Fran Bow is a 2D psychological horror point-and-click adventure game. Swedish indie game studio Killmonday Games funded the game on Kickstarter and released their game in September last year. Fran Bow uses a distinct hand-drawn 2D art style and animation with a unique soundtrack.
The game begins with an introduction to Fran Bow’s family tragedy. She loses her parents, runs away, and wakes up in a mental asylum for children. Fran then takes the player on an incredible and really weird adventure through five realities, where she encounters a giant talking ant, a cute pinecone family, and becomes friends with a big fluffy flying doctor named Palontras.
Fran Bow is based on the imagination of someone with a mental disorder. But there is so much more to it than that. The game touches on math, physics, and religion, leading the player into some very deep and dark ideas that inspire us to think more about the world around them.
Here are five themes Fran Bow tackles that make it stand out from other indie games:
It Alludes to Religion
Fran Bow makes several allusions to religion and religious symbolism. For example, in the game, dark creatures known as Kamalas, can be freed by water (similar to a christening). These creatures then become Valokas, the spirits of light. The game states Ithersta is the first reality where the Valokas live, and the fifth reality is the home of Kamalas. Similar to heaven and hell perhaps?
It Explores the Limits of Childhood Understanding
Ten-year-old Fran witnessed her parents’ murder scene. Obviously, an experience as traumatic as this is likely to mess with a little kid’s mind. At ten years old, you don’t fully understand what life and death really mean, so that would explain why she was asking dead bodies “Are you sleeping?” She didn’t have a great start in life.
Childhood Imagination Has Almost No Limits
A child’s imagination is a beautiful yet really strange thing. As Fran, a mentally unstable child, it’s understandable that she creates a world where she has an imaginary friend. In this case, it’s her best friend, Mr. Midnight, who often talks to her. Except Mr. Midnight is a cat. The only way for Fran Bow to think about her parents’ murder is that some evil creature must be responsible for it. Her imagination helps her cope.
It Puts Mental Illness Front and Center
In the beginning of the game, Fran wakes up in a mental asylum. We see her experiment with a lot of different medicines. It’s important to keep in mind that the game is set in 1944, a time when medical experiments on people and lobotomies were normal. Fran is on medication, but we can tell it’s not the best. She has experienced tragedy and is most likely reacting to that. And yet we’re led to wonder if she is suffering from a more severe mental illness like schizophrenia.
It Refers to Math and Physics
This game is a point-and-click adventure game with a lot of interesting puzzles. Some, for example, are based on simple math and physics. If you remember the Fibonacci sequence or are familiar with chemistry experiments, you immediately have some bonus points. However, some parts of the game are so surreal that even your science will have no logical explanation. For example, if you come across a broom, you can’t make a bridge from it because you are too heavy, which makes sense. But if you combine a toad with baking soda it will make him bigger.
All of these themes come together to make Fran Bow one of the most intriguing indie games in recent memory. Fran Bow is available to play on PC as well as iOS and Android devices.