Oxenfree

Mar. 17th, 2017 08:21 am
fereldanwench: (Video Games - Pitfall)
I finished Oxenfree last week--Had been meaning to write up my thoughts about it, but various obstacles prevented that from happening. I'm currently in the mood to DAMN THE MAN and waste work time to spew some opinions on the game so here we go.

It's rated very highly on Steam (9/10), and I believe it came up in one of my queue expeditions. I know it bought it during a Steam sale or through a Humble Bundle--I didn't pay more than $10 for it, and I don't think it's a $20 experience. I wouldn't advise paying more than $15 at most.

The premise is interesting: you control Alex and at least one of her friends as you explore this island that has some Weird Shitâ„¢ going on (time travel, ghosts, an irradiated submarine--It's all very X-Files-esque). The game is very dialogue-heavy and puts a big emphasis on the relationships you develop with your companions; the bulk of the gameplay is selecting one of three responses, or abstaining from conversation entirely, while Alex and company try to figure out what the hell is going on. There is no explicit relationship meter, but befriending or alienating the others can produce dramatically different outcomes in the story.

It's obvious that a lot of effort went into the voice acting, and it paid off. Everyone sounds very natural, and they sound and speak like teenagers, but without overdoing the cringy attempts at hip lingo (which bugged me a little in Life is Strange).

The style of the game is also very charming. The environments make me think of an interactive watercolor painting with graphic design influences, and the characters have cute designs and animations. One of the frequent advancement goals is to generate these triangles that open a rift in time--I loved those visuals.

And while I wouldn't call it a horror game per se, it did have some genuinely eerie moments. There were a few times it got a startled gasp from me.

I have two main gripes with the game that ultimately made me decide to uninstall and not pursue additional endings and cheevos:

1. The interface and menus are almost too minimal. I didn't get to play it for about a week and a half, and when I returned to the game, I forgot some of the controls--I had to Google them because they aren't listed anywhere in the game. That's a bad oversight, in my opinion.

2. Although the conversations are fun to respond to and although the environments are cool to look at, walking around the island can get really tedious. There are a couple of other gameplay elements, like tuning a radio, but otherwise, it's just a lot of walking and occasionally tapping Ctrl to jump minor obstacles.

I made the mistake of thinking I could explore the island at my own pace, but the progression is pretty linear within the confines of the story. One of the achievements was finding letters from another character--I took that as a hint to explore a little, but I was wrong. The letters don't even become available after a certain point in the story, and because there's no fast-track option on the map, I was left doing some major backtracking in total silence. The characters walk at a reasonable pace when you have to take time to respond to conversation, but when there's nothing else going on, they feel so slow.

The 9/10 rating is a little generous from my perspective; IGN has it at 8.2/10, which is about what I'd rate it. Aside from me misreading the game's intentions and enduring unnecessary backtracking, it was an enjoyable experience, and I think it's worth about $10-$15 and at least one playthrough.

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