Reviews - Updated on April 12, 2022

No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to keep track of the current game flow. A dozen games can be released on Steam in a day, and the developers are really trying on most of them. Alas, this very majority inevitably crushes itself, merging into an indistinguishable mess.

I believe that the main task of .ru as a site is to help you find the best of the games, and therefore we must adapt to the new rules and select new sections. Reviews are traditionally devoted to current projects, and for small masterpieces that we learned about after some time, it is better to come up with a separate section with a clear title.

In the debut issue of this extremely irregular format, I will tell you how I found for myself the ideological follower of the mystical thrillers of the 80s. Partly the successor to the children’s series of books “Horror”, partly a spin-off of Life is Strange. In early 2016, Night School Studio released Oxenfree.

When the book is no better

The heroes of the mystical story are teenagers chatting incessantly. They speak a lot, quickly and in a suspiciously literary language for their age, and there is no official Russian localization. In addition to chatter, the game has a lot of variability, but there is practically no gameplay, and what is there is of very dubious quality.

If none of the above bothers you, then welcome aboard a small ferry that takes people from the mainland to the coastal island. There are three passengers on board: the main character, her half-brother and friend. Two more girls are waiting for them on the island, with tents, a guitar and beer; a beach night on an abandoned island is a leisure activity that is not abandoned.

We missed Oxenfree for nothing

A worthy reason to envy. And the story seemed to be interesting.

There are many rumors about the island. The main tourist attraction is wandering around with a small hand-held radio in search of “non-existent frequencies”. Due to a strange anomaly, here you can catch signals that no one transmitted: words, sounds and dialogues. And if you climb into a glowing cave at night and turn the handle, then … you will start the gears of a good story.

Oxenfree is amazing at creating intrigue and suspense. Under the “synthwave” motives, teenagers meet with something truly unknown and incomprehensible, almost Lovecraftian. After two or three hours, the situation clears up a little for the player, and the horror is replaced by the active “How to save yourself and your friends?” or “What’s the fastest way to get out?” – the choice is in your hands.

There is only one noteworthy game mechanic in this platformer – dialogues, somewhat reminiscent of conversations from the works of Telltale Games. The characters are talking energetically, and you have three or four seconds to choose from, three lines and the ability to remain sullenly silent. A short press of the key will force you to interrupt the interlocutor, a long hold will make you wait until he finishes the thought.

The comparison with Telltale is purely technical: there is much more life in Oxenfree’s dialogues. Most of the time, they do not move events: the heroes quickly agree to go to the other side of the island and simply fill the radio silence with chatter, discussing what is happening or internal conflicts. Because of this, each individual dialogue seems to play no role, is secondary in the perception of a global task, and the choice of a replica for both the player and the character is a momentary issue.

We missed Oxenfree for nothing

The loser will remember it. And you are likely to quickly forget.

Playing around with this mechanic for four or six hours of passage does not bother you, although you get tired of the volume of what has been said quite quickly. Stupid kids who get involved in something they don’t know don’t shut up for a minute, and this is the main problem and the main advantage of Oxenfree. Depending on the priorities of the player.

The blanket of mysticism, chthonic horror and “old school” is strongly drawn towards the personal experiences of the characters. The recent death of a brother, the imminent need to choose a place of further study, an attempt to manage likes and dislikes within a small team stuck on the island – all this is done very sincerely, very charmingly and with complete control over the situation in your hands. A little out of place in the background of ghosts, but nothing.

The range of role-playing is wide, as is the range of situations. You can spin the scenes in the direction you need: the characters do not forget about what was said after two phrases, but completely change the tone of the discussion at your suggestion – these are some of the most dynamic conversations that I have seen in games in general. Also interesting.

How to stop worrying and not listen to nonsense

If mental anguish has long tired you, then there is a compromise: do not try to dive too deeply into the game. Excess chatter is felt only if you strive to cover all game content and listen to each dialogue to the end. The cheat is that phrases are always much more than time for direct movement from the left side of the level to the right. As a result, with a normal playthrough (if you don’t stop at the end of the level to listen out) you will successfully skip most of the nonsense, concentrating on the mysterious story. Then get a fairly dense thriller.We missed Oxenfree for nothing

Unwinding the triangle will definitely not end in anything good, but it’s interesting!

The game skillfully catches up fear and sur: either ghosts, or gods, or aliens are constantly testing you, moving into poor kids, throwing you into parallel realities and time loops. They make you see what is not there, ask deadly questions to which you do not know the answer, and make you return to your own past.

I wanted this part of the game to be more developed – it turned out to be too atmospheric. You walk around with a small radio hoping to catch a strange wave, to get in touch with something otherworldly. And when you do go out, you feel a real threat and regret that you poked your head in here at all.

The game manages to create a feeling of complete control over the story: you choose in what order to visit the locations, who to take with you, and who to leave. Who to connect with and who to push away. I won’t venture to say that the whole course of events is in your hands, but the feeling that you are the cause of each subsequent incident is wonderful. The main thing is that the ending does not disappoint.

Not really spoilers

I didn’t like the ending of the mystery teased throughout the game. Mysticism turned out to be not mysticism, but intense and very specific science fiction. The explanation of the situation in the finale is extremely exhaustive, leaving no room for mystery. Which, on the one hand, is good, but on the other hand, something is not right compared to some “Very strange things”, where behind the scenes there is exactly as much as the imagination needs.

We missed Oxenfree for nothing

And yet somehow nowhere did it have to be said that it is beautiful here.

***

Despite the slight flaws in the content balance, after playing Oxenfree, I really wanted to share this game. It looks stylish and feels innovative. It’s a game about mystery that’s done flawlessly for most of the playthrough, and about chatter that I’m willing to admit is almost innovative. And most importantly, all that is required of you is one evening without collecting any side nonsense. A laconic adventure that evokes a keen sense of nostalgia for both the best works in the genre and for themselves a decade ago.

By the way, the next project of these developers, Afterparty, is about how to drink with the devils in hell. And if anyone can make a game “Tarantinism”, then it’s them.

Be sure to write in the comments if the main needs reviews of games that were missed by the site. Offer your candidates (what and even who to play), and, perhaps, one of the other authors will intercept the baton.

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