Finding love for the first time can be the best thing to ever happen. Just ask Florence Yeoh, a 25-year old aspiring artist, who feels trapped in her monotonous daily routine. Her office job bores her. An overbearing mother routinely hounds her about finding a boyfriend. Life appears generally unfulfilling–until she stumbles upon a charming musician named Krish. Their friendship soon blossoms into something more, and Florence’s world expands as a result. Mountains’ debut title takes players through the ups and downs of this relationship, delivering a message that’s moving in its sincerity.
Florence and Krish’s short and sweet journey takes about 30 minutes to get through. Despite its whimsical presentation the story comes off as overwhelmingly honest and written from a place of experience. Nothing feels heavy-handed or contrived. I related to Florence’s high of unlimited hope during her initial honeymoon period. Watching the pair have their first fight while grocery shopping felt comically on-point (the first grocery trip with a partner will always be a minefield for conflict). If you’ve experienced even a mildly serious relationship, odds are Florence’s tale will resonate on some level.
The couple’s happy times are genuinely heartwarming, but the story makes its biggest impact during the rough patches. Primarily because it does a great job of portraying how things have to get worse in order for life to become better–much to our chagrin. Discussing specifics without spoiling is tough. However, the conclusion wonderfully illustrates the little ways that love helps us grow beyond just living happily ever after. I’m no pessimist, but I walked away from the game with an even greater positive outlook on relationships overall.
Despite the heavy doses of mushy stuff, Florence is still a video game–a good playing one at that. The inventive and varied touch controls charmed me with how they successfully game-ify the elements of dating. For example, conversing on the first date requires piecing together the puzzle of a dialogue bubble. The more dates that occur, the easier the puzzle becomes–a brilliant method of illustrating Florence’s growing comfort around Krish. Other interactions range from emotionally affecting to just plain cute. I smiled while designing Florence’s childhood art pieces. Turning a clock and watching photos of her friends gradually age and drift apart bummed me out in its truthfulness.
Gameplay even teaches the give and take couples go through each day. When Krish moves in, deciding which of Florence’s belongings to box up in order to make room for his stuff acts as an effective exercise in compromise. Rapidly completing word bubbles to out-talk Krish during a fight made me consider easing up to balance the debate. Despite having no idea why they were arguing, for some reason I didn’t want to appear domineering. Who knows; you just might discover a little bit about your own behavior as a girlfriend or boyfriend.
I’d be remiss to not praise Florence’s presentation. In short, the comic strip-esque art design and animations look fantastic. A phenomenal soundtrack primarily consisting of piano and violin arrangements effectively convey emotional turns in place of voice acting. The score stands alongside my favorites of the year. I even left the game idle at times just to enjoy it.
Florence paints an honest and affecting love story backed by imaginative gameplay. Depending on your love life, past or present, the game can easily strike an emotional cord at several spots. Tack on charming interactions, top-notch music, and a digestible length, and Florence stands as one of the most thoughtful and touching experiences of 2018.