The haunting, narratively experimental Oxenfree got here out again in 2016 to rapturous critiques, combining a coming-of-age story with some severely unnerving supernatural goings-on involving radios, triangles, and one thing ready past a rift in area and time.
Oxenfree’s distinctive tone, aesthetic, and setting, plus its bold dynamic dialogue system, rocketed Night time College Studio into the leagues of different glorious narrative-focused studios, alongside names like Campo Santo and Telltale. In consequence it wasn’t too shocking to seek out out that Night time College can 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 have a look at Oxenfree II: Misplaced Indicators, the sequel that we got a have a look at throughout a current on-line meet with builders. Introduced in Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase earlier this 12 months and revealed by MWM Interactive, the sport is extra cinematically impressed than ever, taking every part that was thrilling concerning the first recreation and turning up the amount, with the good thing about Night time College’s expertise coming by.
The teenage Alex and her friends from Oxenfree are changed by an older solid: Riley Poverly, an environmental researcher returning to her hometown of Camena, and a good friend of hers from the previous, Jacob. The 2 will accompany one another as Riley makes an attempt to study extra a few native mysterious cult known as “Parentage”, who’re attempting to open a portal to carry one thing by — one thing harmful.
Plenty of Oxenfree II will, like the primary recreation, contain strolling from place to position, fixing gentle environmental puzzles and making dialogue selections as Riley and Jacob chat with one another. There are moments of rigidity that spring out of selections you’ve made — Riley fell off a cliff at one level, as a result of she was over-confident about making a bounce — in addition to totally different outcomes that may have a snowball impact. There’s even the potential for lacking out on explicit branches since you took too lengthy to say one thing… or since you didn’t wait lengthy sufficient.
After all, 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 belongings you’ve realized. It’s fairly a stunning contact, and makes the sport appear fairly natural — so much like fellow West Coast narrative exploration recreation Firewatch.
After all, 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 may ask.
Properly, there are recent mechanics, to start with, that are largely centred across the Walkie-Talkie that Riley has. You’ll often obtain chilly calls on the system, that are generally from inhabitants of Camena, and generally 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 instances they’ll simply creep you out. Within the preview, Riley will get a name from somebody who says “you realize who that is,” regardless of Riley seemingly having no thought… after which cryptically, they are saying they will “offer you area 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 instances the place it would prove that Riley can affect the long run by messing with the previous.
Within the preview we noticed Riley and Jacob get caught in a collapsed mine, and with no manner by they’re pressured to seek out and step by a time portal again to 1899, when the mine shaft elevator was working… solely to seek 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 manner.
Thus far, Oxenfree II: Misplaced Indicators seems 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 totally different sequel, then; it’s the same 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 have been hoping for: a extra polished, skilled tackle the timey-wimey triangle horror of the primary recreation.
Oxenfree II: Misplaced Indicators is scheduled for a 2022 launch.