OXENFREE – Review

The premise of Night School Studio’s Oxenfree sounds like it came straight out of the Hollywood book of teen horror movies – A group of friends head to an old military island for the night for a beach party. You’re just expecting things to go wrong. But, as cliché as it might sound I actually found Oxenfree to be a new, refreshing and enjoyable adventure that made me feel suitably spooked throughout.

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You play as Alex and she hasn’t had the best of times recently. She’s lost her brother in a tragic accident and her parents have divorced.  Along with best friend Ren and (new) step brother Jonas you head to Edwards Island in hopes of having a good night partying with friends.

It doesn’t take long for things take a turn for the worse as you unwittingly manage to open up a portal to a spirit world. From here on out you find yourself trapped on the island and need to find a way off.

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Oh, who’s that in the backgrou…… NOPE!

From a gameplay point of view, there isn’t much, you walk around the island and engage in dialogue with the other characters and have to solve small and fairly simple puzzles here and there, that’s pretty much it. That’s ok though, because the main drive of the game is the narrative between characters, and it’s the way that this is all delivered that makes the game great. The voice acting is top notch and the dialogue choices you get – you are often presented with multiple choices which can have an effect on relationships and outcomes to events, they really make you feel like you’re living this story – the friendships and then not so friendships felt real, like this is how you could see a group of teenagers being, hell I’m sure some will look at them and think “This was me.” – maybe minus the ghosts though…

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Spooky ghosts found in a cave… Yay!

For me the best part of the game has to be the radio that you’re given. For some reason you can tune in to frequencies that allow you to interact with the dead, amongst other things like tour guide audio logs. The voices come through all crackled and broken up and every time I would hear it, it would make me shudder and get goose bumps all over. I don’t really know why, but every time I would be scanning through the frequencies and I would start to pick up something it would immediately make me nervous and send a shiver down my spine it just sounded so creepy and was done so well. Some times you would really have to listen to actually hear what was being said and maybe it was the extra concentration that made it more creepy to hear. What ever it was it worked a treat!

As Alex has recently lost her brother she becomes quite sympathetic to the ghosts on the island and wants to help and wants to understand what happened to them. The more you delve in to the story the weirder things get – but don’t worry I won’t spoil anything for you.

Another thing that really stuck me were the visuals, they look hand drawn or painted at times and look fantastic. The imagining of Edwards island is brilliant and perfectly compliment the games tone.Ox2

For some the game might be a little light on ‘things to do’ and it’s also quite short – taking me around 4 hour to complete. But I thought it was really well paced and felt about the right length too. You could drag your experience out a little longer but hunting down various collectables, but I don’t think it would really add much more to the length, but that’s ok.

There is also the added factor of replay ability with multiple endings possible depending on how you handled certain situations during your play through. I will say that they are also drastically different in terms of outcome, so you might want to check them out!

Personally I loved the game and at some point will be playing through it again I’ve no doubt!

You can check it out on steam here, or on Xbox One here.

-Will

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