Here’s something exciting: a new horror gaming segment. It’s something I haven’t done in a while, and after watching a few videos online about it, I decided I wanted to talk about a very specific game: Fran Bow. Developed by Killmonday – an indie studio founded/comprised of “two Swedish game developers of madness” [their words, not mine] who created this extremely well crafted game that is scary not once, but also the second time you play it. The game isn’t strictly horror either, it delves into subgenres – such as sadness, depression, and even other mental illnesses.. and they’re done perfectly. Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we? If you upset by mental illnesses, or anything relating to the nature of these topics; consider this your forewarning. From here on out we’re going to be relating to and talking about our “hero” Fran Bow. [be sure to visit the official website for the game]
In the game, Fran Bow is the young girl who serves as the main character. She is described as struggling with “a mental disorder and an unfair destiny.” which I’m sure many of us can relate to. She also has a black cat named Mr. Midnight, who she refers to as her closest and only friend. As an individual, Fran is described as a curious 11 year old with bobbed brown hair and blue eyes. She usually seen wearing a yellow dress with a small blue bow tie and brown boots with black-and-white striped stockings. [see below]
When we first meet our “hero”, we see Fran Bow living a happy life with her mother and father just like any ordinary kid. [though Fran is no “ordinary kid”] They give her Mr. Midnight and shortly after her Aunt Grace arrives for dinner. After a few days, she is disturbed by an dark and ominous figure in her window, only then does she hear a scream from her parents’ room and goes to investigate..When she enters her parent’s room she faces what no kid should have to face – her parents. Killed and dismembered, with their bodies [and various lying about the bedroom. [Naturally] Terrified, Fran runs into the nearby forest with Mr. Midnight and blacks out. Though her cat seems to want to stay and comfort her, we see a dark figure [who we later learn is named Remor] approach. Fran is then picked up by a hooded figure. After this Dr. Deern wakes Fran up, which reveals this to all to have been memory. Fran and Dr. Deern talk for a bit, leading to Fran demanding to be released from the mental institute that Fran has been in the whole time. As one would expect, Dr. Deern sternly refuses her request.
Being as her parents are gone, Fran is given her mother’s old purse – which she finds a note from Aunt Grace inside. As soon as she reads the note though, a nurse was called in to the room in order to give Fran her “new medicine” called Duotine. Fran is told that she is not allowed to leave the room until she takes it, because it’ll “help her relax.” Of course, considering she has no other option, Fran takes the medicine, stating that she is not feeling well; and immediately has visions of blood, gore, and decapitated heads raining in the room. While unconscious, she dreams of Mr. Midnight, who encourages her to come find him, saying the pills will help her do so. He says he is waiting for her in the forest and tells her he loves her. It’s with these final words we start the game’s First Chapter.
Even though it’s not a long game, it is divided into Five Chapters with each one being even more depressing as the chapters go on:
- Chapter One: Sober Day
- Chapter Two, Part 1: Curiosity symptoms
- Chapter Two, Part 2: Double Personality
- Chapter Three: Vegetative State
- Chapter Four, Part 1: My Imaginary Friend
- Chapter Four, Part 2: Doctor’s Prescription
- Chapter Five: The House of Madness
The one thing that I will always think is cool about Fran Bow from a game play point of view is that Fran is able to pass into this “other” hell world and alter her surroundings so that she can escape.. through the use of her pills. [Which can be used at any time during the game] The entire point of her “adventure” is to try and discover who is responsible for her parents’ tragedy and ultimately – find her way home. Along the way, Fran discovers a strange land named Ithersta: a magical fantasy-like land where vegetables and roots live together in harmony. After she leaving Ithersta she runs into a skeletal creature named Itward. Itward is the being that ends up helping Fran get back to her only friend: Mr. Midnight. On a depressing note, throughout the game we see that Fran‘s reality seems to be breaking down, making it difficult to tell what the difference is between what she sees when she’s using the pills or what she sees when she’s off them. Fran is ultimately faced with the reality that her parents have actually died and that the person responsible might be someone very close to her.
I’m not going to spoil the ending for the game, and as expected, I did miss a lot of points. I didn’t even explain where Remor came from or what he/it is. If you are interested in a more in-depth explanation, check out this video on it – it’s actually where I heard about the game. Just know this: as Jordan points out in the video I linked, it’s not a “scary” game, it’s more a game about “hope”. Seriously – Watch it.
If one thing is for sure, it’s that we desperately need more games like this. Games with zombies, aliens, vampires, ghosts, demons, serial killers or animatronic abominations [if you didn’t get that reference…where have you been? Living under a rock?!] will always have a place within our favorite genre. But it’s so important that games developers don’t rely exclusively on these familiar “monsters” when there are real monsters that live inside our heads.
As someone who studied it a bit in my first year at college, Mental illness is a different kind of scary: it’s a real thing. Even though you might not understand it as intimately as someone who lives with it, you probably know someone who does. Somewhat ridiculously, it’s still somewhat looked down on in our society, and I hate that. It’s insane to know people see depression as something other people “choose” to feel. Mental Illness has, and often continues to, claim too many lives. I’m not just talking literally, but also in the passion for life it often pulls away from its unsuspecting host like an never satisfied insect. But we’ll talk about that another time. That’s enough sad-talk for one day.
As always, if you find yourself to enjoy what I do on here, then please take a minute and follow me over on my Facebook page [we’re at over 150+ likes – let’s get to 200!] By clicking that “like” button, you’ll see every post from warrenisweird the very moment it’s been “gone live” online; and I also share links to articles and pictures/videos that will not be featured here on the blog.
Every “like” helps me a ton, giving me the ability to write more posts for you to read, so be sure to tell the horror enthusiast in your life to do the same, and share The Facebook Page with your family and friends! I’ve also been writing way more reviews on my Letterboxd account, this is because I’m trying to review every single movie I watch – with each review coming the very next day after viewing! Are you interested yet? Check me out over there and click that “follow” button! I’m just bound to follow you back because I like reading other people’s thoughts on film, as well as writing reviews myself!
THANKS FOR READING.