I saw Oxenfree pop up in ads on Steam and GOG for some time and wound up getting it on both platforms during two separate specials. It seems like this game has developed quite a following and from the little time I have played through it, it is easy to see why. Oxenfree is a graphical, point-and-click adventure game released in January of 2016 on Windows 10, Linux, and Mac OS X 10.11. It was developed and published by Night School Studio.
The player character plays the role of Alex as she goes along with her friends to camp and party for the weekend on the beach of Edwards Island. Alex’s friend Ren takes her and her new stepbrother Jonas on the last ferry of the day to the island. When they arrive, they meet up with Clarissa, who once dated Alex’s brother, and Nona who is Clarissa’s best friend.
Oxenfree relies heavily on auditory methods to tell its story. Even more so than most adventure games, I would advise using a pair of earphones since dialog is everything in this title. The primary game mechanic in my gameplay thus far has been how I chose my dialog when interacting with non-player characters. If you don’t choose your dialog quick enough, your option to say anything in the context of the moment disappears. If you choose your dialog too quickly, it seems like the game actually allows you to talk over people, a clever mechanic. Already around thirty minutes into the game, I want to go back and replay it. There appears to be so much rich story here that I want to continue through many, many hours of gameplay.
In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge there was a percentage notification that would tell you how far you progressed in the game each time you saved it. This progress indicator would continually depress me the further I progressed in the game because I was sorry that the game would eventually be over. I haven’t seen such a progress indicator bar in Oxenfree, but thus far it has provided me that same feeling of sadness that the game as I have been enjoying it will at some point be finished.
The game designers intentionally developed the story in such a way where the characters have such depth to be interesting in their own right, while holding a great deal back within a veil of mystery that keeps the player intrigued as to what plot twists will come next. Oxenfree’s synopsis on Steam is ominous.
Oxenfree is a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who unwittingly open a ghostly rift. You are Alex, and you’ve just brought your new stepbrother Jonas to an overnight island party gone horribly wrong.
I haven’t gotten to the ghostly rift part yet, so I hope Oxenfree retains all the charm and intrigue it has managed to muster thus far as I continue to play it.
One frustration I have had while playing Oxenfree is with understanding the controls. To my knowledge I never saw any tutorial on what button to press to interact with objects within the environment. Once I understood that I needed to stand in the right place and press the Spacebar, things became a lot easier. To the game developer’s credit, they labeled every object that can be interacted with throughout the game using a white circle. If you see a white circle, then there is an object behind it that can be interacted with. This is a remarkable thing for those who have experienced point-and-click adventure games where you just blindly click every pixel on the screen to progress at some point during the game.
Alex is moved by the player across the screen using the W, A, S, and D keys on the keyboard. The Ctrl key brings up a map of the island, and right-clicking the mouse button brings up the radio. These controls are presented and integrated into the storyline fairly well at the beginning of the game while Alex, Ren, and Jonas are riding the ferry to the island. As I said previously, the player must always be ready to press a dialog option when they pop up using the left mouse button, since they can disappear rather quickly.
I have really enjoyed playing Oxenfree thus far and I’m really excited about playing more of it in the coming weeks. I have been burned in the past by prematurely recommending adventure games that I haven’t played all the way through (I’m thinking of you, Myst.), but thus far Oxenfree has been a very intriguing adventure that has set itself apart already as one of the best, fresh adventure stories I have played in the past few years.