Grief is a common fixed. Wherever we’re from, whoever we’re, we’ve all skilled trauma so deep that it leaves a mark on our souls. Some folks carry that mark with the assistance of household and pals. Others push it down, hoping to bury it beneath new recollections. And nonetheless, others attempt to change what’s already been set in stone, as if believing in themselves onerous sufficient will erase the previous and rewrite the current. Oxenfree is about all three of these folks.
The sport opens with a depressing sky and a weirdly upbeat voice-over. Alex, the participant character, finds herself on a ferry to Edwards Island with Ren, her longtime buddy who by no means shuts up, and Jonas, her model new step-brother she doesn’t know that a lot about. Their plan? To fulfill different high-schoolers on the diminutive seashore and spend the night time consuming. Once they get there, solely Clarissa and her buddy Nona are accounted for, a a lot smaller group than anticipated. However, the kids get all the way down to enterprise.
After a couple of rounds of Fact or Slap (precisely what it appears like), Ren convinces Alex and Jonas to check the rumor he’s heard that in the event you stand in the appropriate place and tune the frequency of an analog radio simply so, bizarre issues will occur. In an try and humor him, Alex does as she’s advised. Earlier than lengthy, Jonas is misplaced in a cave, ominous voices are coming by means of the channels, and the following ferry not stopping by for 12 hours is the least of their worries.
It’s typically stated that originality is the artwork of concealing your sources. Everyone knows that The Matrix is a big stew of motion flicks, westerns, martial arts, philosophy, and faith, however the best way the filmmakers mixed all of the components collectively made it a novel and entertaining film. Effectively, Oxenfree is a big stew of a online game. There are echoes of Twin Peaks, Welcome To Night time Vale, even Gravity Falls is blended in right here and there. The sport will get lots of mileage out of the inherent creepiness of the Pacific Northwest, with its limitless bushes and fixed rain. The sound design is masterful. Each clap of thunder, each creaky door provides to the dread. This isn’t the type of story that hinges on soar scares, however reasonably retains treading water in an ocean of uneasiness. Each new location could have the participant considering “Oh no, what’s going to occur now?”
Talking of these places, they’re attractive to behold. Every background has a watercolor look that makes every part really feel prefer it got here proper out of a (very tousled) storybook. The participant’s vantage level is all the time saved at a distance, as if observing all of the occasions that unfold by means of binoculars. This not solely provides to the painterly high quality however makes it simpler to give attention to the story. And what a narrative. Oxenfree reveals outstanding restraint within the first 20 minutes, letting you discover the island’s tiny major road and collaborating within the Fact or Slap recreation earlier than issues go all freaky. The subsequent 4 to 6 hours are almost overflowing with Kubrick nods, darkish humor, and teenage angst.
To say way more would power spoilers, and that is positively the type of story that must be found at ones’ personal tempo. The first recreation mechanic entails your radio, because it has the capability to find anomalies, relay essential data, and even unlock sure doorways. Some frequencies could seem ineffective -indecipherable blathering, snippets of Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 1940s- however in their very own small approach, they nonetheless tie into the plot and the thriller of the island.
That’s not completely true, nevertheless. The first recreation mechanic isn’t the radio, it’s Alex herself. Oxenfree encompasses a frankly revolutionary dialogue system, during which the participant can naturally reply to the opposite characters utilizing one in every of three decisions. They’ll wait till their buddy finishes talking, they’ll interrupt to make their voice heard, or they’ll select to say nothing in any respect. Every of Alex’s comrades will react dynamically to those decisions, and the ending will be modified primarily based on how persons are handled and what outcomes you pursue. This technique and the dialogue it’s constructed on makes these youngsters really feel actual, and their terror all of the extra urgent. There are a couple of moments within the recreation -avoiding spoilers is SO troublesome here- the place the alternatives made can have an effect on endings for folks moreover your self even. Consider carefully, select shortly. The a number of decisions and endings, hidden achievements, radio anomalies, and letters to search out make for plenty of replay worth.
Truthfully, this recreation left me feeling emotionally exhausted. It additionally left me with my jaw hanging open, marveling on the cleverness of the presentation and the gutpunch of an ending I acquired. Like so many others, the creators of Oxenfree (Night time College Studio of their recreation debut) use the trimmings of horror to convey deeper and sadder truths in regards to the human situation. We’re born, we dwell, we die. However between these moments, others dwell and die, and that’s what we stock with us.
Oxenfree is obtainable on Steam, Xbox One, Ps 4, Nintendo Swap, iOS, and Android.