You Need to play Oxenfree

Every once in a while a game comes along that’s so surprising and so moving that it’s hard to imagine why you haven’t played or even noticed it before. This happened to me over the past month with Night School Studio’s Oxenfree, and I’m on a crusade to let everyone know that if they haven’t already, they owe it to themselves to give it a shot.

Oxenfree is one of those games I’ve vaguely heard of but never actually took the time to learn anything else about. I saw it first on Steam when it released for the PC, then on PSN when it released for the PlayStation 4, and then again on the App Store when it released for iOS, but never was I really tempted or even remotely interested in it until I saw it land on the Nintendo Switch. As some of our readers may know, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with the Switch since it came out. I’ve been devouring games by the handfuls, trying genres I wouldn’t necessarily have played before, revisiting games I’d wanted to play in the past but never found the time, and I owe it to this hunger for finally putting Oxenfree on my radar, because I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with it.

One of the biggest things that grabbed me about Oxenfree was its music. Its charming, ‘80s-inspired sonic landscape lends a sort of nostalgia to the experience that, once you begin really delving into the story, makes you appreciate the critical attention to detail that’s evident in this title. The music, at first a little jarring, really heightens the emotional tension that drives the game’s brilliant narrative from the very beginning all the way to the end. And let me tell you, this story is really freaking good.

The dialogue prompts, of which the entire game is based around, are excellently written and executed in a way that is genuine, believable, and engaging. There wasn’t one time during my first playthrough where I didn’t doubt the sincerity of the characters I was presented with, and what’s more I really connected with all of them. This kind of believability, this brand of storytelling through strong, three-dimensional characters is something that many, many video games sorely lack. It makes you want to pause and think about what you want to say, who you want to trust, and consider how you feel when presented with the subtle but impactful moral dilemmas and emotionally affecting exchanges.

Excellent music and stellar writing alone would be enough to warrant a glowing recommendation for a video game in most cases, but Oxenfree takes it all one step further by offering something that other games (cough, cough, Breath of the Wild) really struggle with: good voice acting. I can’t stress this enough. Each and every performance is so spot on that it truly breathes life into each and every one of the characters and personalities on display. It takes an already good game and makes it great, because by the end of your first playthrough you will feel as though you know these people, as if you made new friends along the way.

I can’t stress enough how good Oxenfree is. Of all the games I’ve played in 2018 so far (which is a lot, I’m not ashamed to say) this is the only one that’s stuck with me. It’s one of those experiences that reminds me why I love video games, and really exemplifies how much video games as an art form can offer. Plus, its self awareness is truly unique, and the way in which it encourages more than one playthrough is really nice.

If you’re like us and you’ve somehow managed to miss this gem, you owe it to yourself to reconsider.

You need to play Oxenfree.

Oxenfree is available on Windows, Mac, Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch.

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