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Frank And Drake Review: A Luscious World Full Of Mystery

EDITORS' RATING : 8 / 10
Pros
  • Unique story and characters
  • Phenomenal art design
  • A killer soundtrack
  • High replay value
Cons
  • Some lackluster puzzles
  • Not every ending sticks the landing

A PC code for "Frank and Drake" was provided to Zaaz for this review. The game is available now for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

It's been a while since a mystery game as solid as "Frank and Drake" has come around. When we meet them, the titular characters are each struggling with their own unique conditions — amnesia and a sunlight allergy, respectively. Thanks to a shared living space and affinity for sticky notes, they end up uncovering links between their lives and a plot that runs deep into the heart of Oriole City.

"Frank and Drake" is a rotoscoped point-and-click adventure that manages to refine everything that makes the genre great, resulting in an easily digestible, wholly engrossing gaming experience. Through its stunning level design and amusing puzzles, the game slowly pulls you into a story that you won't want to put down when it's done.

Players have real agency in "Frank and Drake." The choices you make don't just dictate the ending. They also determine which parts of the story you uncover, how the characters feel about each other, and how they fare when the going gets tough. Ultimately, "Frank and Drake" is a deeply compelling "Choose Your Own Adventure"-type story wrapped in a stunning artistic package.

Star-crossed roommates

The game begins by introducing Frank, who's spent the past year working as a super in a rundown apartment building while recovering from a mysterious accident that left him with amnesia. For reasons that aren't immediately clear, the building's owner helps Frank live a quiet life caring for his two-legged dog and looking after his neighbors. That peaceful routine gets a shakeup when Drake is sent to be Frank's roommate.

Like Frank, Drake is quiet and somewhat introverted. He works nights at a local bar, which mostly prevents him from spending time face-to-face with Frank. The two develop a relationship via sticky notes left on the apartment refrigerator, and they grow closer or more distant based on how players choose to spend their time.

It's hard to say much about either of the titular characters without getting into spoiler territory, and there's not a single moment of "Frank and Drank" that you want to have spoiled. It's enough to say that when Frank receives a bizarre package in the mail, he and Drake are both forced down a path that leads them to examining their pasts, uncovering some dark secrets, and facing a life-or-death scenario with (or without) each other.

Layers of intrigue

Frank and Drake are both complex but lovable characters. A majority of the game is spent working out their stories and the strange links that tie them together, and getting to the bottom of the mystery is extremely satisfying. Every time you think you've got the whole situation worked out, the game throws a wild curveball that sends the entire story in a new direction.

Players follow Frank during the day and Drake at night. Each new segment presents a handful of choices that take the characters down branching paths. For instance, if Frank works around the apartment building, he might uncover the story of a struggling family living next door, but if he instead spends his time cleaning a bedroom for his new roomie, then he and Drake might start things off with a warmer relationship.

The choices in "Frank and Drake" really matter. Taking different paths will lead players to different scenes and characters, and, of course, there are multiple endings to unlock. What really sets this game's approach apart, though, is that uncovering the full story really does require multiple playthroughs. It's entirely possible to finish the game with pieces of the overall mystery still left unsolved. If Drake doesn't spend a night investigating his old home, he might never learn the truth about his mother or heal from his own trauma. 

There are real stakes for the characters in the game, so choices don't feel like binaries that lead to trivially altered outcomes. You'll actually want to play the game back through a second — and maybe even third — time to learn everything you can about Frank, Drake, and the strange world they find themselves in.

Look and listen

The story of "Frank and Drake" is supported by some truly spectacular artwork. The game is essentially a point-and-click adventure, so most of your time is dedicated to investigating the scenery or watching events unfold on the screen. Luckily, the rotoscoped animation used in the game is nothing short of breathtaking, and the character behaviors at play here are entrancing.

Every location you encounter is dripping with lovingly constructed details that clue you in on what's happening with the characters and Oriole City as a whole. The effect is so strong that the art itself starts to feel as alive and active in the story as the characters.

The visuals are reason enough to celebrate "Frank and Drake," but the soundtrack happily keeps up with the rest of the package. The music morphs depending on which character you're following, punctuating the highs and lows of the story while still distinctly matching Frank's or Drake's style. Taken together, the art and music sell you on the game just as much as the actual writing (if not more), and that's one impressive feat.

Puzzling your way through

When you aren't clicking through the varied environs of Oriole City or reading through the thoughts and memories of Frank and Drake, the game task you with solving puzzles. At their best, the puzzles are fun, if not particularly challenging, opportunities to get involved in all the sleuthing. One sequence where Frank is searching through surveillance camera footage is a particular stand out. At other times, the puzzles can feel like somewhat amusing distractions from what really matters. Spending a few minutes figuring out how to pry out a record that's stuck in a jukebox is simply less compelling than getting back into the game's story.

Even though some of the puzzles miss the mark, they don't really sour the overall experience of "Frank and Drake." The same thing could be said of some of the game's endings. On one hand, it's exciting that the story is deep enough to warrant multiple playthroughs, and the game's approach to choice really makes your agency in the game feel important. At the same time, the fact that large portions of the story might still be a mystery by the time credits roll means that some of the game's endings are inherently unsatisfying. At least there's more than one reason to dive back in, and "Frank and Drake" makes sure to reward completionists.

Well worth the price of admission

A single playthrough of "Frank and Drake" might take four to six hours. Uncovering every facet of the game's story and seeing every secret Oriole City has to hide will likely take most players more than twenty hours total. The characters and their deeply moving struggles will live with you for much longer than that.

If you're a gamer who's opposed to this style of point-and-click gameplay, this release probably isn't going to convert you. But if you've ever had even a passing interest in the genre, "Frank and Drake" nearly perfects the form. Yes, some of the puzzles are silly, and yes, it will take more than one playthrough to get a truly satisfying conclusion, but the journey will more than make up for the game's few flaws. From the art to the music to the characters themselves, there's so much that makes "Frank and Drake" worth investigating.

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