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This review contains spoilers
overall, i think oxenfree ii is good. i like the soundtrack and i love, love, love riley as a protagonist. she’s witty, but she’s older and it’s nice to see an older protagonist. i think the devs saw who their target audience for oxenfree was initially and knew they’d aged significantly since then and made riley older for oxenfree ii — and it works.
the atmosphere is still great. obviously camena is not edwards island but it’s still unsettling and design-wise everything looks great. the enviornments were fun to travel through as well. i’ve seen people say the atmosphere didn’t live up to the first game because it isn’t as silent, but i think it’s still good? and i don’t think people get why the two are fundamentally different either. oxenfree is a linear game. you are always told where to go and you’ll know when you’re going the right way because you’ll trigger a dialogue between your travel partner to move the story along.
oxenfree ii is not that. oxenfree ii is Kind of open world (big emphasis on kind of. pretend there’s an underline and huge red aesterik). overall, you are given a goal and a general idea of how to accomplish it — aside from the final checkpoint, you can do the other three in any order. conversations with josh trigger in any location you go because of this. you can interact with the walkie talkie however you like or ignore it and miss the people within all together. oxenfree needs the silence to clue people in when they get lost on the map. oxenfree ii doesn’t need the silence because getting lost is part of the experience. josh talks whenever because silence is rarely needed to scream ‘hey, you’re going the wrong way!’ riley doesn’t know camena like alex and her friends know edwards island.
i get why people complain about josh talking so much, but there’s a fundamental reason ii is set up differently in that regard. i think to help the issue they could’ve had riley initiate some of the conversation because she never does. but overall, the atmosphere is still eerire. its you and a guy you met an hour ago and your flashlights and a place that exists more as a memory than a home.
moving on, i like the walkie talkie function. i enjoyed getting to hear the various people of camena and their experiences and perspectives on life there. i was addicted to that thing and it’s really worth it to stop and check in on your contacts throughout the night. it’s kind of like… you know how in nitw you can wander around town by choice to interact with the people before moving onto the story? it’s an experience akin to that and it Really enhances your perspective on the story. i think nitw and lost signals are experienced differently if you ignore all the side stories.
honestly, i only have two gripes with lost signals. one is that the game devs didn’t implement manual saves alongside all the other qol changes. i really really wish they would have, especially since i’m someone who gets distracted and shifts focus easily. i will say the lack of manual save keeps me playing so i hit a save point, but… it’s not ideal and i’m usually zoned out while waiting for a coversation to finish so i can move.
my other one and my biggest gripe with this game is that there’s little weight to the final choice. this final choice is what the game spends so much time building up to, but it doesn’t pay off for me. i think the best way to explain it is to take a step back to oxenfree. i’ve never been able to get a ‘bad run’ per se, because i’ve never been able to make the choices that are rude to clarissa. it seems easy at the start, but as the night goes on i just can’t, and i’ve never been able to sacrifice her to the ghosts.
… compared to lost signals, i never had that struggle? you have a girl who wants to go in, riley who’s future is doomed, and alex and josh who are kind of just… there? for tension? variety? it says a lot when you technically don’t even have to bring josh along — you can leave him on camena. this choice wasn’t hard at all or really a choice. rather, it’s just ‘oh, i chose this person. let me replay and send a different person in to get another ending.’ there’s no struggle or personal impact. i guess the devs were banking on the players for feeling bad about trapping a teen in a time loop to struggle with the choice but. i just didn’t? because it’s what she wanted, it was happiness for her.
if i had to liken it to something, i’d say ztd? none of the choices in that game — despite it being centered around decision making. it’d just be like ‘oh i killed junpei again.’ little weight to it.
but… that’s it. overall my thoughts are positive — i like the characters all around and the setting and music and puzzles. i just think they fumbled their intentions and weight with the final choice