The second game I played in 2020 was Oxenfree. This supernatural thriller in which some partying teenagers face off accidentally unleashed ghosts certainly managed to keep me on the edge of my seat most of the time I played, with the perfectly selected music keeping my spine tense and just waiting for something to happen.
In this game, you play as a girl named Alex and during the many conversations in the game, you can select how she responses (or choose not to respond at all). Each choice can have major effects on what happens in the game and alter Alex’s relationships with the other characters. The choices can also build to alter the ending (there are apparently 5 possible endings total).
The characters are all pretty well done, with MC Alex, of course, having the most revealed about her. But during the course of the 4-hour game, you get to know her friends relatively well and come to have a fairly good idea of how they will react to things.
The graphics are fairly simple, and you’re stuck on a relatively linear path when exploring the island. No veering from the walkway into the grass, for example, or cutting across the switchbacks to save time.
In my initial playthrough, I only found a few secrets and didn’t do the “scavenger” hunt mentioned part way through. Since I played via Epic, I didn’t get any achievements or the like which kinda sucks since it means no acknowledgment for some of the optional stuff (seriously, makes me dislike Epic so much LOL).
Now, one big thing with Oxenfree is that it is HIGHLY recommended that you play it through at least twice, and most people seem to say three times. Why? Because it changes, sometimes a lot!
I was skeptical, I admit. I played through the entire game in one day, then the next day decided “what the heck” and fired it up again. Even from the very first scene, it’s clear that the developers were leaning into some of the aspects of the story, with Alex realizing fairly early on that “this has happened before!?” And the changes go on from there, not just subtle, little things, but at times entire scenes play out differently because of it being the second playthrough. Some parts even “skipped”, keeping me from altering a choice to see what would happen and instead through me on a whole new course.
It was pretty freaking awesome and I loved how much effort the developers put into the pathing of the game. And the differences made playing it again more than worth it, as it all fits in so well with the story arch and with the first ending I’d seen. Now I have been spoiled to one of the other endings, but I actually felt it was almost a cop-out, so I purposely did not even attempt to aim for it, even if some people considered it the “best” ending. Rather, I was happy with the ending I got in my second playthrough, other than my inadvertently destroying one of the friendships *whoops*
I would highly recommend this game to anyone who likes suspenseful or mild horror elements and a great, branching storyline.
I also streamed this one via my Twitch channel, and the videos are now available on YouTube.