As a young girl (Alex) we reach the island with a childhood friend (Reginald) and half brother (Jonas). Soon, the crew grows to include Nona and Clarissa. We have tense relationships with these…
It was supposed to be a night to relax by the beach bonfire, with simple games, drinks in moderate amounts, and a surprise prepared by Ren (who needed a portable radio to make it possible).
Oxenfree starts like a typical horror story centering on stupid teenagers. Fortunately, it’s not. Initially, it seems our characters are clichés, but it’s a semblance—one of many offered by this unique title.
After not enough gratifying moments around the campfire, part of the group goes to explore the nearby cave, where you can probably catch the frequencies of non-existent broadcasting stations—if you’re in the right place. Yes, innocent fun will bring serious consequences …
This game is a horror game. It subtly spins a shroud of fear around us without recourse to the hackneyed motifs. It’s not the monster that chops off the young leg that’ll torment us. No. Oh, we will see death scenes here, but without the silly ketchup mystery of horrible production. Oh, sometimes we’ll jump from sudden sounds or flashes. However, this feeling of ambiguity will disturb us more….
Oh, we won’t have dozens of weapons, scavenging for ammunition, in panic. What’s the weapon for when we’re not even able to grasp the essence of the threat—and its consequences?
Oh, we won’t feel the breath of Evil on our backs, while we rack our brains to find use from one of the objects in our inventory. Because, in fact, what we find has a clearly marked function, and Alex can carry only a portable radio with her. It’s our only defense, and the key to understanding the supernatural chaos that surrounds us.
This game is slices of life. We come to the island to get to know each other better, bond with our stepbrother, spend time with a bunch of friends, and taste Clarissa’s animosity. There are tensions, but it depends on us what we do with them.
Frequent dialogue reliably engages us in the characters’ lives. For each question we can answer in several different ways, sometimes it’s worth responding with a quick answer. Or not—can it be better to remain silent, and risk having our intentions misinterpreted?
Characters across the island don’t appear in a vacuum. They have a history with them, often the threads of life are tangled between the participants of the current events spanning many months prior.
Cohesively crafted dialogues will allow you to get to know elements of the puzzle from the past. They help you understand why something affects somebody and has less influence on others.
The dialogues are incredibly authentic. There are conversations about clichés, but also serious issues like regret, guilt, longing, hope, love and dealing with the trauma of sudden loss. Our empathy, and to a certain degree our immersion, will determine how much we’ll learn about the rest of this peculiar trip.
Our actions cause relationships to change—for better or worse. Let the supernatural situation not allow us to overshadow the humanity and authenticity of the figures depicted. It’s a memorable night for them.
We’re constantly being surprised and checked. We can go through the whole game and come out with only a few pieces of knowledge about the events that shape this night. The night is full of events with difficult to determine causes, and even harder to determine consequences.
Vague dependencies exist between one and the other. Ignorance gathers its harvest when we don’t pay attention to the information found. The whole elements of the puzzle are on the island, but it depends on our inquisitiveness and the ability to associate facts, and how much we really understand.
Although we will often be forced to jump into the dark abyss of unspecified consequences, we’ll take a shot blindly. The game doesn’t lead us by the hand, even when we discover every piece of knowledge arc hidden on this island.
We are on our own… relying only on our friends’ suggestions, who are already behind us with the adventure of Oxenfree. Their advice may be almost a walkthrough, but maybe they just thought they knew and understood something?
Anyway, it’s a nice accident that the game has something in the shape of a social aspect. I will not reveal more, you’ll have to see for yourself. Learn from the veterans of this title… or consider them to be fools wandering in darkness. Who said they had a monopoly on the truth?
The protagonist is a nice girl. This rebel dyes her hair blue and can stick a pin when she speaks. Naturally, it’ll depend on us whether they’re minor malices or full misanthropy. On our shoulders will also lay responsibility for her attitude towards events: will we look for rational explanations, or will we give in to fear? She’s also a skillful enough climber, without parkour ambitions.
The graphics will make you wonder: “is it really a horror game?”
Yes and no. I mentioned the title above and finally we have a climate amalgam. Stronger shadows, less visibility, or frightening music do not necessarily have to be the essence of fear. Light dialogues about ordinary life’s vicissitudes do not diminish the subtle climate of terror surrounding the tourist attraction of the island.
The answer is yes. The game has a unique atmosphere that induces fear and ambitious horrors, but also lets you savor the slices of everyday life through speech that sounds genuine. Similarly, there is a musical setting, which subtly seeps and describes the locations sounded by itself. We can also play with the radio and listen to recordings from the 1960s. Or a broadcast of messages in Morse code.
Oxenfree has hundreds of these hidden touches. It also has several endings and the ability to play from the same slot after its completion. I will add that this is also skillfully woven into the script, which means that it’s worth playing again after watching the credits roll (note on friends appearing in credits!).
Of course, the game also has achievements, but I recommend you reserve the fun of hunting them for the next game walkthrough. Let this virgin playthrough be done with authenticity. The title can be completed in two evenings, or even one intense one. The inquisitive explorers will spend the next few with it, if only for additional endings, or out of curiosity—how conversations would go when they run differently than last time.
I heartily recommend Oxenfree for every hunter who looks into unique experiences and opportunities, for multiple interpretations, with meaningful and ambiguous events you can discuss for weeks. And I just can’t help being amazed that such gems are sometimes made on the Unity engine.
- Charismatic heroine
- Good dialogues and their voicing
- Unique plot, without giving the whole on the tray
- Mood soundtrack
- It’s a pity that such a short game
People who would play this game:
- Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
- Annie Proulx
- Richard Dawkins
People who would not play this game:
- Heinrich Hertz
- Tom Clancy
- Karl Raimund Popper
Reviewer, fan of RPG’s – either as electronic or pencil and paper alike. Man of many professions in past, but none of them are near to gaming. Master Degree of Philosophy and 1 Dan in Aikido. Aid editor at jrkrpg.pl.
My reviews are spoiler-free and you can be sure I’ve got 100% achievements (which means – I don’t publish often).