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Update: As of 04/08/2017, considering the new endings & extra things added by Night School, Oxenfree remains without the shadow of a doubt, one of the best indie game I have played in 2016.
So it must be said that I am terribly bad at keeping track of up and coming games because I quite simply can’t seem to keep track of time in general. Sometimes this is bad, and sometimes I get to play games like OXENFREE with the full mystery they deserve.
One night, and the night after that one, I spent the dark hours playing OXENFREE, because it seemed to call me, and because I really, really felt like I needed to.
OXENFREE is the very first game made by Night School Studio, made up of former Telltale and Disney employees, and oh god do I want to hug them all. In OXENFREE, you play as Alex, a teenage girl with teal hair, who just met Jonas, her brand new step-bother, the result of their parents’ recent marriage. The both of them, as well as Ren, Alex’s best friend, are on a ferry on their way to the mysterious place that is: Edward’s Island.
I truly want to avoid giving you any sort of extra detail, details that you wouldn’t be able to obtain within OXENFREE’s trailer, as I believe that the mystery of it helped me appreciate this game at a level I rarely do. Here is the trailer, but PLEASE don’t watch it and just buy the game. You’ll thank me later.
Having finished the game, I am now adding Alex to the many female characters within video games I consider to be utter masterpiece.
Although you are given the ability to shape her to some extent, Alex remains a smart, opinionated, strong young woman with a heavy past that, and even though you learn just how much that affects her, it doesn’t hold her back, it simply shapes her, it gives her and shapes her humanity, and I appreciated that in a way that might be too complex to put into words.
The game doesn’t take too long to break away this perceived idea that this will be a simple indie game featuring a lot of teenagers and spunky dialogue (although the spunky dialogue was an absolute joy and I wish more game put as much effort into dialogue and skilled voice actors). OXENFREE is categorized as a supernatural teen thriller, but, honestly, I wouldn’t really know what to categorize it, as it felt like so much more.
It’s easy and a little hard to explain what OXENFREE made me feel, for a lot of different reasons I can’t go into considering that this is a spoiler free review and I want to keep everything secret and force you to go and figure it all out yourself. OXENFREE haunted me, that is the best way I think I could describe it. It haunted me as I played it, pulling me further into it and making me forget the hours, and it haunted me in those in between moments when you have to get yourself something to drink, or when your bladder threatens to explode at any second. In those moments, everything about OXENFREE haunted me. I wanted only to continue and be with Alex and her friends, on Edward’s Island, with its mysteries and it’s creepy corners. For a game that remains rather mysterious even now, I felt and still feel particularly close to the characters, and I relate to a lot of the things you learn about them along the game. They are not the usual teenagers the gaming world usually gives us, and this ended up being one of the strongest aspect of the game, and something that was incredibly fresh and humanizing.
Basically, if you want a game like no other, with incredible dialogue, amazing music (no, like, seriously though), absolutely INSANELY beautiful design (OXENFREE was nominated for Excellence in Visual Art), and a story much deeper than you will be able to expect, please don’t watch any trailer, don’t ask your friends about it, stop what you’re doing, and buy OXENFREE today.
10/10 – I originally gave this game a 9/10 due to some glitches and other problems of that nature, but not only was this fixed, but a DLC with more alternative endings and a more in depth conclusion for Alex’s storyline was added, and although as of right now I have not experienced those extra endings, I am giving the +1 promised for fixing crashes.