Let’s start with the whole reviewing thing from the end with the game I finished most recently – Oxenfree. Then again, I'm only assuming I finished it because a bug gets me stuck at the outro group picture and the game stops responding, the picture of happy Ren and Nona floating around. And that sucks and partly sums up my experience.

A bunch of high school teenagers is heading to an island to chill and drink and be, well, high school teenagers. You get loads of background info about the location from the kids and the place itself. All seems cool. But then you start messing around with radio waves and shit hits the fan.
I got a Stranger Things vibe from the setup and I liked it. Accidentally opening trans-dimensional gate, fighting whatever is trying to enter our world through the gate, figuring out how to beat them; it may be nothing new, but it was a good take on the theme. I’m not someone who enjoys horrors, be it games or movies, but a healthy dose of supernatural, high stakes, and tension will always get kudos from me.

High school teenagers as stereotypical as they get. That guy has a crush on this girl, that girl is the bee queen and hates the main girl, that guy is new and oblivious to everything, yet they all end up together at the same time and place. Once I realized the game involves decision and possible different outcomes, I automatically expected there’s no way to get along with the whole group, but to my surprise, you can simply choose to be a nice person to one without pissing off another. As the game progresses, you find out more about their history and some of their motivations. And those are mostly tied up to the main story events. My only problem was with the whole “best friends” relationship. Yes, I get it, game devs don’t have it easy, but to me Ren was just plain annoying and someone I wouldn’t spend five minutes with unless being tied up to a chair and his presence being used as a torture device. But that’s just me, although it made the “Fuck, marry, kill” pretty easy for me. (Clarissa, Nona, Ren, in case you were wondering). 

The game mechanics were kept simple. You move around the locations, interact with highlighted objects, participate in conversations (or not), and from time to time tune the radio. Simple enough, yes, but here is where the bugs come in. Occasionally, NPCs would get stuck climbing walls forcing you to hard restart the game, having to replay everything in the location. Later on in the story, every time I picked up a letter, the game bugged that I couldn’t leave the location anymore. This caused me restarting the game and replaying several sections a couple of times (some of them rather long ones). Also, I wouldn’t be able to finish the game with all the achievements (anomalies and letters) discovered, so I guess I’ll just check online for that whole backstory. And as I mentioned at the very beginning, the game got stuck at the final group picture during (what I think was) the outro of the whole game. No final thoughts, no credits, nothing. And last but not least – the conversations. While I have no objections to the concept of quick-time-reactions, the conversation bubbles were disappearing way to fast. If you actually wanted to first listen/read what the others are saying, then read your possible reactions, and give at least a split-second thought to which respond to choose, the bubbles were often long gone by that time you decided to click one. On the other hand, when you did pick a reply on time while some of the NPCs was still talking, your answer overlaid with the ongoing conversation, making very little sense. You know, instead of the game letting the NPC finish and then following with your part.

I liked the visual style, the visualization of the reality glitches, distortions and time-loops, the radio mechanics, the way the story unfolded, and the choices given to the player. I got through half of the game before encountering the first bug (Jonas got stuck climbing a wall) and I was considering replaying it, but after struggling to finish the game as the bugs just kept on occurring, forcing me to go through multiple repeats, eventually getting stuck at the final outro, I changed my plans. It is a good game, easy and quick play-through, which I appreciate more and more the older I get, but it wasn’t a life changing experience, nor was it captivating enough for me to suffer through the bugs just to uncover all the hidden messages and histories buried deep on the island. The soundtrack didn’t bother me as it seemed many others, but it didn’t exactly enhance the experience either.



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