It doesn’t take long for Oxenfree to get going. Right from the start, you’re given the option of three dialogue choices, and the fourth, which is often forgotten in these types of games: Do Nothing. If you don’t want to, you don’t have a to say a word to anyone throughout the game, and you can let the game play out as it will without any influence. Oxenfree is a coming of age tale, where 5 kids on a deserted island end up letting a bunch of ghosts run amok. The gist of the game is you, a companion, and a radio, playing through the story and just maintaining a dialogue. What they don’t tell you at the beginning is that every response matters and will be remembered. That’s the beauty of Oxenfree.
There are tons of branching paths that you can take in terms of decisions, and each has a defined ending after the mystery is solved. There are 4 or 5 different “pieces” of the ending, each of which can go a few different ways, and each time they reveal the ending, you get to see what percentage of other plays got the same as you. However, you don’t get to see what the other endings are, just a colored pie graph with your slice revealed. Knowing what else is out there encourages the player to get right back into a fresh new game and see what they could do differently, especially since the game is only 3-4 hours long, with the island taking 10 minutes to walk all the way around.
Oxenfree is a game that flew by with great characters (even if a couple aren’t really fleshed out fully). You understand a little about each one, and you end up really caring and understanding each one, which takes place in the form of rolling conversations during the exploration of the island. Quite often, I found myself on the edge of a different area, waiting for the conversation to finish before I so rudely shut the figurative door on it by moving on. During some of the sequences, however, the game ended up dragging. Very few of these set pieces existed, and each did serve a purpose, but some were definitely slower than others. On top of the slow pieces, the player really only does 2 things: work a radio and respond in conversations. There’s nothing else for the player to do, so it can take a bit to become invested in the game.