Florence and Me: My Relationship with a Mobile App

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As I write this, I have a warm cup of coffee on my desk. I’ve lit a candle. The mellow strains of the compositions of Kevin Penkin (the composer for Florence‘s soundtrack) are piping through my speakers. Because if Florence has taught me anything, environment, feeling and, as the Danish say, the hygge of any experience matters. It matters a lot.

I feel like I’m going to be a little biased. To begin with, Florence and I are a lot alike. I’m introverted. She seems pretty introverted. She loves to draw. I love to draw. We both ride bikes. We’re both Asian daughters and have all the baggage that comes with having Asian parents. Perhaps the one stark difference between us is that she doesn’t eat her crusts (whereas I love a good crunchy pizza crust).  But even then, I still love that difference. I love that the devs even thought to put that little detail in.

Before I get carried away, the plot: Florence Yeoh is a girl stuck in a dead-end job. That is until she meets cello player Krish who puts a little magic in her life.

Yup, it’s a sappy girl-meets-boy kind of game. Actually, it’s not even a game – it’s more like a graphic novel where you participate in the daily rituals of Florence’s life. Check her social media feeds, help her brush her teeth, click stuff so she can finish her breakfast…I can hear you thinking, “How is this fun?” That’s what I thought before I opened Florence up.

The puzzles, if they can be considered that at all, aren’t hard. They’re not designed to be. Instead, everything that happens isn’t about a goal but rather is creatively-designed to convey an idea without standard storytelling. Creative director Ken Wong said that “every moment in Florence is designed to gently advance the story or evoke an emotion”. I found this so starkly evident in one particular scene between Florence and Krish where they’re having a conversation. In one swift moment, the conversation becomes a fight and you know it even though there is no text.  I sat there staring at my screen going, “Oh my god. That is brilliant.” Will someone please give this game an Apple Design Award? Oh wait, already done.

The soundtrack is worth an award all by itself. I had flashbacks of sitting in a theatre watching the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra playing and all these emotions running rampant from movement to movement. It’s so appropriate that, with Krish being a cellist, the soundtrack features so strongly in Florence. It’s no background ambience but instead is almost like a main character. It accompanies you and comments on the unfolding events, like some Jiminy Cricket to Disney’s Pinocchio. But not in a way that’s annoying or invasive. Instead, even when I’d completed a scene, I’d often wait to advance to the next act just so I could finish listening to the piece.

Half an hour after starting Florence, I’m staring at the credits with tears in my eyes thinking that this has been the most profound moment of my week. Maybe even my month.

Yeah, you heard me right. It’s not a long game. That’s probably the biggest downside to Florence. It’s so quick when you really want it to last a lifetime. So is it still worth the couple dollars next to its name? 100% yes, yes and yes. Welcome to the new world of mobile gaming.

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