The haunting, narratively experimental Oxenfree got here out again in 2016 to rapturous opinions, combining a coming-of-age story with some significantly unnerving supernatural goings-on involving radios, triangles, and one thing ready past a rift in house and time.
Oxenfree’s distinctive tone, aesthetic, and setting, plus its formidable dynamic dialogue system, rocketed Night time Faculty Studio into the leagues of different wonderful narrative-focused studios, alongside names like Campo Santo and Telltale. In consequence it wasn’t too stunning to search out out that Night time Faculty could be the primary online game studio to be acquired by Netflix, because the streaming big prepares to make strikes into recreation growth.
However we’re not right here to speak concerning the Netflix deal — we’re right here to speak about our first take a look at Oxenfree II: Misplaced Alerts, the sequel that we got a take a look at throughout a latest on-line meet with builders. Introduced in Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase earlier this yr and revealed by MWM Interactive, the sport is extra cinematically impressed than ever, taking all the things that was thrilling concerning the first recreation and turning up the amount, with the advantage of Night time Faculty’s expertise coming by way of.
The teenage Alex and her friends from Oxenfree are changed by an older forged: Riley Poverly, an environmental researcher returning to her hometown of Camena, and a pal of hers from the previous, Jacob. The 2 will accompany one another as Riley makes an attempt to be taught extra a couple of native mysterious cult referred to as “Parentage”, who’re making an attempt to open a portal to convey one thing by way of — one thing harmful.
A whole lot of Oxenfree II will, like the primary recreation, contain strolling from place to put, fixing gentle environmental puzzles and making dialogue decisions as Riley and Jacob chat with one another. There are moments of stress that spring out of decisions you’ve made — Riley fell off a cliff at one level, as a result of she was over-confident about making a leap — in addition to completely different outcomes that may have a snowball impact. There’s even the opportunity of lacking out on explicit branches since you took too lengthy to say one thing… or since you didn’t wait lengthy sufficient.
In fact, the artwork is what actually set the primary recreation aside when it got here out, and that’s higher than ever, too. The “painterly” really feel is analogous, however extra detailed, and now there is a map with a bunch of notes added as you go, to remind you of quests you’ve taken on or stuff you’ve realized. It’s fairly a beautiful contact, and makes the sport appear fairly natural — loads like fellow West Coast narrative exploration recreation Firewatch.
In fact, all of that’s fairly much like Oxenfree, which might be welcome information to those that loved the primary recreation — however what’s new? you would possibly ask.
Nicely, there are recent mechanics, to begin with, that are largely centred across the Walkie-Talkie that Riley has. You’ll sometimes obtain chilly calls on the gadget, that are typically from inhabitants of Camena, and typically from thriller callers, and Riley can select whether or not or to not reply in any respect. Typically these calls can information her, or give her quests; different occasions they’ll simply creep you out. Within the preview, Riley will get a name from somebody who says ” who that is,” regardless of Riley seemingly having no concept… after which cryptically, they are saying they’re going to “offer you house to determine it out”. Intriguing!
Talking of creepy, there’s loads of the form of creepy goings-on that made Oxenfree so darn compelling: bizarre anomalies can present you flash-forwards or premonitions of horrifying futures, the place our bodies float face-down within the lake, and rifts into parallel dimensions can whisk you to long-forgotten occasions the place it would end up that Riley can affect the longer term by messing with the previous.
Within the preview we noticed Riley and Jacob get caught in a collapsed mine, and with no method by way of they’re compelled to search out and step by way of a time portal again to 1899, when the mine shaft elevator was working… solely to search out out that they may have been the reason for the mine collapse within the first place. Now that is the form of complicated time paradox stuff we signed up for!
The writing is extra mature consistent with the brand new, older characters, who’ve sassy, sarcastic banter between them. Riley appears fairly deadpan and dry, and Jacob looks as if a little bit of a nervous nerd who can’t cease speaking — in an endearing method.
Up to now, Oxenfree II: Misplaced Alerts appears prefer it’s shaping as much as observe a lot of the identical vibe that the unique Oxenfree did, and certainly, the builders have even gone again to Oxenfree so as to add fascinating updates that tie the 2 video games collectively narratively.
It’s not a by-product, or a very completely different sequel, then; it’s an identical setting with new characters, new mechanics, new themes to discover, and a brand new color palette, too, taking the sport away from the green-and-red of the final recreation and into an autumnal orange. Frankly, that’s precisely what we had been hoping for: a extra polished, skilled tackle the timey-wimey triangle horror of the primary recreation.
Oxenfree II: Misplaced Alerts is scheduled for a 2022 launch.