These are some lost signals I simply can't wait to find
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals was a bit of a surprise announcement at a Direct earlier this year. The original Oxenfree is a thriller/horror title originally released in 2016 and it also happens to be one of my favorite games of all time. In it you control a young lady named Alex as she goes to spend a night partying on the beaches of the fictional Edwards Island, a party that accidentally takes a turn for the supernatural when the group’s radio opens a rift in space containing a rather unhappy collection of ghosts. It felt rather self contained, and as the development studio Night School has made several other games since then I never really considered the possibility of a return to Oxenfree’s world, and I am rather interested in seeing how it pans out. Late last week we were invited by Night School to get a hands-off guided demonstration of this unlikely sequel.
The plot of Oxenfree II takes place five years after the original game, focusing on a brand new cast of characters in the town of Camena. Specifically, the player is put in control of Riley Poverly, an environmental researcher returning to her hometown in order to investigate a series of strange radio signals occurring from various areas near the town. In the course of these investigations she encounters some new allies, but also finds herself in the crosshairs of a cult-like group known as The Parentage. In the specific demo we were shown Riley is joined by Jacob, an old acquaintance from her high school days. That is seemingly the biggest change narratively that Oxenfree II is going for, instead of the teenagers of the previous title this plot revolves around a cast of adults who are approaching these problems in their own way.
For the most part gameplay looks largely the same. Night School’s signature dialogue system is still in place, with the ability to choose several ways to react and even allows you to interrupt those you’re talking to, which can shape how those characters feel and act towards Riley. A new addition to this mechanic however is the presence of a walkie talkie that Riley can use to pick up transmissions from various people around the town, some of whom may potentially give her a sidequest to do for them. The game is still played from a 2.5D perspective. A bigger focus on traversal options seems to be present, with Riley at one point given the option to attempt a rather risky jump or take a longer safer path. Taking the jump has the possibility of failure, and success has the potential of leaving Jacob behind. In the demo the presenter chose to try the jump, which ended in Riley falling a good distance, risking potential injury. From here Riley and Jacob entered an abandoned mine, but we were told that there was no “correct” way to get anywhere on the game’s map, with multiple intersecting paths that can be taken throughout Camena.
In our case this mine was one of many paths through a series of interconnected caves throughout the town. It was here that they showed off the biggest new mechanic in Oxenfree II: time tears. When the characters encountered an elevator that had fallen apart due to the ravages of time, they were able to find a rip in reality that allowed them to travel into the past, stepping out into a world where that elevator hadn't broken down yet. This provided a way for them to continue on their journey, but the demo ended after. All these new additions show clearly that Night School is dedicated to making this game bigger than its predecessor in nearly every way, and with mechanics like time travel built into puzzles and traversal it certainly seems like they are on the right track.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is currently set to be released on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC in 2022.