I love a good visual novel, and Frank and Drake is one of the best visual novels I’ve played. The artwork is fantastic, and the story is compelling. And the fact that there’s a branching narrative and mini-games/puzzles sets Frank and Drake above other games in the same genre.
Typically, I start my reviews by diving into the story. But the one thing that caught my eye, first at PAX East and now during my review playthrough, is how stunning the game looks. The animation is done through a rotoscoping technique, which gives the game a flip-book feel. You control the movement by hitting left, right, up, and down on the control stick, and this adds an interesting element, allowing you to pause the animation mid-motion. This art direction is particularly fascinating when the characters reach toward the camera. And the motion is smooth and beautiful, and I can’t get enough of the superb aesthetics built through the animation.
The story is about two roommates who couldn’t be more different - Frank, a man losing his mind as he pieces together fragments of his memories, trying to make sense of it all. And then there’s Drake, a new roommate with a mysterious past that gets sustenance from blood. If you haven’t guessed by now, Frank is “Frankenstein,” and Drake is basically “Dracula,” although, from the character art, you wouldn’t have guessed as much; even still, there are subtle nuances in the design that hint at this fact.
As in any good novel, there’s usually a mystery that puts the two characters on the same path. And Frank and Drake both experience strange experiences after exposure to some unknown orange gas. Frank operates during the day, while Drake only goes out at night. The two communicate through post-it notes left on the refrigerator. What’s unique is that based on your journal entry, you’ll have different note options you can leave. And different messages drive the bond between the two roommates. It reminds me of a modern version of The Odd Couple, and I love it.
Each day/night sequence starts with the character deciding how to proceed. Each decision you make affects the journal entries you’ll make at the end of the character’s sequence and drives the game's outcome. There are six different endings, so this allows for several play-throughs.
And each path has mini-games/puzzles. Some are simple and fun, like a word search, but others are more complicated, like trying to sneak around a zoo to get to the pigs to sap some of their blood. Depending on your chosen path, you’ll have different puzzles to solve.
But I didn’t expect how well-written Frank and Drake is. It’s not just the character development that pulled me in. I was in tears when reading through an old diary of one of Frank’s neighbors. And while there is a lot of reading through journals and notes, I never wanted to skip any of it. That’s a testament to how well-written the story is.
Final Grade: A+
Frank and Drake is a must-own if you are a fan of visual novels. The story between the two characters is riveting, as the mystery they are trying to solve pulls you in straight from the beginning. The artwork is a masterpiece, and the rotoscoping technique for the animation brings Frank and Drake to life. While there is a balance issue in some of the puzzles, most are still easy to solve. Considering this game has several different endings, you’ll finish the game and want to jump back in for another round.
Review code provided by StridePR