One of my favorite collections of comics that I own is Soppy from artist Philippa Rice. Soppy chronicles the cute happenings of a relatable relationship between two people as they share their lives together. The art style is rightfully adorable too, even when the panels show the darker side of relationships—and how arguments resolve when people actually communicate.
In Soppy, I saw a side of relationships depicted that I never see across most movies, books, and even video games. I saw the subtler nuances of what it's like to actually be in love and share your life with someone; the daily experiences of my own life, in comic form.
Florence, the new game by the studio Mountains from Ken Wong (the lead designer behind Monument Valley), shows this side of love too, and then some. Florence is an interactive comic on iOS about love, life, and everything in-between. As a game, its interactions are minimal, from dragging a toothbrush back and forth to matching numbers at the main character's mundane accounting job. (Curmudgeons might lambast me even calling it a game, but in my mind, anything interactive is a game. So buzz off!) On the most recent episode of The USgamer Podcast, I sang my praises for it as the perfect Valentine's Day-oriented game (which is adequate, considering it launched the same day).
In Florence, you follow the life of Florence Yeoh as she navigates a dull world. She spends her time scrolling through social media of people who have livelier lives than she; to match this, her world is extremely grey, except for her childhood where she painted as a hobby. The activities the player partakes in are equally mundane-feeling. She plainly talks her way through another pestering conversation with her mom on the phone, and hits her alarm clock about a dozen times before she actually wakes up to start her day. And then one day, her phone dies on her walk home, and she's distracted by the sound of someone playing cello in the park. It's love at first sight.
Eventually by chance, Florence meets the cello-playing man again, and after they meet-cute, a whirlwind relationship blossoms. As someone who also entered a very quick relationship and has remained in it for years, the chance meeting and near-immediate segue into dating felt instantly relatable, almost as if I was watching a realigned version of my own relationship through another lens. I imagine I'm not alone in that experience too.
Comics and manga, even the page turning ones like Soppy or Yotsuba, are so often static. Digital comics often pop out at the screen, or cue in music when appropriate, but so few bring interactions that embolden the experience as much as Florence. Florence's interactions are varied too, which adds to the action. In one scene with an argument, I found myself quickening my approach to toss in puzzle pieces into a speech bubble, thinking loosely, "This is how I win this argument." (Spoiler: there is no winning.) In another scene, I shook polaroids back and forth, getting quick glimpses of the warmer memories we were making in our relationship.
In making the Annapurna Interactive published title an "interactive story," Florence's tale isn't left to just being a page turner. The reader, instead, becomes a player; someone more embedded in the story surrounding Florence. It doesn't go overboard with the interactions either, making it accessible even to people who don't typically play video games while remaining a gateway into more games and interactive comics like it.
But Florence doesn't just dwell on relationship niceties or moving in conundrums. Instead, it shifts its focus to something greater: on how love and relationships grow people as individuals. Florence and her partner Krish are both individuals with dreams, and as Florence urges Krish to follow his own of music, he attempts to do the same with her and painting.
The comic follows Florence's life most importantly, not viewing her as a person who ends and begins with her romantic relationships; but as an individual, as someone who finds herself inspired by her relationships and livelihood.
Florence reminds us that all relationships, whether they end well or not, often affect us in the long term. Sometimes it's a warning of what to avoid in the future. Sometimes it's the growth we feel within them. Regardless, even when a relationship may not last forever, love in all its forms is what pushes us forward as human beings. Florence shows players that love, both at its best and at its worst, is a profound thing for that very reason. And for $2.99 on iOS, Florence is the perfect teensy little experience to play on your iPhone or iPad. Maybe you'll even fall in love again.