“Oxenfree” Review: A roller coaster that only goes multi-dimensional

Bethany Berg, Photo Editor

Five teenagers of Camena High’s junior class sneak away to the semi-remote Edwards Island for the night, a last hurrah to celebrate their new high school senior status. Seems like your everyday teenagers-making-stupid-decisions kind of plot, right? That’s until you’re opening temporal tears in the universe, being bounced around different timelines by unseen forces and experiencing time loops to parallel universes – all on the same night.

“Oxenfree” is a mystery hunter’s masterpiece. It’s got everything – multi-layered characters, believable dialogue, secret messages, dark pasts, quick decision making that impacts the timeline of the game itself – that all makes for a game experience that will entertain and interest you for the entirety of its single-player, multi-branching 8 hour game.

In the game, you play Alex, a young girl who is attending the “end of year celebration” with her new step-brother Jonas and friends Clarissa and Nona. The event’s been planned by Alex’s “best friend since toddler-hood:” Ren. But when they arrive at the island, there is no extravaganza awaiting them. Instead, there’s a ghostly rift that Alex accidentally opens, and spends most of “Oxenfree” trying to fix. On the island, your most important tool will be your radio, which you’ll use to find strange frequencies, sounds or music that includes scattered messages specific to the island that, in time, will explain your burning question: what the hell is going on?

One of my favorite features, and what “Oxenfree” is quickly picking up fame for is its quick-speed and varied dialogue. In-game dialogue realistically resembles real-life dialogue, where the characters are almost constantly conversing, and if you aren’t quick enough to make a decision on what to say, the opportunity, quite literally, fades away.

Now “Oxenfree” isn’t a scare-your-socks-off kind of horror game, but it isn’t your slow-paced game of family Clue, either. It’s an adventure that leaves you curious for the answers hiding in plain sight, the game constantly skirting around its own truth. It doesn’t have any jump scares, but includes everything from traumatic events, to muted and dramatic color schemes, flashing images, distorted voices, radio static and even the storyline that makes itself known prominently from the very beginning and yet, leaves you with even more questions than you began with – gives “Oxenfree” its own specific, unsettling aura. By the time I was finished playing my first time around, I was already thinking of my second playthrough, what decisions I’d change, what other endings I could try for.

My favorite thing about “Oxenfree”? The hidden mystery. Yeah, you can go through and finish the game easy, be done and move on, but there’s more to it if you go looking. Hidden Morse Code messages that change as time passes in the game, alluding to the alternate reality game written inside of “Oxenfree” itself, is said to lead to real life phone numbers and locations. In the week-long span of research (long nights of playing the game, decoding and message-board surfing) no one has completely figured out where all of the clues lead to – yet. But if you’re interested, now’s the time to join the search!

This supernatural thriller is a little on the pricier side, $20 on Steam, but it works on multiple systems: Windows, Mac, and the XBOX One. For all of its branching paths, spectacular art style, complex characters, slowly revealed mystery, and hidden messages leading into it’s own alternate reality game, “Oxenfree” feels more than just two-dimensional, making it one of the best I’ve played to date.