I have been clamoring for creepy games. I’m not talking about zombie games; I have played so many that they have fallen out of the horror genre. I’m talking about games that are just a little off or that could be almost believable. Knocks on windows when no one is there and lights turning on and off by themselves, things that set an atmosphere of something being a little off.
The folks at Night School Studios were gracious enough to give us the steam key for Oxenfree, their new multi-platform adventure game. Oxenfree puts you in the shoes of Alex, a teen on a trip with her new step brother and best friend. They travel to an island that they have visited many times but this time, things are not at all normal and it’s up to Alex, her radio, and her friends to figure out exactly what is going on.
Scanning the Stations
I would consider this game a 3D sidescroller. This format lends itself to extremely easy controls. Playing on the PC, I used WASD to move and the mouse to select prompts when they appear. There are no items, no health bar, no magic meter—just the good old run around to solving mysteries. The simplicity of the controls really frees your mind to experience the game. It lets you take in the sights, sounds, and story on a different level when you don’t really have to worry about dying or running out of stamina or items. It is nice to play a game every so often that just lets you play. Characters will follow you around while you explore, and sometimes they get stuck. They stop following you, but the conversation keeps going, which is creepy but not intended. The talking continues throughout the game, and it turns into a great narrative.
There is a story to Oxenfree that develops as you play. It’s deep, meaningful, and full of angst, kind of like a Nirvana song. Characters talk a lot and you have chances to respond with different prompts. The only problem I had was that sometimes the responses would disappear too quickly, or choosing an option would interrupt a characters next sentence. Dialogue is a great vehicle in a game but it needs to be able to flow and not overlap. Oxenfree made it difficult at points to stay connected by interrupting the flow of conversation. But the game’s atmosphere reeled me right back in.
Nothing but Static
Like I mentioned earlier I’m a huge fan of atmosphere when it comes to games that are trying to be creepy. Oxenfree excels in this area with the use of music. The music really sets the tone of the game, and yes, that was a musical pun. When the dialogue stops the synthesizer takes over. It’s low, slow, and and a little harsh, like really good barbecue. It fits perfectly with what is going on in the game. During one session I said it was one of the best uses of music I have ever heard in a game. I said this out loud to my wife who listened and agreed with me. The music along with the almost watercolor art style sets the mood and lends to the moments where the game really tries to masterfully mess with you.
If you are looking for a great indie game, Oxenfree delivers. Night School Studios really did a great job creating a setting and filling it with things that are truly unsettling in the unlikely format of side scrolling. If you are looking for a game that is creepy, not control heavy, and has a really great story, then I would recommend Oxenfree hands down. Hopefully Night School can keep making games of this caliber so that we can immerse ourselves even further in their adventures.
- Easy Controls
- Great Atmosphere
- Amazing Music
- Dialogue Can Be Messy
- Glitchy NPCs