I am in the ruins of my past relationships. Through words and actions, of others but mostly myself, I am surrounded by crumbling structures which once housed hope and love. It is the summer of 2015 and I have only recently arrived in Toronto. The job and the people that have brought me here are starting to, or already have, left me behind. Feeling lost and dejected I turn to my phone for hope and love. Thanks to a certain modern application, and some luck, I start anew.
Florence from Mountains Games, a recent release on the iOS app store and coming soon to Android, captures the feelings of love in our modern society in an almost wordless way. With a surprising ease and swiftness, you get caught up in the story that it weaves. The pace leaves you breathless and sort of nervous, mirroring a new relationship itself. It wears its emotions proudly, and as you fall into the tale it tells it's hard not to look back on the good and the bad of your own past or current relationships. You play as Florence, a 25-year-old girl stuck in a boring routine day to day but looking for something more. Thanks to a chance encounter after a dead cell phone battery with a street musician named Krish, she finds something new and takes a leap into it. What they have created here is one of the best narrative experiences, and easily one of the best mobile games that is strengthened by the platform it is on. If you are interested in playing this, stop here now and go play it. Have you done that? Great. Read on.
The game chronicles that relationship, going through the nervous first dates to meeting family, from moving in together to first and final fights. The game moves quickly, guiding you through Florence's story, but communicating a lot of emotion, empathy, and understanding in a very short time. It is through the use of subtle game mechanics, music and audio cues, and repetition, that the game manages to convey so much with so little. There are numerous examples of this intuitive design in the game, evoking weight with a very light touch. For example, having the dialogue be puzzle pieces to be put together on the first date immediately brings to mind the challenge of talking to someone new. It is as this date goes on that puzzle pieces become simpler, fewer, and easier to put together. We can immediately see the connection between Florence and Krish.
It is our first date, we meet up at a red bench and nervously start to talk. We begin to open up over ice cream (I have boring ice cream and she has a rad cookie ice cream sandwich). The sun then soon begins to set and we find ourselves on a nearby patio to keep talking, sharing sangria and secrets. We tell each other about quirks, and about our passions. The second date follows soon after and we are on a play structure in a park, looking up at the stars. Our hands find each other in the starlight and our lips soon follow suit. It is the kind of kiss that knocks the wind out of you, electricity in the air.
Florence and Krish soon begin to adventure all over town, taking polaroids and making memories. They share their dreams with one another and Florence learns Krish wants to be a successful musician. You reveal these dreams by painting, using Florence's own skill, and personal dream to learn more about Krish. With this simple motion, the game shows us how they share their ideas with one another, and how they will support each other. Then, a year has gone by and they move in together. It is then up to you, the player, to pack away Florence's (or Krish's) things to make room for each other. You find a balance between the two of them and try to balance their interests and lives, in the physical metaphor of their belongings.
She dreams of being a doctor, of sitting and listening to those who don't always have someone to listen. She already has done this countless times for friends, family, and even me. It is a scary and long journey filled with difficulties but there is hope within it. I am lost and aimless, to begin with, but soon find purpose in photos or in the stories I tell. I start to put these thoughts down, in writing and in recording. We support one another with our strengths and cheer each other on.
The day to day returns but this time, it is filled with color and Florence has Krish with her at every step. The same boring routine finds a new life. Then, when Florence and Krish first fight, the dialogue puzzle returns. This time it feels like a competition. Completing these puzzles quickly to get a word in. These new pieces are jagged and hint at an edge to the words being said.
After a moment, they reunite and there is a relief. The feeling in the pit of your stomach is gone but some of the hope has faded a little, the story so far has been very real and conjurers up such familiar emotions that you begin to wonder for the future of Florence and Krish, and where their lives will take them. Will Krish begin to resent Florence for pushing him into music school as he hates it? Will Florence struggle to find time to pursue her dream buried under the weight of her own boring job? The game never outright states these problems but like most of the story, they lie just on the periphery, informed by your own personal relationships.
A fight, a discourse, a long one filled with remorse and regret. Words are said, tears are shed, and it becomes like a song.
Sorrow drips into your heart through a pin hole
Just like a faucet that leaks and there is comfort in the sound
But while you debate half empty and half full
It slowly rises, your love is gonna drown
Where there was once softness there is an edge, and our relationship stands on a precipice. The wind is howling and threatens the roots that remain. Those same words though, that once hacked at what grew, become a lifeline. The winds become blocked by new growth and the roots grow deeper than they ever grew before.
Florence and Krish fight once again, this time for the last time. Those puzzle pieces that once represented love become a weapon. Soon the color drains from the world once again and you go back in reverse, pulling Krish's things from where you unpacked them, leaving a visible gap behind.
One of the most powerful moments of the game is then revealed, the game opening up on a chapter titled "Let Go". Florence slowly walks forward with Krish beside her. He starts to lag behind her though, and begins to fade. Tapping on Florence makes her pause, which lets Krish catch up, but also bring the chapter title into view once again. It hovers over the couple, a grim reminder of what must occur.
The game uses color (especially yellow) to signify Florence's emotions and happiness, and we see it enter as Krish enters Florence's life. Soon though, she finds a new purpose and through following her dreams, and rebuilding a relationship with her Mother the color returns. It is in the aftermath, the ruins left behind, that Florence rediscovers an old love and falls head over heels once again.
Now she is deep in medical school and I am on a path to following my dreams. We go on adventures, to far off places and to places much closer to home. We are both busy, but make time for one another. In between the stickers, and the snapchats, and the phone calls, we have made a home that isn't a physical place. It is one that only we can see and that we have built together. The ruins are still there, and the winds still howl, but what we have built stands tall on top of all of that and only continues to grow.
Florence re-discovers her dream of painting, and soon her apartment walls begin to fill works of art. Her hair changes, a cat emerges, and she finds a new purpose. She leaves her old tedious job behind, and her past memories have become a boon, rather than a burden. In a short time with simple motions, stirring music, and a graphic novel-like presentation there is a powerful and relatable story of love, loss, and growth that is told. There is even so much more in Florence that I didn't mention here, small moments and grand ideas that pull you in and make you look back on your own times with romance. Finding "love" in Florence isn't necessarily through the romantic relationship it portrays, it is through the journey of growth and self-discovery that Florence herself embarks on. Thanks to Florence, you can look to your own phone for hope and love.
Growing up in a small town, going to school for graphic and web design and finally moving to Toronto, Colin began to look for a new project and landed on Third Person. He has always had a passion for video games and finally decided to do something about it. Inspired by websites like Giant Bomb, Polygon, and Waypoint, Colin has founded Third Person with the intent of covering games using a mix of the old and the new.
Colin loves to dive into RPGs of all kinds, exploring their worlds and developing his character. Well-crafted stories draw him in too, and he is always on the lookout for a new adventure.
When he's not spending a billion years in a game's character creator, he can be found behind his camera, reading comic books or probably sleeping.
Some of his favorite games: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen, Alpha Protocol, Mass Effect, Overwatch, Life is Strange, Persona 4