Frank and Drake is described as a modern Gothic tale, and developers Appnormals Team understood the assignment. Mesmerizing hand-drawn artwork competes with a gripping story for the spotlight in this point-and-click adventure published by Chorus Worldwide. Elements of the supernatural bleed into the heavy atmosphere of familial secrets, mystery and controversy as the titular characters – Frank and Drake, just in case you weren’t sure – unravel their own secrets, which are more connected than either of them could have imagined.
Story – As Different as Night and Day
Set in the lore-filled fictional Oriole City, Frank and Drake surprisingly revolves around the lives of Frank and Drake. Frank is recovering from amnesia while working as a maintenance man for his apartment block, attempting to piece together his old life as he lives his second. Drake arrives, shrouded in mystery and iron deficiency, and takes up residence in Frank’s spare room. Despite the close living quarters of the two men, at no point do they cross one and other’s path. Instead, the distance between them is bridged through post-it note messages.
Due to his physical health deteriorating as he recovers his memory, Frank’s energy is limited and so he spends his evenings getting his beauty sleep. Coincidentally, Drake is a dweller of the night, preferring to work the late shift at his bar job. Therefore as the world flits between sun and moonlight, you switch perspectives between the two characters. Although your in the moment actions may be influenced by each individual’s story, as you gather more clues it becomes apparent that these two strangers meeting was more than a happy coincidence.
Each choice you make, however subtle, has an impact. Something as insignificant as mending a blind will effect the roommates perception of the other, and how well the men bond will dramatically sway the end result. There are six possible endings, and unlike a lot of other branching narrative titles, I found an urge to instantly replay Frank and Drake. Each play-through takes roughly 3 hours, yet it is the hidden story aspect which inspired me to play again. Choosing different locations to explore uncovers new pieces of lore, sometimes filling in the blanks and often posing more questions.
The majority of the game relies on visual storytelling and reading from journals. While the overall narrative is riddled with twists and controversy, at the heart of it is a sense of self-discovery and identity. In spite of the slow nature of the gameplay, the story of Frank and Drake avoids pacing issues, the eye-catching animations further aiding in keeping my attention. Then in a sudden change of style, the ending is played out in small animated cutscenes, where you will hear a voice over for the first time.
Gameplay – Point, Click and Sticky Notes
Point-and-click puzzle solving is at the core of the gameplay. Each area has its own unique and interactive items, poised to challenge your sense of logic, basic math skills and alphabet knowledge. Even though the problem solving may sound intuitive, there are a few instances of the solution not being so straightforward. A moment of map orientation in particular stumped me, although I am willing to accept that may be my lacking sense of direction. On the whole however, the puzzles were enjoyable; you will be cracking codes, following instructions and have the delightful opportunity of using a rotary phone.
Frank and Drake communicate solely through post-it notes. Both men are fond of journaling, and their journals are vital to the game. Entries are filled in through clicking the ellipses, and while these will naturally change depending on the path you take, each of the men have a tendency to note down what is important to them. Drake’s love of nature shines through with his fun facts of different animals, whereas Frank notes down key moments of his flashbacks. It is then through selecting one of the outlined paragraphs and dragging it to a post-it where you decide on what you will write to your roommate, these notes being the deciding factor of your relationship meter.
Audio and Graphics – Vibrant and Harmonic
It is undeniable that Frank and Drake excels visually. Using rotoscope animation techniques, each character movement is only a handful of over 5000 hand-traced frames. This animation has then been placed over filmed footage, creating an uncanny flickering effect on the characters and interactive objects. Oriole City is filled with understated detail and combined with the rotoscope animation creates a mesmerizing graphic novel.
There is no voice acting throughout the game, yet the audio is designed with each character’s personality in mind, shifting between themes as you switch between protagonists. Drake’s musical talent is also displayed, with Frank and Drake being the first time I have ever appreciated the sound of a harmonica.
Frank and Drake was reviewed on PS5 with a key provided by Stride PR.