Night School Studio is a new developer made up of ex- Telltale and Disney employees and the past work-experience is strong in their first game, Oxenfree.

Like a modern era Twilight Zone episode; little less adult, more teen-hipster. Oxenfree has a bunch of friends heading to an abandoned island for a yearly party tradition. The party doesn’t get going before the night turns weird and the kids are looking for a way to the island.

You will control the blue-haired girl, Alex. Bringing along your new step-brother Jonas to the party, joining the mushroom partaking Ren; school prom-queen to be Clarissa and side-kick Nona. All of the characters are written well, even if the dialogue does come off corny in the first 15 minutes. The writing brings all the characters along well enough, even if the performances given for each isn’t always up to par.

The majority of Oxenfree, similarly to a Telltale game, is simply listening, watching and interacting with characters through speech options. Here, Oxenfree presents it’s speech options and gameplay in a different and unique way. You won’t enter conversations with people and you’ll neither have a countdown timer nor will you have any visual cue to recognize the bad to the good choices. As you walk around the island you will simply have speech options appear above your head and you will have an amount of time to pick or to not pick one. Some choices will give you a longer time to pick while others will disappear in a moment if you’re not quick. It’s an interesting system because it makes the decision to be silent through a lot of conversations anyone’s possible; you can simply answer with the bluntest option throughout the entire game when prodded for an answer. There is also no need to see a conversation through if you don’t want to, you can simply leave the area you’re in or interact with an object and the person talking will stop to react to you; be it butting in or not, but it makes playing an ass interesting.

Once you’re introduced to Oxenfree’s puzzles, they may seem interesting. You will have to use a radio and tune to a certain station, or at times turn record players at the right speed. It’s interesting at first but the puzzles quickly become tedious in nature and only enjoyable for watching the outcome of each.

Oxenfree features some beautiful artwork and some really interesting sound design. Two things I was constantly doing throughout the game: spamming F12 for those screenshots and noting how interesting the sound design was. You need to play with headphones.

The characters never have time to truly grow into anything before the journey is over. It took me exactly 3 hours to roll the credits and although I enjoyed my time with the game, I didn’t grow attached to any of the characters to appreciate any of the emotional twists or story beats.

The island itself is a well-designed and pieced together well but the backtracking in the later half of the game, along with the missing run-button might have you loathing repeat runs of certain sections.

Oxenfree is a really interesting, albeit short experience. It sets itself up for an interesting teen-mystery-horror tale with an emotional pull added into the mix later. It just all comes to an end too quickly and without the time to let any kind of characters grow on you, I failed to care about anyones fate at the end game, even if I really wanted too.


Review By Dylan Blight

Review By Dylan Blight