Oxenfree feels very nostalgic, like jumping into an old school supernatural thriller movie, the ones with a bunch of teenagers. The protagonist is going on an island trip with some friends and her new stepbrother. Everyone has their own issues, which start to culminate as the island begins revealing its eerie mystery.
This is a very approachable adventure, which plays smoothly. I’m sure even novice gamers would get a kick out of it. Oxenfree is a horror story, but it’s moderate psychological horror: oppressive maybe, but not horribly frightening. I really enjoyed the balance of mystery, horror and drama in the story.
The gameplay consists mostly of walking around examining the island. The characters have conversations where the player can respond in several different ways, influencing parts of the story – mainly the relationships between the characters. The main storyline remains mostly unchanged, but there is a little twist that gives the player extra incentive to try another playthrough.
Large part of the gameplay mechanics is searching for the correct frequencies in a handheld radio. Initially it seems like a neat gimmick, but in the end it doesn’t deliver much. It’s almost completely random, just going through all the frequencies until something pops up. I would have really wanted something a bit more complex, puzzle-like.
All the exploring can easily put Oxenfree in the walking simulator category, especially if one wishes to be thorough. Roaming around the island and going through the frequencies can be a chore. But if one isn’t too much of a completionist, the game should progress in a good pace.
The game visuals are simple but pretty, and the atmosphere is spot on. The mood is creepy enough to create a sense of urgency, even though the game plays much like a modern point & click adventure without timed events or death traps.
Oxenfree is somewhat short: I’ve clocked 5 hours but I did some of that unnecessary backtracking to find more clues around the island, so the straightforward playthrough is probably around 4 hours and can easily be enjoyed in one sitting. I definitely recommend spending an atmospheric evening with this game – once at least.