I love it when this happens. One of the free games with gold turns out to be a game-changing classic!
Oxenfree, developed by Night School Studios, released in 2016 on all major platforms. It’s a story-driven game about friendship, regret, betrayal, the supernatural and the blissful joy of being young, creating memories.
It’s something we can all relate to, the politics of friendship groups, the anxieties and self-consciousness that many of us have felt growing up and the thirst for character-defining adventure. The game starts out with your character (Alex) going to an island for a friendship tradition with her best friend Ren, new stepbrother Jonas, Nona (whom Ren has the hots for) and Clarissa…your standard misunderstood bitchy teen girl. You’ll get to know all of these characters’ dreams and fears throughout the game, fleshing them out better than I know some of my own friends.
I wrote an article on my own blog, years ago, about Telltale’s – The Walking Dead, how it opened up my eyes into story driven games that lacked much of your conventional ‘gameplay’ and Oxenfree is very much the same. Once I started the story I just couldn’t stop, was like being gripped by an extended film, I just had to find out what happened next. That’s probably the reason I’m on my second cup of coffee and writing this through painful eyes after finally turning my console off around 4 am.
Oxenfree is all about choices, it’s all about dialogue, something you say earlier on in the game could have a dramatic effect for later, by the end I feel it’d said a lot about me as a person. The subtleties in a one-off comment can come back to haunt you. The main characters best friend turned to me and said “You haven’t been acting yourself tonight” in an accusatory manner towards the end of the game and my real life self sat there feeling personally insulted. I tried my best goddammit.
I really can’t say too much about the story as a whole unless I want to ruin it for the rest of you but just know it’ll grip you. It’s almost haunting, the beautiful art style and amazing landscapes have this almost sinister feel to them that alters and moulds to whats happening in the game. Playing through Oxenfree is like playing through a series of paintings. The art style is incredibly unique to gaming and the colours just pop off the screen.
Chuck on top the amazing soundtrack and you’ve got a treat for a few of the senses. The soundtrack is creepy, not Silent Hill 2 levels of creepy but that might just be the best video game soundtrack ever. Nah, Oxenfree’s soundtrack can be inspiring and heartwarming one moment and then bring you crashing back down to earth the next. It’s almost like a sci-fi film in one part and Brian Eno’s Music For Airports in the next. Have a listen.
It’s almost too convenient how this worked out. I was first introduced to Oxenfree on Buzzfeed’s Video Game “Worth It” episode and instantly thought “That looks interesting” and for 15 bucks I was more than down to invest. Scoot onto the Xbox Store and there it was for free.
As there are multiple endings to achieve I’ve already started my second playthrough, guess I’m in for another late night.
Honestly, if you’ve got a free evening at any time play through Oxenfree, it was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a while.