As Night School Studio builds up toward next year’s release of Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, it’s added some new spooky goings-on to 2016’s Oxenfree. Returning to the Steam version of that game today (when patched) will allow you to discover some new radio broadcasts that hint at the storyline for the sequel.
If you didn’t play the original Oxenfree, then first of all, play one of the best video games ever made! Ahem. Also, more immediately, it was a narrative adventure about a group of teens spending a weekend on an island, a former military base, now rumoured amongst the local youths to be the source of creepy, supernatural radio signals.
During their time there, reality starts to unfold, they get separated, and desperately struggle to fathom their way through the supernatural occurrences that plague them. Your role is to control one of the kids, Alex, guiding his conversations as you explore, which allows extraordinary variety in how it all plays out. And now, there’s even more variety in there, with the radio signals that are such a core part of the game updated to include mysterious messages from the sequel’s antagonists. Antagonists apparently so powerful that they can break the fourth wall and infiltrate the past.
The first game didn’t have an unambiguous baddie character; things were left far more esoteric than that. So it’s interesting to learn that when original character Riley returns to her hometown five years later for more mysterious radio business, there will be a more defined enemy. They are apparently a collective called Parentage, and you can get background on its members by returning to Oxenfree via Steam.
It’s a neat idea, certainly, but when studio director Sean Krankel tells IGN, “Introducing the antagonists in an interesting way just felt like a compelling, cool thing to do instead of having a trailer just focused on them,” I can’t help but think: yeah, but I’d have watched the trailer by now.
Super-deep-dive stuff like this is definitely fun, and I can completely see why a game studio that’s so heavily into its game sees this as the most exciting approach to teasing the sequel, but it’s also the way the fewest number of people are going to see it. Replaying a game from five years ago is a big ask of your audience, if you want them to see what are essentially commercials! And it feels like a bummer that not doing this might mean you have less context when playing 2022’s Oxenfree II. Then again, there’s always YouTube.