Time to talk about a video game for a change! My friend had recommended Oxenfree to me a lot but I wasn’t sure if I’d like it because she mentioned it has some horror elements in it and horror is really not my thing but… I ended up impulse buying it anyway when it was on sale on Gog recently. Oops. Cheap games are my weakness.
Oxenfree is about a group of teenagers who go to a small island meaning to basically party all night, but that plan kind of goes wrong from the start because only five people show up: Alex and her brand new stepbrother Jonas (they literally just met that night), Alex’s best friend Ren, Nona and also Nona’s friend Clarissa. Alex brought an old radio with her and she goes to mess with it at a cave with Ren and Jonas and a lot of weird stuff starts happening… Their party turns into a night of weird time loops and talking to ghosts.
I really enjoyed the story and the characters. I especially enjoyed Alex and Jonas’s relationship, because they had just met and had to start getting used to the idea of being a brother and sister and then all this weird stuff happens to them. They had to do some very quick bonding there. There are couple of points in the game where you get to choose who you take with you to explore the island, and I kept picking Jonas just because I liked him so much. They made a good team.
The creepier elements in the game were just scary enough for a coward like me. There were no annoying jump scare type things unless you count the occasional sudden screen distortion as that, but those at least didn’t spook me that much since they didn’t come with loud noises or anything like that. The cute art style of the game probably helped keep it from being too scary as well. I honestly really loved how the game looked!
One thing that was really cool about Oxenfree was the replayability of it. My first playthrough took me only 5 hours so it’s very short, but they make good use of the time loop part of the game – if you start a new playthrough it basically continues your loop and you get the distortion effects even before you get to the cave and start the whole ghost time loop mess, and you can send messages to “other you” to warn them about what’s going on in the island. I had to play the game twice before writing this post just so I could see how different it really was.
I can’t really think of anything negative to say about the game. It’s a short creepy cute adventure you can enjoy multiple times. My complaints were mostly minor things about a bit clumsy controls and the dialogue options disappearing faster than I could read them. Sometimes I’d forget the little speech bubbles were only visible for a limited time and the conversation would just keep going without me. What I liked about the dialogue system though was that you couldn’t really tell what choices were really important, so it wasn’t too obvious how your choices would affect the game.
I think I would recommend this game to people who enjoy spooky games and perhaps also to people who liked Life is Strange, because it has a pretty similar vibe. I definitely liked the characters in Oxenfree better though.