Oxenfree was developed and published by Night School Studios. The game was released on Xbox One on January 15th 2016 at a price of £15.99/$19.99. The reviewer provided his own copy of the game.
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller about a group of young friends who unwittingly open a rift between worlds. You play as Alex, a young girl who has bought her new stepbrother Jonas along to an overnight island party that has gone horribly wrong. With a gripping story, wonderful soundtrack and excellent visuals this is easily one of the best ID@Xbox games I have ever played
What I enjoyed:
Stellar story – A game like Oxenfree really needs to get it right when it comes to telling a story and developing the characters. Get it wrong, and you’ll have characters you dislike which in turn can make it rather difficult to enjoy the story. Fortunately Oxenfree absolutely nails it in both aspects. It definitely helps that there are some heavyweight cast members here, including Erin Yvette (who voiced Snow in The Wolf Among Us) and Gavin Hammon (better known as Kenny from The Walking Dead) as what could have turned out to be a generic bunch of teenagers instead become a group that you genuinely want to save from impending doom. What initially seems like a pretty simple story soon starts to develop into a unique journey to save yourself and your friends from the mysterious island. I’m being deliberately vague with my descriptions as I feel that to know too much about Oxenfree before playing would maybe spoil it. There are multiple outcomes to the ending of the game depending on who you have treated well and who you have managed to upset, so replay sessions are definitely encouraged if you want to see everything (as well as unlock all of the achievements in the game).
Aesthetically awesome – It is clear from the outset that the developers of Oxenfree have put a lot of love and care into the making of the game. Every environment looks great and there are some really unique touches. The radio that you carry throughout the game is often used to interact with people, solve puzzles, find collectibles and also open rifts into another world. It all sounds rather complicated yet it is a piece of cake to use. You’ll also encounter several sections where you get stuck in a weird time loop. The visuals used for these sections are reminiscent of an old VHS tape, with static appearing around the edges on the screen and the audio playing at different speeds. The music used is excellent throughout and it actually reminded me a little of the movie Drive. It really fits the game and I hope that is becomes available to download or buy as I could easily listen to it on its own. Dialogue in the game is excellent as I mentioned above, but I really like the way it plays out; instead of the game coming to a stop you instead have multiple speech bubbles appear above you. Selecting one of those is done with X, Y or A, or you can choose to ignore them all and say nothing. Hopefully Telltale Games implements a similar way of handling dialogue as going back to playing one of their games after this felt clunky and dated.
What I disliked:
That was puzzling? – To be fair to Oxenfree I really had to nit-pick to come up with something I disliked. I did find that the puzzles were a little lacking in challenge; most of the time you simply had to use the radio and tune it into a certain frequency. This is made really easy as the control pad will vibrate when you get the right channel. I’d have liked it if the radio was utilised more effectively in a similar way to how it is used when you are looking for collectibles. You can tune the radio into 140.1 to listen to a character in the game who is broadcasting the location of any collectibles in the vicinity of where you are. Using this method to find clues would have made it feel more satisfying. I also feel that the time loop mechanic in the game is a little overused, I enjoyed them the first time but after several more it started to feel like they had run out of ideas.
I had high expectations for Oxenfree and it absolutely delivered. I had an absolute blast learning about the Adler family and exploring the mysterious island. With almost perfect pacing and a riveting story this is an essential purchase and an early contender for my 2016 game of the year.
Score: Buy it now
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