Story-driven point and click adventure games have never attracted me, maybe it was because I never experienced early PC gaming gems such as the King's Quest series. It could also be that every time I heard about these point and click games, a popular letsplayer ended up playing it and I just watched the story on my own. However when I saw the letsplayer Jesse Cox play the old demo of Fran Bow I was enchanted. Something about this game made me want to experience the story for myself, to watch the events unfold without seeing it through another's eyes first. Now this question can be answered: was Fran Bow’s enchantment over me a pleasant charm or a terrible curse? I dive into KillMonday games’ point and click adventure to find out.
Fran Bow is the story of a young girl whose parents were brutally murdered before her eyes. The only things she remembers is a horned being, her cat being taken from her and being sent to a mental asylum for disturbed children. As Fran, it is your job to find the correct items and information to solve puzzles and obtain the tools to progress through the story. The game's’ mechanics will allow you to change through alternate planes of reality at will throughout the chapters. Changing realities will allow you to solve puzzles or meet new characters to continue the story. Mini-games break up the chapters every now and then, they are a great break up between the heavy plot elements of the game. If you do not enjoy these mini-games they can be skipped.
The art-style of this game is gorgeous, the character models and backdrops you explore seem handmade. Throughout the chapters of the game I felt like I was watching a moving oil painting. Water effects, lighting and videogame terms were lost to me as it all felt like it was a beautifully painted book that was coming to life as I read it. When I crossed over to the more horrific realities, I was terrified. The terror that was experienced was not the kind of monster that jumped out at you screaming either. This was a fear that stayed and sat, festering in the mind and soul as it raised questions and gave few to no answers. The world of Fran Bow is one of beauty and terror that anyone who loves good visuals will enjoy.
The sound of the game provides the appropriate ambiance for every section of Fran’s world. The music will fill you with a sense of foreboding curiosity at times, and a joyful childlike wonder at other times. The sound effects of every moment - from meeting the demon that haunts her to interacting with the various denizens of the realities aid in bringing the game to life. While this entire game was made by only two people, these two people lovingly crafted this soundtrack.
The most important aspect of the game is the story. The best way to describe it (in a spoiler free way) is an exciting journey, building up in a smooth way to what is the most disappointing and aggravating ending I have ever experienced in a videogame. Endings can make or break any story no matter what the medium is.
The ending to Fran Bow didn't sequel bait, nor tie up any loose ends to know the truth behind Fran and her experiences. The ending was a cop-out. Maybe I wasn't the audience that the developer intended to have, or maybe this game had some deep secret message that didn't hit me. When you judge the game on the story alone without factoring in personal emotional appeal that you felt for Fran, you will be left hungry for more. The final chapter really lets down the whole game. If Fran Bow had replay value, or anything at all to come back to once you've beaten the game, then maybe a bad ending wouldn't affect the experience so much. However it seems that this game has only one ending to speak of.
Fran is a fascinating character and it's fun to mull over what's really going on, yet headcanon interpretations of what the ending means are not always fun. Sometimes it’s the most fulfilling to know what the developers originally intended for the story to mean. The truth about Fran's mental health or what reality really was for her would have been great answers to have at the ending. Fran is not the only one seeking a solid “truth” now.
Am I glad I played my first point and click adventure game in Fran Bow? Yes I am, the ride all in all was a great experience and I will definitely pick up another modern point and click adventure game in the future. Can I recommend Fran Bow to readers? Absolutely, but with a caveat: the ending is a gamble at best for players. If you're looking for a surreal experience with plenty of ways you can interpret said experience for yourself you have hit the jackpot. If you are looking for solid answers to close the story of Fran Bow once and for all, you will never hit a single payout on the slot machine.
Fran Bow (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Amazing game with a questionable ending, While its worth ones time and money, the story might not be meant for everyone.