Oxenfree

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Looking back, I feel bad for my dad. I think he was used to nice things like his stereo system. Nice things that us kids always managed to break. I think we broke his turntable first, but my memory is a tad fuzzy. What I do remember though is the green glow of his Pioneer radio tuner. There was something magical about that soft glowing dial that brought music and voices from afar.

Title: Oxenfree
Developer: Night School Studio
Platform Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

A group of teenagers head to an island to party for the night. Just a small get together really. They bring along a handheld radio, you know, just for fun. And maybe also because tuning the radio to specific frequencies causes weird things to happen.

The evening soon goes to cosmic horror hell. Oxenfree starts dropping hints of:

  • A submarine crew who died off the island’s coast…
  • A scientist who was researching radio frequencies…
  • Environments that react to specific radio frequencies you tune in to with your radio…

Friends start going missing. You soon do not know where reality begins and the isolated island nightmare ends.

.: SPOILER ALERT :.

I played this game without knowing much about it. I’m happy I did. And I won’t ruin that for you. What I will spoil is that there are multiple endings to this game. Endings based on specific dialogue choices you make. Oxenfree is all about a constant flow of conversation that feels inconsequential. But surprise! Your words do matter and do affect the outcome of the game.

Do you want the super happy ending? The ending where whatever is happening actually ends? You have to pick the right grouping of dialogue choices.

By the end of the game, I doubted whether I had actually finished Oxenfree. Even after the credits rolled, I didn’t trust the game due to how much it had messed with me. The game reinforces this feeling of unease as the credits finish rolling and Oxenfree loops back to the main menu:

“Continue on the same timeline?”

The same timeline? What is this? I was so confused and yet felt like I could kinda see the breadcrumbs the game had left me. My confusion led to a Google hunt. That is where I learned that dialogue choices are a huge key to this game. HUGE! So much for choice.

I’m happy with the time I spent with Oxenfree. I feel a little ripped off by the way it all ends… but I also like endings that are not all neat and sorted out. Life is a lot like that.

The Nintendo Switch was the perfect system to play this game on. Nothing like laying in bed, headphones on, being creeped out by forces who just want to live. No matter the costs.

3/5 – Best use of a handheld radio gameplay mechanic. Love the way the Switch’s rumble felt as I spun the radio dial. In the end, I wish the game had telegraphed more how important conversation choices are.

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