Critical Play: Mysterious

For this week’s critical play I played the game Oxenfree developed by Night School Studio on my PC through Steam. In this game, you play as a girl named Alex who brings her new step-brother to meet her friends on an island where they intend to have a party, but they accidentally get themselves tangled with the supernatural, so your goal is to discover the mystery of the island and hopefully make it back with everyone alive.

This is a game geared towards people who like dialogue heavy games, it’s what you spend most of your time interacting with, talking to your friends and depending on your responses, shaping your personality and your relationship with each friend. This is also for people who like the sci-fi genre and are okay if things get a little creepy at times.

The most significant formal elements I found pertain to resources, objective and outcome, and conflict. For resources, one of the main things you use quite a lot in this game is a radio that Alex can tune to different frequencies. It serves many purposes, from being able to tune to a channel that will give you some history to, of course, interacting with supernatural elements around the island. For objective and outcome, as you traverse the island trying to uncover the mystery depending on how your friends feel about you, it can lead to different outcomes.This also ties in with conflict, but with conflict especially the most important dilemma you face can lead to the death of one of your friend’s if you’re not careful.

For types of fun, I think this game lands in the categories for sensation, narrative, and discovery. I think narrative and discovery are both obvious, as this is a heavily dialogue game, there is a lot of drama going on between characters and the mystery behind the island. Speaking of that mystery, since it is a mystery game, discovery is a foundational fun to be found. As for sensation, this may be more personal opinion, but I really love this art style, it’s pretty minimalist for the most part but it’s unique and overall nice to look at.

I think the biggest success that I had with this game is knowing almost nothing about it. I think this can be said for all mystery games, the less you know, the better the experience is. As for changes the only thing I would want to change is how easy it is for dialogue to be interrupted. It can be interrupted if you walk to a certain place, or click on a certain object, and sometimes it doesn’t resume where it was so it’s like that dialogue is lost forever. This led me to always waiting for it to finish before doing anything else in that level which I think kind of slowed the momentum a bit because it’s meant to feel more natural then that.

P.S. I think it’s awesome that you can stay silent the entire game.

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    1. Yes! And I heard that they’re working on a sequel so that’s super exciting! I’ve heard of Undertale, but I haven’t played it yet, if it’s a game that lets you play in a unique way I think I’ll have to give it a shot, thanks for letting me know about it!

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