It’s been a long time since an iOS game really captured me. There are plenty oft titles that will make due with keeping you occupied at the dentist or sitting on an airplane. Every now and again I’ll find myself playing games like Bloons TD 5, Plants vs Zombies or Peggle. But I play them just to pass time, not engage in. And yet a week ago I bought Florence after hearing a friend talk about it and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.
Florence is a simple game about a young girl meeting a young boy and they fall in love. If that sounds like an opening to some 1990’s romantic comedy, I apologize because I grew up with them. But Florence is actually deeper than that. It’s described in the App Store as an interactive storybook and that’s about right. There’s almost no dialogue, and the little dialogue there is, is usually on part of the story. The majority of the Florence is told through illustrated images and small interactive games. Gameplay in Florence - and I use that term loosely - are small bite-sized pieces that help further a point in the story. A great example is early on when you meet the young boy you have a brief conversation with. In order to move the conversation along, you need to put a dialog box together with puzzle pieces. It starts with four or five pieces and as your relationship matures, creating those conversation boxes requires less and less puzzle pieces until it becomes just one piece. Simple but brilliant.
The game is broken up into acts and chapters. Each act might take about 20 minutes, while each chapter only being a few minutes in length. You will go out on dates, watch movies, eat food, and spend time in various moments of the relationship. The game's developers were smart in the moments that they chose to include. You never linger too long in one part of the relationship but watch as it matures, evolves, and changes over time. There are simple artistic cues throughout the game too. Simple changes in the color palette, the music may shift, and even the conversation pieces will change style and color.
A lot of what makes Florence such a brilliant game boils down to two key things. First, Florence has beautiful art direction. Everything in Florence looks hand drawn. Simplistic in style but powerful in its use of color. But where the game is a true knockout is in its incredible score. I’m not sure where the music for Florence came from but it's beautifully integrated into the game and makes the story beats hit that much harder. When things are going well, it feels like you could drift away with the music. When things aren’t going as well, though, the music swells and you can feel the pain, confusion, and sorrow in the relationship.
Florence doesn’t last long but when it's finished, I was left with an overwhelming series of emotions. I don’t want to sound hyperbolic, but I found the simplicity of this game to be profound. Florence right now retails for $2.99 on the App Store and although it doesn't have any replayability, I think it’s worth every penny. I hope that Florence inspires more games of this kind that captured an hour of my day and transformed it into an intrinsic adventure that I’m not soon to forget.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.