Fran Bow is one of the most terrifying and brutal point and click adventures ever made, and with a constant ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ state on Steam since 2015, it’s a must play, right? Are you mental? Of course it is!

It’s so good that I bought this in 2022, started it in November 2023, and finished it the following month. Games that aren’t strictly for review are often on the back burner. There isn’t a deadline, so it’ll get played when it gets played. With the holidays here, it was time to give it a stab. Figuratively speaking.

Created by Killmonday Games, you play Fran Bow, a young girl who witnesses the disturbing murder of her parents and then is promptly thrown into an asylum and examined for psychosis. What follows is an unsettling blur of reality with horrific visions and one of the most haunting musical scores in a game.

Fran Bow Review Steam - Trolling
Trolling. Source: Steam

Your objective is to piece together what happened ‘that night’, escape the asylum and find your best friend, a cat named Mr. Midnight. Fran will meet other children, each living their constructed realities on surface value. However, when Fran is prescribed her medication, a toggle in the corner of the screen lets her experience an alternate reality that may reveal some truths.

This feature serves as a mechanic to switch between realities that are sometimes literal and other times so abstract that they don’t make sense, nor should they. A theme is introduced into the game of The Ultrareality. This is no spoiler, as it’s indicated on the developer’s website and exists in their other game (also in the backlog), Little Misfortune

I won’t go into too much detail as the narrative in Fran Bow is superb and will constantly have you question the events, characters, and, even when you finish it, what actually happened? What is reality, and what is a construct? Jumping the gun to a conclusion, this is one of the aspects I seek most in a narrative-driven game – something I’ll think deeply about way after completion.

Fran Bow Review Steam - Perplexing
Perplexing. Source: Steam

Fran Bow isn’t a talkie; you’ll have to read the dialogue between the patients and characters that Fran meets along the way. As a traditional point and click, an inventory pouch is in the bottom left of the screen where items can be combined and dragged onto the examine button for a hint or two. Hotspots exist, but I don’t recall using them.

While adventurers will find themselves in capable hands, the fetch quests are meaningful and not a run around the houses. Equally, some of the puzzles in his game are so incredibly hard to decipher – not to the point of madness, but to a level where you wonder why those decades of playing games from the genre aren’t helping you with some solutions.

I had to take a break from some of the puzzles and return to them with a fresh approach. However, a chapter prompted a break from Fran Bow in general. In one area, the fantasy level gets cranked up, and the art style and themes were too skewed for my liking, and it lost the impact the opening chapter had. 

Fran Bow Review Steam - Hello, Princess
Hello, Princess. Source: Steam

Fran Bow’s opening chapter was overwhelming in so many ways. The animatic introduction to Fran’s predicament, then a menacing power that engulfs you with doubt, fear, the unknown – like I said, overwhelming. Still, there’s hope. The art style is beautiful, and the accompanying soundtrack is perfect.

For all the details that went into the scenes, that is, the illustrations, sound production and even the minigames, the story is at the heart of this adventure. It’s thoroughly well-written and leaves room for interpretation and theories to the point that it welcomes repeat plays to get a better understanding or new take on it. If it weren’t for the tricky puzzles!

Fran Bow is an essential point and click.