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Oxenfree review
by Serge Ulankin

As a part of my 12 in 12 project, I completed Oxenfree. (You can follow my progress here →

*The gameplay*

It's an adventure game which basically has two gameplay actions.
1. The dialog system. It's quite innovative. There are three options (usually) to choose from and the main gimmick is that the system is kind of dynamic which means that sometimes you can just keep silent and the NPCs will take “nothing” as the answer. At some points you can interrupt other people as well. The voice acting is done very well and the dialog system has several voice tracks which are triggered depending on which dialog option and when you choose. This system has its downside too, since you sometimes can't even read and understand what your character is going to say and you mash he button at the last second. So the timing is weird sometimes. The other problem I had is that I misunderstood some dialog options. I wanted the character to say something nicely but it turned out to be sarcastic or a bit mean.
2. The radio. It could be done better. You just go around and listen to scrapes of info trying to collect the full story. It could be used so much more but that's just it. At some point, even one of the “enemies” makes a joke about you how you go poking everything with your radio like with a stick without even understanding how it works. That probably shows how poor this thing is used from the game-design perspective, although obviously this wasn't intended as a self-referential joke.

*The story*
The story is good, the characters are well-written. Although I had two problems with it, and that is why the overall rating for the game dropped from “Recommended” to “Meh” for me. 

The first problem doesn't have anything to do with the quality of the game. The thing is, I read a lot of Lovecraft some years ago. And as a teenager I also read a lot of teenager horror fiction. And since the game balances just between these two I wasn't surprised at all, nor was I scared or drawn in the story in some other way. 

[spoilers ahead, scroll past the second screenshot to avoid those]
The second problem is how the narrative is constructed. First off, choices don't make much difference in the short run. There was a moment when ghosts made me run around the house searching for things. So I failed the first riddle and I decided to fail the next riddles too, just to see what would happen next. The result? Well, I had to fix three tape recorders after my three friends disappeared. I guess I would have had to fix one if I'd failed just the first riddle or none at all (if I had had just a bit more time to go around the house to find the right item). So you can't really lose here. There are more cases like this one.

Besides if you want to get the true good ending and break the loop you have to replay the game one more time and choose a specific dialog option and at the end of the game you'll have the option not to go to the island before the loop even starts and that's it. Happy ending. Sounds boring and it is boring. There's not much content and variety to replay the whole thing again.

[end of spoilers]
*The presentation*
The best part of the game. The art-style is unique, I made around 20 great screenshots (which I added to the game page here). The music adds to the atmosphere and works to present the locations perfectly. The voice acting is very solid, although I already mentioned it. 

*The summary*
The game disappointed me in the end, that is true. However, if you enjoy mysticism and adventures and you haven't read a lot of good books with the same style and theme, I recommend you to give it a try. It's very short (around 3 hours for a playthrough, at least what Steam reads, I felt that it was more like 5 hours) and you might love it.

I am still glad that I played it and knocked it off my backlog. Although I am making a note for my future self not to play the games which I know what to expect from.

Other reviews17

Really enjoyed this game. My biggest complaint was that at the ending I was suddenly provided with prompts I did not understand. It appears the game expected me to explore some things more, added pieces of it to the mainline path, but didn’t force those pieces earlier. At such an emotional point it left me confused and slightly upset. 
Great fun story, decent characters, relatable and enjoyable.  Play this game if you have any appreciation for indie games.
I started and couldn't get past the first 5 minutes. Too much dialogue going on, plus I have to focus on moving around AND giving an answer on time before the bubbles disappear. Not to mention we're just so zoomed out of the scene, I have to squint to see what's going on. Maybe I didn't give it long enough, but based on some preview clips, looks like it was going to be that way the entire game.
It was fine. The most noteworthy quality is the art design and presentation. Was not really into the characters as much as I thought I’d be. Ren is a truly grating presence so there’s no incentive to foster that relationship. And Clara is so obviously traumatized that once you sink like twenty minutes into the game there is no reason to antagonize her either. So in that regard I’m not sure how successful it is as a choice based story game. But for four hours of play, it was cool enough. 
«Sit back and relax»
«OST on repeat»
A group of old friends visit an island with a strange reputation and find themselves mixed up in some spooky business themselves. Draws you in effectively and kept my interest the whole time.

Loved the art style and music, the conversations felt pretty authentic and the reveals were on point. Short playtime so definitely worth a go.
«Sit back and relax»
«OST on repeat»
This game has what makes indie games good I guess, the art. The voice acting and interaction were made real time and were good. The story itself was okay and is left for interpretation. The walk through the island was far too long and makes the game seem very slow. the dialogues should have been better implemented instead of just being the main part of just running through the island slowly.
the game has different endings based on the  options selected and has a good replayability as per other people's review. BUT I couldn't go through the entire replay as going through the island takes TOO DAMN LONG.
The OST is good but seems like most indie games in this genre use similar kind  of tunes. maybe only I felt that.

Overall it's a good game and I recommend to play.
Seems I am 4 years behind the curve here but I played this on GamePass and thought it was awesome.  Game play is simplistic but the story is engaging.
Wow, those Michael pretty.  What a gorgeous game.  The 2.5D artstyle is meshed perfectly with the world design to make a beautifully haunting world.  The sound design too, my god!  Stunning, and the mix of analog and digital for the music makes for a really nostalgic and interesting score.  The story feels very Lynchian, I love the horror but also the comedy.  The rapid unweaving of the mystery of the island as well as the sanity of the characters feels shockingly unhinged but also amazingly precise in its execution.  Love it.  I wish the dialogue was a bit cleaner?  Feels melodramatic in some points and it occasionally disconnects from the very real-feeling relationships between the characters.  I don't want to be "that guy" but I feel that more profane language would have felt much more naturalistic here.  Characters need to over-explain things too.  The puzzle elements aren't bad and I'm aware that a second playthrough grants a very cool ending but I have no desire to continue.
«Blew my mind»
A lot of great ideas that are held back by the shortfalls of the medium. In the end, this is a glorified dating sim.

The conversation system feels natural. It's the best part of this game. But it's still plagued by two of the worst issues of the genre: scripted sequences cutting off your conversations prematurely and your intentions never coming across correctly. For example, you choose "Wow, that's rough" and your character starts to mock your companion, never once showing any empathy. You'll be in the middle of some important conversation, walking along the beach when the conversation suddenly stops and you're now talking about something completely different.

The sound design is all over the place. The heavy 80's synth is used very well in the effects and soundtrack, but then there's instances where you're forced to listen to a 30 second badly looped sample for 5 minutes while you very slowly walk across the map, all the while frustrated that your character is so socially inept that they can't just say what you tell them to.

The visuals are hit or miss as well. The sci-fi horror sections had fantastic presentation, but again, we underused and underdeveloped in favor of focusing more on the conversation system and "relationship" systems. 

It had a very clever "multiplayer" integration that was underdeveloped. It was just subtle enough though, so kudos for that. Would not recommend unless you're a fan of teenage romance and Stranger Things. The mystery was over explained and pretty shallow to begin with. It's obvious that it was just an excuse to make you try to be as "close" to each character as possible by the end of the game due to choices that you didn't know you were making or just didn't want to make.
Style and personality.

A short but intense mistery adventure.

Maybe a tiny bit too much stereotyped characters.
Translated by
Microsoft from Deutsch
My Conclusion of the Game is below, if the detailed Text here is too long, and you roughly want to have the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Game listed. Plot Who doesn't know? The school Days are slowly coming to an End and you really want to experience something with your Friends. So you meet for Baptism, Partying and Drug Use on the Beach, become a little too adventurous and accidentally conjure up Hell. Happens to almost everyone, after all. And so does the Protagonist in this Game. However, "Hell" here does not mean the angry Parents who have to pick you up from The Police Station because you threw toilet paper at the school building, but they are actually paranormal, malicious Entities that want more than just one Ruining Beach Party. At Oxenfree, the Plot is at the Heart of the Game. So she has to be exciting enough that you want to stay tuned, and I Think she is. While There are a few Gaps now and then, it's not something that negatively affects the Fun of the Game. Gameplay As far as Gameplay is concerned, Oxenfree is quite simple, but somehow innovative. The most important Tool in the Game is a portable Radio, which allows you to communicate with the aforementioned Entities by setting the right Frequency, or open Radio-controlled Door locks. (You can also listen to classical Music, but that's less important for Moving Forward.) There are no real Puzzles or difficult Passages in the Game, which is why I would rather call it an interactive Film. As I said, The Plot is the Centerpiece. The Dialogue System deserves Particular Praise. Most of the Time, you can choose between three Options. But one should not allow oneself too much Time, because as in real Life, the other Participants do not wait forever for an Answer, but take the Conversation forward themselves. The Dialogue Options you choose affect the End of the Game, greatly increasing the Replay value. Atmosphere In front of seemingly hand-drawn backgrounds, Oxenfree presents itself in chic and above all authentic Look, into which the 3D models of the Characters fit well. The Soundtrack of the Game is passable. He is clearly attributable to the Game, but nothing extraordinary. Through the Dialogue System, the Characters "Conversations seem particularly natural, which greatly contributes to Immersion. But gentlemen, the Characters are all real Cross Bubbles, who like to talk messed up, which makes it difficult to follow the Course Of conversation every now and then. For this, the Quality of The Synchronization has been absolutely successful. Unfortunately, there is not sufficient Horror sentiment or sense of Threat for being supposed to Be a horror Game. So If you really want to gruse yourself, you're wrong here. Other Even if the Characters are Teenagers, the Teen Drama is very limited, so that even Adults can enjoy the Game without rolling their Eyes ... And by the way, they can feel a bit young again. Verdict/TL; DR Oxenfree is no Match for the general Public. If you're looking for Thrills and tricky Puzzles, you'd better make a Bow around the Game. But If you want to experience an interesting Story, which is told in an authentic Atmosphere and wants to feel that your Friends are there, I can recommend Oxenfree.