Frank and Drake Review (PS5) – When I first rolled credits, I was happy to be done with Frank and Drake, never to play it again, even if that meant missing out on multiple endings. With such an abysmal first playthrough, what could be gained from more?
Yet, when I returned to the main menu, I immediately pressed “New Game”. I felt a draw, a need, to know the other fates of these characters and build upon their relationship. That’s when I knew, I was emotionally invested.
Frank and Drake is a narrative-driven point-and-click experience developed by Appnormals, and published by Chorus Worldwide. This tale is about two characters who have never met and are connected by a grand conspiracy.
You as the player control both characters. The choices you make will greatly influence their relationship as well as their outcomes.
18 hours and 4 playthroughs later, I went from loathing this game to really enjoying it. If you enjoy point-and-click, great stories, gothic-inspired art styles, and building relationships in games, Frank and Drake may be the game you didn’t know you needed.
Frank and Drake Review (PS5) – Great Narrative Held Back By Flawed Design
Looking On The Bright Side…
Frank and Drake excels as a video game in many ways. The appeal is to experience its complex, deep narrative. Frank is a superintendent for an apartment building. His day-to-day includes collecting rent, maintaining, and tending to the care of any tenant concerns. One day he receives a letter from his mentor that he is to expect a roommate named Drake.
He is a night owl that avoids sunlight. As Frank, you have a choice; prepare his room and make him comfortable, or go back to your duties and let him take care of it.
The choices you make will affect their relationship. How they interact with each other influences certain outcomes. There are three levels to their relationship; Distant, Neutral, and Close. Frank and Drake will address one another based on these levels, influencing dialogue and outcomes.
Watching how their relationship blossoms depending on your actions will keep you hooked. It is the reason why I began multiple playthroughs.
Video games can face difficulty in evoking empathy for characters that only speak through text. This game executes that thanks to distinct personalities married with creatively written dialogue. Hats off to the developers for accomplishing such a feat!
Both characters go through their own story arcs. Frank who is remembering his identity, and Drake who is coming to terms with his past. As the story progresses, these characters come to terms and support each other based on their bond level. The two of them keep track of everything they do in the game via their diaries.
They write what happened during the day and their discoveries as they plan out their schedules. Frank is active during the day, and Drake at night. Although they never see each other they communicate through sticky notes placed on the fridge.
In addition to its great narrative, the art style is fantastic. Everything about it is visually appealing, setting the atmosphere throughout the game. The game also mixes still images with moving animations. It allows the characters to feel and look real as they go about their daily lives.
Accompanying the visuals is an excellent soundtrack that encapsulates the emotion, expression, and world our characters inhabit.
A Puzzling Situation
Unfortunately, that is where the pros end for this game. As great as the story is, the weaknesses lie in its game design. There are so many aspects of this game that could have been made more enjoyable for the player. Despite getting you through the game most of the time, the gameplay, pacing, and mechanics feel absolutely miserable.
Especially if you’re repeating playthroughs. During my first play-through, I had a tough time getting through this game due to its pacing.
This was largely due to the game’s boring and torturous puzzles. They are not optional either. You must solve them in order to continue. These puzzles are not intelligently designed at all. Most of the ones I’ve faced were solved through trial and error. Good puzzles encourage the player to utilize critical thinking with the mechanics presented in the game.
Below is an image of one of the game’s puzzles. To solve this, you have to line up the appropriate tiles based on their respective shapes.
In lining up the tiles, you have to line them up in order. If you make a mistake, you have to start over. Every puzzle in this game has hints provided. Some are clear, others will make you scratch your head in confusion. Below is an image of the solution for this tile puzzle. The answers are in the middle of each symbol.
The problem is a lot of the details in these images are either small or blurry. You will have to really look closely.
1 Controller, 8 Buttons
This game could have greatly benefitted through button functions to help you navigate the game. Having a button to zoom into objects, open your diary at any time, bring up readable text in documents, fast forward the game & text, or interact with an object. A lot of these functions are limited to specific prompts.
This makes you wish you had access to these functions at any time. It would help with the game’s progression as well as its pacing.
In addition to its excruciating puzzles, making choices in this game for the first time can be extremely confusing. My first playthrough consisted of me making choices I had no clue about. The game doesn’t explain to you the actions of your choices, the consequences, or why you’re making them.
Perhaps the suspense of choosing to go somewhere or do something adds to the unknown venture. The conflict with this is you witness outcomes that you are not proud of.
My first playthrough concluded with both characters disliking each other due to choices I didn’t intend to make. Due to the game’s lack of presenting choices clearly to the player, I felt unsatisfied with my outcome.
Quality of Life Changes
Frank and Drake can benefit from many quality-of-life changes. Firstly, the game recommends you use headphones. I am sad to report that the game has audio issues with a headset plugged in. Sometimes the game emits static feedback which can get extremely annoying.
Next, the text in both diaries was difficult to read due to how small the words were. Accessibility options such as enlarging text would have been a huge help.
The addition of voice acting would have been an immense help to the game’s pacing. The only time voices are used is in the epilogue of the game. And you know what? The voice acting is superb! Adding voiceovers alongside visual text would have engaged the player within the game, and resonated with these characters.
Far more than what could have been accomplished by using text dialogue.
As indicated in the image above, you can see there is a heartbeat line above the door. This is hinting there is a person in the room. The game could have added more interactive cues in the game’s environment to exhibit life. The lack of dual-sense features is astonishing. For a game that encourages interaction, there were many opportunities to utilize these features.
Feeling the haptics of petting a dog, using an Ouija board, unlocking a safe, or serving a drink. Adaptive triggers when squeezing a blood bag, pulling a rope, pressing stone keys, or lifting an item.
Utilizing these features adds a sense of immersion, making you feel as if you are in the world you’re digesting around you.
Lastly, the game’s biggest crime was to not include a history to track your choices! In Detroit Become Human, there is a timeline that you can view to see the choices you’ve made in certain parts of the game. This allows you to make choices you haven’t made in new playthroughs.
Frank and Drake encourages the player to revisit the game to view its different endings to see the whole story. However, during my fourth playthrough, I still got the same ending. I made different choices, I even had different outcomes. Regardless I still received the same ending.
Including a timeline of choices made would have shown the player what choices lead to their outcomes. This way whenever a new playthrough is started, players understand what they may do differently to achieve different endings.
My Last Entry…
Despite all the cons, I can’t help myself from returning to Frank and Drake. Nurturing both protagonists’ relationships and witnessing how the story evolves is the game’s biggest appeal. The story and its outcomes will keep you on the edge of your seat. The visual design is so mesmerizing to assimilate. The music is warm, dark, lively, and inviting.
The emotional attachment you feel for both Frank and Drake is a huge accomplishment considering this is a game with just text dialogue.
The game is far from perfect. If you can look past all the issues which make this experience unbearable to play, you will appreciate jumping into the wild conspiracy of Frank and Drake. Damn it Appnormals, you got me.
Frank and Drake is available now on PS5 and PS4.
Review code generously provided by the developer.