Oxenfree is currently free with Games with Gold for this month and I suggest you go and download it, pronto. Oxenfree belongs to a group of indie games that last for between 2 and 5 hours and leave a massive impression on you; staying with you for days and weeks after you’ve finished them (usually in one sitting). Like Journey, Limbo, Little Nightmares, and Inside, Oxenfree in only a few short hours, will have you feeling, warm, fuzzy, spooked, frightened, happy, sad, and everything in between.
Oxenfree is quite un-like any game I have played and I’ve tried to think about what it is comparable to in terms of style, plot, or gameplay and I’ve been throwing around increasingly strange comparisons including The Tell-Tale Series, Scooby-Doo, Friday the 13th and even The X-Files. The truth is, it really is a very enjoyable, original, little game that will both leaving you wanting a sequel and at the same time, praying that they never, ever, ever, release one.
The game starts with you, your best friend, and your new step-brother who you have never met before, on a boat as you head out to a small island where there is going to be an epic high-school beach party. You soon realise that only two other people have shown up, a stone-cold bitch and a cool hippy-chick type character. You and your new broski head off into a cave where your little portable radio taps into a strange signal that teleports you across the island. You must then meet up with your friends, who have also been separated, and solve the arcane riddles of the islands whilst the very fabric of the islands appears to unravel with time-loops, ghosts, and possessed teenagers. Whilst the game could be classed as a supernatural, adventure, horror game, it never becomes what I would call scary, but instead relies on a slowly creeping level of tension and slow-burning fear.
The gameplay is very simple and really only has you walking around the island whilst interacting with buttons, phones, doors and other mundane equipment. There is no combat or platforming involved as the game focuses on your dialogue and the decisions you make along the way, with a couple of small puzzle solving sections, involving a rather tense game of hangman thrown in for good measure. This is one of those games where even the most off-the-cuff remark to a friend can have game-changing repercussions an hour or so later.
What is most lasting, after the plot and the character development, is the art-style. It has a hand-drawn vibe that at times looks like you’re walking through a haunted water-colour. The fact that the game is ostensibly a side-scroller, magnifies this feeling, and you’ll often stop and stare at the beautifully designed back drops.
I wanted to play Oxenfree from the moment I first saw a still of it, however have only recently gotten around to diving in. I’m very glad I did, as I have a sneaking suspicion that it will sit firmly atop the list of ‘my most enjoyable gaming moments of 2017’. It’s a true gem.
What did you think of the game? Let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog