Finishing Thoughts: Oxenfree
This is an ‘indie’ title about a group of college friends who sneak out to a remote island for a night of partying, but inadvertently make contact with a supernatural force that puts their lives in grave danger.
It was a really wonderful game to play. The focus is heavy on the storyline and character development, with a lot of detail put into the overall backstory of both the characters and the island, which come together to create a gripping and emotional journey of youth and responsibility.
You play Alex, who has a portable radio which she accidentally uses to tune into the frequency of some dead soldiers who died nearby in a submarine accident. Through exploration you discover that this communication was opened a while back but only a few islanders realised the truth, while the remainder either ignored or hid it.
The ghosts intend on possessing, permanentlyly, you and your friends, so you have to find a way to stop them. In doing so, you start to experience flashbacks from a minute to years, all really cleverly portrayed through screen static and other visual effects. You start to never really trust where, or when you are, and there are some really spooky moments.
As you complete the game, you realise that perhaps you haven’t actually ‘won’ at all, as you are living a repetition. Once completed, you get the chance to “continue timeline” which puts you back at the beginning again, but clearly not back in time — i.e. you are still repeating the time loops, forever trapped. So the second time you play the game, you realise you have a new objective — how to escape the time loops altogether. You find a way to send a message back to your past self, to prevent you from ever going to the island. The implication is that there are multiple ‘yous’, and you’ve at least saved one. I wasn’t quite sure why this wasn’t just ‘past’ you and so you have saved yourself for good.
The game is dialogue heavy and you your conversation choices will influence the relationships of the characters and their eventual outcomes. The game doesn’t tell you what the outcomes are, and you really can make it so some people don’t stay friends or even stay dead. You have a real sense of ownership of this which was great. The dialogue was really smooth and natural, although some of the characters were a bit annoying.
This is only the 3rd game I’ve played through twice back to back (the others being Last of Us and Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, so quite a commendation! I really loved it, as I often do these sort of story and character-heavy games. It isn’t the sort of thing I usually buy on PS4, which has prompted me to give more smaller, indie titles a try, as who knows what sort of gems might be lurking, waiting to be discovered.