Oxenfree II Lost Signals Preview
As many readers will remember, the original Oxenfree was a choice-driven and dialogue-heavy adventure game, with a story seemingly grounded in the mundane world of Edwards Island, with a story that grew increasingly more mysterious, threatening and supernatural. It was notable for its excellent writing and sense that every choice could potentially impact the course of the story, or at least the scene. If the recent hands-off playthrough preview event is any indicator of the full game, fans of the first game have a spooky treat in store when Oxenfree II: Lost Signals arrives.
Set in roughly the same location, Oxenfree II jumps ahead in time and features a new cast of older characters. The preview segment focused on Riley Poverly, an environmentalist and researcher who returns to her home town of Camena, Oregon to investigate the source of some mysterious radio signals. Together with her friend, Jonas, the pair explore the caves and abandoned, collapsed mine near the seemingly idyllic Oregon town. They discover a time tear and are transported back to just before the mine collapsed, where they look for clues that point to the present mystery, as well solve the puzzle of how to escape the past. Riley now has a walkie-talkie that helps her communicate with people across both space and, perhaps, time itself, and some of the people that she speaks to add mysterious clues and directives to the adventure.
Freedom to Explore
The developers emphasized that in the sequel — just like in the original game — there is no “right way” to reach a goal, and that things like missing a jump often open up new paths to explore. As Riley and her companion walk, talk and explore there are a lot of traversal choices, from climbing to jumping, giving Oxenfree II a bit of a puzzle-platformer feel at times. Of course, as people often do, exploration often leads to extended conversation, and this is where Oxenfree II really shines, with well-written and natural sounding dialogue. Just as in real life, conversations ebb and flow and occasionally fade to awkward silences or junctures. Of course, there’s craft and care hidden here and the story begins to emerge from reflections on the past and discoveries in the present.
While the characters in Oxenfree were young adults attempting define themselves and plot their futures, the older protagonists of the sequel are far more focused on the present and often, reflecting on their past choices. It gives the game a sense of maturity and makes the franchise feel like it is evolving as well. This is reflected in the overarching themes of time and time travel, perfect metaphors for the concerns of its characters. At its heart, though, Oxenfree II is still a creepy, shadow-filled mystery adventure through and through, complete with jump scares and a flashlight beam that only illuminates a narrow slice of the darkness.
Visually, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals looks nearly identical to the original, and that’s a very good thing. Its timeless, painterly style strikes a perfect balance between detail and abstraction and the muted colors and washes somehow exude both sadness and menace. Although the segment of gameplay shown was relatively short, it is clear that the developers have captured the same near-perfect mixture of puzzle solving, thoughtful dialogue and exploration that fans loved in Oxenfree.
Oxenfree was much more substantial than a cliched teen horror story, and Oxenfree II: Lost Signals seems to be on track for telling an even more layered, nuanced and complex tale of the supernatural, while giving us characters that are witty, thoughtful and well written. Mechanically and visually, the game looks to have taken what was great about the original and preserved it, while adding additional texture and depth. Whether you played Oxenfree or not, the sequel’s story will stand alone just fine, but fans of the original will enjoy the connections between the games. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals makes its way to PC, Switch and Playstation next year.
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