Friends, drinks, and one mind-bending adventure.
Oxenfree is a game filled with part mystery, part adventure, and a whole lot of talking. It’s also a game I had no idea existed until a day or so prior to release. If readers find themselves sitting there thinking “I’ve never heard of Oxenfree” that’s normal. That said, Oxenfree is one of the games people should hear about and as more play it, will talk about it as it’s one unique, different, if somewhat familiar game all around.
Not the mystery gang
The game has players controlling Alex, a young girl who is seemingly just wanting to have a nice evening of partying with some friends. As they head off to a mysterious island that’s full of typical tourist trap dressings, they just want a night to party on the beach, but then one of them starts discussing stories of mystery surrounding the island and soon enough, things get very, very weird.
Platforms: PC, XB1
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
How long to beat: 3+ hours (depending on collectibles hunting)
What makes the impact of this mostly story driven experience is the characters. Without strong character and voice work, players might not feel themselves as invested or caring about them. It’s a bit different though because I wasn’t sure how that effect would completely work in a game that plays more like a side scrolling platforming game. I’m not saying players are hopping around like Mario or anything, but over the course of the game, there will be lots of talking, lots of walking, some climbing, some radio tuning, and huge amount of dialog choices. Usually Alex has a choice of 3 different reactions and those stem into different responses, ultimately changing the story to cater to the player’s experience. If the setting doesn’t sell you alone, the characters might help bring that to the forefront, otherwise the somewhat shallow game play that holds it all together will fall apart.
It’s the canvas in which this story is told, holding the care and concern, which got me invested completely in this tale. Is it ghosts, is it aliens, is it all a prank? The ending I received never made that 100% clear, but I have a pretty good idea after all was said and done. How much of that changes on another play through, I honestly couldn’t tell. I simply refuse to play a game such as this again right away. It was powerful enough to me and my choices seemed to matter in ways and I like how it all ended for me and I don’t want to taint that view. Does this mean I won’t play it again? Not at all, but the first time experience was the best and much like these story driven games that rely on plot for progression, playing again right away just seems a bit daunting, not only because of not wanting different choices, but game play also.
One of the first things noticed was the style of artwork and design that was behind Oxenfree. It looks good, it’s a bit simple, but colors are nice, almost pastel like. The soundtrack is upbeat during the lighter moments and particularly weird and brooding at others, which seems appropriate for the weirdness that occurs over the course of the 3 to 4 hour game. Gameplay wise it’s simple; walk, run, climb, choose dialog, and sometimes dial a radio tuner. It’s not complicated, it’s easy to do, and allows anyone to experience this. Yet the forced segments of walking will definitely kill multiple repeat playthroughs for some folks.
Also, having played this on Xbox one and PC, the PC version I had absolutely no issues with freezing or lock ups. Sadly the Xbox one version crashed on me about four times, one was after a somewhat lengthy segment right towards the end. It kicked my back to the dashboard and usually it’s not a problem as your never far back when resuming. This time it made me stop at an end game moment and it really took the impact out of the scene and the moment. I was completely absorbed, waiting with baited breath to see what was going to happen next after the loading screen and then nothing. It took the punch out of the moment, and that’s a shame.
Short but oh so sweet
Players that love a good story, some nice reveals, and lots of character driven dialog will eat up Oxenfree. It personally reminded me at times of Goonies, Donnie Darko, and X-files, all thrown in a blender together and spat out. It’s a game with a great amount of heart, and one scene in particular, while it didn’t have me in tears, I couldn’t help feel touched by that moment. I felt as if I was Alex and getting a chance to experience this one last moment with a character just brought a sense of satisfaction, joy, and closure to not only her but to me as well. Oxenfree needs more polish on Xbox One to prevent the crashing, but otherwise it’s a wonderful hidden gem for me. A game seemingly released I had no idea or care prior to release. Now I’m sitting here, reflecting on my entire experience with Oxenfree and one word comes to mind immediately…flabbergasted.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.