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Florence – app-based storytelling at its best

Florence won’t take up much of your time, but it’ll leave a big impact

Price: $3/£3
Version: 1.0.1
Size: 1 GB
Developer: Annapurna Games
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Update! We first reviewed Florence a couple years back when interactive storytelling was really coming alive on the App Store. Does it still feel fresh?

So what’s new? As with most games like this, it arrived as a contained and complete package, so aside from some cute sticker packs, more language support and a few bug fixes, all we can say is that this is still an enjoyable and even somewhat emotional game. Despite a few copycats in the genre, Florence still feels like a cut above the rest. And if you love it and want more, maybe check out the Monument Valley series, worked on by the same designer.

Revised rating: Still just as worthy. ★★★★★


Our original review, written in March 2018, is presented in its entirety below.

Passive gaming is slowly becoming an App Store staple. We’ve covered a number of similar titles before, but all too often the lack of interaction leaves us wanting so much more. However, Florence – a poignant love story with occasional but welcome game mechanics – completely turns the genre on its head.

Meet Florence. At the start her routine is fairly… well, routine

Why? Well, the key difference between Florence and other apps that use game mechanics just to justify a story; you don’t actually remember that you’re supposed to be playing a game until one of these easily solvable, simplistic puzzles presents itself.

You see, Florence is all about the visuals – but everything from game design to art direction is explicitly connected. An interactive storybook at its core, the narrative focuses on Florence Yeoh, a young woman stuck in a relatively boring routine. You first follow her through an unimaginative cycle of sleep, work, social media and then… one day, she meets Krish. He’s a handsome, cello-playing man that encourages her artistic tendencies and changes her world for the better.

She has a number of stresses in her life. Namely, her mother

From there, you spend time with the pair over the course of twenty chapters, following their ups and their downs in what is at times an intensely emotional, yet inspiring tale of love.

The art of Florence is its clear selling point. It’s got a hand-drawn feel, but it’s coupled with moments of animation and subtle puzzles – for example, moving objects around a scene, or using your finger to operate a toothbrush, makes the game feel both passive but active at the same time. It feels like a comic book – nay, a graphic novel – a standalone story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The whole thing will take less than an hour to read – but so do most comic books, and they’re priced about the same, so its value certainly isn’t under scrutiny. We’d love this to be a bit longer, but also concede that it doesn’t need to be.

Puzzles are subtle. They’re not designed to keep you from progressing, rather to keep you engaged

Although apps exist for reading comic books, Florence has really taken the medium forward, making use of the design of the iPhone itself to tell the story. It often switches between horizontal and landscape mode too, always looking for the best way to present the beautiful artwork. It’s also incredibly subtle in its choice of color, using almost every element of the game to tell the story. For example, when Florence and Krish go through rough patches, the color and detail drain away from the scene.

The app will find the best way to tell the story, whether that’s in landscape, or horizontal orientation

Although it’s short, Florence is incredibly intricate. Playing the game, it often felt like it was being told for the first time. We’d certainly love to hear from Florence again, but we have a feeling this is a one-off story. And we’re fine with that. It makes a change from apps designed to hook you in with their addictive quality. Florence simply wants you to drop in, hear her story, and then get on with your life using the lessons she’s taught you. Lovely.