OXENFREE II: LOST SIGNALS: Review
This game was reviewed on PC.
Reviewed by: Nikola Hristov
I'm a big fan of games that prioritize storytelling and compelling narrative over everything else. Some people dislike them, and instead say that lots of them can just simply be movies – but that's not entirely true. And although Oxenfree II: Lost Signals doesn't have the most exciting gameplay, it's still important to what makes this game good, alongside it's campaign.
As someone who watched a few videos of the original back in the day and therefore doesn't remember much, I can safely say that the story is good as its own thing. Although there's lots of call-backs to the first game, it's not required for you to enjoy the sequel. You play as Riley, a woman in her 30s, who returns to an island full of mysteries, and you have a companion called Jacob. There's lots of time and space shenanigans happening, which you'll soon realise while exploring the island. It's also important to mention that there's different outcomes to scenarios and three endings, so this adds a bit of freedom to the narrative. The game is spooky, but not as scary as the first one – probably because you're playing as adults this time around, not teens. Without spoiling anything, I will say that although the story isn't anything too deep or compelling, the relationships and connections between the different characters absolutely carry this experience.
And this is due to the impeccable voice acting. Elizabeth Saydah and Joe Bianco portray their characters perfectly – the more capable and less-afraid Riley and the weirder yet good-natured Jacob. The side cast of characters is also great – such as the mask-wearing teenagers opening the giant hole in the sky you as the player need to seal, and others that I won't spoil anything about. The experience is also relatively short – it's about a six hour adventure. But although there's various endings, I'm not sure it's enough to justify more playthroughs for most players – especially when you can check the things you missed on YouTube.
Though the gameplay is obviously not the main selling point of Oxenfree II – it is after all, a videogame. However, there really isn't much to talk about here. You can control Riley with both your mouse and WASD buttons, but because you constantly need to click different dialogue options, it makes sense to use the mouse. There's some puzzles that you need to complete – but they aren't particularly hard (aside from the very last one). Most of the gameplay is just exploring the island – while navigating using your map – talking to people on the Walkie-Talkie, finding radio frequencies to uncover all sorts of mysteries and lastly – selecting what Riley says, which determines what happens next. This ability to change the story as the player is exactly what movies cannot do and it's why these narrative-driven games only work in this medium.
There's also the music of the game, which didn't blow me away, but definitely served its job for the eerie yet fascinating atmosphere. The graphics are uniquely 2.5D and allow you to move in all four dimensions (mostly). The performance was great, since the game isn't heavy itself. But I didn't like that there isn't a save option and you need to wait until a loading screen to have your progress saved (it might be more often but the game doesn't make this clear to you).
Overall however, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is a game that puts narrative and character relationships front and centre. Thankfully, they're compelling enough to compensate for the rather boring gameplay and easy puzzles. But I do think Night School Studio did a decent job with what they were going for – making this an indie experience I would recommend to play through at least once. It's short and simple – but the incredible voice acting keeps you wanting to learn more and more about the history of the island and the people within it.
Reviewed by: Nikola Hristov