We Are OFK is a cross-media biopic of a fictional bunch of characters who make up a very real band. It’s the work of game developers (Team OFK) and musicians (Luna Shadows, Omniboi) with some dipping toes into both sides.
If you were being a touch glib about it, you’d say it’s simply a PR exercise to promote the group’s upcoming EP. Yes, it is that on a very basic level, but We Are OFK deserves credit for pulling off its job and making the journey feel meaningful.
We Are OFK PS5 Review – Rhythm And Blues In L.A.
Five Episodes Brought To Life By A Stylish Visual Format
The game is an origin story of sorts, tracking the lives of the four soon-to-be band members living and creating in California. It’s told over five episodes in a stylish visual novel format with the occasional break for music video minigames. It’s not really about a journey to stardom, which would be the obvious path, but an insightful look at the struggle for creativity.
The four band members offer up quite different perspectives despite being connected in various ways. Itsumi (voiced by Ally Maki) is a young woman who has recently moved to Downtown Los Angeles to escape the dramas of a breakup with her ex-girlfriend.
She’s working a day job for a video game company whilst practicing piano for future performances. Itsumi’s friend Luca (Teddy Dief, Team OFK’s Creative Director) is a songwriter who is currently feeling unfulfilled by his lore-writing job for the same video game company Itsumi is working for.
Carter (Syhaya Aviel Smith) is Luca’s roommate and is a somewhat withdrawn artist who creates visualizers for concerts, but they clearly want something more meaningful that they’ve let slip away. Rounding out the group is music producer Jey (Fiona Rene). She’s enjoying her job, but constantly battling her parents’ insistence she ‘settle down with the right man’ when that’s not what she wants.
A chance encounter at a Hollywood party serves as the catalyst for the eventual forming of the group, but the music, perhaps fittingly given the themes of the story, is pushed to one side for large swathes in order to focus on the intertwining relationships and how they flavor the creation of this group.
Conversations That Feel Genuine And Relatable
The majority of We Are OFK is relayed through voiced choice-based conversations or rather frank messaging. There’s little in the way of tiptoeing around daily life, lust, and love in We Are OFK. There’s waffling debate about trivial things, horny texting, and cautious nudging for particular responses.
I don’t think I’ve played a game that manages to feel this genuine and relatable in its conversations on such a consistent basis. Yes that means there’s a fair bit of it that sounds aggravating or cringeworthy, but that’s the point. It’s people acting like people.
I alluded to it earlier in the review, but I think the most surprising thing about We Are OFK is how it goes about its making-of-the-band story. This isn’t a rags to riches, living the dream, feel-good hit of the summer kind of story. It’s made clear these are all people with talent, but they’re ones who are somewhat realistic about their chances of superstardom in a town already swimming in hungry wannabes.
They also consistently struggle with finding the creative spark they need to make something, anything. We Are OFK deals with the truth that life and its dramas are the biggest obstacles to creativity. It doesn’t matter how insignificant a life problem is or even how happy some interaction has made someone, it can serve to drag them away from the thing they dream about doing right.
Even when We Are OFK is focusing on its interpersonal dramas, there’s almost always a connection to music and creativity in the narrative. Itsumi’s volatile love life threatens to interject with her chances of performing. Luca procrastinates whenever a golden opportunity arises, Jey struggles to mix personal feelings and business.
Carter, who is by far the least vocal of the four, still gets to have a real sense of their personal troubles and how they use their work as a crutch for dealing with them. There are no promises of resolution, no eureka moment that makes everything click and send the band into superstardom, just honest issues handled as best as they could be as four people strive to put themselves out there.
Despite the scope for dramatic conflict in We Are OFK’s story, it’s a pretty positive game for the most part. The characters are quick to big up each other and have a little pep talk when things are getting a little gloomy. The vibrant visuals and generally peppy nature of Itsumi and Luca play a big part in keeping things fairly light-hearted when it matters, and that just makes the darker edges more effective.
Each episode’s big set piece is its music video. These are all based on the songs from OFK’s actual real-life upcoming EP (the first song ‘Follow/Unfollow’ is already on streaming services). In them, there are minigame versions of typical video game activities presented as the visual concept for the video.
In ‘Follow/Unfollow’, the player controls Itsumi as she collects stray cats. In the second episode’s ‘Fool’s Gold’ sees Luca floating around the rings of a planet, shooting space rubble.
These are simple things, but they always end up feeling like a big deal in the context of the episode’s structure, usually portraying something touched upon in a character’s personal story. Don’t go in expecting something as involved as Sayonara Wildhearts’ musical levels though. The bulk of any 50-80 minute episode of We Are OFK is focused on the story-heavy visual novel part.
We Are OFK Oozes Sun-Kissed Class
Thankfully, there’s a very distinct style to We Are OFK’s presentation that ensures it comes across more like an animated television series than a visual novel. From its slick opening credits to the spectacle of its music video sequences, We Are OFK oozes sun-kissed class.
As a thematic and tonal whole, it’s a comfortable fit. The game’s depiction of a synth-pop Los Angeles is absolutely felt in both sound and visuals. I’m a sucker for the marriage of music to game, and few bring it together in such a layered manner quite as well as We Are OFK manages.
A lot of what works comes down to being able to enjoy certain genres of music, but I believe We Are OFK’s greatest strength lies in its story of aspirations and expectations in the creative realm, and that’s probably the best pop song Team OFK produces.
We Are OFK is due out on August 18, 2022 for PS5, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.