Critical Play – Mysteries – Ore

Oxenfree is a game by Night school studio. I played it on PC, and purchased it on steam.

It’s about a girl and her friends that come and visit a deserted island together. This is a game about talking, and Oxenfree is a virtuoso study in how to make age-old mechanics sing.

In Oxenfree, all the dialogue is time limited, you have a short amount of time to choose between three dialogue options, or to say nothing. In conversation, you often have to choose between talking over a character, and interrupting them, and saying nothing, each of which has an effect on the gameplay. Because almost all of the characterization and fun of the game as a narrative is delivered via dialogue, there is a direct alignment between the narrative and the gameplay. Initially mean and annoying characters are revealed to have a long and detailed history with your own that causes you to sympathize with them.

So this simple twist on dialogue goes a long way to invest your player expression into the world. The game adds a new dimension to this in the most literal sense through the use of a radio. By dialing into specific frequencies,


you can unlock new areas, alter time to get access memories of characters, as well as get transported to new areas. The game communicates to you over these radios, and it connects the games larger theme of communication and how it goes awry.

Besides narrative, a large amount of the fun of the game comes from discovery as you explore the island, and narrative decisions are tied to which areas you decide to explore first, once again impacting the dialogue.


This does start to fall apart as because the game needs to follow a certain story, many characters end up saying the same kind of thing, and some of the discovery aspects of the game are lost. The exploration and movement through environments isn’t very varied. This isn’t a dealbreaker as the dialogue carries the game, but it is an area where potential was unused.

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