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I can probably count on one hand how many games I've ever played on my computer. Call me a console peasant if you want, oh great and mighty PC Master Race,c but I've always prefered the feeling of a controller in my hand to a keyboard and mouse. That means that if I shell out the cash to buy a game that I can only play on my computer, and then actually PLAY IT, it must be something special. You know what else I hardly ever do? Play point and click games.
Fran Bow fits in both of those categories.
I bought Fran Bow off Steam after I heard Jordan Underneath, a game critic I watch on YouTube, raving about how great it is. And it certainly is an experience. Fran Bow stars the titular ten year old girl who has been put in a mental asylum after seeing her parents be brutally murdered. Nobody believes her when she tells them they were killed by a shadowy, devil-horned monster. Her doctor gives her some special new medicine to take that he claims will help her, but instead it only makes things worse when she starts having visions of terrible monsters roaming the halls of the asylum, tormenting the other children. Using her clever brain and quick wit, though, she uses these visions as a way to escape from the asylum and find her parents' killer.
Fran Bow's graphics are very pretty, like something out of a children's book... a very, very messed up children's book. While Fran's "normal" vision is pretty enough, with detailed characters and backgrounds, things take on a completely different shade when she pops one of her pills. Every character on screen becomes deformed, shadow monsters and severed body parts rain from the ceiling. There's definitely an American McGee's Alice vibe here (heck, the story itself is basically lifted right out of that game), and that's not a bad thing. Once you get out of the asylum, things become far less scary, even to the point where (aside from random creepy images popping up), you might forget that Fran Bow is a horror game at all. Fran will converse with giant wizard ants, pinecone monsters, and at one point even become a tree. The story does a great job of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, to the point that at the end of the game, it's left completely up to the player to decide what's real and what isn't.
The game itself is pretty much what you'd expect from any point and click adventure. Fran moves between a set number of rooms at a time, picking items up and using them to get other items and complete objectives. Unlike some other point and click games, everything you do in this game makes sense, even if it isn't apparent at first glance. The duality granted by Fran's pills, and a couple other items you get later in the game, almost always plays a role in these as well, with some items or clues only being visible in one dimension. The biggest problem I encountered was that some items were hidden a little too well, to the point that I didn't even realize I could click on them. That is partially offset by the fact that clicking on things is fun. Fran has a lot to say about pretty much everything around her, and the other characters provide some cool conversations, so even if you can't pick something up you don't feel like you're wasting time by clicking on everything you see on the screen.
The developers put a lot of effort into Fran Bow, and it shows. From the pretty graphics, to the interesting story, to the thought provoking puzzles, Fran Bow is probably the best point and click game I've ever played. Now, I'm not really into point and click games in the first place, I only played this because Jordan Underneath had so many good things to say about it. Will I ever play it again? Probably not, especially since I've solved all the puzzles already. I don't regret my time playing it, though. Fans of point and click adventures can probably bump the grade up by a whole number, maybe even more.
For me, I give Fran Bow a 7.0/10!