***There are spoilers ahead for the game Oxenfree.***
Oxenfree is a game developed by Night School Studio. In the game, you control Alex, a teenager visiting an island with a group of friends and her new stepbrother Jonas for a night of partying. After using a radio when Ren suggests to use it at certain spots in an island cave, she unleashes a paranormal force. Alex must figure out a way to stop it and save her friends. Along the way, she can discover the secrets that the island is hiding and see a hidden truth to the existence of the supernatural force that’s occurring.
I like to play “walking simulators” at times. Walking sims are adventure games that are focused on exploration, story, and discovery. They tend to lack aspects of many traditional games, such as action, lack of a game over, combat, or puzzle solving. They are a quick linear game experience when I don’t have time to dive into a 40+ hour game. Walking simulator game examples, are Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Gone Home, and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Oxenfree seems to follow this genre, plus it adds a bit of a Telltale game touch to it. I mean that the game has dialogue choices for Alex, which will affect the relationships with her friends or her stepbrother. You have a limited time to reply; otherwise, silence will be your option. It isn’t too clear which options are nice or harsh choices at times. You will have trial and error when you chose, but the game is short, and you can reply again with a different selection, or you could exit out of the game and reload if you didn’t like the choice that you made.
A few of the voice actors in the game are from other Telltale games Erin Yvette and Gavin Harmon. The voice work was good, but the characters were just OK. Alex, the protagonist, is a teen with a bit of a rebellious attitude. She can change with the player’s decision and choices in the game. Her other friends are Ren, a childhood friend to Alex. Clarissa, a sort of rival to Alex. Clarissa used to date Alex’s Brother Michael before he had passed away a year earlier. Finally Nona, a shy girl and Clarissa’s best friend. It just seems like Ren and Nona are there most of the game. They don’t seem to move the story. The story focuses on Alex and Jonas, and their relationship while the Sunken possesses Clarissa for most of the game. A group of souls lost at sea when the Submarine the USS Kanaloa, who serves as the antagonist.
I did like the look of the characters, and the 2.5D style was beautiful and visually pleasing. The Supernatural element of the game, time looping, was alright. It made for a neat looking effect, but also seemed to stretch out the story longer at times. I preferred the “flashback” scenes more. I put flashback in quotes because it was another time loop, but your not forced back a few seconds. When it occurs, you are back in time with your brother Michael, before he died. It added more story to a short game, but not too much. The visual distortion effects are pretty cool. Even a few images that popped up in the distortion, it made the feeling of another entity trying to enter my TV or Xbox. Not to the effect of Eternal Darkness when your sanity meter runs low, but a kind of “oh wow, that was pretty cool” moment. I’ve got some video examples below:
Another cool moment is when Alex sees a reflection of herself in the mirror during a supernatural event. You are not looking at your Alex that you are playing as, but it’s another player who played the game already. They can provide help and clues on your journey. At the end of the game, you then get to enter your choices to help other players the way you were helped. I’ll let you discover it because it’s an effect that has to been seen and tried out firsthand.
The game takes only a couple of hours to play. There are several endings to the game. After you beat the game, it loops back to Alex talking about going to Edwards Island with her friends and her new stepbrother, creating a type of infinite loop to the game and story. It can be broken with another ending after you play through on a New game plus. It doesn’t seem to have an impact, and you can keep playing again and again on new game plus mode. It would have been nice to have a kind of closure if you had a close the loop ending that the game offers.
Anyone else try this game? What did you think if you played it? Let me know in the comments.