Apps

Florence: Half-baked beautiful game about first loves?

Shows stunning subtleties of delicate love

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Alright, alright. As much as I wanted to review the game from a single perspective, I thought maybe with a game about first loves, it was best to bring in a twist, so I brought in some reinforcements: Richard, my boyfriend.

Florence, as I’ve written before, is a mobile game that tackles the delicateness of first loves. With stunning first impressions from the teasers and trailers, it was tough not to want to play the game even if it came with a price tag. While Richard initially got this game for me to review alone, the game intrigued him, so we figured it would be interesting to write a review together since we played the game at the same time anyways.

His perspective

I’m the kind of guy that prefers watching Studio Ghibli films that focus on slice-of-life dramas instead of magical monsters. I’m also into playing whatever independent title that’s getting rave reviews on Steam. Florence encompasses both things. The hand-drawn art style is gorgeous and the puzzles are inspiring. Focusing on someone lost in life, living alone, and falling in love sounded like something I could personally relate to with traveling across the world to live alone. This was worth a shot.

Her perspective

The game was undeniably visually charming and the vignettes seemed intriguing at the very least. I’d kept my eye on the game since the teaser came out. It was a pretty novel concept: a mobile game that committed to dabbling into a slice-of-life narrative. With dating simulation game reviews that I’d previously sunk my toes into, I thought an interactive visual novel about love would be a refreshing perspective.

A stunning beginning

Split into several acts, the game introduces you to Florence, a young woman going about mundane tasks of daily adult life. It then explores Florence’s childhood and hints at her somewhat rough relationship with her mother.

As you progress in the game, you inevitably encounter Krish, a cellist who Florence falls in love with. From here on, the game is drop-dead stunning. It digs deep into relatable experiences from awkward first dates, quirky dates that follow, to the honeymoon stage of their relationship.

Witty nuances and subtleties

The game uses the mobile platform incredibly well. Florence has a very unique take as an interactive visual novel especially without the game walking you through how each mini-game is meant to be played. With varying mechanics for mini-games, you would think that it would be a challenge to pull off, but the game design is fascinatingly intuitive.

The game experiments with adjusting focus, piecing together torn paper, and using touch to shake Polaroid photos. The game even incorporates both portrait and landscape orientations depending on the sequence.

Perhaps the most poignant mini-game was conversing with Krish. With no voice-overs and minimal text in the game, talking is done by filling a speech bubble. When Florence first meets Krish, the jigsaw puzzle is composed of about six simple pieces. As the conversation goes on, the pieces become bulkier and the puzzle, less complex. We both thought it was such a witty way of visualizing the sort of growing ease Florence had developed the more she spoke with Krish.

Things that fall through the cracks

As it enters the later acts, the game takes an unexplained turn and falls short with depth. It begins to feel like as much as the design and mechanics were thought through and through, the game drops all effort of reeling you back with context.

By the time the credits finally roll, the final sequence comes off as a rushed finale to an almost perfectly delightful game. Everything turns out fine and she lives happily ever after. It’s acceptable but it admittedly seems to miss an opportunity to excel.

The mini-games are great, but we both wish they impacted the story line. Throughout the game you have phone calls with your mom, but none of your responses have any effect on your relationship by the end of the game. Trying to win arguments offers nothing different from refusing to participate. In one sequence, you share messages with emoji; being the sadist that Richard is, he replied only with sad emoji but didn’t get any real feedback.

Florence sadly disregards cause and effect. The story persists the way the developers have set it with no room to wander and experiment — sadly, making your play-through have no impact in the game at all.

Reading too much into it?

As much as Richard and I agree with how the game fell a bit short despite its remarkable beginning, I think there’s a bit of me that seems to defend the plot of Florence. Facing a different take of visual novels can be difficult and the plot does leave you longing for a better one. It’s short, sweet, and memorable but it leaves you wanting a better resolve, an explanation, and an impact. In hindsight, that’s not too far from what a failed cherished first love makes you feel.

Is this your game match?

The game feels like it had so much potential to be something so much more that it already is. As much as your choices and how you play the game have no impact on the story, Florence is a great introductory game to ease into more in-depth interactive visual novels. The game is visually stunning and the mini-games are clever. With lovely tunes to ease you into every act of the story, this title is worth trying out despite its pitfalls. If you’re willing to give it a go, you can download Florence here.

SEE ALSO: Sky: A new jaw-dropping mobile game coming out soon!

Apps

How to get NBA League Pass with your telco provider

There are two package options

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NBA action is in full swing. In fact, it has been since August when the season restarted following a shut down that was caused by the dreaded Coronavirus pandemic. As of writing, we’re in the thick of the Conference Finals series. If you want to catch all the action, here’s how you can get NBA League Pass through different telecomm providers in the Philippines.

It’s now easier than ever to get access to the games legally. All of Smart, PLDT, and Globe are offering the same price packages.

PhP 85 — Watch any three games of your choice
PhP 485 — 30-day pass for all games including live and on-demand

Here’s how to get the subscription for each provider.

Smart Postpaid and Prepaid
(Also works with TNT and SUN Postpaid)

  • Download the NBA app (iOS / Android /APKPure)
  • On the app, click on the icon at the top-right corner
  • Click sign-in
  • A banner on top of the page will appear for Smart, Sun and TNT subscribers
  • Click ‘Get Started’
  • Enter mobile number for verification and a one-time PIN which will be sent to your mobile number
  • Choose your provider: Smart, TNT or Sun.
  • Choose your NBA League Pass Package (3-game or 30-days) and enter mobile number
  • Confirm your payment by entering the one-time PIN sent to your mobile number
  • Click NBA logo and start watching

PLDT Home

  • Go to pldthome.com/nbaleaguepass
  • Select your preferred package
  • The amount will be added to your next bill
  • PLDT will give a voucher
  • Download and sign-in to the NBA app
  • Enter the voucher in the promotion code field
  • Click NBA logo and start watching

Globe

  • Open the GCash app
  • Go to Buy Load
  • Look for the PayTV tab
  • Choose your preferred package. (Note: The chosen package is valid for 90 days).
  • Confirm payment
  • Open the NBA app and enjoy!

As mentioned earlier, we’re no in the Conference Finals with four teams remaining. Dueling in the West are the Los Angeles Lakers and the Denver Nuggets. Meanwhile in the East, it’s a battle between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics.

A new NBA champion will likely be crowned in the next 30 days so now is the best time to subscribe!

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Twitter is probing its AI’s racial bias in picture previews

They’re working on improving it

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Twitter uses a neural network to show you relevant previews of all the pictures that are posted on the microblogging platform. If the image contains text, the area is prioritized for a preview. Similarly, human faces are also given preference.

The preview makes it easier for the viewer to get a gist of the tweet without the compulsion of opening the entire picture. Although, the feature isn’t up-to mark since a lot of users have complained about the AI’s racial bias.

Several users posted a picture that has both, a white man and a black man’s face. But the preview often shows the white man’s face only. Users noticed the difference after a similar anomaly was observed on Zoom, where the facial recognition technology failed to identify a black man’s face, but had no trouble when the skin tone was changed.

 

Liz Kelley from Twitter’s communication team said they had tested the neural system for bias, but didn’t come across gender or racial bias during testing. She also confirmed that they’ve got more analysis to do and shall be open-sourcing all the work for others to review and replicate.

Twitter’s Chief Design Officer Dantley Davis and Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal were quick to acknowledge the shortcoming and said they’re “investigating” the neural network.

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Apps

TikTok and WeChat will be banned from app stores in the US

So, did the Oracle deal go through?

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After months of escalating, the US Commerce Department has announced it’ll ban business transactions with TikTok and WeChat. The two apps are owned by Chinese giants ByteDance and Tencent, respectively.

Practically, you won’t be able to directly download the app via stores like Play Store and App Store. Furthermore, companies are also barred from hosting these apps in the US. Essentially, the user won’t be able to download the app from third-party websites that are hosted in the US.

It also blocks US companies from providing services through WeChat “for the purpose of transferring funds or processing payments within the U.S.”

However, it remains unclear whether the announcement means the Oracle-TikTok deal won’t be going through. The Trump administration wanted ByteDance to sell its local TikTok operations to an American company.

In the last few months, multiple American giants like Walmart, Twitter, and Microsoft were interested in getting their piece of TikTok. But things haven’t moved smoothly and the Chinese government isn’t keen on handing over TikTok’s algorithm to an American company.

While Oracle has been chosen for a deal with ByteDance, the latter continues to maintain that the ongoing process isn’t an acquisition and Oracle shall be a technology partner. This is in stark contrast to what President Trump envisions as a business takeover.

The app ban could be a tactic to pressure the Chinese, but we can’t be certain of that right now. Going by the latest statements, it’s clear that the administration wants to completely block user’s access to these apps and is willing to go the extra mile.

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