My opinion on life plays out like a tennis match, a volley between “life sucks,” “but it’s also great,” “but it also sucks,” “but it’s great.” Often, I try to explain to some of my friends this feeling that I assume we all feel, but I’m often surprised that many don’t have that game playing out inside their heads…ever. What I like about FLORENCE is that it’s one of the few games I’ve played to capture that kind of emotional turmoil with any kind of clarity. I’ve never played a game that shows the daily struggle and realistic obstacles of mundane life in the refined way FLORENCE does. FLORENCE is distributed by Annapurna Interactive, and it’s not surprising that the game dabbles in the more human qualities a lot of their films go for. FLORENCE started off as an iOS and Android game, and has now been ported to the Switch. How does it hold up? Great! Now instead of getting tears on my phone I can get them on my Switch Lite.
Florence Yeoh is a 25-year-old loner. She wakes up, brushes her teeth, likes some puppies on social media, goes to work, robotically calculates numbers, and then goes home to complete the cycle. The only disruption is her mother’s calls, which you can try to ignore all you want, but they are coming and you will answer. She doesn’t seem upset by this routine until she finds an old box of mementos that reminds her of the things she used to love. It’s not long after that beautiful music she hears being performed on the street leads her to Krish. The rest of the game follows the ups and downs of their dating life, where you get to feel every ounce of joy and pain that Florence experiences.
Krish? More like KISS! (Please don’t fire me)
The gameplay is very puzzle-based, often involving solving different puzzles and mini-games in order to get through Florence’s day-to-day life. For example, in order to have a conversation, you have to drag the puzzle pieces together to complete word bubbles. On mobile this was handled entirely through touch inputs; on the Switch it’s just moving the joystick. It’s inherently less intimate and often the cursor will annoyingly move a bit further right or left than you might want, but it’s very easy to adapt to. While these puzzles are used to keep the momentum of the game going, they’re unique in how they allow the player to “play” the inner mind of the character. It’s engaging how the game forces the player to solve a puzzle to create Florence’s next move, instead of just letting the player point and click on the option they want. This allows you to really “be” with Florence in trying to figure out what to say, do, and accomplish. The puzzles also help establish what Florence is feeling. When there’s an argument, the puzzles need to be solved quickly in order to feel like you’re winning. The gameplay matches Florence’s temperament as it visualizes her thoughts. It’s a unique combination.
An accurate portrayal of my mind when someone asks who my favorite chipmunk is (Simon)
Beyond gameplay, what makes FLORENCE different from other life simulation games is its treatment of relationships. While FLORENCE works hard to be as realistic as possible when it comes to dating, it still has a complete arc for the title character separate from her romantic partner. We follow Florence as she finally allows people into her life, not just Krish, but also her mother, who she’s been trying to ignore throughout the game. This isn’t to say the game doesn’t have an opinion on romantic relationships, just that they serve as but one example of the ways people impact the peers they spend time with. Throughout the game Florence finds her passion for art and drawing as she pushes Krish to continue his pursuit in music. In the end, they found their true passions through each other. Sometimes people can come into your life just for the sole purpose of inspiring you. They don’t have to be there for all of your accomplishments afterwards. Relationships don’t have to be just good or bad, they can be stepping stones into turning you into the person you want to be. I never thought a game on my Switch would make me think this much.