De­vel­oper Moun­tains Pub­lisher An­na­purna In­ter­ac­tive For­mat An­droid, iOS (tested) Re­lease Out now


An­droid, iOS

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.

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