Oxenfree Video Game Review
Written by John Colianni
Released by Night School Studio
Developed by Night School Studio
2016, Rated Teen
Game released on January 15, 2016
Platforms: Microsoft OS, Xbox One
Video games exist as an immersive experience. Players aren't expected to sit idly by and let events transpire as they do with movies and even books and comics. Video games let people become the protagonists or the antagonists and dive head first into the narrative. Just like film, they come in a wide variety of genres and play styles. As a avid lover of all types of platforms and play styles, it's been quite some time since I've come across a game that is beautifully simple, creepy and has a ton of heart. Night School's Oxenfree is one game you need to be playing as the year in gaming kicks off.
In Oxenfree you play as a calm, cool and collected Alex who has decided to accompany her friends to Edwards Island for a night of reminiscing and partying after all its inhabitants have vacated. Still troubled over the death of her brother Michael, Alex's new stepbrother Jonas has also come along with her. Completing the troupe are Alex's best friend Ren, his crush Nona, and Clarissa, Michael's ex-girlfriend. As the group gathers on the beach, Jonas wanders into the nearby cave to explore. What they don't know is that something has been waiting to be awakened and they want a second chance at this world. Will Alex and her friends uncover the mystery of the island and the Adler Estate before it's too late?
Oxenfree is completely character and dialogue driven. The beauty of the game is how much control the player has over Alex's conversations with her friends. While there are so many games that struggle to create natural interactions between characters, Oxenfree makes you actually care about the decisions that you make. Armed with a radio, Alex is also able to tune in to channels that allow the player to learn more about the history of Edward Island, unlock special doors, listen to music and even interact with special objects. This adds a compelling puzzle aspect to the game but shouldn't scare off those who don't want to think too much while enjoying to story and banter between Alex and company. Exploring the various areas, discovering clues and finding items will uncover the eerie past of the island.
Another captivating element of Oxenfree is its art design. The colorful levels and depth of a game add another layer as the player explores various landscapes and map areas. While deciding on dialogue choices and traveling from place to place, the attention to scenery is just as captivating as progressing in the story. The map size of Edwards Island is able to be explored comfortably and revisiting areas isn't monotonous while conversations are taking place.
Oxenfree is an amazing coming-of-age story between friends that is multi-layered due to its dialogue, character interactions and game play mechanics. With the perfect mix of humor, nostalgia and creepiness, I felt like I was playing in a world that was a combination of The Goonies and The Twilight Zone. The only criticism I have is that while playing Oxenfree, you cannot be passive while dialogue is going on. Choices must be made in a timely manner or the game will continue and Alex will not make a choice in the conversation. With that being said, if you're going to play the game, actually pay attention to what's going on or you'll be missing main story points. And that just makes you look like a loser when your friends ask you about the game. With 2016 just starting, you have no reason not to park your ass for just a few hours and play Oxenfree.