Fran Bow has been committed to a mental hospital. It’s 1944. Her parents are dead. She misses her cat terribly. She’s suffering serious side effects from her medication. But at least she seems to be doing better than the other children in the hospital. Or is she? How reliable a narrator is Fran Bow?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2015/08/27/fran-bows-horrific-tale-of-a-girl-her-cat-and-her-new-medication
I find it slightly depressing that a description of a game having adventure game elements is pretty much always going to be preceded by "unfortunately", but I guess that's the prevailing opinion these days. I've always enjoyed a game with a few puzzles dissolved into my story, so luckily I have the indies! Thanks for this, I had not heard of it and will definitely have to try it out.
"I also take issue with having to click an object repeatedly until the text repeats in order to know I’ve exhausted the available information"
This really grinds my gears too.
I thought I was done with adventure games after Grim Fandango a few years back (far too many wacky puzzle solutions for our liking) but then my girlfriend and I played The Dream Machine (chapters 1 and 2 anyway) and we fell in love with it for a few reasons.
Obviously, it looks gorgeous with its handmade visuals (you mention Neil Gaiman here and we think the characters have hints of Dave McKean's style in them) but it was the natural puzzles and their sensible solutions, as well as the atmosphere and premise/theme of the game that kept us playing. It was so refreshing. The developers are currently working on the sixth and final chapter so that's when we'll be picking it back up!
Something else I really love about it -- and I wish more adventure games did this -- is that because it's played through your browser, the developers are monitoring what things people are trying so they can fine tune the experience to signpost solutions better, streamline sections and improve feedback for common interactions which might have just had generic 'I don't think that'll work' reaction text before. I think this is a really smart and organic way of maintaining the flow of the game without having to just rely on an in-game 'catch all' hint system to make up for clunky puzzles and solutions.
I think it tends to go that way because puzzles that actually work - that feel natural and make sense - don't tend to stick out as "adventure game puzzles".
Yeah, it's not as thought there aren't enough terrible adventure game puzzles out there. Just seems like the default response to encountering a puzzle is, "oh boy, another one of these."
"She['s] suffering serious side effects"
I found that the puzzles in the game made perfect sense - within the childlike/imaginative rules of the setting. The blue rose puzzle gave me no issues, and neither did 95% of the rest of the game. It would be nice if those who review adventure games would consider the possibility that the issue lies with them, instead of with the game. For example, the game deals strongly with mental illness and the way children view the world, both of which often don't make sense - so maybe a different view is needed when dealing with the puzzles? Would you eat curry at an Indian restaurant and then complain that the food is hot? Where are you? What are you eating? What would you expect? Fran Bow is a not a game that you play by approaching it with adult, common sense perspectives. If you "attack" it from that direction then yes, it's going to not make sense. But you'd also be missing almost the entire point of the game and what it has to offer. I think the puzzle issues, in this case, are on you and not on the game.
I completely agree with you! The Blue Rose was one of the puzzles that made the most sense to me. So far, I haven't found any puzzles that have really "stumped" me, and I don't consider myself a "pro" puzzle game solver. As you write, one has to approach the game with its own logic - which is that of the horrific, twisted and yet fantastic universe that was created for this game. I am really enjoying it!
THIS GAME NEEDS TO BE A MOVIE
I kinda agree with you about these badly constructed puzzles and weird A, B answers and stuff. But the thing that bothers me the most about this game is that you don't get answers to anything in the end of the game. NO F***ING ANSWERS! It's like creator of game doesn't know answers to anything too. Just makes game, throws some Ultrareality there and knows nothing about it either. Also end was really disappointing. Too happy for horror game. Also there should've been multiple endings. But game is actually pretty interesting and artstyle is nice so it isn't too bad I guess.
Also finished this game just now.
Just like in the review, I liked the sheer shock of some situations/visuals and the odd childish take on horror. It feels “Spanishy”, if that’s a thing, so the game has its own vibe.
Overall, though, I didn’t think it was that great. The puzzles were okay to me, except the bar ticket puzzle and the double season switch, those really anoyed me. The tone is all over the place and it quickly squanders the shock value of its gore gimmick. It also literally throws at you an entire book’s worth of extra backstory and gobbledygook lore. Material for a sequel? None of the mumbo jumbo about ultrareality, the asylum or the family drama really pays off by the end.
I mean, I also finished the finally complete The Dream Machine recently, which is also weird and creepy and fantastic, but maintains a consistent sense of tone and has much more human and interesting dialogue. So maybe try that one instead.