OXENFREE II: Lost Signals


Review by · July 12, 2023

When reading a review of a sequel, it’s essential to know where your reviewer is coming from. So let me be abundantly clear: the original OXENFREE is one of my favorite indie games of all time. I believe it’s top-shelf interactive fiction, despite a mixed reception. It told a supernatural horror story layered on a coming-of-age story packed with amazing music and fascinating twists.

So when I say OXENFREE II: Lost Signals improves on almost every aspect of the original, I’m holding the game to an incredibly high standard. It won’t be for everyone, but for those who jive with what the OXENFREE series brings, there’s a more mature, complete story with plenty to sink your teeth into.

OXENFREE II: Lost Signals follows Riley, a young woman at a crossroads in her life who takes on an environmental study job. The job is at the coastal town of Camena, Oregon, a familiar place for fans of the first game, as it’s the launching point to get to the original entry’s setting of Edwards Island. This isn’t the last reference to the original game, whose connections to this game run deep. While you technically could play OXENFREE II without playing the original, you’d miss out on a metric ton of backstory and winking nods.

Riley and Jacob overlook Edwards Island
While OXENFREE II takes place in Camena, you see evidence of Edwards Island early and often.

The story, however, is a lot more mature this time around. Riley is a good bit older than the original’s Alex, and her problems are more relatable to those later in life. She’s not trying to figure out who she is or what she’ll be but instead focuses on trying to avoid repeating past mistakes and figuring out what her legacy will be. It’s a story for the older set, but the supernatural elements remain an important bridge between the stories. Riley quickly sees something very wrong in the sky and sets out with an old high school acquaintance named Jacob to fix it. Along the way, she has to contend with ghosts, cults, creepy radio signals, time alteration, and more. This helps to drive the story forward because there’s always something new to investigate as you build relationships with those around you.

And this feeds directly into the main gameplay loop. You spend your time walking, climbing, and otherwise traveling from place to place, following some loose goals. The traversal rarely gets dull, however, as every screen is packed with conversations with Jacob, new people to meet on your walkie-talkie, or interesting radio signals to tune into. All of these feature a good number of dialogue choices that help determine how the story resolves. There’s a surprising amount of depth to how these choices affect things, and the game is only too happy to show you exactly how your choices pan out after you’ve completed the game.

The dialogue choices are also snappy, thanks to the returning dialogue choice system. Up to three choices pop above your character in speech bubbles when it’s time to reply, with each assigned to one of three face buttons. Responses are short and longer when Riley says them, but the game mostly avoids the pitfalls of a response taking on a different tone when the full read comes out. Assigning responses to otherwise unused face buttons is a fantastic move that allows you to keep moving while the dialogue unfolds, and it’s rare for you to be cut off on a conversation by entering a new area. It’s a thoughtful implementation that’s necessary for a game that lives and dies by its dialogue.

Riley picks from three dialogue options while at the bridge in OXENFREE II.
The dialogue system is quick and intuitive, with choices that are easy to understand but hold deep implications.

OXENFREE II keeps the pace brisk, with my first playthrough taking around six hours. Sometimes a short playtime can be a red flag, but that brevity works for several reasons in this case. First, it keeps the plot moving. At no point did I feel like I was going through the motions, marching between places with nothing interesting going on. But that’s not the main benefit.

When replayability is a selling point, a shorter playtime that lets you experiment with choices is ideal. In OXENFREE II, replay value is key. In the last stages alone, you find a handful of meaningful choices that affect the outcome of the entire tale, but these choices are informed constantly by other choices you make throughout the game. For the most part, these are reflected by small portraits in a thought bubble showing that a character’s opinion of the person they’re envisioning has changed. Relationships are the binding agent of the entire story, as whether or not a person likes you will dramatically impact future events. Of course, sometimes trying to please everyone leaves you at a disadvantage, making future events more difficult to deal with.

There’s more to see on a replay, too. In my first playthrough I missed some collectibles that can affect the endings available to you, a few possible friends available to speak to on your radio, and a host of conversations that change drastically depending on your playthrough to that point.

It’s a thoughtful way to tell a single story and give you reasons to experience that story in different ways. As I came to the end of the game, I found myself looking at the characters I’d connected with, wondering if anything would have changed if I told them to take different actions or if I was friendly with someone who ended up hating me. With only six hours to replay, it pushed me to pick the game up immediately after finishing it the first time.

And none of this addresses the soundtrack. Much like the first game, OXENFREE II features an absolutely killer soundtrack that not only sets the stage for each area perfectly, but serves as wonderful listening on its own. I get the feeling even those who aren’t a fan of the game itself will find plenty to love in the soundtrack.

OXENFREE II is not without its faults, however. The dialogue occasionally slips into awkward territory when it tries to get too witty, and characters often slip so many filler words into lines that it can be hard to follow during longer sentences. It can also be confusing to figure out why character dialogue sometimes continues during screen transitions and sometimes doesn’t. Radio conversations seemed more likely to be cut off during a screen transition, but it also seemed affected by whether or not another conversation was set to start up on the next screen. The new puzzles generated by strange machines are some of the worst, whose solutions are not very intuitive and whose controls will take a little while to understand fully. Any time I felt the pace was slowing down too much for me, it was usually during one of these puzzles.

Riley solves a puzzle involving radio stations
Puzzles vary from quick and simple to long and obtuse.

While these imperfections do rear their head from time to time, none take away from the core experience. Ultimately, you get to see a wonderful story with strong ties to the original game and a focus on characters. You get a collection of both fascinating and occasionally frightening supernatural elements, as the game leans into horror at opportune times. You get to see your choices matter and observe exactly how they matter. But most importantly, you get a human connection.

The issues the characters face outside the supernatural horrors bearing down upon them are the most relatable we’ve seen in the series yet. Teens struggle against their own troublesome pasts, adults are desperate not to repeat their worst mistakes, and authority figures with their authority breaking down as they’re drawn into intense, personal problems. Those are the moments that stand out long after playing, far more so than any crazy time portal or ghostly possession. OXENFREE II tells an extremely human story, and it tells it very well. If you have any interest in games as a vehicle for storytelling, OXENFREE II offers something you shouldn’t miss.


Wonderful story, relatable characters, an amazing soundtrack


Some obtuse puzzles, occasional pacing fumbles, occasionally stilted dialogue

Bottom Line

No faults can bring down an amazing story told in a unique way, serving as an example for storytelling-focused games moving forward.

Overall Score 88
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Wes Iliff

Wes Iliff

Wes learned to read playing Dragon Warrior on the NES and they haven't stopped playing RPGs since. Through a superhero-esque origin story, they started writing like crazy and eventually ended up writing features at a site they'd been reading since high school, which was... some time ago. They love sharing the joy in whatever flawed masterpiece has caught their attention this week, usually to the captive audience of their spouse, children, and small menagerie of pets.