I’m back, with a serious itch to write nontstop and nothing better to do, so… here I present, to whom it may concern, a humble review of an indie horror game I recently completed and absolutely loved.
Fran Bow is an interactive graphic adventure created by Killmonday Games, a Swedish game studio founded in 2012 by Natalia Figueroa and Isak Martinsson.
The game begins, and we are introduced to young and joyful Fran Bow Dagenhart, a girl of ten who loves her family. Through a series of black and white slides we see her happily at home with her parents and her aunt, and how they give her a beautiful black kitty called Mr Midnight who immediately becomes her best friend in the whole world. The story is sweet and endearing… then a ghostly demon-like skull appears on her window one night and everything goes downhill.
Someone – or something – has killed her parents.
Horror-stricken, Fran runs into the forest where the authorities find her and take her to Oswald Asylum. Because, who would believe what she saw?
Her parents have been brutally murdered by what she believes is a demonic entity no one else has seen, she has lost Mr Midnight, and she is trapped in a hellish institution with abusive doctors. If it was not enough, she is prescribed a drug that transports her to a dark and gory limbo plagued with strange shadows and bloody messages. This is where we enter the chessboard to guide little Fran to her freedom and, ultimately, to finding the truth behind it all.
The quest to escape the asylum and find Mr Midnight soon becomes a true odyssey when she discovers there is much more to this world than what meets the eye. Forced to jump from one reality into another to pick up clues, Fran soon seems to lose her grasp on sanity until we are not entirely sure what is true and what is make-believe anymore. Is this a journey into the depths of the twisted mind of a mentally unstable ten-year-old girl, a creepy fairy-tale, or perhaps everything is real?
There is absolutely nothing conventional about this game. Just when you think you have all the mysteries sorted out—for the eleventh time or so since you started playing—there is a new twist that sends you back to square one wondering what the hell is truly happening with this little girl. What begins as a dark story about an orphaned and traumatized child trapped in a mental institution soon spirals out of control into a psychotropic and legendary adventure through different planes of reality where nothings is what it seems to be.
Talking animals, intriguing puzzles and entertaining mini-games, charismatic characters, parallel realities, forbidden experiments, supernatural entities, a thorough and complex mythology… all wrapped together in a captivating story with a unique style. One could not ask for more!
Furthermore, there are numerous cleverly placed references to pop-culture works like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, Michael Ende’s The NeverEnding History and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter among others.
I strongly recommend this game to anyone with a love for the uncanny and imaginative, intriguing stories. Every little detail in its ensemble of very diverse scenarios is worth investigating. Not for the faint of heart, though.