Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is an interesting mix of soothing music and relaxing exploration intermixed with eerie vibes and a deep sense of dread that a cosmic horror is barreling towards you, and there is nothing you can do to save yourself or anyone else. You start as an unknown character waking up on a rainy dock with no memory of who she is or how she got there. The world devolves into visual and auditory static periodically as you move. Then, on top of the lighthouse, you walk through a rift into a sunny day where a woman is looking out over the sea. You approach her, and she turns around. With a face of static and a voice like an untuned radio, she screams at you until the world collapses into chaos. Then you wake up. It’s a nice day in a quiet island town, and you are Riley. Your new job keeping an eye on the forest starts today. So, Oxenfree II is chill, but don’t get comfortable.
Actually, do get comfortable. Oxenfree II is not a game to rush. For my first few hands-on minutes, I was very impatient with how slowly my character moved before I remembered what I was playing. Oxenfree II expresses itself through ambiance. There was never any “danger music” stressing me out and informing me things were getting bad. Riley and Jacob made me tense through their dialog and body language. I could see and hear their increasing concern, which made me concerned. Once Riley started talking about how bad that forest made her feel, my innocent love for the pretty forest started to fade. Nothing scary happened. There was no sign of other life, and nothing on the surface was necessarily wrong, but I did not feel right about what was going on. The creep factor was high for a simple walk through the woods.
I played through Oxenfree II‘s prologue. The town was full of things for Riley to look at and react to. Details like fliers and notices decades out of date and a missing town population showed that something was off about the place, but it could also have just been a Sunday. I met up with my partner, Jacob, and we began our trek to the top of the island to set up a transmitter. During the walk, I discovered that Jacob and Riley grew up in the same town and know some of the same people. Riley also hates the woods, but only remembered upon coming back. Little things made the world feel connected and gave me the impression that the story would extend well beyond these two people and this one island. That feeling went into overdrive when I reached the top of the island and saw a familiar sight. Edwards Island, the setting of Oxenfree, took up the top corner of the screen. Knowing the first game, I was instantly freaking out. Nothing good could come from messing with that island. As the transmitter began acting up and frantic messages started coming in over the radio, I knew things were going badly. Hopefully, Oxenfree II will shed light on some of the remaining mysteries of this world, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full version.
During my demo, things went from a stroll in the woods to cosmic horror in a blink, and I wish I had spent more of my time exploring the island. The sequel may play nearly identically to Oxenfree, but the world and story promise to be much larger in scope, especially playing as adults with more agency to act in the world beyond the kids in Oxenfree who just needed to survive and escape. Some of the mysteries of this world may be solved in this sequel, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full version.
Oxenfree II: Lost Signals by Night School Studio launches on July 12th, 2023 for PlayStation 4 & 5, and on Steam for Windows and macOS.