Like many of you, I have been working from home for the past several weeks. During that time one of the easiest things to do during breaks in the day is to play catch up on my MASSIVE steam backlog from years of steam sales for games that have intrigued me over the years. Because a lot of these games do not require a massive input of time (I do have to work after all), and the need for stimulation here is a review of the latest game I have finished Fran Bow. Thinking initially that this was a game in the same vein as Alice in Wonderland, where a trauma dictates game play and environment, I wasn’t surprised when the game took dark turns. Very dark. Knives cutting up your best friend and cat dark.
Now I have to say I was a little excited to play another game where mental health was the key plot element that defined how you as Fran try and navigate the world and solve a grizzly murder. Everything seemed to be there. Environments that altered between the “real” and the altered perception of Fran. However, as you get further into the game it changes gears. This is where the spoilers begin. Instead of being a mentally traumatized girl, as I expected, the game’s story veered into fantasy territory. I get it the additional fantasy elements was needed in the game in order to elaborate on the puzzles and drive the plot. Some of it of course didn’t make sense overall, but isn’t that why mental illness is so insidious. However, instead of things getting clearer at the end with some semblance of oh, Fran is not all right but she is getting better, you are left with the stated fact that all of the weird shit is real. Children are not being tormented by their own trauma, but are being manipulated by beings of other dimensions to commit unspeakable acts and suffer………. OK. The ending leaves you with the opening for a sequel, so I guess we’ll see how this wraps up.
The game is good puzzler with disturbing content and some weird messaging about mental illness.
Mixed (good puzzler, meandering story)
Fran Bow is available on Steam, GOG, Android, and IOS
By Charles Caldwell
Co-Owner and Director of Development