It's never good to wake up on a beach during a violent storm. It's even worse to have no memory of how you got there, waves and thunderclaps crashing around you as you work your way up to the top of a lighthouse. An apparition gives you a dire warning before you snap out of your dream and wake up at a bus stop. You’re back in your hometown of Camena, starting a new job today. There’s a lot to do.
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals wastes no time putting mystery front and center. A sequel to the 2015 indie sensation, Night School Studio (now partnered with Netflix) is back with another round of atmospheric vibes, complex dialogue trees, and a spooky adventure bolstered by an all-new cast of dynamic characters.
You play as Riley, a young woman who goes back home to work through a complex relationship with her father, a single dad and war veteran. Her new job as a research assistant sees her installing transmitters around Camena to investigate the source of a mysterious signal that is interfering with the local technology. She soon discovers it’s also ripping dangerous holes in spacetime and is probably malevolent.
Riley needs to hike, climb, and troubleshoot her way around the island to access hard-to-reach transmitter sites. The pace isn’t pure platformer, more of a plodding, puzzle-y, point-and-click game. Fans of the original will be familiar with the mood and exploration, but newcomers can settle in easily thanks to the fresh story.
Oxenfree was nominated for tons of narrative awards, and the expectation is Oxenfree 2 will deliver a similarly layered experience. In my time with the game, I felt like I was right back on Edward Island, guiding conversations with interesting and meaningful options. The first person you meet in Camena, your new co-worker Jacob, peppers you with plenty of “get to know you” small talk that lets you shape how empathetic, vulnerable, or sarcastic you want Riley to be.
Oxenfree 2, like its predecessor, also plays with the concept of invisible (or are they?) signals. The walkie-talkie returns, but this time you can use it whenever, wherever to reach out to the different contacts you’ve made. In my demo, this was limited to Riley’s boss, Evelyn, who teaches you how to navigate the island and explains your tasks and equipment. You have a radio you’ll need to tune to certain frequencies, although who knows what’s really lurking out there in the static. There are a lot of unsettling noises, ambient and otherwise, that create an eerie atmosphere. You’ll want headphones for this one.
The demo ends on a nice fat twist that I won’t spoil here, but returning players will likely pick up the breadcrumbs along the way. Oxenfree 2 is shaping up to be every bit as haunting as its predecessor, with choices and consequences designed to stick with you for a long time. Or at least until you do that second playthrough.
Oxenfree 2 launches July 12 for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, PC, and mobile.