Beloved Emirati animated series Freej has launched a mobile game, Freej Match. Available on Apple's App Store and Google Play, fans of the show can download the colourful, narrative-driven puzzle game for free.
Freej Match includes all the popular characters from the series, which Mohammed Saeed Harib first brought to life in 2006. The cartoon features a vibrant world, which has inspired theatrical shows, merchandise and music — becoming the first Arab-produced animation to be exported to Japan.
The show revolves around the adventures of four senior Emirati women living in a secluded neighbourhood in modern-day Dubai. Now, users can experience their lives in a completely new and interactive way.
Harib tells The National it was "only natural" for the show to branch out into video game format.
He says: “Gaming is a very hard genre because there are many of them out there. But I think people are keen to play something that talks to them and their culture.
"This is something that talks to you, it’s more of a 'hey, we're back, hey you know us'."
Freej Match is structured around a treasure-hunt narrative. As the game starts, Um Saeed, Um Saloom, Um Allawi and Um Khammas, the loveable Freej stars, realise during their morning coffee gathering that something is amiss. They and their neighbours have all experienced strange dreams the previous night. As a result, each lady has a lost a special collection of personal items.
Users are tasked with collecting them, each of which featured in the original Freej show, through 100 levels — set to be expanded soon. In the process, the ladies make sense of their curious dreams.
On the challenge of adapting Freej to a new medium, Harib says: “We didn’t know what kind of story we wanted to tell. How do you tell a story without being boring? How do you tell a story that belongs to this kind of framework?”
The result is a narrative weaving itself into the gameplay, making the gamers active participants in the ladies' adventure.
Harib developed Freej Match with Boss Bunny Games, a Saudi mobile gaming company operating from the UAE. The collaboration was a natural fit for Harib, who wanted to support the local start-up.
“They know my culture and I know their culture well,” he says. “I think it went beyond collaboration. This is a very purely Arab-made game. The developer and the intellectual property owner, the story, are all Arab.”
Freej has become a celebrated and instantly-recognisable part of the contemporary Emirati culture. Given the show's expansive and dedicated fan base, it comes as no surprise that Harib took a hands-on approach to the project.
“When it comes to anything that relates to Freej, trust me it’s very personal,” he says.
For Harib, the game was a balancing act of immersing players in the game's mechanics, while remaining true to the characters and world of the original animated series.
“There is a Freej DNA, a culture we belong to, that we feel connected to," he adds. "And, having the experience of Freej on TV is nice. But having an interactive experience is even better. This game is only the starting step to something bigger.”
Scroll through photos of a Freej-inspired Afghan carpet