The game “Oxenfree” was the one of many Telltale-inspired games that came out during the 2010s, and was mostly known for its similarity to “Life Is Strange” — a game I loved playing in high school. Its characters, art style, and atmosphere captivated gamers alike. Now, six years after the first game’s release, “Oxenfree” returns with its sequel “Oxenfree II: Lost Signals” and joins the gaming pantheon of 2023 as a worthy sequel and a conclusion to the story.
Unlike the original game, “Oxenfree II: Lost Signals” has us step into the shoes of Riley Poverly, a 30-some-odd adult, as she returns to work in her hometown of Camena with the help of a town local — Jacob Summers. But, what seemed to be a normal job in setting up transmitters that monitor radio anomalies, took a terrifying turn, as it’s up to Riley to save the island from a ghostly faction called “The Sunken.”
This story is a coming-of-age tale, as Riley tries to overcome both her past and future at the same time. It serves as a scary realization for her because she’s been a wanderer throughout her life, and she doesn’t know where to go or what to do. This storyline resonates with me, as I am graduating from Queens College this year, and I have those same questions lingering in my head: where do I go? What should I do?
Jacob is similar to Riley in many ways, despite his rather awkward demeanor. The two feed off each others’ energies with their banter and conversations that create the little moments that make their friendship believable. There are also the “villains” of the game who are just three kids that have a connection to the happenings that occur on the island. While they don’t get much screen time, they’re still interesting in their own ways with the leader, Olivia, having the most characterization among them.
The themes of overcoming and facing the past and future are seen as Riley finds herself remembering her estranged father, which serves as a plot point for a big twist that I won’t spoil. It packages the whole “coming-of-age” aspect of the game into a nice box alongside a bittersweet yet satisfying ending that offers closure to those who played the first game.
The game also expands on the lore of one of the unseen characters from the original game, Maggie Adler. She passed away, but we are able to decipher her story through her notes scattered throughout both games. She also has an interesting connection to Jacob that fits into the ‘overcoming your past’ theme.
The game masterfully builds upon aspects that worked in the first game, akin to “Marvel’s Spider-Man 2”, when it comes to the gameplay and map in general. Like the original “Oxenfree,” the sequel is a narrative based game that has the player choose dialogues and make decisions.
This time, the story is set in coastal Camena, the town featured in the opening of the first game, and has expanded to encompass other areas. The radio device, a mechanic that made the first game unique as it can solve puzzles in the form of these triangular portals, returns alongside a new device in the form of walkie talkie that players can use to communicate with other characters who aren’t Jacob. These additional characters have their own interesting stories that also fit into the game’s core theme.
There’s also the ghost-like beings called “The Sunken.” They are sailors stuck in between time and space and are just as scary as they are in the first game, as they mess with the radio signals. When they appear, you just know something terrifying is about to happen — and it’s the stuff straight out of nightmares. The gameplay of “Oxenfree II: Lost Signals” is very similar to the first game, but this time it’s expanded with a bigger scope and on a larger scale.
“Oxenfree II: Lost Signals” is a worthy sequel to its predecessor in every way. It took years for this game to get released, and initially I was worried because of its long development period and the financial struggles of the developers, who were later acquired by Netflix. However, in the end, “Oxenfree II: Lost Signals” became one of many great games released in 2023, and if this is the end of the story then it is definitely a worthy one.