Killmonday‘s creation, Fran Bow, is a point-and-click horror game which is, admittedly, very creepy. There will always be a niche market for indie horror games which, as a constant patron of indie horror games, I adore. Horror is a genre which doesn’t necessitate powerful graphics or rich voice acting like other modes of play. This allows independent developers to create games which fill the gaps of our imagination with terror and Fran Bow does this very nicely. While still very much in development, the game has a playable demo which explains the game’s mode very swiftly. In Fran Bow, you follow the story of a little girl who is searching for her cat Midnight. While tripping on pills which make her see awful terrors. As she escapes an insane asylum. After her family was, as she tells it, brutally vivisected by a demonic being. So… yeah, not so PG.
Fran Bow is, mechanically, a fairly difficult point-n-click; the game has all of the basic hallmarks of the sub-genre. Players can gather items of an awfully specific nature and combine them in obtuse ways while clicking every bloody surface (and I do use that term literally) to find something that sticks. Good fun for me, who loves this type of genre, but if you are a novice to it, there are no hints to aid you. In fact, some of the supposed hints are actually directly misinforming which does fit in with the insanity curve but is slightly annoying.
The game is similar in many aspects to most side scrolling point-and-clicks save for two major differences: one which is the main mechanic of the game, the other which is promised in the crowd-funding site. The first difference is a never-ending bottle of little red pills which, when swallowed, make Fran see the current screen in a demonic light. This is unexplained in the demo but I’m sure there is some reason for it, right? After all, items from the hell-world can transfer into Fran’s pocket. These two worlds allow for a more complex level of puzzles while making the game creepier than a meat-locker at night. The second change is, in all honesty, a tad random. According to the game’s IndieGoGo page, “There are 5 chapters in the game… and in between the chapters there are mini-games inspired of old arcade classics! All made in lovely pixel art!” Not that I particularly mind this, but it does seem out of touch with the creepiness factor which they are trying to build with the game. Hopefully at launch the mini-games will seem like a less strange decision and will aid the difficult job of building terror rather than hindering it.
Even with the basic looping music which is used as a place-holder in the demo, the game does a wonderful job of giving a good feeling of dread. The game mixes the visual gore and creeps with Fran’s strange childlike levity and innocence, creating a situation where chuckling at the decapitated body of a deer is slightly more than horrifically inappropriate. The mixture of comedy and horror works quite well, the characters are eerily disinterested in the terrors which surround them; a character flaw which may stem from shoddy writing or just plain old crazy people.
The game seems reminiscent of The Cat Lady, and if it is anywhere near as lovely as that game was at its completion, I will recommend it to everyone I know. As for now, the game is very rough and in development, but there definitely is something scary in there. It shows up at times, and the gameplay is smooth enough to allow fear to build. For now, play the demo and if you feel like you’d like to see the game reach its completion, contribute to the project. Terror is a difficult thing, and any game which attempts to master it is worth exploring and supporting in my book. So check out Fran Bow, and pop a little blood red beauty.