Game On: “Oxenfree” rides the renaissance for adventure games wave
Recently there was a renaissance for adventure games, attracting a new generation of gamers. “Oxenfree” is a new adventure game from Night School Studios which is a team made up of developers from Telltale games and Disney. The design “Oxenfree” shows off the Disney pedigree with its distinct hand drawn cartoony art style, characters and gorgeous backgrounds to explore.
“Oxenfree’s” story is an interesting juxtaposition of concepts. It’s an ’80s style teen drama combined with horror elements. Similar to the “Telltale Walking Dead” series the game remembers your actions and dialogue choices and adapts accordingly. The interactions with characters are some of the best parts of the game, thanks to the stellar voice-over work and well-crafted writing. Even though the game lets you decide the fate of the characters, it doesn’t feel like the choices you make really change the story in drastic ways.
The story of “Oxenfree” follows a group of teens as they sneak off to party on an island for a night of drinking. It’s supposed to be huge but only a few people show up and things start to get a little unusual because events turn supernatural. The teens soon realize the island has some secrets of its own. All of the characters are very stereotypical, there is a jock, a mean girl and an upbeat sidekick, but as you progress through the game you realize not everyone is who they appear to be. As you play and make interactions with the other characters you get to pick who accompanies you. As you do that, it changes up how some events go, which ultimately changes the outcome of the story, leading to many possible endings.
During the kids’ celebration they accidentally open up a rift to the spirit world, and things start getting weird. They must figure out what is going on so they can get off the island. As you play you spend a lot of time exploring, speaking to the other characters and interacting with the environment in some interesting ways. There are a lot of little actions you can make such as playing with a campfire or skipping rocks but they do little to alter the story, most of the story elements are told through walking around and interacting with other characters.
Even though the island is haunted there aren’t really any weapons. Your main item is an old radio which will react to the ghosts and the spiritual element at work on the island. Most of the time it’s just scary sound effects which add to the tension but sometimes when you hear the static on the radio things get fuzzy and you are transported back in time and relive certain conversations but they go very different changing the story in some unsettling spooky ways.
Most of the time you are just walking around talking to your friends and exploring. These sections can be good because you get to hear a lot of the story but some of the walking section can be very long which makes replaying sections feel very tedious and a lot of the dialogue is socially awkward making for some cringe worthy moments.
Overall I loved “Oxenfree.” It’s an interesting take on the adventure genre and I love how the social interactions make it feel like a teen drama but deep down it’s very spooky. There isn’t a ton of action but the story was always interesting and I wanted to see what kind of secrets the island had in store for our young friends. If you like adventure games I think you will enjoy “Oxenfree” is has some of the things you like from the genre and some new branching story elements which makes it feel very innovative.
Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at [email protected]
System: Xbox One, PC ESRB
Rating: T for Teen: Violence, drug reference, mild language, use of alcohol and tobacco
Developer: Night School