Oxenfree

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Oxenfree is basically a teen adventure written by John Hughes, produced by John Carpenter and directed by Spielberg using watercolours. It’s great stuff; an abandoned island filled with portals, time loops and disembodied voices explored by a bunch of teens in a 2.5D world that reminds you of early adventure games. But with a modern twist. Lets get twisting.


Full of beer, weed, and the usual angst, a bunch of teens take the last ferry to deserted Edwards Island, an old military base famed for the friendly-fire sinking of a US sub during the war. During their beach party, the teens explore a cave where their radio picks up a strange frequency, which causes the kids to pass out and wake in different parts of the island. Discovering some kind of mysterious time-loop, it’s up to teen Alex to reunite her friends and break the cycle of Edwards Island.


Mostly, the puzzles you face are Alex closing/opening portals and affecting time-loops by dialling her radio to the right frequency. And it’s not a typical walking sim since we’re rarely alone – the focus isn’t even on the strange goings on, it’s on the characters. It’s a dialogue sim. The puzzle is how you play Alex; who she is, how she regards her friends and how they see her, and how much events from her past, like her brother dying, have impacted her.


The teens chat almost constantly – about the island, the situation, their relationships, and the fact that they’re growing up and apart. They joke, get distracted, needle each other, go off on tangents and never miss a chance to flirt, and amazingly, you quickly get into being Alex and answer naturally. We get timed reactions, driving their narrative and significantly impacting the plot and ending, but it’s a lot more subtle than just paragon / renegade.