Spooky Teen Thriller- Oxenfree

I have come to realize that having five different launchers is just plain terrible. I have quite a few games for Steam, a handful on The Epic Games store, and I have just started using Itch.io as an indie game launcher and I am fully submerged in games and I cannot choose what to play. Feeling overwhelmed, I got up and stared at my bookshelf that houses all of my Limited Run Games games and I saw Oxenfree. I usually don’t visit thrillers but I decided that I have been playing a lot of action games that I need some sort of departure from the norm. This week I open up other worldly rifts with a walkie-talkie and spook myself in over-excitement with Oxenfree.

Oxenfree, a 1980’s teenager themed thriller, was developed and published by Night School Studio, released in January of 2016. It currently retails on Steam for a cool $10.

You are Alex, a blue haired teenage girl, who is travelling with her friends, Ren and Jonas, to Edward’s Island to party hard, pass out and wake up the next morning an adult. While on the beach Alex, Jonas and Ren enter a cave to take part in a local superstition of “contacting the dead” through the radio. The cave flickers and voices resonate through the cave and curious Jonas descends into the cave with Alex on his tail. The cave ends with an open area with a floating triangle that is visible to both characters and Alex tries to tune into the frequency of the triangle. This sets forth the events that the player will experience throughout the rest of the game.

Alex is an extension of the player and interacting with other characters drives the creepiness of the game. Conversations usually revolves around trying to figure out what is going on. Conversations between characters usually branch into three directions with the characters responding accordingly. For instance, there is a moment where Ren and Jonas were arguing and it is up to the player to choose a person to tag along in an adventure to find a key to the house on the island. The player can choose either Ren, Jonas or Nona; I chose Nona and other characters showed their disdain for my decision. The speech bubbles create a deeper connection between the player and the surrounding characters and with the inclusion of time loops, allow for even more interesting conversations.

Pacing in Oxenfree was wonky. I know that the open, long walks with zero interruptions are for the sake of allowing more meaningful conversations to take place but sometimes the walks just FEEL like they go on for longer than they should have. Nothing big, but it just wanting to take a second play through kinda unwanted.

Game-play and puzzles rely on manipulating the radio that Alex has. In the beginning, the radio is pretty limited but as the game progresses a radio with more dials is found that allows for a little more exploring, but at the end of the day Oxenfree still nudges the player in the correct direction.

The actual best part of the game is when the game reacts to the tuning of the radio. The lights flicker, the screen tears, and the colors distort like an old television to represent the passing of time. The game is not very horror like, but there are moments that Oxenfree that borderline spooky. The “ghosts” that inhabit the island are shrouded in mystery and their intentions are only clear towards the end of the game. The atmosphere does such a great job in promoting a spooky world in Oxenfree, I was entagled almost immediately into the world and its story.

2016 came and went and I never knew that this game existed; it just flew under my radar and I am an idiot for not paying more attention to this game. I sat down and played it and in a snap of a fingr, two hours had passed. The characters are designed really well. They don’t feel like cliched 1980’s teen movie characters; they are deeper than that. The actions you make influence other characters development throughout the course of the game; though it seems as though some interactions are not as pivotal as others. The atmosphere and world is FANTASTIC.

The long walks that need to necessitate long conversations with characters is forced and it is sometimes a slog to go through but, like, that’s it for things I dislike.

I love this game and I’m glad I looked at my dusty ass PS4 shelf and saw it. Ripped the game box wide open. Not a collectible anymore, but who cares? right?


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