About: OxenFree follows the story of Alex and her friends as they meet up on an abandoned Island for some fun and laughs. Alex is invited to the Island by her friend Ren and brings along her new step-brother, Jonas. Together they meet up with Clarissa and Nona. Ren tells the group about a mysterious cave on the Island, leading Alex and Jonas to follow him inside. They tune in to strange frequencies using the radio that Alex brought. Jonas wanders further into the cave prompting Alex to follow him. The radio frequencies they tap into open some sort of strange rift, unleashing ghosts onto the Island who manipulate time and space as well as Alex and the others. You must work together with your friends to figure out a way to seal up the rift. OxenFree is an adventure indie created by Night School Studio and has been released on Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, OS X and is scheduled to be released on PS4. It has received overall positive reviews.
Possible spoilers… *static*
The Plot/Characters: OxenFree’s story is remarkably simple, yet also interesting enough to keep you intrigued up until the end of the game, which should take you around 4 hours to achieve. Alex is the main protagonist and is spending time with her new step-brother Jonas by inviting him along to an abandoned Island meet-up. You have Ren, her best friend who is the pot smoker, Nona who is the nice one and Clarissa the ultimate witch with a capital B. After unleashing a ghostly rift using her radio, Alex and the others are trapped on the Island while strange things happen, including possession, time distortion and teleportation to different areas.
You attempt to bring the group together after they are all teleported to different areas of the Island. Along the way, you get to chose your dialogue options and who you rescue first; Ren or Clarissa. Whichever you choose actually does have an impact on the story and the overall ending. Many of the dialogue choices actually can change your ending for the game and how the characters interact with you. For instance, though the characters seemed to mostly like me, I ended up not setting Ren and Nona on a date accidentally, causing Ren and Nona both to become distant from me after the game ended.
The ghost rift turns out to be primarily influenced by a group of soldiers whose vessel sank many years ago. The last remaining woman on the Island that recently died, Adler, was the one keeping the rift in check. As you learn more about the rift, you also get flash backs to the past, getting to learn more about Alex and her biological brother Michael; who died in a car crash. Depending on your choices in the past, you can also subtly influence the future which is a neat mechanic to the game. You’ll also feel drawn into the characters thanks to your interactions with them. It’s even more terrifying when your best friend is getting picked up and used like a rag doll by the ghost rift.
Choices: One of the things I liked about the game, was your many options for the dialogue. Almost every time that Alex is spoken to, her responses are one of three options that you get to pick. My only problem with this is that because your choices do matter and it isn’t spelled out for you which is the better option, you might end up getting a worse ending because you were rushing to pick one of the three bubbles before you ran out of time. That and, unlike Walking Dead or a lot of other choice-based games, you won’t know what it was you said that actually caused one of the members to distance themselves. But then again, that was my playthrough and I might be a bit sore that I became close with Clarissa and no one else.
Gameplay: The gameplay is quite simple for this little game. You can jump, climb walls and ladders and walk around twisting paths. Instead of simply going left or right, however, you can go back and forth across the map, which is also pretty nice. The main element of the gameplay is your radio, which is sometimes also the only frustrating part. You have to “tune in” to different frequencies throughout the game to stop the ghosts from taking over your friends and unlocking doors even. The radio signals you can pick up also get more varied at a point in the game, which makes it more difficult to find the correct signal. It’s okay though because often while you are tuning in, there is dialogue taking place that will serve as a good distraction. The only real criticism I have is that any time you inspect something, that important dialogue can get cut off right in the middle which is a bit jarring.
Graphics: The graphics of the game are beautiful to look at. You can tell a lot of time went into developing the background art throughout and each scene looks different from the other completely. The characters are 3-D rendered but at the same time that they almost appear flat, which is really interesting and unique. The artwork throughout the game from pictures taken is very nice and paints a clearer picture of what the teens all look like, as most of the time they are very tiny in a very large environment.
OxenFree is a beautiful game with a lot of heart that gets a story across to the player while keeping them hooked via the interesting characters and dialogue. You will most likely feel a stronger connection to what is going on as you have some say in what Alex does, and that is also very refreshing and good to see in an indie game. The gameplay can sometimes be a tad frustrating when it comes to the radio and at some points it’s difficult to juggle the quick dialogue and doing actions at the same time but at no point does the game become too difficult. Anyone can play and enjoy this little treasure, so go check it out for yourself and see what ending you get!
Have you played OxenFree yet? If so, what did YOU think?