Trainer Search

tal onzy

May 21, 2014
Reaction score
Marty Sliva IGN

We adored what we saw of Oxenfree back in May. An amalgam of a coming of age story and a campfire ghost tale, all told through the fittings of the adventure game genre was filled with promise. The beautiful art and atmospheric score created an amazingly-effective mood. The writing was natural, funny, and honest, which is surprisingly rare in our medium. But while I was a big fan of Oxenfree a few months ago, it wasn’t until now that I began to understand just how special this game could actually be.

Turns out, what we saw earlier in 2015 just scratched the surface of Oxenfree’s mystery, beauty, horror, and potential. Sure, Oxenfree draws inspiration from Freaks & Geeks, Lost, Poltergeist, Twin Peaks, and the like, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an adventure game that respects your time, the creative freedom of video games, and the natural beauty of conversations.

One of the many impressive things about Oxenfree is the way that conversations weave into the gameplay itself. You’re never pulled out of the action to enter a dialogue tree, only to be thrust back into movement jarringly. Instead, you’re free to move about the world as you speak, and your movement has an actual impact on the conversation. Walk away from a character while they’re talking, and they’ll remark about how you’re being rude. Start rutting around near a fence, and your pals will begin talking about said fence. It’s a weird thing to bring up, but it’s so appreciated and natural, and something I hope many games take a lesson from. Oxenfree has consequence and player agency in everything you do, and every decision you make.

I really appreciate Oxenfree’s juxtaposition between real, natural themes, and some truly far-out science fiction horror. Alex and her pals discuss real topics and realistic ways -- from ***, drug use, and dealing with the death of a family member, everything sounds and feels the way someone in their late teens would actually talk about these things. I really respected Life is Strange, but the dialogue in Oxenfree sounds so much more natural. On the flip side, Oxenfree isn’t afraid to get, really weird. We got a taste of it back in May when we used our radio to tune to specific frequencies that brought forth what felt like voices from decades in the past. Yeah, all of that was weird and spooky and ominous, but it didn’t do justice to just how weird and spooky and ominous Oxenfree would get.

Case in point: I reached a moment where I entered a campsite that sat near a lake. My pal and I walked by, engaging in conversation as we searched for one of our missing companions. But things got weird when I reached the edge of the lake -- the screen began to go out of tune like an old television, and static filled the air. Suddenly I was back at the other side of the lake, right where I started. My pal acted like nothing was wrong, but Alex and I knew differently. This whole section played out like a P.T.-esque loop, where things got weirder with each revolution. Watching the very fabric of reality begin to unravel was utterly unnerving, and completely captivating.

I know I keep gushing about Oxenfree's tone, presentation, writing, and themes, but that's because all of them work so well in unison. They all converge to help create a singular work with a really great voice. The final thing I wanted to touch on is the fact that during my time with the first two hours of the game, there came a moment where we had to choose which of two pals we wanted to go after. This is a major fork in the road that offers two completely different experience, meaning that you'll absolutely be missing out on stuff your first time through the game. At its length of 3-6 hours, I can definitely see myself restarting it as soon as the credits roll to see just what I missed out on.

Oxenfree is one of those games that has impressed me more and more every time I’ve seen it. It’s an honest, weird, and refreshing new voice in the adventure game genre. I can't wait to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes next month when it comes out on PC and Xbox One.