Oxenfree isn't a horror game with a message, but it's still got lots to say.

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Oxenfree review

Oxenfree review

Talking simulator.

There's a kind of story that campfires were built for. Tales of flickering shadow, told with earnest delight to at least a briefly receptive audience willing to put aside logic and courage, and allowed to simmer in darkness when the light finally expires.

Oxenfree is one of those tales. It's not a scary game, though it's an often unsettling one, rooted in that sense of shared communal unease. The laughter at the scary bits to make it clear how very not scared you are by the things that go bump in the night. The slow, drawn out reveals that hang as much in the silence before the reveal as whatever bogeyman lurks at the heart of the story. The sense of not being alone in the dark, but uniting against the darkness; a group of friends pulling together with humour and warmth that cuts through the spooky atmosphere.

Specifically, it's the story of a small group of teenagers heading out to party on a deserted, abandoned island - a familiar rite of passage on a creepy local landmark, but one where the spooky radio signals in the caves are largely secondary to getting drunk, stoned, and maybe to at least reach second base on the beach. Alex, a slight tomboy considered just one of the guys, Jonas, her new step-brother, Ren, a friend doting after Nona, his latest crush, and Clarissa, the local queen bee. All are there to party, but end up facing far more than just hangovers when Alex inadvertently opens a rift in the caves and, to use the technical phrase, shit gets weird.

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