music notes is an indicator of that. Everything else is a bit muted and it sticks out among the grey world, and acts as a precursor for how colour will be used for the rest of the game.
Seamus: It was just so beautiful and playing through it, the way they use colours is very smart in how the story unfolds. The more time she spends with him, the more colour starts coming back into her world.
Olivia: In regards to the music, it is subtle and important, especially in those smaller, more important moments, mentioning again when she meets Krish and happens upon him playing music, it is a very iconic moment. Not only due to the smart use of colour, but the beautiful soundtrack too.
Seamus: Although colour is a big part of illustrating the emotion, the music is an important element too and brings a lot of life to Florence as well in the game.
Olivia: And it is an important part because he is a musician and wants to make a career out of it, it plays a big part in their relationship and therefore the story as a whole. But not just during the happier moments, it also gives emphasis to the tough periods in their relationship. Such as during their arguments, the music is very much in harmony with the camera angle, the movements during the mini-games, it’s done very well.
Seamus: Speaking of the mini-games, such as brushing your teeth side to side to fill a bar or putting her speech bubbles, or words, together during conversations with Krish, act as mini-games to accompany the story and sometimes are small puzzles too. But there are generally a lot of interactions throughout. Such as when you are eating toast at breakfast, or are sending messages on your phone while riding public transport.
Olivia: I think that helps more with the player side of things and helps people engage with Florence’s story, as you have to do all these menial tasks, which she has to do, brushing her teeth, doing calculations at work, which make her more grounded and realistic too. They aren’t hard, but they incorporate the player into the game, rather than it playing just as a visual novel.
Seamus: You are more engaged which helps you become more invested as you are going through the journey with Florence more physically than in other visual novel-esque games. I do feel like there were points which felt like filler though, to make you feel engaged rather than being creative, but a majority were very smart.
Such as in the conversations when you were putting together Florence’s speech bubbles to try and win arguments with Krish. How they evolve this mechanic is clever, as over the several initial dates they go on, it becomes easier to put Florence’s words together, as she is becoming more confident and comfortable with Krish. It all lends itself as part of the storytelling
Seamus: Going into the story now, culturally I feel it is very inclusive, as the main characters are quite diverse. With Florence being from an Asian family, and having phone calls with her Mum about whether she has have a boyfriend yet. Florence telling her she doesn’t need one to be happy, but the mother being rather persistent about this over several phone calls regardless. Or Krish who appears to come from a more western Asian background, whose family is Buddhist, so he has Buddhist items in his house.
Olivia: I thought it was really cute, for me personally it moved a bit fast. It does tend to skip months at a time between significant moments, ‘oh now we are moving in together!’.
Seamus: I felt like the story could have been longer, not necessarily just to pad it out but maybe a little bit more of them spending time together, to emphasis them growing closer as a couple.
Olivia: And therefore more time to process and absorb what is happening, as it does move quickly and generally a lot happens!
Seamus: The bits which did give you time to absorb the story and the associated mini games were really effective and some of the best moments for me. Like when Krish is moving in with Florence and you have to decide which items of Florence’s to move or put in storage to fit Krish’s stuff. We really took our time on these moments playing together, as we took the roles of Florence and Krish and did some role playing!
In regards to the overall story though, I was expecting it to be a happy, wholesome relationship throughout…
Olivia: Yeah nope!
Seamus: It doesn’t play out like that. At one point, after Krish has moved in and they have been together for a couple of years, they get into a particularly big argument and they break up. I was waiting, hoping, that they would get back together, but they don’t and there are some sad, depressing realisations of this and it is a hard time for Florence. However, Florence comes away stronger because of it, taking a lot of Krish’s passion and putting it into her own personal endeavors and art.
Olivia: You originally said to me you didn’t like the ending?
Seamus: No I didn’t! Because I wanted them to be back together, they were so cute!!
Olivia: That isn’t always how life always turns out.
Seamus: I guess….
Olivia: Looking back on where the story went I quite liked it because playing as Florence, we had to process the sadness and loneliness that comes with a breakup too. However, at the end of the game once Florence has become successful enough with her art to do it full time, she finds an old picture of her and Krish (and this is several months/years after the breakup). You are given the choice to keep it and take it with you, and we did, which I think is nice because you are looking back on the relationship and saying it wasn’t all bad. It did end badly, but you did have good memories from it as it was a great time in her life.
Importantly too, was that the picture was in colour, it wasn’t greyed out.
Seamus: That’s the thing, after they break up the colour in her life disappears again and she is stuck in her grey world similarly to the start. But slowly, the colour starts returning to her world naturally, through her being more driven in her own life.
Olivia: She finds joy again but not just through another person in a close relationship, but through her own life, hobbies and passions.
Seamus: One of the most important things then is what was it like playing through Florence together as a couple? You can play Florence on Apple TV or an iPad, but we played it on Olivia’s phone, which added to the intimacy of playing it together.
I loved it because it was nice to share the experience. We took it in turns to do the interactions and mini games, and depending on the situation we’d often do it together, which was a great co-op gaming experience.
Olivia: I liked having such a touching, often very cute and down to earth story about love to experience with someone else, rather then just playing it separately as you normally would, and then discuss what you thought about it together later. It was good sharing the experience.
Seamus: We did have a lot of different reactions throughout though!
Olivia: Yeah you got really sad and I was oh yeah I guess, cool…
Seamus: I was happy in the end. Like still sad, be overall happy too. So you’d recommend playing it with your significant other?
Olivia: Yeah! I’ll probably play through it again when I have the time by myself, in order to really take in everything. Particularly the art. But yeah it was good, I really liked it.
Seamus: Well, it is out right now! It came out last week, only iOS at the moment, however the developers have said they will be bringing it to Android devices too, but no release date for that just yet unfortunately.
How much was it? Around five dollars Australian? And three dollars US?
Seamus: That is a pretty reasonable price for how long it was, it took as about an hour to finish. Do you think it’s worth the price?
Olivia: Yes definitely, it was a very beautiful game.
Seamus: We both would have liked it to be a bit longer, to give us more time to absorb the story and since it was such a joy to play, to experience and to look at, but yeah, definitely worth it for how much it is.
Thanks for reading! We both really enjoyed it and it was a lovely game to play together on Valentines day, and I’m sure it would be for other couples on any other day too. If you’d like to play it yourself you can find it on the iTunes store here.
You can follow myself on Twitter @Seamus Mullins to see what indie and mobile games I’ve checking out each week and follow Olivia on Twitter @8bitolive who is a graphic designer and member of the GR8 M8S Podcast.