Oxenfree II: Lost Signals PC Game Review – Analog Horror Hits The Mark
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals recognizes and values your intelligence. The sequel to 2016’s critically acclaimed analog horror gem wastes no time establishing its connection to 2016’s hit title; from here it branches off in all directions, creating something which feels both related to 2016 while standing apart as its own unique entity. Lost Signals finds its strongest moments both as a narrative and game when it capitalizes on this uncanny link between narrative and game play. Think of Oxenfree II like wearing your favorite old mask: same great flavor but subtly different ingredients come together into something delicious and unexpected! Or more accurately speaking: like wearing it like an eyeless sheet over its original skin – maybe with holes cut for eyes instead.
Oxenfree II does a better job at setting players up for its central time loop mystery than its predecessor did by quickly immersing you into protagonist Riley before time starts looping back again, quickly shifting you and Jacob from land surveyors into paranormal investigators in no time flat. Riley and Jacob are instantly captivating characters – Riley radiating warmth while at the same time giving off an air of weariness which only serves to deepen her relatability; dialogue options give players options on whether or not you treat Jacob poorly; however I was never willing to treat him negatively because I found him too charming; almost like an old labrador retriever who yearning to become manly!
One key difference between Oxenfree II and its predecessor lies in its protagonists. While Oxenfree’s classic was more in the vein of Stephen King-style horror with high schooler Alex and her friends fending off mysterious forces, Oxenfree II’s protagonists Riley and Jacob have grown up. Their interactions soon become overt when Riley encounters some troublesome youths planning anything from dubious schemes involving her body or Jacob’s. With Lost Signals as its basis of exploration: acknowledging one’s full life regardless of length!
Oxenfree II’s message to us all: whether the span of your life be long or short – make the most of every moment by conversing with these characters who all have plenty to share and tell! Conversations between characters can be fascinatingly engaging; their dialogue can spark off exciting scenes while giving meaning to moments where it feels as if we made wrong decisions. An accident of offending Jacob or shutting down what could have been an authentic connection between Riley and a new acquaintance is always potentially catastrophic, yet given how quickly conversations move along there’s little time for one-by-one planning of responses – you say what comes naturally and must accept whatever consequences come your way; an appropriate theme to reinforce with regards to life’s precious time passing and living without regrets.
At times I felt my regrets were unwarranted: there were moments in conversation where a prompt I chose led directly to an answer I hadn’t anticipated from Riley; at one point when using an “I’m Sorry” prompt I expected Riley would commiserate with someone; instead she responded with, “Sorry about that, but we need to stay focused”. Though these instances of dissonance occur rarely, they make selecting responses with greater assurance much harder.
Oxenfree II does more than repeat old conversations or time loops; taking inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, much of Oxenfree II deals with characters becoming unglued from time. We control Riley so only infer what Jacob sees during these excursions – leading to truly eye-feasting set pieces rendered with incredible details!
Lost Signals continues Oxenfree’s iconic art style and character design elements. Long-limbed geometric bodies recall models from Laika Productions stop motion film studio (Coraline, Kubo & The Two Strings). Although most of our adventure takes place from an overhead perspective, every character exhibits their individual personalities through body language that conveys who they are.
Beyond characters, Lost Signals features environments which are equally stunning – every element of this paranormal Pacific Northwest rendered with stunning blues and greens is captivating, from shadowy caves or towering cliffs rendered vivid to areas which remain accessible despite minimal interactivity other than puzzle pieces. You won’t ever tire of being immersed by its scenery! No area ever feels monotonous or easy to miss as scenery you walk through remains at the forefront of your attention which makes Lost Signals one of its own kind in any regard!
Oxenfree II’s main drawback lies within its gameplay: while narratively and visually it represents an improvement over its predecessor, not too much has changed on that front. You now dual-wield audio devices–your radio on one shoulder button and new walkie-talkie in another–which provide new opportunities for auditory scares; yet in terms of actual game play you still mostly navigate conversations as you travel from Point A to B; its adventure game DNA sometimes feels perfunctory when moving the plot forward to set-piece after set-piece.
All these narrative heavy elements do lead to some extremely satisfying conclusions. You make numerous choices in Lost Signals – some huge and others seemingly small at first – which all have far reaching ramifications that influence how your story resolves. I can’t wait to witness how others navigate its highly variable narrative structure and take full advantage of its wide, branching options!
Oxenfree II may seem similar to its predecessor at times, yet still proves an engaging sci-fi adventure with exceptional character writing and imaginative showstopper moments. While its journey may sometimes feel repetitive or safe at points, fans will likely still appreciate being taken down new directions that still feel familiar in terms of plot development and direction at its conclusion.
PR provided us a copy of Oxenfree II: Lost Signals to review for purposes of this review.