Fran Bow is an indie point and click adventure game developed and published by Killmonday Games and released on the 27th of August of 2015 on Steam, GOG, Gamejolt, IndieDB and Itch.ito.
The game consists of pointing and clicking on things to interact with them and resolve puzzles to progress in the game. It’s very similar to old point and clicks, with an inventory system and the usual why the hell am I taking this item? that we’re used to from these type of games. However, the difference is that the unusual solutions and items are justified by the fact that the main character is a 10-year-old girl named Fran Bow.
Struggling with an unnamed mental illness and have witnessed the murder of her parents, Fran was sent to a mental hospital called Oswald Asylum where she is to recover from her illness.
The game never tells the player what Fran suffers from and it plays with her natural curiosity and the great imagination of a child and her illness. We never know what’s real or not and that’s a great representation of what a serious mental illness is. The fear of not being able to trust yourself, your memories and feelings are all present throughout the game, however, the line is blurred. Is it all an excuse from a traumatized little girl or is she able to travel between realities?
There are many clues in the game that tell us that Fran is not quite alright. She doesn’t fully understand danger, she’s not quite aware of death and is often oblivious to that thinking animals are sleeping like a younger child, she sees things. Although seeming a lot more normal than the other children in the hospital (one of the girls was sexuality abused and the doctor was able to gain her trust by letting her draw, however, the nurses sometimes have to tie her down and she asks Fran to cure and stop the red milk from coming out) we know that something is not right. She is a hurt little girl doing unspeakable things to get out of a place that she dislikes and find her only living family member, Aunt Grace, and her beloved cat.
To advance in the game you must travel into “another reality” or “the delusions” you must take Fran’s pills which triggers you to see new things that help you advance in the game and give you clues about Fran herself and what’s going on, although nothing is made too clear.
Exploring these alternative realities in a very Silent Hill fashion is the best part of the game. Things change during this sections and there are new things to see and interact with. Things do get more disturbing and downright gory, but Fran doesn’t always seem to be aware of that. While she’s scared at seeing her own corpse, some of the cutest scenes of the game happen while here. Combine the air of creatures made of light who just want to fly away is just adorable.
The game isn’t particularly hard, but it’s very rewarding. The story is very good, Fran feels like a real little girl dealing with more than her mind can understand and while I cannot wholeheartedly call it a horror game it has elements of survival horror and psychological horror that have been lost in the past 10 or so years. It’s strange, unsettling and even surreal.
I apologize for not talking too much about the game, but more than making a review of it, I want to spark curiosity towards the game. I feel like it doesn’t have the attention it deserves. This is a game that depicts mental illness with such detail that either the creators are familiar with it or they listened too much to Kwoon’s Schizophrenic.
I bought the game on GOG’s Summer Sale and, in all fairness, the game deserves to be bought at full price, enjoyed and to be talked about. There are so many little details and beautiful things to be said. Anyone who likes a nice point and click, a good story, good Art, someone who feels like Fran does; rejected, scared, in pain, like a freak; should grab this game and take his or her time with it. It’s a liberating experience, very similar to playing a Silent Hill or Fatal Frame game. The freedom of tragic things.
Please help me to
ease my pain again.