Night School Studio themselves have been acquired by Netflix in 2021, as part of Netflix’s venture into the video game space.
With their work on Oxenfree II unaffected, the release of the long awaited sequel, marks Night School Studio’s first game under Netflix as a video game publisher. With all that being said, can Oxenfree II deliver? Let’s get into that.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals Review (PS5) – A Solid Sequel With A Lot To Say
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals as a game, is as simplistic as it gets. Identical to its predecessor, you move around the creepy, Oregon based location, in all its 2D forestry beauty, and select conversation options. Some very minor puzzle solving is scattered in there, but it won’t prove to be at all challenging.
The narrative, the mystery unfolding, and conversing are the cornerstones of this series. You will be doing plenty of chatting, unless you simply never respond, which is an option. I wouldn’t recommend that, as the conversation system continues to impress in 2023, just as it did in 2016.
Whether you’re talking on the radio, or talking to Jacob, the local who never left his hometown, or a group of young troublemakers, you will be engaging in conversations that reveal plot details, insights into the characters, or history of the world of Oxenfree.
No matter how many characters are on screen, the organic nature of the conversations, and how pauses, or interruptions work is the most impressive feature in Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. I only wish it flexed its muscles more in this regard, by having more characters on screen at once throughout.
That said, I truly wish more developers would incorporate similar conversation systems in their games. It’s difficult to think of too many examples that make interactive conversations feel more engaging and natural than they do in Oxenfree. Its authenticity might be unrivalled.
With Edwards Island, the original setting of the first game, in the background of the new location for its sequel, it is very much a direct sequel. Rather than playing as a teenager, this time around, you play as Riley, an older woman with a military background.
Oxenfree II starts out with familiar supernatural themes, time loops, ghosts, and an unsettling atmosphere. A group of teenagers, and a couple of adults from a small town, are caught up in a much grander mystery. Its all very Spielberg-esque.
The overarching narrative is quite vague at first, and that vagueness sticks around a touch too long, but the game doesn’t, so it’s negligible criticism. However, the mystery does have a satisfying series of twists and turns, that will surely satisfy fans of the first game.
It is worth noting, you will absolutely have to play the first game, for the sequel’s narrative to resonate.
Underneath the somewhat familiar exterior is a more layered, and thoughtful experience. Learning about these characters, their pasts, their futures, flaws, hopes and fears is the most enjoyable part of playing Oxenfree II: Lost Signals.
Some excellent writing provides the player with a very human and very relatable cast of characters, that’ll have you caring about where the story goes for their sake, more so than the mystery itself. It certainly has a lot to say, in more ways than one.
Stellar Voice Work And Exceptional Atmospheric Design
Beautifully painted, a stylised pacific north west makes for a great backdrop for Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. Whilst the art is simplistic, it is undoubtedly the core component of its eerie atmosphere. There may not be much variety in its environments but it doesn’t necessarily need it.
Combined with a a superb soundtrack, the game executes its atmospheric design excellently. The often transcendental sounds are easy on the ears, and the 80’s synth only builds upon it, adding tension where necessary.
It is in the finer details, such as the subtle lighting of the streetlights, or the glow of the imposing blue moon in the background, that go such a long way in building the ambience. It’s these details that set the tone.
Another strong aspect of Oxenfree II, is the stellar voice work that brings these characters to life. Riley and Jacob, especially, are brilliantly realised, working in tandem with the excellent conversation system, audio, and art is a near perfect combination.
When it comes to creating an atmosphere, Night School Studio have proven to be masters of their craft.
Short But Sweet
Night School Studio’s graphic adventure runs smoothly. I’m happy to report that I did not run into any technical hitches. Not one unexpected crash back to the PlayStation 5 home screen, which was refreshing.
Whilst it can be overly simplistic, and the sequel largely plays it safe in terms of its overarching mystery, there is so much to love about this game.
It’s not just the time loop that kept me coming back. I jumped back in after finishing Oxenfree II Lost Signals, to create different relationships through the conversations. However, beyond that, there is little replay value to be found, unless you’re checking off the trophy list.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signal’s masterfully crafted atmosphere, well acted, authentic conversations, and its introspective cast of relatable characters, make it really easy to recommend. It is a short experience that is well worth your time.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is available on PS4 and PS5 on July 12th, 2023
Review code kindly provided by publisher.