Special thanks to Night School Studio for sending the GeeklyNewsGazette team a copy of Oxenfree for product review. This review was received on the 11th of January and is/was embargoed until the 15th of January.
When co-founder of Telltale Games (The Walking Dead series, Game of Thrones and The Wolf Among Us), Adam Hines, left the studio that was known for its epic, engrossing story and decided to work on his own venture, Oxenfree, the industry sparked with intrigue. That being said, one man doesn’t carry that much weight in one project, right? Would the famous story telling that Telltale Games is known for, carry through with a different development team and that same success? The simple answer: hell yes.
Oxenfree puts you in the role of female protagonist, Alex, set on a journey to an island with her few high school friends. What originally is intended as a get together, rager of sorts for teens, turns out to be something entirely different. Oxenfree inches you closer and closer to the edge of your seat with a gripping, supernatural story, with the expected turns and twists that Telltale has presented so effortlessly.
Oxenfree’s setup in terms of game-play, is quite different than most would be used to. Part platformer, part choose your adventure, part 2D side scroller, Oxenfree mixes multiple elements to infuse an organic, thrilling adventure. Going around the map will usually require you to commit an action, crawl, climb, and use whatever to get to the next part of the map. It isn’t complicated but it doesn’t have to be.
Telltale’s familiar style of choose your own adventure is at play here. This is the most noticeable, particularly in the dialogue, than anything else in the game. When using Alex, she will be thrust-ed into conversations with the ability to answer from three choices, or not answer at all. Each conversation path changes the end goal of said conversation. Character movement is more free flowing than The Walking Dead, abandoning the linear style employed by Telltale tiles.
Visually speaking, Oxenfree has a unique, diverse color pallete that works well with its story telling. The game is quite gorgeous, with different blues and yellow hues that look vibrant. Animations are cartoony, but work well with the stories supernatural elements. Every now and then animations can come off a bit too clunky, its noticeable but not game breaking by any means. Landscapes look gorgeous as well, with a variety of backdrops that help set the scene (and atmosphere).
Does this mean Oxenfree is all sunshine and roses? No, and to be honest, no game will ever be perfect. Oxenfree has a few issues up front. One, the game’s narrative takes a bit too long to get going. Sure, it isn’t wasted on anything but setting up characters you care for. In that regard, you can at least give Oxenfree a pass for this. It just feels a tad too slow for its own good, especially knowing what awaits you.
The other problem is the technical issues that can bog down the game-play. These issues arise when playing on the Xbox One issue, and unfortunately, aren’t completely unnoticeable. NPC’s will get stuck in wall climbing glitches, with their character hiccuping through an animation. This too happens with your control of Alex, who sometimes doesn’t do exactly what you want her to do. Finally, the Xbox One version of the game crashed several times, reverting back to the Xbox One’s main dashboard. Thankfully, a solid checkpoint system saved some frustration.
Oxenfree would be a quality game if it came from a AAA publisher/developer. Night School Studios brings unprecedented quality to an indie title, possessing an excellent story and an innovative approach to the choose your own adventure genre. No, it isn’t perfect but its supernatural story telling, mixed with some thrills, makes this an excellent buy.