The Insight: Our Youngest Intern Was Fully Enthralled By Oxenfree II’s Hypnotic, Psychological Horror Tale

By Khloe Wilkerson

Night School Studio’s Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is a spooky, science-fiction psychological drama. It’s also a horror-tinged game about living on the edge, both literally and figuratively. Both Oxenfree I and II became immediate favorites of mine. Oxenfree I follows a group of teenagers on the verge of maturity as they battle scary spirits stranded on the border of reality between space and time. Those two aspects worked incredibly well together, especially when combined with time-travel components that made various futures and outcomes feel more genuine. But Oxenfree II is different

It’s a pleasantly slow-paced mystery-adventure best played in segments as the sun sets and the darkness falls. Despite the fact that you’ll be leaping across cliff tops and jumping in and out of portals, this is a tale first and a video game second. Without its rich story, the game would fail. So, it’s fascinating to see how characters’ lives can alter so significantly, simply by becoming more mature. The discussions and connections between them are what make both games effective. 

The conversation system is crucial to the game. As you progress towards your goals, you’ll be faced with dialogue options that might influence your relationships with other characters or change the outcome of the mystery. There are minimal puzzles along the road, but once you reach your objective, there will usually be additional talks, like roads of wonder to traverse.

You’ll take on the role of Riley Poverly, a wanderer who has lately returned to her hometown to install transmitters for a local survey project. Riley’s life has taken a turn for the worse while serving in the military. To make ends meet, she joins a research team investigating odd signals on an island off the coast of Riley’s childhood home. Jacob Summers, a local with unfulfilled aspirations and his inner issues, joins her.

Riley and Jacob, two 30-somethings, must determine how to go on in life while avoiding trapped spirits and some disorderly and sometimes nasty teens. The pair move around and search the oceanside town of Camena to locate the weird, oddly-colored radio signals that have been interfering with the town’s electrical equipment. An unpleasant encounter during the planting of these devices turns out to be the beginning of bonding over their common past.

A view from the summit displays this little settlement on Edwards Island, which serves as the scene for the original Oxenfree. When the transmitter is activated, a giant tear generated by malevolent powers appears above the island in the shape of a triangle. Odd voices emerge from the radio and depart like strange, crimson ghosts. Riley is naturally terrified and perplexed when she appears to travel back in time before meeting Jacob and witnesses a youngster setting fire to the town’s general store before waking up and telling Jacob what she saw. 

He describes not just what he saw, but also how he has heard of similar aberrations before and might know of a method to mend things before the rupture in the space-time continuum engulfs the entire town. The two are swiftly forced to try to permanently shut every other rip in the fabric of reality. It will not be simple, however, for forces both new and old are determined to use the peculiar phenomenon for their own ends. If there is any hope of conquering these groups and restoring some notion of a peaceful existence in the future, the two will need to work together.

The majority of your time will be spent exploring the area and turning on three other transmitters after you’ve set up the first one, using your map to get to high-altitude locations. Your research will be interrupted by supernatural events like time travel, parallel worlds, and ghostly attacks, which help to keep the game’s mysterious, horror-tinged (but not terrifying) tone.

Along the way, you meet teenagers who look intent to let the distortion swallow reality, as well as several helpful persons with whom Riley communicates via her walkie-talkie. Character communication is possible through nine channels. As you call them regularly, you learn more about their fascinating backstories – and the town. If you don’t talk with them, you may never discover their full stories and you may even leave them to perish in the night’s awful mystery. What you find by carefully tuning adds to the tone of strangeness as well. Considering that you never get to contact some of these people, it’s amazing that they all feel totally real. 

A lot of that is due to the great voice acting that adds so much to the whole experience. Yes, the eerie audio work and the music, full of things that go bump in the night, make this Oregonian world feel more immersive.

But it’s the actors’ performances that are supremely well-executed and impactful, whether it’s through the line delivery for Riley and Jacob’s countless conversations or the interactions between the primary pair and their supporting characters. I never had a feeling that an expression was overly forced, overblown, or poor, and the brilliance of natural conversation grabbed my attention in every talk I was able to listen to. The feeling of being drawn in is enhanced by the direction’s deep link to reality – and the scrip. Your enjoyment will be influenced by how much you relate with the characters, but I feel that most people who would even consider playing Oxenfree II would find something to identify with in their talks.

While there are rare jump scares in Oxenfree II nothing compares to the overall experience. The visual design is flawless. The work comes together very well because of the utilization of motion, lighting, and a fantastic combination of dimension. The characters’ personalities come alive from subtle yet distinct design elements associated with their postures, attire, and other physical features as they traverse through stunning landscapes. The environments may feel both calm and gloomy due to subtle shifts in lighting, perspective, and color, as well as the rapid arrival of more dark elements and feelings.

The watercolor-inspired look of the artwork substantially contributes to the surreal ambiance. The game develops its own voice and avoids being a boring repetition in favor of an emotional and surprising journey, thanks to certain small but very affecting changes. For example, a stroll up a hill may appear to be the most calm place in the world for one minute. However, due to a sudden jump scare and a distressing glitch of red static, it quickly becomes a horrifying location.

While Oxenfree II doesn’t need rapid movement, it might take some time for you to fully understand the structure of the woodland paths you encounter. However, the map helps give you the necessary routes. Then, there are small geometric puzzles throughout your journey, that although being relatively simple, must be completed in order to go further in the game. Sometimes you may miss a puzzle and won’t be able to progress without doing it first. The title has no manual save option, so if you don’t want to redo certain parts you have already done, you might have to wait for the game to do an autosave. I’d like an option to save wherever I want to.

In general, Oxenfree II is an excellent ghost story with unique psychological elements. If you like creepy narratives with deeper meanings then this game will satisfy your curiosity. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals would also be a terrific experience if you like narrative games with puzzle components, significant emotional decisions, and a dash of terror within a complex recipe of mystery. 

At 13, Bronx native Khloe Wilkerson is our youngest intern. She recently won two NYVGCC college scholarships and completed our journalism and writing class at Mott Hall III two years straight.

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