Developer Mountains Publisher Annapurna Interactive Format Android, iOS (tested) Release Out now
The extraordinary thing about Florence is just how ordinary it feels. Every beat of it is instantly recognisable: there are ups, there are downs, and all the while you’re tap, tap, tapping along in time. Developer Mountains has captured the magical, the miserable and the mundane of young love in an hourlong interactive graphic novel, and the intimate space of a phone screen makes for the perfect setting.
Expressive, animated line-art wordlessly guides fingers and thumbs through scenes and frames. The odd visual hint is irksome – there’s an ease to navigating
Florence in which Mountains should be more confident, partially inherited through our experiences with comic books and partially through modern technology. Our heroine’s actions feel familiar. Every one commands your touch: impatient stabs at a snooze button, apathetic swipes through social media feeds, poking at bites of a TV dinner. You’re made to feel as though you’re going through the motions. Then, suddenly, things change. In one soaring scene that demands you flip your phone horizontally to take it all in properly, Florence follows the shining sound of a nearby cello and encounters Krish in an audiovisual crescendo that makes the notion of ‘falling’ in love seem positively ridiculous. Inventive interactions lend a personal touch. In one scene, you develop Polaroids by shaking each picture; in another heartbreaking tableau, torn pieces of a scene gently drift apart as you try in vain to reunite them
As the romance unfolds, the methodical minigames are either reframed or replaced in favour of more emotionally complicated puzzles. Playing knick-knack Tetris with both sets of possessions on moving-in day is particularly tough, as you shuffle around the pieces and weigh the options: her family photo, or his cherished record player? It’s music, after all, that defines the two. In lieu of words, Mountains represents Florence’s emotional state in lilting piano, Krish’s via his cello. It’s another delicate touch. The notes are staccato and unsure on a first date, while the honeymoon periods are rich with harmonies.
What goes up must come down, of course. A golden ambition in one chapter is later rubbed to reveal a sober reality. Old routines resurface anew. Physically pushing Krish towards his dream is an important precursor to having Florence practise the same tough love on herself later on. And knick-knack Tetris returns, its context now altogether different. The story is by no means free of cliché: winding clocks to fast-forward time feels overdone, the extended metaphor of the couple as puzzle pieces a little trite, and lonely hearts gazing out of windows or crying in the shower borderline parodic. But perhaps the beats of love are more clichéd than any of us might comfortably admit. In stringing them together so uniquely, Florence strikes a chord that resonates long after the cello fades.