Oxenfree Reviews

AuthorReview
Titanium Dragon
93,503
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 129
Posted on 09 October 17 at 14:11, Edited on 09 October 17 at 14:23
This review has 2 positive votes and 1 negative vote. 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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