Developed by Night School Studio, now owned by Netflix, Oxenfree was originally released in 2016 before arriving on other platforms in the years that followed.
At the time of its release, I had heard a lot of buzz surrounding the latest indie darling Oxenfree. But with me being the stubborn human that I am, sometimes if I am told something is great and that I should play or watch it, I often ignore much of the hype.
Loop back to the mind-bending original OXENFREE before OXENFREE II: Lost Signals releases on July 12.
— Indie World (@IndieWorldNA) July 7, 2023
Fast-forward several years later, this year in fact, I finally outgrew my stubbornness to play Oxenfree and what I found was one of the most intriguing, immersive and well-told stories in recent years. A game that only lasts a few hours with each playthrough, encourages you to playthrough multiple times to uncover the secrets of Edwards Island. Honestly, if you’ve never played Oxenfree, play it now and if you’re lucky, it might only cost you a few quid. What’s more, Netflix subscribers can play it for free as with the topic of this review, its sequel.
I know that I’ve rambled on a bit already, but that’s only because I want as many people to play Oxenfree as possible as well as its sequel. Furthermore, this review will also be very vague, because a huge part of enjoying Oxenfree and its Lost Signals sequel is unravelling its secrets page-by-page, so to speak.
Unlike the 2016 game in which you play as a teenage girl Alex in the company of her friends, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals takes place roughly five years after the events of Edwards Island and this time, you play as a 30-something woman named Riley. Returning to her hometown of Camena, an island located across the pond from the location of the original game, Riley takes on a job to explore anomalies and what she soon discovered, is that her hometown is shrouded in dark secrets far beyond rational comprehension, but has something to do with the events on Edwards Island. I’ll say no more about its story, to avoid spoilers.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is a narrative-driven adventure in which your choices will impact the ending of your story. At the time of writing, I’ve only finished the sequel once, but if it’s anything like the original game, it will have at least a few endings with each playthrough being subtly different from the last as you uncover new secrets.
Visually, Oxenfree II looks gorgeous with its watercolour-inspired presentation which adds to its graphic novel aesthetic. There’s something charming, yet unnerving about Camena, in most part thanks to its presentation, but so too its amazing soundtrack and wonderful performances from each and every actor involved.
For the most part, Oxenfree II isn’t massively improved over the original game, but it doesn’t have to be. I can pick very few, if not no faults from the 2016 game, so in that respect, it would perhaps be unwise to change its formula drastically. That being said, it looks a little nice, the location has more places to explore and improvements have been made to the radio frequency puzzles that have been adopted from the first game.
🔺 Welcome to Camena. Hope you brought your radio.
OXENFREE II: Lost Signals is AVAILABLE NOW.
— Night School Studio | OXENFREE II Out Now! (@nightschoolers) July 12, 2023
There have also been some quality-of-life improvements such as faster loading times and an annoying element from the original game has been fixed, that’s dialogue being cut as you load into a new area. In Oxenfree II, if you’re having a conversation with an NPC, it will carry on from where you left off as you load into a new location. It may be a small thing, but it’s these kinds of subtle tweaks and improvements that helped improve on its predecessor.
To conclude with this deliberately vague review, if you expected massive changes and improvements over the original game, then you may be disappointed. Night School Studio hasn’t done much to mess with its winning formula and that’s ok. Oxenfree II does what it needs to do to keep you engrossed from start to finish and then some. While I may prefer the original game just a bit more, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is one of the most charming, enduring and sometimes unnerving games that you’ll play this year. So if you haven’t done so already, go play the original game and then its sequel. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Featured Image Credit: Night School Studio/Netflix