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Video Game / Fran Bow

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The story of a lost little girl trying to get home.

Fran Bow is a point-and-click Adventure Game developed by Killmonday. It tells the story of Fran, a young girl struggling with a mental disorder and an unfair destiny.

After witnessing the gruesome and mysterious death of her parents, found dismembered at their home, Fran rushes into the woods, together with her only friend, Mr. Midnight, a black cat that Fran had previously received as a present from her parents. In the forest, Fran goes into shock over the loss of her parents and when she recovers, she’s at Oswald Asylum, an oppressive mental institution for children, and Mr. Midnight is nowhere to be found. While under the care of the asylum, Fran is given an experimental drug called Duotine to help control her trauma, but it instead causes her to see a twisted, gory version of the world populated by shadowy creatures.

After having a dream about her beloved black cat, Fran decides to escape from the mental institution to find him and go back home to Aunt Grace, her only living relative. Fran sets out on what will turn out to be a bizarre, surreal quest for peace.

The narrative that follows was deliberately crafted to be interpreted as either a magical adventure, or one girl's journey through madness, or possibly as something in between.

Not related to the Laura Bow series or connections with Fraw Bow from Mobile Suit Gundam. See also Little Misfortune, another game by Killmonday with ties to Fran Bow.

This game contains the following tropes:

  • Alice Allusion: Fran's cabinet at home contains a picture of Fran and her good friend Alice, who owns a toy cat with a wicked smile and tells Fran about her visits to a wonderful place.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Cogwind's monocle inexplicably switches side when he's repairing the clock of Ithersta.
  • Anachronism Stew: The game is set in the 1940s. Despite this, the run-down Oswald Asylum has colour television and a push-button phone is depicted in the fifth reality, even though neither were publicly available until the 50s-60s.
  • Awful Truth: One of the Valokas that Fran talks to implies that the truth of her parents' deaths is too terrible for her to understand. Remor shows her a vision where she was the one who killed her parents under Remor's influence. Whether this is true or not is up for speculation.
  • Bedlam House: Oswald Asylum, where Fran is taken to after her parents' deaths. Given it takes place in the 1940's, this is justified. Mental care was A LOT harsher back then... lobotomy and shock therapy were quite common, while public realization of abuse and mistreatment of patients were only just being revealed. Then again, there are lobotomised children in the basement cells...
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Although Remor is the definite preeminent Big Bad (or possibly The Heavy, depending on your interpretation), Dr. Oswald is a major antagonist as well, with Aunt Grace serving as The Dragon to the latter.
  • Big Fancy House: The elegant house of the twin sisters, Clara and Mia Bahalmut.
  • Big Good: Itward. Creepy as he may be, he's Fran's main protector and it's implied he protects the other children of the Oswald Asylum equally.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The exact degree depends on your interpretation of the game, but Aunt Grace. It's implied that she was involved with her sister and brother-in-law's murder and that she was trying to help Dr. Oswald by pushing Fran towards him. She even went as far as trying to kill Mr. Midnight so that Fran wouldn't resist Oswald's experiments.
  • Bloody Handprint: When Fran takes the pills in the room of the girl who is drawing, some can be seen on her bed. As well as on her body, in two particularly sickening places.
  • Body Horror: Can be seen all throughout the game. One striking moment is the discovery that the twin sisters aren't naturally conjoined, but were forcibly sewn together...
  • Breather Episode: Chapter 3 is much, much Lighter and Softer than anything before or after. The setting of this chapter becomes The Promised Land in the endgame.
  • Brown Note: The cry of the babies that Fran finds in the twins' house.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The Great Wizard is clearly as skilled at magic as everyone says he is, but he's also a total scatterbrain and he spends most of his time trying to work out how to pull off stage magic tricks like pulling rabbits out of hats.
  • The Conspiracy: Dr. Oswald, assisted by Aunt Grace and at least one of his nurses, faked Fran's death as a way to make it easier to experiment on her. The truth behind Fran's parents' death is likewise covered up by these people, as they seem to have been involved with his work in the past, but backed out, which may mean that Oswald had them killed (by Remor or whoever else) to cover his tracks.
  • Creepy Child: Most of the children in the game, although none seem to be malevolent. Fran herself definitely falls into this trope, with her Cloud Cuckoolander traits making her innocently disturbing.
  • Creepy Twins: Fran spends a while trapped in the house of some menacing conjoined witch twins who look a lot like the girls from The Shining.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: When using Duotine, Fran can see shadows looming over the children in the asylum. Interacting with these shadows will give snippets of the children's reason of why they're in the asylum in the first place. We later find out these shadows are the Kamalas, creatures who feed on people's misery, and that they're not latching exclusively on children, as Dr. Deern and Leon can attest to.
  • Dark Is Evil:
    • The Kamalas are dark shadows that cause trouble and seem to feed off people’s misery. They also serve Remor, the central antagonist.
    • Like the Kamalas, Remor is associated with darkness and seems to feed off the misery and pain of others. He primarily spends his screen time following Fran almost everywhere she goes, taunts her, and tries to interfere with her journey back home. He also shows Fran the events on the night her parents were killed and showed her being the one killing them. Whether he was showing her the truth or was merely trying to break her further is debatable.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Mr. Midnight is Fran's best friend, and does his best to protect and comfort her throughout the game. Similarly, Itward is a very tall skeleton man who dresses entirely in black, and he is also the one who has been protecting Fran her whole life.
    • The inhabitants of Mabuka's Den, apart from Remor and the Kamalas, are all pretty nice despite being creatures of utter shadows and despair, including Mabuka herself. They're just weird.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Fran greets the pill-inducing hallucinations, most of which are gory and traumatizing to the average person, with casualty. At its head when she watches a hallucination of her parents getting decapitated, and still doesn't get upset at the sight.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: How Fran ends up in the house of the sisters, though from what the pills show, she's actually in a disgusting corpse-filled well.
  • Easter Egg: In chapter five, when the player discovers Dr. Deern after he was captured by Remor, attempting to leave the room will cause the door to slam shut. If the player inspects the door again, they will discover a photo of Dr. Oswald and Leon with Clara and Mia, the twin girls from the well, and Grace and Lucia, Fran's aunt and mother, revealing that they are twins and were part of Oswald's experiments.
  • Emotion Eater: Kamalas and Remor are both said to feed on suffering. This may be why Remor never outright harms Fran or tries to kill her - only place her in unpleasant situations. Presumably, he's growing and harvesting her suffering.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: A major aspect of the entire game, but particularly the first chapter, where this is taken in a much more literal sense.
  • Eldritch Location: All the places Fran goes to after leaving the mental hospital, and everywhere when she takes the pills.
  • Evil Aunt: If you believe the interpretation that Grace was involved with the deaths of Fran’s parents and that she has been aiding Dr. Oswald in his experiment on Fran, then she qualifies. She ties her niece to her bed, tries to manipulate her through sugary words, and was willing to kill Fran’s beloved cat so that she would comply with Dr. Oswald. She also wasn’t concerned about her niece getting shot.
  • Expositing the Masquerade: Dr. Oswald and Dr. Leon were researching the multiple Realities and means of accessing the Ultrareality long before Fran came into the picture. She was merely the guinea pig with whom they tested their theories.
  • Fantastic Drug: The Duotine that Fran takes, though its actual effects are never elaborated upon. A quick check in a covered box in the asylum's basement says that the pills might not actually be Duotine since some of the bottles' labels are stated to have been scraped off, and a note in the box shows that a certain patient's dosage had a Duotine label placed on it "to look like an approved variant of Duotine." Later conversations implies that the pills might not even be a drug to begin with.
  • Fetch Quest: Most of the game has Fran collecting items to give to people so they can give her more items to proceed. Especially notable is the Great Wizard's part of Ithersta, of which he gives a fetch quest (the magic stones) within a fetch quest (the Stars of Ithersta), itself consists of four different fetch quests. You can only get that chain of fetch quest by doing a fetch quest (his memories), which consists of another four quests.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: Many characters, particularly the King of Ithersta and the Great Wizard, know what happened to Fran and her parents, but will only tell her this when she asks them about it. They also tell her she is not ready to hear the Awful Truth.
  • Flying Seafood Special: Palontras, the doctor of Ithersta, is a flying axolotl as large as a whale. No other Itherstans are even similar to him, which are divided into plant-like creatures and antropormophic insects.
  • Forced Transformation: Fran is turned into a tree shortly after entering Ithersta.
  • Foreshadowing: Very near the start of the game Fran will find an empty wheelchair and, in the desk near the wheelchair, a gun she refuses to touch as she's afraid of it. At the very end of the game, both the wheelchair, now occupied by Doctor Oswald, and the gun make a sudden return...
    • Certain mechanical inventions, like the mechanical Mr. Midnight, and many written documents make references to him before Itward makes a face-to-face appearance.
  • God of Evil: Mother Mabuka is this, though she herself is not evil so much as True Neutral.
  • Good Shepherd: Well, doctor, but Dr. Deern is the only adult who seems to care about Fran and wants to help her recover. Sure, he didn't seem to care that she might need some food after trying her new dosage of Duotine, but he does get significantly better as the game progresses.
    • The game elsewhere implies that Fran's pills not only aren't Duotine, but aren't even from the same reality as Duotine. Dr. Deern has no way of knowing this, and so thinks that Fran's pills are perfectly normal Duotine. Presumably, regular Duotine doesn't cause hunger, and so he 'knew' she didn't need to eat after taking it.
  • Guide Dang It!: Having trouble getting to Spring to get the dancer's shoes in Chapter 3? You can skip to a specific season without having to wait for the animation to complete, if you click the clock fast enough. Nowhere else in the game is it required since it's the last part of the Great Wizard's Memories Fetch Quest.
  • Helpful Hallucination: The images that Fran sees when on her pills do provide hints and are important to progressing the game.
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Fran is only ten, so a lot of what she encounters, she does not understand.
  • Kill It with Water: Kamalas can be "purified" by water. It drives them away in-game and, according to the diary Fran finds, enough of it will transform them into Valokas.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Fran.
  • Lighter and Softer: The game becomes this as it progresses, dropping the heavy horror and gore themes in favor of a more fantasy-based story. Only to turn straight into Mind Screw land when entering Mabuka's realm.
  • Light Is Good:
    • The Volakas are benevolent spirits of light and are portrayed as being the good counterpart of the Kamalas.
    • Polantras is a large, white creature in Ithersta and is quite kind. He serves as the main physician at Ithersta and helps those in need. In the brief bit we see in Chapter 3, he’s also fighting back against the Kamalas.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Mr. Midnight to Fran. She escapes from the asylum at first because she's desperate to find him, and identifies him as her only friend.
  • Living Shadow: The Kamalas, the primary obstacles and opponents in the game.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Everyone but Fran and Dr. Deern know that Dr. Oswald was experimenting on twins in his younger days, that Fran's mother Lucia and her aunt Grace were involved with these experiments, and that Fran was being groomed by Grace, if not by Lucia as well, to become Oswald's test subject due to her exposure to the Ultrareality.
  • Loon with a Heart of Gold: Fran, who has repeated hallucinations through the game. Though the ending implies that everything she witnessed while taking the Duotine was real.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Oswald, who, depending on where you side on the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane debate, is either responsible for experiments that drove a ten-year-old girl to insanity or left her at the mercy of malevolent supernatural forces, all to further his knowledge. He also sewed Clara and Mia together, which eventually killed them, and is likely related to the conspiracy to make the world think Fran is dead. He's not a nice man.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The whole plot scenario. Is it all a magical journey being carried out by Fran, or is it all in her head? However, certain parts become rather difficult to explain when one discounts a magical explanation while assuming the mundane events do not happen entirely in Fran's mind as well.
  • Meaningful Name: Both "Valokas" and "Kamala" are Finnish words, the first meaning roughly "lighty one" and the second simply meaning "terrible".
    • A big part of Remor's goal is to convince Fran she's the who killed her parents - whether or not she actually did - apparently to feed off of her remorse at having done so.
    • The duotine lets you see a second version of every room where you have access to it.
  • Mind Screw: Played pretty heavily. Is Fran a girl who has been drawn into a much different level of reality, or is she just seeing her existence through the lens of a mad little girl? Is she hallucinating much of what she sees, and duotine only complicating her condition, and what about whenever she takes it and the world turns from horrific and fantastical to a more mundane setting that's no less horrific?
  • Mood Whiplash: Whenever Fran takes the pills, otherwise normal images become horrific scenes of gore and violence. Especially noticeable in the house of the sisters; the house itself is beautiful and vibrant, almost like a dollhouse, but when Fran takes the pills, she is at the bottom of a disgusting well with several dead babies floating in the water.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: If Aunt Grace had not thrown Mr. Midnight into the void at the end of the game then it's possible Fran would've gone along with her and Oswald's plan until it was too late.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Itward seems to be this... but of course, the nature of the game makes it very difficult to tell what is and is not imaginary.
  • Only Sane Man: Dr. Deern is this in comparison to the other adults and insane children that make up the game's human cast - though he does get Fran to dig up her parents' corpses.
  • The Paranoiac: Fran's roommate, Phil, is identified as this.
  • Phantom Zone: Wherever Fran goes when she takes the Duotine. The items Fran can find there stay with her, and travelling paths that appear only in this phantom world will take her to new places even when she stops taking the pills.
  • Phlebotinum Pills: The drugs Fran takes to induce her hallucinations. Without them, escape from the hospital would have been impossible.
  • Please Wake Up: Fran often thinks that the obviously dead animals she sees in her hallucinations are just sleeping or crying. Oddly enough, this doesn't apply to hallucinations of dead people she sees - she'll cheerfully note that they are dead.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Fran believes her therapist to be this. Of course this takes place in the 1940's so her therapist might not be ethical from modern standards. While Dr. Deern turns out to be a subversion, on the subject of Dr. Oswald...She's not wrong. She's not wrong at all.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: An intentional version in the credits. Yes, Egnlish Proof Raeding is very serious business.
  • Self-Harm: The girl who was sexually assaulted does it, albeit on accident. The nurses tie her to her bed frame with rope by her wrists, and it gives her rope burn when she struggles against the bindings. (You can see the rope tied around her headboard, actually.) When she says, "I hurt myself," she means that's a result of her attempting to get untied, not that she purposefully goes out of her way to harm herself. Because it's not on purpose but a result of abuse, she asks Fran to get her something to stop the bleeding.
  • Skull for a Head: Remor, Fran's nemesis, who has a goat skull for a head. Curiously enough, Itward - Fran's friend and protector - also has a very skull-like head, but his is more recognisably human.
  • ShoutOut:
  • Spooky Painting: There are a few in the hospital, mostly of clowns.
  • Static Screw: Whenever Fran looks at a monitor or television while taking pills, the screen will display television static, with Fran's own ghostly face barely visible in the background.
  • Surreal Horror: The game is designed to be ambiguous as to whether Fran is suddenly the Cosmic Plaything from other realities, or if she has gone delusionally mad.
  • Tears of Blood: Fran cries these a few times in the game.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Fran, potentially. If this is true, then this means that the character is an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Transformation Horror: That brief moment when the wizard finally turns Fran back into a human. It's not pretty.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Fran has gotten rather used to her perception of reality breaking down on a regular basis, so she has become somewhat desensitized to some of the disturbing stuff she sees.
    Fran: (To a dead deer in the pill world) Hello? *deer's head falls off* Oh no! Your head!
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Fran has Nerves of Steel faced with all the gore and Surreal Horror she meets on a regular basis, but dolls? Fran really wishes there was no such thing as dolls, at least dolls of people.
    • The Kamalas hate water, and getting them wet so they leave is the focus of many a puzzle.
  • World of Symbolism: The entire game is essentially just a trip into Fran's own psyche? Maybe...