Oxenfree Reviews

Titanium Dragon
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 125
Posted on 09 October 17 at 14:11, Edited on 09 October 17 at 14:23
This review has 3 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller game which is heavily centered around its conversational system. You play as Alex, one of five young people who are going out to Edwards Island to drink towards the end of their senior school year. You are hanging out with your friend Ren, and you have drug along your new step-brother, Jonas, because you didn’t want him feeling left out. The other two characters are Clarissa – a character who strongly dislikes Alex for reasons we discover through the story – and Nona, Clarissa’s best friend, who Ren has a crush on.

The game is in some ways not very removed from a walking simulator – there is precious little actual gameplay here in terms of action. You wander around, pushing a few buttons, and on occasion use a radio to tune into a broadcast signal, but all of this can be accomplished via trial and error. The game is pretty linear, without much variation beyond choosing which of two characters you want to try to save first.

But the game is not really about what you do in terms of physical actions, but conversation. Throughout the game, there is fully voice-acted dialogue which happens more or less continuously as you walk around through the environment, with one or more of your companions on the island chatting with you, as well as the spirits haunting the island. You can choose from up to three (and it is almost always three) dialogue options, or you can choose to remain silent and allow the conversation to continue on without you. Time to interrupt or chime in is limited, and the conversations feel pretty natural in terms of the actual dialogue, with all of the characters being believably written. The only real flaw is that sometimes, when you chime in, your character will wait for an appropriate moment, and at others, they will simply cut things off mid-sentence.

Still, this conversation system is interesting, and it works well in practice. It is a good way of establishing character, as well as, in effect, roleplaying – how does Alex want to interact with others? Is she willing to sell one of her friends up the creek to save her own skin, or is she determined to help everyone, no matter how angry she is at the moment? Does she like her new step-brother, or is she pushing him away? Does she help her friend Ren with his crush, or tease him about it?

Moreover, the fact that there’s so much dialogue helps to keep the game feeling full – you are usually interacting with your companions, which keeps things from getting dull, as fundamentally all you are actually doing is wandering around a spooky island at night with stylized but not very detailed graphics. The game lasts about five hours, which is just about as long as it wants to be – it has just enough time to cover all that it wants to cover, but if it was any longer, it would probably be boring.

This is more of an interactive story than a game, but I got reasonably into it – while the spookiness wanes a bit as you get further into the game, there’s some sequences which pull off the creepiness pretty well, and the game actually gets you to want to save your friends, which is always a good sign – caring about the characters in the game means that the game has generated a sense of emotional investment, which is definitely a plus.

That being said, the story itself is only okay overall – while the characters are well-characterized, the core idea of the story isn’t particularly original or unique. Frankly, it is a bit generic in that regard. The visuals work reasonably well, but the game’s plot never really excels.

In the end, this is not something which is going to completely blow your mind. Rather, this is a mid-tier thing – the dialogue is actually really well executed, but the story is only okay and there isn’t much gameplay backing it up. If you are someone who enjoys story and well-written (and well-acted) dialogue, this might be up your alley. If, however, you want actual gameplay in your game, you’re going to be left wanting.
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TSA Score for this game: 209
Posted on 06 March 18 at 23:23, Edited on 06 March 18 at 23:23
This review has 3 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Oxenfree is another unique experience that I search Steam for, it’s odd how often I find what can be discussed into “what is a game?”

But like many of these games that I have played, such as Edith Finch, Her Story, and Orwell, there’s so much more to the story that simply dismissing it as “not a game” ignores the important question. “Is it worth the money for the experience, whether it’s a game or not?”

Oxenfree gets me to answer the question with an “Oh god yes”. It’s non-traditional in how it does it but it brought me in with a great story and then made it better for a second playthrough.

The game is played mostly by choosing options through three of the face buttons on a controller (X Y B for steam controllers) and hitting A to select objects in the world. It feels odd and simplistic but brings a feeling of a choose your own adventure.

The thing is the game is pretty average for about an hour. It is teaching you the rules and developing the characters and it does that well, which is crucial because as a choose your own adventure you’re going to have to care about these people so you can make choices. While that’s not the only control you have here, you have limited other choices like pulling out a radio and tuning it to stations. That’s about all the “interaction” you have with the game other than moving around and looking at stuff, but that’s about all the interaction you need for this story.

I would advise avoiding any hints of what the story is about because the way this game delivers it over four hours is just mastery of the form. Looking at my notes I see that about two hours in I wrote: “Ok this is interesting”. Three hours in I wrote down. “WTF? This is going to be amazing or horrible.” And the story actually is amazing. I absolutely adore the entire story of the game, in fact, I replayed the game a second time to try different things and enjoyed it even more.

And while the story takes about four hours, I will highly recommend playing the game a second time because to me the second playthrough is critical. That’s all I’ll say because this is a story that definitely deserves to be played blind.

However, the features of the game can be discussed. One interesting design choice is timed dialog. This is becoming almost common to deliver a natural dialogue in the game, and when it works and your choices are shown early enough, it shines. The dialogue choices allow the game to personalize the story to the player.

The first big thing is this game demands your focus, you don’t want to miss your chance to say anything, you have to make choices to participate in the story so it’s hard to look away even to get a text message. I’ve missed a few prompts and had to restart the screen to see what they said because they come up quite quickly.

In addition, the dialogue system has some minor flaws. If person A is talking, and Person B is responding and you change screens, the game stops that dialogue and it’s gone forever. If you are having a discussion and then do something to an object midline, that line or possibly conversation is gone forever. The game sometimes tries to recover from an interruption but it’s often done awkwardly. It’s a shame because the dialogue tends to be really good, so I’ve had to stand at exits while waiting for the dialogue to end.

The writing though is good, very good most of the time. There are a few awkward references, at least one reference to a 90s kid show that most of these characters wouldn’t have been alive during and a lot of one-liners that seem a little too overly written for a spur of the moment statement.

The choices in the game are also a mixed bag. They definitely drive the dialogue in different ways but for the most part most “say X “ or “say Y” choices don’t matter a huge amount but there are some important ones. When you do say something, a character’s head appears in a thought bubble next to other characters. Sadly, this doesn’t tell you enough. It doesn’t differentiate good vs bad effects, and the game only has a handful of choices that make major decisions but the fact that I could change how my characters were acting and ended up with different twists because of it, was interesting enough that I can say your choices do matter in a decent way.

There are also collectibles. The main collectible that the game presents to the user is incredibly worth getting even if it requires backtracking. It’s offered as a collectible, but I highly recommend going to find them on the first playthrough to get the full story.

There are also some great audio clips in the game while playing with the radio outside of the main game, it’s a cool feature but almost every clip is about 5 seconds long. Far shorter than it could be, I would have loved to hear a full old radio show or at least a scene, but these feel to be audio clips that repeat. I get the mentality, just… wishful thinking.

As mentioned without spoilers, this is a game that pretty much must be played two times. It does some interesting things and it’s a shame it doesn’t force you to replay it because I feel like some people will miss out on its real brilliance.

There is more to say but sadly I feel compelled to avoid spoilers and so much of this game can be spoiled easily.

At the same time, the one negative is to get all the achievements you’d have to do at least 3 full playthroughs and at over 4 hours for each playthrough, you’re looking at about 13 hours. The second playthrough is easily doable, but the third… there is not enough different and you have many of the same scenes for the third times.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed Oxenfree, it’s a small team game but they do a lot with a team that size. It is 20 bucks which is quite a bit, but it goes on sale and in bundles often enough. It’s easily worth at least 10 dollars though. It should give you an excellent story, and a great experience even if you don’t want to call it a “game”.

If you enjoyed this review, want to see what I think of other games, check out my curator page at http://store.steampowered.com/curator/31803828-Kinglink-Revi... and give me a follow. I always appreciate it.
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