I played Florence at PAX Australia 2017, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Last week was particularly busy for Melbourne-based studio, Mountains. After announcing their upcoming title, Florence, on 24 October, they brought an incredibly affecting demo of the game to PAX Australia 2017, where I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek. And it’s been lodged in my mind ever since.
Florence is a narrative game that challenges traditional storytelling techniques. It uses beautiful illustrations and game design to explore the highs and lows of protagonist Florence Yeoh’s first love, and how it intersects with her life.
And the design is seriously exquisite. I want to resist giving specific examples so as not to spoil the experience, but trust me, even the demo is full of many perfect and powerful decisions. It’s not often that a 15-minute game on the PAX show floor can make me cry, but Florence succeeded.
Each vignette in Florence is stylised like a graphic novel, and carries you through to the next with curiosity. You are shown moments in Florence’s life - and her relationship with cellist Krish - that are both joyful and painful, and messy and complicated, and the result is captivating.
It’s rare to see games explore the complex nuances of love, rather than simply using relationships as a prize or some sort of system. And it’s even rarer to see games championing diverse stories that place a woman of colour in the spotlight. Florence feels like a rarity, indeed.
Florence will be making your heart ache from your Apple device in 2018.