For perspective, I almost never buy games right when they come out, not even smaller ones on Steam. Partly I’m forever behind on games to begin with, and partly I like waiting for sales. I saw this game mentioned on my Twitter feed yesterday, though, and was immediately intrigued. (I don’t remember who posted it, sadly. I caught it right as I was getting ready for Beyond the Veil and was distracted.)
The game describes itself as, “a creepy adventure game that tells the story of Fran, a young girl struggling with a mental disorder and an unfair destiny.” (http://www.franbow.com/) Something horrible has happened to Fran’s parents, and she begins the game in a mental institution. Things don’t seem right in the place to begin with, and then she is given a medication that causes extremely unsettling visions. (This ends up being one of the game’s mechanics.) Fran knows she has to get out, find her beloved cat Mr. Midnight, and somehow make contact with her aunt.
Fran Bow looked like very much my kind of game. I love point and click adventures. I also love horror, and I have a thing for “girl in asylum” stories. No matter how many times I read or play through one, if it’s done well at all I’ll probably enjoy it. I am also a sucker for stories about rips and tears in reality, of nightmares and visions. Added to that, I very much liked the artwork. What I saw on the game’s trailer looked promising, as well. With all that going for it, and also wanting something new for the blog, I decided to buy it. (For those more cautious than I am, the game does have a demo.)
I didn’t get a chance to play it until after work today. I’m typing this after playing for about an hour and a half, and I am loving this!
A warning before anything else, though. While the game is great for what you’d expect from horror in terms of creepy, disturbing imagery, there are also hints of some very dark real life things. I’ve already run into characters with backstories involving sexual abuse and self harm. The game hasn’t gone into detail with them, but I know not everyone likes that much real life horror in their horror games. Some of the gore is also very graphic, despite this being 2D artwork. I have a high tolerance there, and it doesn’t bother me, but it is rather more than I expected. (To be fair, I also did next to no research before buying it.)
I don’t want to go spoilering story, but I will say the mechanics with the meds are awesome. They remind me a bit of shrinking in Alice: Madness Returns in that you see hidden things after taking them. Really, the asylum theme also reminds me of that game, which isn’t a bad thing at all since it’s one of my favorites. It’s also vaguely putting me in mind of the Lenore comics, but that may just be the dark theme and art style.
The puzzles I’ve come across so far make sense, the one time I resorted to randomly clicking items I’d completely overthought what I needed to do. It was very much my fault, not the game’s. Adventure games are sometimes prone to, “this works because adventure game logic!” and at least so far, this game hasn’t pulled any of those.
The artwork is everything I wanted, beautifully done if you like that style. The sounds and music have been fitting so far, nothing that seems too jarring or out of place. There are also many many items that can be clicked, with most having more than one character response. It’s a thing for me in adventure games, I like to be able to click all the things and read all the comments.
Some of the dialogue and flavor text feels a little bit off, but most of it is sound. My only other gripe is that for some reason, Steam doesn’t want to take screenshots – but that could as easily be a Steam issue as anything else.
I’m going to go ahead and say if the description sounds like something you’d enjoy, and the artwork suits you, I’d at least play the demo and see what you think of it. It’s available through the game’s website at http://www.franbow.com/, and also on Steam and GOG.