Indie games and developers are the lifeblood of the video games industry. The medium we know and love today is based on a foundation of the pioneering work of indie developers. Frank and Drake is one such indie title that is unique in the way it delivers its branching narrative adventure.
Supernatural Mystery – Frank and Drake
Having previously released the award winning game STAY, this is the team at Appnormals latest title. The cinematic interactive adventure is available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
This review is spoiler free so no caution is needed as you read ahead.
Set in the fictional city – Oriole, players take on a quite unique dual role playing the 2 main characters alternately – Frank during the day and Drake at night. Building a relationship while investigating is central to the game with branching paths at every turn. All the choices you make as the player will ultimately effect and shape the story.
The butterfly effect is in operation here as your choices have consequences.
The story plays out over 6 days/nights with each character passing their findings to each other via sticky notes. A symbiotic existence as the trials of one will alter the path of the other. A nice touch is that the path choices you didn’t take are marked with an “X” on the story Tree. While the path you took is circled. This makes a roadmap of sorts for guiding future playthroughs.
Throughout the journey there are mini games and puzzles to play and solve. Some of these will leave you scratching your head but it is very rewarding when you figure things out. It’s nice that the game is quite chill allowing the player to experience it at their own pace.
The game is littered with pop culture nods and references so keep your eyes peeled at all times.
Graphics & Audio
Frank and Drake features a rotoscoped animation. This pain staking process involves hand drawing over live action footage frame by frame. The art on display is crisp, clean and vibrant. Little animations when idle really add to making the characters feel alive.
A nicely implemented feature is how interactive objects in scenes have a kind of shimmer or wobble to them. The developer notes that this was achieved by re-drawing the silhouette of objects 3 times. It acts as a sort of hand holding for the player to guide them slightly through the experience.
Not only have they very different dress styles whilst operating in game in either day or night, the main characters also have their own musical treatment. Daytime is hit with urban beats while you investigate as Frank. Drake’s night owl exploration is set to some chill jazz tunes.
The beginning of the game recommends the use of a headset and I would very much echo this as it really does enhance the experience.
One minor gripe I would pick with the presentation is the lack of being able to increase text size in the diary. I found myself on occasion sitting forward to comfortably study the entries.
With 6 different possible endings there is certainly plenty of replay value here. Even as I progressed my first playthrough I was already noting how I might make different choices on my next run. It really rewards focus and attention to the little details. There are also collectibles to be found – 11 flyers and 9 silent movie cards.
For trophy hunters there are 24 in total including a platinum, which does require all endings to achieve.
Frank and Drake is an awesome experience that delivers. Not only is it a feast for the eyes with some truly beautiful art and animation but the narrative and how it is delivered gets its hooks into you. It will really have you flex your cognitive might.
Its pacing is spot on and the multiple endings give reason to complete all possible story paths. The game is clever, thought provoking and rewards attention to details. The answers are all around if you only let your mind see them.
Just like STAY before it this is a game that I highly recommend and Appnormals are a team that should most definitely be on your radar.
This one uncovers the Thumb Culture Gold Award.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.