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

Even Microsoft listens to your Skype and Cortana recordings

Absolute privacy is a myth

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A couple of weeks back Apple admitted it listens to accidental triggers of Siri to analyze and improve user experience. They also added that none of the recordings are associated with the user’s identity. However, contractors tasked to listen to these recordings admit coming across clips that revealed personal data.

Now, even Microsoft admits it uses human contractors to review its users’ audio. The list of “listening” companies also includes Amazon, Facebook, and Google. If you want absolute privacy, going off-the-grid may be your only option.


Microsoft uses third-party contractors to listen to your voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana. The updated privacy statement says a human review is used to help build, train and improve the accuracy of its artificial intelligence systems.

Motherboard was the first one to come across the new updated policy and company pages for Skype Translator, Cortana, and Microsoft Support now also contain similar disclosures.

While other companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple have suspended these collections, Microsoft says it will “continue to examine further steps we might be able to take.” In simpler terms, “Screw you, we’ll continue doing it.”

The company also says the recordings may actually be subject to “transcription of audio recordings by Microsoft employees and vendors.”

Users are increasingly worried about online privacy since the Cambridge Analytica scandal was revealed. Technology companies have a huge chunk of our daily lives and many aren’t comfortable with it. Especially when privacy policies are complex and security loopholes are widely abused.

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Facebook will have dark mode for mobile

Things are looking bright for our eyes

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It seems Facebook is keen in joining the dark side, together with its fellow popular apps. Jane Manchun Wong, an app researcher, uncovered the tech giant’s plan to release the much-awaited dark mode.

Wong came across the unreleased dark mode for Android by looking in the code underneath, indicating that the tech giant has recently started implementing the feature. However, it seems that Facebook’s dark mode is still in its early stage of development.


While some users declared having it already on Facebook Watch, Wong emphasized that the dark mode is underway across the whole Facebook app.

There are no words yet from Facebook regarding dark mode nor its timeline for implementation. However, things are looking bright for our eyes that are hurt by bright lights should the tech giant implements the much-awaited feature. It’s only a matter of time before we embrace the dark.

See also:

Explaining OLED screens and Dark Mode
Here’s how you can enjoy Dark Mode on Facebook Messenger
Dark mode for Google Chrome is now available for Mac

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Creative hacks to improve your Instagram Stories

Using only Instagram and native phone apps

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Instagram has become an outlet for a lot of creatives over the years. It’s evolved from a platform where we share mundane photos of food and moods to hyper-curated grids — until Instagram Stories was introduced, that is. If you’re one of those people who barely post anything other than stories, here are some easy and not-so-simple ways on how they can look better so you can tell your stories better:

Use the native camera app

Photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10’s wide angle camera, ultra-wide angle camera, and night mode

Most phones released in 2019 now have at least two different cameras — a combination of wide angle and telephoto, or wide angle and ultra-wide angle. Some even have up to three or four in total. Take advantage of these lenses by taking your photos on the native camera app instead of going straight to Instagram. By using an ultra-wide angle lens you can fit more in your shot without walking several steps backwards. If your phone has a built-in night mode, your low light shots will also turn out much better when you take them using the camera app instead of  Instagram’s camera.


“Wrap” your caption around shapes

If your caption is a bit long, get creative by wrapping them around your subject’s shape. If you have a photo of food or coffee for example, you can type the letters one by one around the plate or cup.

Apply your video camera’s built-in filters

Smartphone cameras are getting more and more features each year. On the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 for example, there’s a feature called Live Focus Video where you get a TV glitch filter. This adds a retro, vaporwave aesthetic to your videos without having to install a third party app.

Add doodles

Make your subject pop by doodling around it. You can add dots, lines, hearts, stars, or broken lines around it — whatever you can think of! Doodles can also add a better narrative to your story than captions when Spider-Man appears out of nowhere for instance.

Animate your captions 

By simply adding small GIFs like stars around your caption, or integrating word GIFs into your caption can make it look like it’s animated. If you have a Samsung Galaxy Note 10, you can also get animated handwriting with the S  Pen using the phone’s native editor whether that’s on a photo or a video.

“Mask” your subject 

Another way to make your subject stand out is by “masking” lines or handwriting behind it. Simply write over your subject using any of the pen shapes, then erase parts of the lines or handwriting to make it seem like it appears over and under the subject.

Mix fonts with your handwriting

Instagram’s font selection may be limited but doesn’t mean your imagination should be. Pick any font to write your caption with — ideally anything but Neon — then pick one word to replace with your handwriting. You can also play around with tracking by simply adding spaces in between letters.

The trick in making your Instagram Stories look better is to not overshare and not overdo any of the effects. Just because you can add GIFs doesn’t mean you should plaster the entire screen with them. While it should feel more raw than your posts, be more purposeful in what you share — always try tell a story whether you’re sharing a photo or a video. It’s called Instagram Stories for a reason.

How do you make your Stories different? Share your tips with us in the comments section below.

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