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Fran Bow Review

Fran Bow Review

Fran Bow Review

Fran Bow Review

Imagine Lewis Carroll and Jean-Paul Sartre had a baby. That baby might be Fran Bow.


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Developed by

Published by


Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure
Release date: Aug 27, 2015

Fran Bow is the new adventure game from Killmonday Games, a small studio in Stockholm.

Imagine Lewis Carroll and Jean-Paul Sartre had a baby. That baby might be Fran Bow, one of the most gloriously weird and twisted games I can remember playing.  .

Fran is a nice little girl who lives in a mental asylum after her parents are murdered. No, not just murdered. Butchered. She’s kept constantly drugged by a staff who clearly doesn’t have her best interests at heart. She shares the asylum with other disturbed and unfortunate children.

The overarching goal of Chapter One of the game is to get the hell out of this terrible place. In that way, the game starts out alllllmost feeling like a normal third-person point-and-click, inventory-based puzzle adventure game. You explore rooms, find things, combine things, use things, talk to characters, help characters, and through a combination of these activities solve the puzzles you need to solve to move the game forward.

It’s good, actually, that the game mechanics are this traditional, because nothing else in the game is. Not since Limbo have I played a game that’s so inappropriate for children despite featuring a young child as the protagonist. This is a game that references extreme violence, even if it doesn’t really depict that violence. The imagery is dark and disturbing. So it’s nice to have the tried-and-true third-person game mechanics to hang onto while you’re navigating through Fran’s extremely troubling world.

Early in the game Fran acquires a bottle of pills that allow her to enter into an altered state, which makes whatever environment she’s currently in look completely different, with different items and even different characters in it. This alternative world is generally bloody, creepy and macabre.

Soon you realize that you have to check every screen of the game twice, because to solve the puzzles you have to master both versions of the environment. This sounds more tedious than it actually is because the environments are never very large.

The asylum is the most “normal” environment you experience in Fran Bow. And it’s still not very normal, what with mechanical cats on unicycles taunting you and malevolent doctors trying to poison you with psychopharmalogical weapons. But once you manage to break out of the awful asylum, you stumble into Chapter Two, where things get even weirder! Now you’re in a world of giant talking insects and other stranger creatures (including a family of pine cones). Since it’s an adventure game, you have to do things to help all of these characters. You know, like finding an axe so you can hack a giant grub to pieces in order to get at the contents of its stomach. Stuff like that.

Next you’re in a magical land of talking, mobile plants.

As you’ve probably gathered, Fran Bow is one seriously psychedelic game. It’s one of the most surreal games I’ve ever played, in fact. After the first chapter concludes you realize that you can’t take anything at face value in Fran’s world. Was the asylum even real? Are Fran’s parents really dead? Is FRAN dead? Is this entire story taking place in a dream, or in a drug-induced hallucination? Or (even more frightening), is everything you’re seeing really happening? 

Thematically, it’s all over the place, from Alice in Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz to Naked Lunch.

This may all sound like I’m harshing on the game, but that’s not really my intention. If you can suit up for the bizarre material, the game can be very absorbing. You know, if you don’t mind helping out a pair of conjoined twins who weren’t actually born conjoined…. Then you can have a lot of fun with Fran Bow.

The puzzles mostly make sense and require regular adventure game chops like being observant and a little bit creative. The characters are weird but interesting.

What I liked most about the game, though, are the deliriously off-kilter moments of randomness that pepper the game. My favorite is in Chapter Four when Fran plays a record on an old-fashioned record player. This is her response to the music she’s hearing: “This music reminds me of forks.” How can you not want to play a game that has a line like that?

The art in the game is fairly simple yet quite effective in creating its bizarro cartoony nightmare world. The sound and the music are effective.

One of the most delightful aspects of Fran Bow that I enjoyed: The game also references classic video games from time to time, in the guise of odd little mini-games.

One thing I didn’t like was the save system. It’s one of those games that doesn’t let you make discreet saves. No, it just sort of saves your progress whenever you exit the game. And that’s fine unless you decide you’d like to check out an earlier chapter from the Chapter menu. If you do that, the game resets to that chapter: I was halfway through the last chapter in the game, Chapter Five. For grins, I went to the Chapter menu at one point and fired up Chapter Four. I was very displeased to learn later that this erased any and all progress I’d already made in Chapter Five.  Grrr.

Anyhow, as long as you don’t make this mistake and you don’t have a weak stomach, I highly recommend you give the out-of-its mind Fran Bow a try.

Grade: B
Insanely weird story
Reasonable puzzles
No voice acting, so there’s no bad voice actors for me to get crabby about.
– Annoying save system
– Not for the faint of heart
– Not voice acting!

System Requirements


OS: 7+
Processor: 1.7 GHz Dual Core
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260, ATI Radeon 4870 HD, or equivalent card with at least 512 MB VRAM
Hard Drive: 600 MB available space
Sound Card: DirectX Compatible Sound Card
Additional Notes: May not work properly with some Intel Graphcis Family
OS: Snow Leopart 10.6.8 or later
Processor: Intel Core Duo
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4850, NVIDIA GeForce GT 120, or equivalent card with at least 512 MB VRAM
Hard Drive: 600 MB available space


Ray Ivey

Ray Ivey

A gaming freakazoid, Ray enjoys games on all platforms. Also loves board games, mind games, and all puzzles. Co-wrote the Entertainment Tonight trivia game and designed puzzles for two Law & Order PC games. Also a movie freak, bookworm, and travel bug. Thinks games of all kinds are a highly underappreciated force for social good, not to mention mental and psychological health.   Ray's favorite adventures include the "Broken Sword" and "Journeyman Project" franchises, "The Dark Eye," "The Feeble Files," "Sanitarium," "Limbo," "Machinarium," "Riven," "The Neverhood," and "Azrael's Tear." His favorite non-adventures include the "Thief," "Uncharted," and "Ratchet & Clank" franchises, all of the Bioware RPGs, Skyrim, and Final Fantasy XII.   Ray writes about the movies for the Bryan/College Station Daily Eagle, which is the old-fashioned thing called a "newspaper." He's been on eight game shows. He's taught in seven countries and has visited twenty-one. His favorite classic movie star is Barbara Stanwyck and his favorite novel is "The Hotel New Hampshire" by John Irving.

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