Available on the Nintendo Switch from July 20, 2023, Frank and Drake is a point-and-click adventure revolving around two characters drawn into a supernatural mystery. The game, developed by Appnormals Team, takes inspiration from the epistolary gothic novels Frankenstein and Dracula (as you can see from its name). You alternately play as the titular protagonists: Frank during the day and Drake at night, because the latter is allergic to sunlight and only operates when the sun is down. Because of their conflicting schedules, the two new roommates communicate and unravel the story’s mysteries via Post-it Notes™ stuck to the fridge.
How are the weird visions they’ve started having connected to their respective, secretive pasts? And what is the wider conspiracy they’re entangled in? With a beautifully meticulous rotoscoping art style, mini-games and puzzles, and multiple endings unlocked through player choices, Frank and Drake will appeal to fans of puzzle games, visual novels, and supernatural and mystery fiction.
Frank and Drake’s rotoscoped character models and intricate settings look amazing and are a big plus for the game. The rotoscoping animation technique is achieved by painstakingly tracing over filmed footage by hand, frame by frame. This results in a finished product that appears realistic in its motion and details. One example of a movie employing the technique is A Scanner Darkly, an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel by the same name. I can see why the developers wanted the characters to actually walk around and interact with objects, so we could view the rotoscoped visuals in action.
So, the point-and-click gameplay mostly involves inspecting different objects (there’s quite a lot of reading), completing puzzles and mini-games, meandering around Oriole City’s detailed locations, and selecting from one of two options that affect how your playthrough turns out.
Relatedly, the game opens by explaining that a “single playthrough tells one of many possible stories” and that to get the full picture, we’ll need to choose differently in subsequent plays. This is one reason I reckon visual novel fans will probably enjoy Frank and Drake; it has a non-linear, branching plot with unique endings to uncover based on your choices. The game also makes it clear when you’re making an impactful decision, and it features a Tree that shows which path you’re taking.
Along with its name, Frank and Drake gives a nod to Frankenstein and Dracula in other ways. These gothic novels are examples of epistolary fiction, where the entire plot is narrated through letters, journal entries, and other written documents. Frank and Drake each keep a diary wherein they muse about daily events and record thoughts before the narrative switches over to the other person. (From these pages, the player selects the topics about which they’ll write on the sticky notes.) And as already mentioned, many items you’ll inspect involve reading.
In terms of characterisation, both protagonists are fairly lonely and friendless individuals (which may make them relatable to the lonerish introverts out there). Frank has amnesia (like a lot of JRPG characters!) and only remembers what’s happened since he woke up in an alley a year ago, and started living in the building while working as its superintendent. He’s worried he’s starting to lose his grip on reality, probably not helped by the fact he projects his thoughts onto random items, which makes it seem like they’re talking to him. Drake comes from something of a travelling hobo past and, being allergic to sunlight, is only awake at night. We also read his random inner narration. And depending on your choices, the Bond between the new flatmates improves or worsens.
Finally, the soundtrack is wonderful and switches between the two. And I can tell much time went into designing the game’s world and scenery, and the items with which you interact. The little touches are nice, for example, how the title screen swaps from daytime to nighttime with the cursor.
- Fantastic rotoscoped animations
- Intricately designed settings and objects
- Multiple paths and endings; replayable
- Interesting gameplay and characters
I’m not really sure if this was just a “me thing” or if others had the same issues. Sometimes, these point-and-click games get confusing and you get a bit stuck as to what to do next. Like, I have clicked multiple times on everything and mashed every button on the controller, including ones I know don’t do anything anyway, and yet I don’t know how to progress the story. Several times I had to exit from the settings menu and replay the entire scene. Was it just a nooby-me thing, or were there bugs? Probably just a me thing.
Another downside is that there is no save option (similar to Milk inside a bag of milk inside a bag of milk and its sequel – other games I played recently). Frank and Drake autosaves, and you continue from the last autosave. Maybe this won’t bother everyone. But considering that several playthroughs are required to piece together the full truth of the story, it may become a tad tedious to restart the entire narrative from scratch each time. I’m unsure why they didn’t just pop in a save function (especially for those of us with a billion different games on our “To Play” lists). Or, they could’ve gone for something like Paranormasight’s story chart, where the different endings just branch off the same storyboard. And where you can replay past scenes. In any case, to get all the endings, you’ll need to start all over again.
Lastly, the game also lacks any voice acting except for a bit during the endings. Much of the text is just inner thoughts and the reading of stuff anyway, rather than conversations, so I think it worked fine without voices.
- Might get stuck
- No save option
- No voice acting, except at end
Final Score: 8/10
Frank and Drake is a beautifully and thoughtfully executed game, with a unique rotoscoped art style, that draws inspiration from the epistolary gothic works Frankenstein and Dracula. The title encourages multiple playthroughs to fully understand the supernatural mysteries surrounding the characters.
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