Speaking without words

Florence  |  Annapurna Interactive, 2018 [iOS, Android]

The pale yellows and unassuming, simplistic art style of ‘Florence’ belies the deeply emotional story that awaits you. It’s a premium mobile game unlike probably any other that is well worth your time. It introduces you slowly to the main character, the game’s namesake of Florence, as she goes about her normal day. It’s hard not to get engaged in the minutia of all of these mundane actions as they require you to physically interact with tapping each step of the way. You help her wake up by hitting snooze on her alarm, brush her teeth by sliding your finger lazily around, swipe left and right to decide what phone apps she uses while heading to work and so on. It’s a subtle but important way to give you agency in her decision making so that through this it’s easy to start to engage with her being and start to parallel her situation with your own life.

Things seem fairly routine until the sound of a cello adds some colour (emotionally and literally) to her life. It’s a rendition that pulls her in, directly towards the male love interest of the game. As you two start to get to know one another Initial conversation is slow and clunky, which is directly portrayed through complex blocks you have to arrange in space to form text blocks. As the conversation flows the blocks become simpler and fewer in number until you’re placing whole chunks at a time as the pair finally start to click. What follows is a series of dates and life experiences which shape the rest of the game and are more fun to discover for yourself.

What follows is a journey that a player of any age can potentially identify with: whether you’re going to be, going through, or reminiscing on a similar impasse in life. The life-altering choices of the career we pursue and the love we accept are ones that stick with us, making your direct sway over those preferences for her all the more impactful. Tapping away through cleverly constructed prompts simplifies the important life decisions being made, so that before you know it a powerful narrative has been laid out and wrapped up. In total it might take you only around an hour to complete by don’t let that bite-sized play time be a deterrent: the depth of quality is viscerally obvious on completion. This game is a rare treat that says so much by having its characters hardly speak.

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