Welcome to our CHEATfactor Game Review of Oxenfree. We review the game and then factor in how the available cheats affect the overall game experience. For better or worse, our reviews will help you decide whether or not to use cheats when playing the game.
On paper Oxenfree should not work.It's a game where you walk, and talk. Sure, there are some instances of paranormal thrown in but you'll mostly walk...and talk. Then you learn who the developers are; Oxenfree is the first game from Night School Studio, formed by former Telltale and Disney employees and you're not surprised just how much it works. An adventure game first and foremost, Oxenfree will (at least partially) take you back to those awkward years when your friends were everything and their words were the most important thing in the world. It's not for everyone but if you're looking for something different, Night School Studios' first effort is more than worth your time.
In Oxenfree you fill the Chuck Taylor's of Alex, a Pacific Northwest teen on her way to an island party with her stepbrother Jonas and her childhood best friend Ren. It's a night of sitting by the fire, talking with friends and trying to figure out the mystery of the supernatural force that seems to be racking their every move; you know, normal teenager problems. The supernatural backstory acts as a way to keep the story moving forward but it's undoubtedly the relationships you'll build with the characters in Oxenfree that serve as the heart of the experience and will warrant multiple play-throughs just to see what happened.
At it's core, Oxenfree is an adventure game, you walk left to right and interact with objects solving some pretty light puzzles but the majority of Oxenfree's four hour journey revolves around dialogue choices. While that may not seem like much of anything, Oxenfree benefits from some remarkably well-done writing. While there are some hiccups, the vast majority of the dialogue here sounds like something actual teenagers would say and that goes a long way in helping the game and it's characters feel remarkably authentic. Each character has their own personality, making them come to life off the screen and perhaps more importantly, making me think back to my own childhood and the teenage friends I had.
It's these dialogue choices that make Oxenfree such an interesting experience. I immediately found Jonas annoying thanks to his talkative nature but identified with childhood friend Ren but when that became verbalized and Jonas heard about it, it strained our relationship, making moments where we had to work together all the more uncomfortable. Tried as I may to rematch the relationship, Oxenfree nearly mastered the fragile relationships of teenagers and it drove us apart and made Jonas more and more distant as the game progressed through.
I just wish that it was easier to tell how and why I was effecting each relationship. Throughout the game you'll see little thought bubbles above each character's head that, at least in theory show you how they're feeling towards you but it's so vague that you really don't know what you've done or how you're supposed to fix it. I get it, teenagers are weird and it's not always easy to figure out what makes them tick or how to make them happy but I never really knew how to make changes towards the eventual endgame. I'm a people pleaser and I know that and the idea that I really couldn't make everyone happy...or at least know why I wasn't able to was a bit frustrating.
At the very least, at least Oxenfree doesn't ask for a huge commitment to go through it's emotional beats. At most, your play-throughs should take around four hours, which makes it easier to go back in, make different choices and try for a different ending altogether. While both the supernatural aspect of the story and the teenage drama did wrap up nicely during each of my three play-throughs of Oxenfree, I was a bit disappointed to learn that not much of the end-game changed despite my choices. That's not saying I wasn't satisfied with how things ended, I just hoped that finishing the game in a completely different fashion would warrant a completely different ending.
There are likely a good number of you that will be bored by Oxenfree but anyone who has even a passing interest in great writing will find at least enough to keep them entertained throughout the game's four hour journey. It's a nod back to those uncomfortable years where your whole depended on what your friends thought of you and their words and plus, there's ghosts so there's that. I was surprised just how much I liked Oxenfree, and just how much I cared about it's characters and their fates.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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