PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch, PC, Mac, iOS
Night School Studio
July 12, 2023
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals feels like returning to a familiar place in a great way. I’ve known about Oxenfree II: Lost Signals for a couple of years – since Night School Studio announced it in 2021 – but it wasn’t until I went hands-on with it during Summer Games Fest that it dawned on me just how long it’s been since Oxenfree first came out.
In that seven-year gap, I immediately notice that Oxenfree II is even more beautiful than its predecessor, an already beautiful game thanks to its unique visual style. That visual style is back, but it pops even more on screen. Nonetheless, Oxenfree II looks excellent, and playing it feels as fluid as the first.
Oxenfree II feels more mature. The first game’s about a group of teenagers, and the story feels like a teenage summer romp, which feels inspired by the vibes of things like Netflix’s Stranger Things series. This sequel follows Riley, who’s in her 30s, and in the opening 30 minutes I played through, the story feels more mature, whether that be the language she uses, the problems she’s dealing with in life, or even the overall tone.
Riley has arrived on a mysterious island without knowing how she got there. But she quickly falls into line as Evelyn begins chatting with her via a walkie-talkie. Like the first Oxenfree, you’re presented with various dialogue choices that add flavor to the conversation. I leaned into the more sarcastic responses, but other choices would have allowed me to play it straight or be more fearful of what was happening. Regardless of the option, you’re treated to some excellent voice acting, which also defined the first game for me.
I make my way up a lighthouse where I encounter a time tunnel, which director Bryant Cannon tells me is something made easier by the power of new generation consoles. At the top of a spooky, seemingly abandoned lighthouse, a time tunnel shows me the lighthouse during a different time period, where the sun is shining, and pedestrians look out at the ocean with the sun setting over it. Cannon tells me these time tunnels are core to the gameplay of Oxenfree II as they’ll be used to advance through obstacles.
He tells me of one instance where Riley is in a mine, unable to advance because rocks block the opening. Riley can travel to 1901 using a time tunnel, where the mine is open to advance.
Evelyn instructs Riley to make her way to the center port of Camena Island, which isn’t far from Edwards Island, the primary setting of the first Oxenfree. From here, I’m instructed to make my way to the island’s top to set up a transmitter. Along the way, I run into a contractor named Jacob, who also happens to be Riley’s partner for this new gig. The two get along nicely, and Jacob clues players into the idea that Camena Island might be spookier than it first appears.
Together, the two head up to the island where Riley must set up a transmitter, and after a short minigame where I must find the signal using both analog sticks, Oxenfree II teases its hand: a mysterious bolt of energy, almost like lightning, shoots out of the transmitter and toward a triangular, prismatic shred in the skyline above Edwards Island. Riley, Jacob, and Evelyn are, naturally, freaked out by this strange phenomenon, and while the trio seems set to investigate what just happened, it’s here where my demo ends.
My 30 minutes of hands-on time with Oxenfree II was just a tiny taste of what’s to come. It’s as beautiful, features some great voice acting, and plays largely the same as the original; which is to say, because I loved the first game, I’m very excited to see what’s in store when Oxenfree II is released on July 12.