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Oxenfree II

Oxenfree II

Written by Elliot Hilderbrand on 7/12/2023 for PS5  
More On: Oxenfree II

The first Oxenfree focused on a group of friends who accidentally open up a rift in space and time on an abandoned island. You play Alex, as she and her step-brother Jonas explore Edwards Island, learn its secrets, and come to a conclusion. There are actually multiple ways that original story can end, some of them even require you to play through the entire four-hour game a handful of times to see what was considered the true ending.

I say "considered", because Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, the sequel that takes place five in-game years later, will eventually tell you about Alex and company’s fate, and it is a bit of a retcon depending on how someone played through the original. You don’t need to play the first game in the series to understand what is happening, but it helps. It will also give you a better sense of the story and scope being told as the events and characters from the first Oxenfree are talked about.

The creepiness factor has been amped up, this time from the get-go. Oxenfree was a bit of a slow burn when it came to the supernatural, but not this time. Seconds into Lost Signals weird, unexplainable phenomena are taking place. This time around we play as Riley, an environmental researcher who is returning to her hometown island, the one next to Edwards Island - the first game’s location - for work. Unnatural radio waves are causing equipment to give off readings that make little to no sense.

Riley, and her coworker Jacob, are sent to the top of the island to place a new transmitter to help get more accurate readings. All of that happens in the first ten minutes or so. From then on, the creepy craziness starts. Riley wakes up back at the start of the game, sitting at the bus stop. When she tries to get up and walk around she only makes it a few steps before waking back up, again, at the bus stop. Riley and scontinue to stay grounded, even when they should start freaking out immediately.  They blame it on the late hour, and the need to have a paying job, it feels almost too real. 

There are a lot of themes present in Lost Signals. A lot of the same ones themes that are seen in the original Oxenfree make a repeat appearance. This time they are darker, bleaker, and play bigger roles in Riley’s choices. Themes like death, growing up, making mistakes, not fitting in, and family all show up in a big way. They fit the narrative and expand on the thoughts and feelings presented during the first game. Religion and ideology can be added this time around, and in a big way too. Finding yourself doing something because of some ideology, regardless of whether it happens to be right, or wrong, is something that multiple characters deal with.

I love how even though this is Riley’s story, and she is front and center, the side characters, most of which you only hear and never see, really have a chance to shine. You meet an old fisherman named Nick through your walkie-talkie. You help him decide where he should go, and how long he should be there, and in return, you learn a little more about the world around you. Some of that information can become useful later, some of it is a bit of fluff but helps to broaden the overall narrative.

There are a couple of characters that do this, all of them different, unique, and feel like real people you would encounter in a place like Lost Signal’s setting. The real issue is talking about the characters in any meaningful way. Unseen characters have real depth, I care about Nick out on the boat, I like the forest ranger, and I want to do everything I can to keep her safe. Lost Signals is so narrative-driven, and by the end, you learn so much about everyone within the game that talking about the changes they undertake throughout the four-hour game can ruin the experience. It is something to see for yourself.

The reason so many of these characters pop is the incredible voice acting. Lost Signals nails this. Every person feels unique, every person has a story to tell, and every person has an end result in the story. Riley and Jacob make up the majority of the narrative, and the two play off each other well. I feel Jacob’s frustration that his old car has finally kicked the can. I can hear Riley’s frustration when she talks about her parents. Nick sounds like he’s scared of being on his boat during a big storm. Lost Signals has done a great job of making me care about these people, even the ones I only hear and never get to see physically.

While Lost Signals looks and feels almost identically to its predecessor it’s not without a few new tricks. Lost Signals has an entire cast of new characters, with a few returning names sprinkled here and there. The puzzles in Lost Signals are more, and more interesting. When you set up a new transmission point a new mini-game activates. Lost Signals made good use of the PS5 controller. The setting of Camena looks identical to Edwards Island, which makes sense, Edwards is the next island over from Camena. The aesthetic is similar, the layout is completely different.  

The total playtime is around four hours to see from start to finish, that doesn’t mean you’ll only put four hours into the game. One of the new features, my favorite, is the end-game stats shown after your playthrough. Lost Signals is about decisions. Decisions you’ve already made, decisions you’re making in the past, and decisions characters will make in the future. Lost Signals will show you how your decisions stacked up against everyone else that has played. Were you in the minority when you killed or didn’t kill this character? Did you stop this person from going off the deep end, or did you help speed up the downfall? Are you one of the few people to find all the hidden collectibles? Tell this person to stay, or tell another not to leave their location? Am I good or just a garbage person?

I found it interesting that a couple of choices seemed to be universal, with the vast majority of everyone choosing to take the same side in an argument. Not only was this a lot of fun to see at the end, but it also made me want to go back and play again to see what happens when I make other choices. I’m guessing, but I bet you could get three replays in and have very different results each time. I know in the first Oxenfree you needed to play through a couple of times to get what they called the “true” ending. 

There is little to dislike about Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, and with one exception, they are little issues. Jacob doesn’t know how to climb a rope. Even funnier is when he has to the animation is off. He makes the climbing motion but is moving up right next to the rope, without ever touching the rope itself. It looks a bit funny more than anything. While I enjoy the music, it is too loud during voiceovers, sometimes making it almost impossible to hear what is being said. There are also drastic music shifts when loading from one screen to the next. Lastly, with multiple endings from the first game, the sequel chooses one and makes it canon. Does it make the right one cannon? I don’t think so, at least they didn’t take the one I chose originally. All that is noticeable because I’m looking for problems; if I wasn’t going to write a review, they might be issues I never noticed.

The biggest gripe I had was the one time my game froze. It was during a very pivotal scene, and at first, I thought it might have been part of the gameplay. But the voice acting progressed, and I still had a blurry frozen screen in front of me. I knew I was close to the end of the game, nearing almost the fourth-hour mark. I closed out of the game, reopened, and saw that the time marked indicated that I had lost about fifteen minutes of playing that I would need to play through again. The worst part of all of this was once I had caught back up to where the issue took place, I only had about ten minutes of the game left before the credits rolled.

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is everything you want to see and experience in a sequel. A story that continues what was built in the first game, but could still be played without having done so. A more interactive narrative than the first one, but controls and dialogue options stay the same, as they were perfect to begin with. The supernatural elements are amped up from the beginning, letting the story get crazier than the first. At four hours long, you are doing yourself a disservice by not playing Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. 

For only being a four-hour-long game Oxenfree II: Lost Signals has a lot to say. A narrative that is more intricate than its predecessor, while still holding onto the framework that made Oxenfree stand out. Lost Signals makes you care about these people. The voice acting goes above and beyond to help drive that home. Like the first title, Lost Signals feels unique in the video game space. With a few minor hiccups, and one upsetting one, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is, without hesitation, worth a second and third playthrough.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

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About Author

I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).

While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).

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