Frank And Drake’s Excellent Adventure
HIGH A gorgeous art style
LOW Confusing UI issues
WTF I wonder if Richard Linklater’s next film will be another rotoscoped one?
I’ve been binging Christopher Nolan films lately, and one that stuck in my mind was Interstellar. Without spoiling any major plot points, there’s a revelation in the film that involves the idea of leaving behind messages to those in different time and place. Hints of better things, or even warnings of impending doom were scattered throughout its running time. It’s an interesting and emotional device, and I think Frank and Drake finds a way to do something similar, albeit in a less high-concept fashion.
Telling two parallel stories, this point-and-click adventure stars the two titular roommates who never interact with each other, as they have radically different working schedules. All of their communication comes from sticky notes left around their run-down apartment, and their story intertwines with a major mystery they need to solve.
This mystery is Frank and Drake’s narrative throughline, and each gameplay segment involves the player controlling either character. Being a point-and-click, most of the gameplay requires interacting with elements in a room, clicking through small puzzles and collecting items that may be useful later on.
A major part of the loop also involves choices that players need to make. For example, early in the game Frank can choose between going to work or getting his apartment ready for his new roommate. Despite seeming minuscule at the time, choices like this add a lot of contextual character development.
I really dug this approach because it meant that choices weren’t a bizarre, black-and-white thing. Rather, they incentivized doing what felt natural and this fleshed out the characters. At times, however, clicking around the environments got a bit repetitive as it wasn’t always clear what I was supposed to do in a given room. While key items and objects glow to indicate that players can interact with them, there were a few moments where they would remain glowing with no hint what to do next. It’s a minor nitpick, but some direction would be nice during these segments. In terms of technical issues, a few puzzles also didn’t let me solve them, forcing me to restart.
What I had no issue with, however, was Frank and Drake’s presentation.
Off the bat, the visuals are some of the most uniquely eye-catching of any title right now, sporting an engaging and gorgeous rotoscoped art style reminiscent of films like A Scanner Darkly or Ralph Bakshi’s extensive body of animated works.
The bold approach to the art is matched by an equally-impressive narrative, covering themes of loneliness, self-acceptance and our fractured relationship to work. It’s an adult story, focused on the issues that real people have. Without spoiling too much, the earlier bits in the apartment introduce (and suggest) some heavy things about Frank’s life. I liked how grounded the story felt, even with the presence of more fantastical elements. As mentioned earlier, the choice system does a lot to make the disparate stories feel more realistic, as choices tend to revolve around mundane things like what to pack in a box or how to clean a room.
Frank and Drake is an impressive feat thanks to its inventive art style alone, but the game manages to shine even more so hanks to a thoughtful story. Its approach to point-and-click based gameplay coupled with mature themes in its narrative make it a unique title worth trying out.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Disclosures: This game is published by Chorus Worldwide Games and developed by Appnormals Team. It is available on Switch and PC. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on Switch. Approximately 6 hours were spent in single-player and the game was completed. There is no multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M for Strong Language. The game can get very dark, dealing with a lot of heavy themes as well as offering some of the aforementioned language.
Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles and visual cues throughout the game and subtitle size cannot be adjusted. There are no audio cues needed to progress. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: The controls cannot be remapped and there are no diagrams. On Switch the left control stick is used to select items and the A button is used to interact.