FranknJohn – Preview
Follow Genre: Rogue-like
Developer: bitSmith Games
Publisher: bitSmith Games
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

FranknJohn – Preview

Good: very polished for early access, solid gameplay, huge skill tree
Bad: lacks excitement
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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

FranknJohn is an action RPG with rogue-like elements by bitSmith games, known for Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan. In the same vein of slightly odd and different games they recently released FrankNjohn in early acces, a game where the age-old adage of ‘use your head’ is taken quite literally…


You’ll be taking on the role of young FranknJohn, being left with your head attached to its body by only a chain after a failed experiment of evil scientist Dr. Harmin. Undeterred by this, FrankenJohn decides to use his head as a weapon against the many enemies roaming the house of horror. The overall aesthetic seems to be influenced by Tim Burton, with the obvious Frankenstein elements mixed in. The strange, underground world is different every time with bottomless cliffs everywhere, set against a surprisingly good soundtrack by Ben Prunty, best known for composing the soundtrack to FTL and Gravity Ghost. The eerie light from the fireflies illuminating the various B-movie inspired abominations relentlessly hunting you down sets the mood just right. Prepare to take on creatures ranging from zombies that look uncomfortably much like yourself to treasure chests trying to eat you. Currently there is a bug that sometimes makes dead bodies throw artifacts which is annoying but not game-breaking.


Each game begins in a central hub, an underground lair that currently connects to just one area, the garden of denial which consists of three stages with one boss at the end . More areas like ‘The Furnace of Anger’ and ‘The Cistern of Depression’ are planned. Although three stages don’t sound like much, they are randomly generated every time, and surprisingly big.

Walking around is done with WASD and clicking the mouse launches your head a short distance. You can move the camera by pressing Q and E which shifts the camera 90 degrees left or right respectively on each press. Although this results in the odd camera angle now and then, it actually complements the voxel based maps surprisingly well. Pressing Z gives a zoomed out top-down view of your surroundings which comes in handy when trying to navigate the complex maps, especially since there is no mini-map present. Falling of the map luckily doesn’t result in an insta-kill, but rather transports you back to a place close to where you fell at the cost of some health points. Another thing to look out for are the various static traps like bear traps and rakes spread throughout the map.


Most enemies will chase you if you get too close, with the exception being static plants shooting green things at you, making kiting (keeping enemies at a distance by walking backwards while shooting) the most viable strategy. Some enemies have a charged attack, making timing very important. Due to the camera limitations you can’t aim up and down, which makes fighting on slopes or killing the flying enemies especially challenging.


You can collect health and marbles by killing enemies, walking through bushes, destroying objects, hitting trees and opening treasure chests which may or may not try to eat you. These marbles can be used in the hub to purchase upgrades from the huge skill tree. Some of these increase your damage, range and health, others give you a chance to resurrect or reveal secrets. Starting out without any skills won’t get you very far, but by repeating the process you get stronger and further into the level, earning you more marbles, which means better upgrades. Entering the Garden of Denial resets your marbles to zero, so choose your skills wisely!

Besides the permanent skills, there are also 15 skullcaps which can be picked up or purchased in the hub that only take effect until your death. Each one has their own special effect like for example the ‘FranknBomb’ which lets you drop bombs instead of launching your head at enemies, or ‘Hedgehog’s Haste’ which increases your speed. Most of them are pretty obvious nods at other games, with the two previously mentioned being glaring references to bomberman and Sonic the Hedgehog respectively.



FranknJohn actually looks surprisingly polished for an early access game, with very few bugs. Only one area is available as of now, but the huge skill tree and dynamic nature of the map provide virtually unlimited replayability, with a promise of plenty more content planned for the near future. The self-proclaimed ‘glorious’ soundtrack is exactly that, another great piece of music solidifying Ben Prunty’s reputation as one of the greats. Although it’s hard to find something wrong with FranknJohn, it doesn’t  manage to be particularly exciting either. Besides the great score, there really isn’t much that sets FranknJohn apart from the flood of rogue-likes that have been hitting the shelves recently. That being said we’re still talking early access, so here’s to hoping bitSmith Games manages build some excitement upon their solid foundation!

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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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FranknJohn - Preview, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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