Oxenfree had me intrigued at the beginning, hooked after an hour and left me with a big smile on face as the credits began to roll.
The game is a relatively short one, my first playthrough was around 6 hours, but I’ll be going back to play again as I have some unfinished business. Oxenfree is essentially a ‘Walking Simulator’ with puzzles for you to solve as you go through the game, these are never particularly challenging but it’s the conversations that are that consume this game.
You play Alex, a blue-haired teenager travelling with her best friend Ren and her new step-brother, Jonas to Edwards Island to meet some school friends for a beach party. Seems like ordinary things teenagers do, but as they arrive it turns out the ‘party’ is more of a gathering, at this point we meet Nona, Ren’s latest crush, and Clarissa, the local queen bee. After attempting to play a game of ‘Truth or Slap’ everyone decides it’s a bit rubbish, so Jonas, Ren and Alex decide to go and explore the caves instead, what could go wrong?
It’s at this point where things begin to get weird, Alex inadvertently opens a rift in the caves using a radio signal and all of sudden things aren’t what they seem. The next 4-5 hours will see you walking and talking your way around the island, trying your best to find out what is actually happening as well as awkwardly trying to get to know your Step-Brother. Oxenfree’s strength is in its conversations, the voice acting is superb despite the fact it’s adults trying their best to sound like teenagers. Each conversation has multiple branches for you to select, with only have a small amount of time to respond, before your options fade away. Sometimes you make a choice and Alex cuts whoever is talking off. Thankfully this isn’t something that happens too often and you are able to have some great conversation. Depending on how you react to certain conversations can determine which characters you’ll spend time with, I spent most of time with Jonas, as I was intrigued by the relationship between Alex and Jonas, but I also spent time with Nona, based on my reaction to one section of the game, where Jonas just annoyed me.
As you move around the island, the different characters all suffer thanks to the rift and it’s up to Alex to make things better with her trusty radio, by moving through the frequencies on the radio she is able to regain control of the situation, temporarily at least. The are lots of moments where time resets and you see to get stuck, but there are subtle little changes to the environment each time it resets, again its the radio that comes to your rescue. It’s interesting watching your characters react to each situation, it might not feel like it but it does make a difference to how your friends react to you. No game is complete with out collectables, but Oxenfree manages to the hit the middle ground with how many there are. If I had spent more time exploring I would have found everything first time round, but I’m not one for collectables these days.
The game has a wonderful art style to it, with great use of colour and beautifully drawn environments and characters, topped off with an epic soundtrack that seems to be perfect in every situation during the game. Oxenfree does suffer from some weird crashes, mainly as you enter a new section of the game just after a save, so at least you never lose any progress.
Oxenfree is already my favourite title of 2016, it had me hooked within the first 30 minutes, but it won’t be for everyone. Below is the first 30 minutes of the game, to see what you think if you aren’t sure.
Thanks to Xbox for their support
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