Oxenfree II: Lost Signals Review – Tune In

As the sequel to a beloved indie, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals had a lot to live up to. And the game manages to improve on the original in many ways. The art, while similar in spirit, is deeper and richer with details and atmosphere. The various navigation tools, including a beautifully hand-drawn map, numerous signposts, and a helpful companion, stave off the frustrating tendency to get lost.

But I’m still mulling over one change. My choices, which are plentiful and sometimes laden with unforeseen consequences, were always easy to make. I rarely debated a course of action or agonized over its implications. Maybe that speaks more to the difference between the person writing this review and the one who played the first Oxenfree in 2016 — a thought that’s truly on-theme for the sequel’s motifs. So, despite that nagging impression, Lost Signals’ contemplative, self-reflective flashes undeniably beamed through.

“Oh. It’s you again,” intones an eerily soulless voice. It’s my welcome back, cleverly nodding to those who’ve been in this world before, but also hinting at the story to come. Unlike the first title, which gave me time to fall into a false sense of security that this was going to be a typical adventure game focusing solely on a complicated web of relationships, Lost Signals unsettles me immediately. And I love it.

The relationships are still complicated, but, in following an adult protagonist, Riley Poverly, rather than a teenager, they’ve had more time to twist. Time being the operative word. My adventure plays around with time on a lot of different levels, thrusting me back into my own memories and the recollections of a place threatened by unnatural forces.

Trying to set things right, I travel across the coast of Camena — with Edward Island (where the events of the first game unfolded) looming in the background like a sinister shadow. The location boasts moonlit beaches, dense forests, and a dilapidated ghost town. All are mesmerizing and getting lost in their details makes my sauntering speed easier to bear, even when I wish I could run with the urgency I feel.

A myriad of side characters ensures that, no matter how much distance I need to cover, I’m never without conversation. From my ever-present sidekick Jacob Summers, to the NPCs I build a relationship with over the radio, each character comes to mean something to me. And that’s a wild feat considering I never meet a majority of them face-to-face.

But I care about my walkie-talkie buddies’ fate just as much as Jacob’s. That I could have finished the game without ever striking up a conversation with them is fascinating. It’s part of a design philosophy that not only rewards curious players but also pushes me to play over and over to see what I might have missed.

The skillful way my choices — and the possible choices I could have made — get revealed at the end enhances the story and serves to pull me back into Oxenfree II. And even though I am satisfied with the way my adventure wrapped up, it’s difficult to resist the urge to jump back in for another round to watch the pieces fall into totally different places.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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