Jesse Woo
Indiecade 2015: Oxenfree Impressions
It's a paranormal Monkey Island with the dialogue tree from a Telltale game grafted on top.
10.26.15 - 9:29 PM

Like many older gaming genres, adventure games are going through a renaissance, due in large part to the efforts of independent developers both new and old. Pioneers of the genre like Tim Schafer are now joined by newcomers like Night School Studio, the makers of Oxenfree. Unfortunately, everyone who played Oxenfree ahead of me was so absorbed in it that I did not have the chance to take it for a spin myself. However, I had ample opportunity to observe and speak with the creators.

Oxenfree places players in control of Alex, a young woman who is expecting just another night of teenage rebellion with her friends on an abandoned island and former military base. However, things quickly take a turn to the supernatural when, using an old radio, Alex opens a rift to some other monstrous realm. Thereafter, she must solve the mystery of the island while managing her relationship with her friends and coping with the creatures from the rift. The supernatural elements are meant to be more creepy and ominous than horrific (Alex herself cannot die), and the plot is billed as part coming-of-age story and part supernatural thriller.

A key component of the game is how you control Alex's dialogue. Text options are presented to the player à la Telltale, and remaining silent is always an option. Moreover, the player can walk away from any conversation or situation at any time because the game never takes control of Alex. She will only speak or act when prompted by the player. As such, there are no cutscenes or rails, though there are event triggers that prevent a true "open" experience. The developers were non-specific but promised multiple distinct endings based on dialogue choice.

Visually, Oxenfree is quite pleasing. The game manages a bright color palette despite the moonlit setting, and environments are varied and interesting. I could not hear the game, but apparently all the dialogue is fully voice acted.

Oxenfree is coming out late 2015 on Steam, with other platforms planned at a future date. Check out the trailer below to see it for yourself.