Fran Bow Review

We explore Killmonday’s dark and charming indie game, Fran Bow.

July 8, 2016 by Morgan Shaver

Fran Bow is a dark adventure game full of horror, fantasy, and unique puzzles to solve. Crowdfunded by Kickstarter, Killmonday’s indie game comes with an interesting storyline and gameplay dynamics. The game’s main protagonist, Fran, witnesses the tragic and brutal murder of her parents and the mysterious disappearance of her beloved cat, Mr. Midnight. She winds up in a mental institution, and attempts to escape in order to find Mr. Midnight and return home to her Aunt.

At the institution, Fran is prescribed an unusual medication that causes her to see strange and terrible things, which can be switched on and off in the game to solve puzzles. The twisted imagery trapped within Fran’s psyche may initially come off as disturbing, however Fran’s endearing 10-year-old perception of the world adds charm to the gruesome realities and fantasies plaguing her.

Set in 1944, the game progresses over five chapters, and despite its young protagonist, Fran Bow is certainly not a game for children or the faint of heart. The mystery, in addition to what happened to her parents and missing cat, is the question of what is real and what is simply part of Fran’s imagination. The line between reality and fiction becomes increasingly blurred as you cycle between the world Fran sees while on and off her medication.

Along the way, Fran will stumble across numerous characters to interact with, all of which are bizarre and charming in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way. The game’s controls are basic and straightforward, relying on the standard point-and-click style where you move between zones and interact with objects in each area by clicking on things. For instance, clicking the bloody eyeballs to the left and right sides of the screen in order to move between rooms, and clicking on various objects to pick up or learn Fran’s opinions on.

The game’s puzzles are tricky to solve, as you will often need to combine various items in your inventory and travel to and from various locations (even backtracking) in order to collect everything you need to progress. Information is delivered by way of text dialogue, with Fran typically given two different options on what to say and how to react while conversing with another character. Both options typically lead to a similar response, though some answers will allow you to learn information faster than others.

The hand-drawn art style of the game is both beautiful and dark, with Fran’s memories void of color, which serves to smoothly transition the present from the past. Furthermore, each location that Fran visits in the game is cleverly created whether it’s a darkened maze, or even the realm of Ithersta which is populated entirely by vegetable people. Overall, Fran Bow’s mystery, charm, and openness about its themes and story make it an engaging and worthwhile game to play.

Buy Fran Bow on Steam

Pros
  • Beautiful art style
  • Endearing protagonist
  • Well-written story
Cons
  • Puzzles may be difficult for some
  • Fran's dialogue options lack depth