As different as night and day.
Have you ever had a roommate you never had to see or interact with? If this sounds like fun, we have a game for you. Welcome to the tale of Frank and Drake. While I have a few grievances with this title, there is still much to appreciate.
The visuals for Frank and Drake are done using rotoscope animation. Even if you don’t know the term, you’ll know it when you see it, and this game is a good example of using rotoscoping well. As a story game with puzzle elements, Frank and Drake uses object outlines to drop hints to the player. When you see an object with a slightly heavier, somewhat wiggly outline, that is probably what you need at the moment. These cues are subtle but easily discerned—nice touch. The themes, composition, and use of color are also well done, providing good visual appeal.
Gameplay is very simple in this title. Since this is an adventure story with a few puzzles sprinkled in, you mostly walk around and use a reticle to select an object. Interactions usually involve pressing a button to pull up a few select-and-move combinations. (Example/spoiler: target the antenna with the reticle, press A to grab, then use the left JoyCon to move it about. When you get there, you’ll know).
The story centers around a supernatural mystery that involves two characters who share an apartment, but can never meet. Frank is the super of the building, and he only moves around during the day. Drake is allergic to sunlight, so he works only at night. Both experience visions, and they communicate with each other via sticky notes left around the apartment.
Each of these gents faces holes in his past for which he is seeking answers. As they go about their lives, they encounter new people, find clues, solve puzzles, and make choices about what they will or won’t do. This is a very important feature of the game: making choices. I have played other games where you are offered a variety of paths, but choices in this game have a more profound difference in what you experience, what you do, and how things play out. There are a limited number of choices, but you will need to play through the game several times to see and experience everything.
Frank and Drake provides each character with a notebook where you can see your goals, the storyline, your musings, and some sketches for fun. The notebook is a nice device to keep track of stuff in this game. The only downside are the sound effects for flipping to a new section. An individual page turn sounds right, but frequently the sound for flipping to a new section is jarring and doesn’t really sound like the gentle ruffle of several pages being turned at once.
The puzzles are not too difficult to figure out, even if what you need is good old trial and error. Some of the puzzles are engaging, a couple are a little on the simple side. One of my concerns is that once you engage a puzzle area, you can’t back out. It would be nice to be able to leave things in the puzzle and go do research, or to try a different approach to the game. Also, if you get stuck on a puzzle, the only way to get unstuck is to exit the game. This means you will lose some of your progress.
As for real gripes, I have a couple. The game is intriguing, but slowly paced, and the musical score needs some help. Don’t get me wrong, if you like games which take their time to move along, it’s fine. Likewise, the music is not obnoxious; it’s actually well done. The big problem for me (and this is a “me” thing) is that in combination, this game became a two-minute cure for consciousness. The sedate pacing and the low-key, repetitive music nearly put me to sleep many times. The story can pull you in and the game looks good, but there is nothing to excite the player.
Still, it’s clear the developers put some serious thought into this one. If you can be happy with a very calming vibe and slowly paced but good story-telling, Frank and Drake is worth checking out. If you are looking for fast action and thrills, you may want to keep looking.
Review: Frank and Drake (Nintendo Switch)
Although the story in the adventure puzzle game Frank and Drake takes a while to get going, it does eventually draw you in. There are several, non-linear paths to complete the game, allowing you to play through several times and explore all the options and elements. And the unique, rotoscoped animation looks great through each time.