Australian game Florence, out this week for iOS, bills itself as an “interactive story” about a young woman’s first love. I’ve never played anything like it.
Florence is a tale made for the smart phone age. You aren’t just reading the story, you’re swiping to move through the scene, you’re interacting with objects, you’re customising elements as they come up, you’re lightly influencing the unfolding events. Early on, I was able to guess exactly where Florence was going, but it didn’t matter. Florence involved me in its fantasy so thoughtfully that I spent that night reminiscing about my own relationships.
Most of what you do in Florence comes down to tapping, but Mountains, the development studio, squeezes a surprising amount of meaning into even the simplest of interactions. When you first meet your love interest, for example, talking to him requires piecing together a puzzle that forms a speech bubble. The more you get to know him, the easier the puzzle becomes, until eventually, it isn’t a puzzle at all – you’re just chattering away. Later, when you’re in a fight, your conversations become difficult again, and the puzzle elbows back in with some jagged edges. I felt shocked when I noticed myself racing to “solve” the dialogue puzzle as quickly as possible during this spat, doing my best to drown out my partner’s comebacks. I was trying to win the argument. Mountains, which also made the great Monument Valley, made me feel terrible without using a single line of dialogue.
Florence is a short experience, but a memorable one. I walked away hoping that this game was a sign of things to come, because it’s going to be hard to go back to normal comic books after this.