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Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: The Turing Test (Xbox One)

Developer: Bulkhead Interactive

Publisher: Square Enix

Genre: Puzzle

Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PS4

Rating: T for Teen

Price: $19.99

 

 

What is morality? When considering this conundrum, most of us can give our answers: don’t kill, don’t steal, follow the golden rule—things of that nature. There are many different approaches to the moral question, and meditating on this is where a game like The Turing Test by Bulkhead Interactive can pull you from just solving a puzzle. A greater motive is a stake, if what you are doing is right or wrong. Let’s take a trip to Europa and discover what the facility is hiding.

Content Guide

This looks like one of those infinite staircase illusions.

Language: ESRB rates The Turing Test for mild language, but as I went through I never noticed anything. Mild language usually contain the likes of d*** and h***. My idea is I missed audio logs in sections of Europa that do contain these elements.

Other negative themes: There is a moment in the story where a crew member discusses being pregnant with a fellow crew member. That person in turn suggests an abortion.

Positive Content: Despite all of the eerie segments of The Turing Test, there are several pluses in the midst of the minuses. In one area you come across, a Bible verse lies amongst pages talking about the sentience of man versus machine, and whether a machine can be a living soul. Another theme that repeats throughout the story is that of being set free. Without giving away much of the story, part of the game involves your subjugation. The basis of Christian belief lies in salvation, and The Turing Test finds itself treading this theme.

Finding a Bible verse in a video game is pretty awesome.

Review

The Turing Test begins with an enigma. You, Ava Turing, awake in a space station above the surface of Europa. The crew sent to the surface before you is not responding to outside communication. With the nearest help light-years away, only you have the ability to find them. With your trusty A.I. sidekick T.O.M. (Technical Operations Machine) assisting, it should be an easy task to complete. But as you find yourself going further and further into a maze of increasingly difficult puzzles, something dangerous seems afoot.

The Turing Test follows in the footsteps of Portal. Instead of being a prisoner in a strange facility under A.I. control, you are working with an A.I. to solve escape rooms built by humans. The story moves slowly in the beginning, and if you are not willing to endure the monotonous introduction, you will never know the depth of The Turing Test. To counter this, the game provides story elements through audio logs and notes on digital and physical mediums.

This kind of progression can cause you to miss a few things, as bypassing an audio log at a key junction can lead to quizzical expressions. The narrative relies on several big moments that, without a background, can confuse the player. There are multiple twists to the story I did not expect, with a large one in the middle of the game. Setup is necessary, and while The Turing Test’s choices can work there is a better way of adding framework to this adventure.


Well, thought there might be a few more unlocked doors on this trip…

There is also an odd choice of interacting with objects. This makes sense for picking up notes or listening to recorded messages, as it pertains to the narrative. However, most games in the genre, like Fallout 4 for instance, utilize this mechanic for finding materials to craft into useful items or for use with a quest. The most you do in The Turing Test is view them.

The Turing Test takes other queues stemming from one of Valve’s greatest hits in the gameplay. You pick up an EMT (energy manipulation tool) early on, which is the basis for your puzzles. The gun retrieves energy cells from hubs around each room. In order to escape to the next, you must place them in different sockets. As you move on, different energy particles and tools such as an RC robot change your view of how to solve each enigma. The game wonderfully utilizes each element to transform your mindset.

The loading times are horrendous. There are seven total chapters of The Turing Test with 10 puzzles in between. As soon as one is completed and you exit, a quick loading screen pops up (shown below). This takes a few extra seconds, but I wish they could have been hidden behind a cutscene or something similar.

Loading screens can be quite annoying. Especially after every room.

The visuals for The Turing Test are incredible, but simple. From the moment you look into space from the shuttle to Europa, to the icy caverns leading to the crew’s possible location, most every detail has been well-crafted. You do not always expect this level of design competence from a free Xbox Games with Gold indie title, but Bulkhead Interactive succeeds. This is a title that needs VR support. The soundtrack is also very quiet and ambient which enriches the gameplay rather than detracts from it.

The end of The Turing Test is a sight to behold. As you discover the secret of the mission to Europa, everything changes—your perception of the morality of what your organization, the ISA, is doing—your belief in T.O.M.’s true goals. Due to the story’s nature, I do not want to reveal much of the story due to spoilers, but I will say it is rewarding to complete. The narrative pulls you from different moral angles and challenges you in the final decisions you make.

That’s not creepy at all.

My foray into The Turing Test is an intriguing one. The game starts slow, but has a strong finish. The gameplay is fun, and the graphics are beautiful. While more depth to environmental interactions and a more straightforward story could be desired, The Turing Test accomplishes what it sets out to do, creating a compelling story and intricate puzzler.

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Gaming PC Reviews Xbox One

Review: Super Lucky’s Tale (Xbox One)

Developer: Playful Corp

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Genre: Platformer

Rating: E for Everyone

Platforms: XBox One, PC

Price: $29.99 

 

 

I am here today to answer an ancient riddle sung by our forefathers. “What did the fox say?” Well, in playing Super Lucky’s Tale I have found the answer. Lucky usually replies with “Cool,” “Whoa,” and “Come on.” This cheery adventure has more to offer however than simply answering the lyrics of a hit song. Let’s jump into the review of Super Lucky’s Tale by Playful Corp!

Content Guide

Super Lucky’s Tale is rated E for Everyone, and as such is devoid of any major and even minor offensive content. When you defeat your enemies, they generally disappear in a poof of smoke. Dialogue is non-existent and the talk balloons enemies use to speak are not even very threatening of Lucky. This game is clean and perfect for anyone.

Review

Mommy always said not to play with your vegetable puns.

So as mentioned earlier, it is less in what the fox says and more in what he does. Lucky is a young mammal in a family of adventurers known as Guardians. His sister Lyra is on the way home with the Book of Ages, which holds the ability to visit strange new worlds and even alter history. The problem? The evil Jinx and his fiendish group known as the Kitty Litter want control of it.

The Kitty Litter follow Lyra back home and advance in order to take the Book of Ages, but it has other ideas. It opens, sucking the Kitty Litter inside. Lucky moves quickly and pushes his sister out of the way, but sacrifices himself in the process. Our enterprise begins as Lucky exits into a new chapter of becoming a Guardian.

Being stuck inside a watermelon does not sound like a bad thing.

Super Lucky’s Tale is a great little platformer in a year loaded with them. Yooka-Laylee was much more heralded coming into the year, and Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy has the pedigree to sell millions of copies. But even so, the charm of Super Lucky’s Tale captures my interest.

The gameplay is simple, just as a platformer should be. You jump, spin to swat with your tail, and bounce off of enemies to defeat them. While I enjoy innovations, it is nice to play a game that does not think it has to reinvent the wheel. To a degree, Super Lucky’s Tale reminds me of the Spyro series in the way Lucky moves and the way the levels are designed.

The cutesy graphics do Super Lucky’s Tale plenty of justice. The color palette feels fresh and vibrant. There are a few rough edges to some of the designs, but Super Lucky’s Tale is not going for realism and does not have to. It succeeds in what it is trying to do, which is appealing to platforming fans and seekers of nostalgia.

Round and round the Lucky goes, where he ends up David knows!

There are four hub worlds in total, with about four to six levels to play in each and a final boss at the end of each one. The real story is in the diversity of the levels. Each comes with a new idea, and there is a wonderful mix of 2D levels as well. The 2D levels may be the better of the two, because the design of the mostly fixed camera is lacking. Some levels drive me completely insane, such as the timed platform levels in Holiday Canyon. In these, a floor may flip from one area to the other, and if you do not time things right, you will fall right to your death. I can definitely say grimacing is now part of my repertoire due to these stages.

Your main goal is to gather clovers to unlock the doors to the bosses. While it is not a must to gather every one of them in completing the game, the challenge of it is fun and not as much of a chore as I originally thought. The only issue I have is there is never an explanation as to how you get each levels clovers. I made it through most of the game before realizing collecting 300 coins gained one of each levels four clovers. If you complete a hidden objective, find all the letters of the word “Lucky” strewn throughout the stage, and finish it you can earn the final three clovers.

Lucky…. clover…oooooooooohhhhh I get it!

An additional issue lies in the design. If you miss an objective that has a time limit for a clover, you have to play the level over to complete it. In this day and age, a restart function needs to be mandatory. Otherwise, the gamer gets frustrated over having to repeat a level they already have beaten. A redeeming quality is in the tracking system; the platform in front of each stage’s door has markers on it to let you know what clovers are missing from your collection.

My favorite part of the game is the challenges. There are mini-games involving puzzles or endless runners that are tons of fun. The brain teasers comprise of statues that Lucky must move into specific positions. They will move all the way to the end of each row, so your attention to detail is a must if you want the reward of an extra clover. The endless runner levels are almost too simple, as surviving to the end of each level is all you have to do.

This boss fight is fantastic, but also frustrating.

This leads us to the difficulty of the game, which is all over the place. Some levels are easy to finish, and others bring death with them to the tune of ten lost lives. The boss fights also share in this. The first three are unspectacular, even plain, but the final boss is a nightmare. It took this reviewer putting down the controller for a day in order to defeat Jinx. While Jinx is a pain in the butt, the level design here is nothing short of fantastic.

Super Lucky’s Tale is a fun platformer. It may not break all the norms, but it succeeds in crafting an entertaining experience. I do have some problems with the difficulty and lack of information (as in, making you figure out how to play the game and objectives), but that is not enough to say it is not worth playing. Super Lucky’s Tale is enjoyable, which is more than I can say of Ylvis’s “The Fox.” Now if you will excuse me, I need to listen to something to get this out of my head.

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Just a good screenshot of our young Guardian.
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Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Switch Xbox One

Review: Nine Parchments (Switch)

Developer: Frozenbyte

Publisher: Frozenbyte

Genre: Action, RPG

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Rating: E10+ for Everyone

Price: $19.99

Frozenbyte is quite busy working on new titles, churning out videog games at a rapid pace. With the release of Has Been Heroes and Nine Parchments this year, the question is, how does each one set itself apart? With colleague Joe Morgan already tackling the former, let us dive into Nine Parchments and see how it holds up!

Content Guide

Nine Parchments is a very clean game. There are no curse words, no immodesty, and the fantasy violence is not at all grotesque. The biggest qualm I have for this guide is the heavy use of sorcery, as the basis of your abilities is magic. There is a staff featuring a pentagram, a hat with the word “Occultist” in the title, and you yourself are a young wizard attending the Astral Academy. You fight creatures with similar talents, including a powerful witch at the very end.

I never used the hats in this game given their lack of purpose beyond cosmetics.

Some may find this an uneasy area to traverse, so if you prefer a game devoid of any mystical affiliation, Nine Parchments is not the title for you.

Review

Diablo III is a game I can pick up and play almost any time. It can take an hour to relearn at times, but the accessibility and couch co-op is a selling point. The fact that I can run through it again and again does not hurt either. That niche is not an easy one to fill. Nine Parchments fits the criteria for genre, but how does it stack up against competition like Torchlight II?

You begin as a student at the Astral Academy. In finishing your final exams, it does not seem that you will be given the opportunity of graduating. But lo and behold, an explosion in an upper chamber frees the nine parchments being held into the wind! Instead of viewing this as a setback, you see this as an opportunity to prove your worth to the head wizard.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

One thing that is noticeable is a lack of story. There are moments of narration by the head wizards voice, but besides the beginning and ending cutscenes, there is not much. With the way the game plays however, it is not necessary, just as one may expect from a platform game.

The game plays as a twin-stick shooter, with the choice of using a staff to amplify you power. There are several different forms of magical abilities, including fire, ice, death, life, lightning and steam. I never came across steam, so I am left wondering if it even exists for the player. My only sighting of it was during the final boss fight. The forms they take consists of beams, projectiles, area of effect, and waves.

The use of elements and the possibility of countering them is a good move by Frozenbyte.

The differing forms and magic offer a needed twist to the formula. At the end of the campaign, the player has nine diverse powers to work with. When you start a new game, your abilities reset, but your leveling stays the same. That gives the player a chance to experiment with new mystic enchantments, but not lose out on hard-earned boosts to them. The system in place for these is simple, and while this may deter players searching for a challenge, this system is a nice way to introduce others to an ARPG.

Co-op is a very interesting beast. Friendly fire is in the game and cannot be turned off, but it can be modified. Taking half the damage you inflict will change things up a bit. My brother and I watched as Nine Parchments rated our teamwork “Civil War,” which admittedly led to  much laughter. I do not even want to know what chaos would ensue with a full party of four.

My brother and I had more trouble with this boss together than I did alone.

Another variable to add is the way beams affect each other. When firing them at each other at an angle, they combine. This is an iffy proposition, as the joined laser goes in a different direction. There is also no bonus damage for using this method on your target, which is a disappointment given the game’s  difficulty.

The visuals for Nine Parchments are crisp. The overhead view has an extra depth to it Frozenbyte takes advantage of to add to the beauty. While every level is not a new variant, each environment chosen is colorful and pleasant to look upon. This adds to an already smooth-running game.

The leveling system continues even if you start a new game.

A disappointing feature in Nine Parchments is its customization. You have a choice of two characters at the beginning, with six unlockable through certain achievements. Each wizard has their own buffs. The items you can add to each are simply a staff and a hat. The staff makes sense, as they have different benefits. The hats, however, are pointless. They offer no enhancement to the character, and given the overhead view, you cannot see them very well.

Another qualm a player may walk away with is the confounding decision of only one save. This is even present if you start an online match, which clears your current progress. It is a surprise that a better system is not available given the fact that multiple accounts is a typical feature in ARPGs.

Uh buddy, there are things coming out of these purple holes.

The style most will prefer when playing Nine Parchments is usually going to be in TV mode. Playing portably is adequate, but the overhead view does not function as well on the smaller screen, especially when gaming with a friend. I also recommend using the Pro Controller. Nine Parchments relies on the shoulder buttons so it offers comfort.

While Nine Parchments is not a masterpiece, it succeeds as an easy to pick up action-RPG. I still do not understand the choice of the save system, but the drop-in drop-out co-op is a great decision. When you seek to create a game that plays as smoothly as a Diablo, you have the makings of a fun time. The question to you will be, “Do You Believe In Magic?”

 

Review code generously provided by FrozenByte
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Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Switch Xbox One

Review: Jackbox Party Pack 4 (Switch)

Developer: Jackbox Games
Publisher: Jackbox Games
Genre: Party
Rating: T For Teen
Price: $24.99

Are you a group of friends looking for something to play other than Monopoly? Do most party games you find on Pinterest bore everyone? Are the paper cuts from all the card games getting unbearable? Are you looking for something to make your buddies laugh so hard they pee themselves? Well look no further than the Jackbox Party Pack 4!

Content Guide

Jackbox Party Pack 4 relies on users generating content for gameplay. This means you have to watch who you allow to play as anything can be horribly taken out of context. While this can happen, the games do not necessarily help. For instance, Fibbage 3 has a question of, “the first sports bra was created using two _____ sewn together.” It was easy to write answers which some will find offensive. The same goes with Civic Doodle, where you draw faces and make things up from random partial drawings.

The great thing is that every game with the exception of Monster Seeking Monster has a family filters! This removes questions or premises that may be easy to misconstrue. Playing Jackbox Party Pack 4 with my youth group was much easier given I am not exposing them to content that leads them to wrong thoughts.

My great group having fun!

Monster Seeking Monster did not have anything that needs filtering. The player creates all content for this game, although it is a dating game so it is easy to end up with off-color content.

While Jackbox Party Pack 4 has mild language in the ESRB rating, I never heard any language. Each games host spews much nonsense, so keep an ear open for the H or D words. Drug reference is another thing to watch out for in the questions, although I never came across anything during our play through.

Review

Where to begin? My youth group and I have been playing the Jackbox games since Jackbox Party Pack 2. We are not a large group, but we do enjoy playing games similar to Apples to Apples. These card games get boring after awhile, with people playing the same combinations over and over. The same thing happens with most board games. This is not how Jackbox Party Pack 4 or any of the previous Jackbox games function at all.

As you can tell, we love playing on a projector.

The key is using something almost everyone has: cellphones and tablets! You log in through a webpage using a code given at each games opening screen. Once all of your buddies are in, the computer host gives you a short skippable tutorial to help you on your way. It is really that simple and easy.

Given Jackbox Party Pack 4 is not one game but five, I will give each a separate review section as to better serve you in figuring out which to play. I will arrange these by my groups favorite to least favorite. We may enjoy one more than another, but the beauty of creating your own content means you may like one of the games more than we did. They are simply a structure to make your own fun!

Fibbage 3

This is by far our favorite! Fibbage is the game that introduced me to the series. Several of the Jackbox Games are available a la carte, so I bought the original when it was on sale. Because of this, we buy every Jackbox that comes out.

This is a good example of the Enough About You mode.

Fibbage 3 is very similar to the original. A trivia question is asked, and the players must come up with a good fib that could cause other players to choose it over the truth. The key is trying to make up something either your friends want to pick due to it being funny, or confusing them into thinking your lie is the true answer.

While Fibbage 3 is much of the same with new trivia, it shines in the new mode “Enough About You.” The difference in Enough About You is that each player answers an inquiry about themselves. After this, these questions are used instead of random trivia. Enough About You succeeds in that it requires your group to give out personal details which allows you to learn new things about your friends or acquaintances. Party games that do this are always winners.

Bracketeering

Bracketeering is awesome. It follows a normal bracket setup (as shown below). Each person’s answer to the current question is in battle with another’s until one emerges the victor. The first round can be a bit boring, because the same question is in use for every bracket fight. It’s the second and final round where everything heats up.

An example of how Bracketeering is set up.

In the second round, the players answer a question, only to find the bracket fight will occur under a different question. One instance we encountered was answering the query, “What is another name for Eggs and Bacon?” only to find the battle of the brackets resumed under “What are the names of the twins in Disney’s new TV show?”

You cannot help but laugh at the hilarity that ensues over the switcheroo, but the final round is even funnier. Not only does the question change, but the game replaces it each time the bracket moves forward. While the beginning is slow, Bracketeering speeds up to a uproarious conclusion.

There are many rollicking combinations my group came up with.
Survive The Internet

This is another enjoyable game in the pack. In Survive The Internet, your host takes you through different websites with the intention of causing havoc. You write a comment based on the prompt given, which are sent to another player. They then twist them to be ridiculous to a certain headline. The person with the most votes for funniest headline wins.

Survive The Internet is unique in how it works. There are not many Jackbox games in which you piggyback off of other people’s answers. This makes for a fun idea, and the original commenter gets pity points. Our favorite stage of this competition is the Photo Sharing round, where each person answers a question and the next player receives a picture from said response.

The best part of Survive The Internet was the final round, Photo Sharing!

Our biggest issue in this game arose due to user error. Survive The Internet does not always explain itself in the best way, and left some of us questioning how to answer each webpage. On the crowdfunding page, you are responding with a title to what someone would have commented. An example, I write “This makes me cringe” to the prompt I am given. Some of my group might assume they are replying to my comment instead of coming up with what I am commenting on. Despite this flaw, you can not only Survive The Internet, but enjoy it.

Civic Doodle

This one is a toughie to review. The drawing games are difficult because everything you sketch depends on the quality of your device. Tablets are much easier to use, as are phones with styli. Civic Doodle is enjoyable, but one of the weaker offerings of Jackbox Party Pack 4.

You begin as a group of artists a town has hired to finish the partial creations of flash designers. The host and mayor run you through what you will be accomplishing, and then it’s off to work. This is a competition, so you start competing in twos, adding onto the previous winners. This is where the game gets a bit frustrating.

Some people go a bit nuts with their ideas for our portrait.

First off, you may get a second chance to add to a picture. While additions are nice, it seems to me that if you end up with a bunch of different opinions no one may like the painting in the end. This leaves players feeling unaccomplished, which makes a party game unsuccessful. The second is technical issues. The game is server-based, and as the winning drawings populate so new features can be drawn, several popped in missing previous illustrations. They still show up on the new artists phone, but that does not help when you are attempting to vote for your favorite.

Issues aside, the final masterpiece to draw was our favorite. The mayor decides to decorate city hall with the likeness of a towns person. After a name is given, the groups job is to add to a blank face feature by feature. As shown above, there are many hilarious combinations you can create. If each round had the level of amusement this one did, I would be ranking Civic Doodle higher.

Monster Seeking Monster
I believe it’s easy to find the monster of Jackbox Party Pack 4.

This one is a bit confusing and odd. You play as a group of monsters setting up dates through text messages between each other. Especially in a batch of people like a youth group, the concept has trouble working. The game gives you powers that can affect the outcome of the game, but it takes playing this game at least once to figure out what’s going on. There are powers which cause you to gain hearts (the key to winning) but the tutorial does a poor job of explaining what the objective is, why you are doing what you are doing, and how to achieve victory.

Our enjoyment was also hampered by technical issues. In the beginning the server did not connect, causing us to lose our progress. Soon after getting everything working again, sending messages did not work most of the time. This could have been our internet connection, but all the other games had no similar issues.

When you finish Monster Seeking Monster, you honestly do not know why you have won. While you could play this multiple times in order to get to know what you’re doing, the other games set themselves so far ahead that you just don’t care as much. This is the last place game of Jackbox Party Pack 4.

The computer audience is a hoot to text.

One other thing I enjoy that has been added to Jackbox Party Pack 4 is a sharing feature. At the end of each game, you have the ability to share gifs or pictures from the previous match you have played. Every single answer or drawing, even the ones your friends send are available to post to Twitter or Facebook.

My group and I have thoroughly enjoyed our time with Jackbox Party Pack 4. Even though we have run into technical issues, and are not fans of the final two titles, this is another Jackbox we will game for quite a while. If you are looking to break the norm of the party game, Jackbox Party Pack 4 is a good way to do it!

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Gaming Mobile PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Oxenfree (Xbox One)

Developer: Night School Studio
Publisher: Night School Studio
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC, iOS, Android
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Rating: T
Price: $19.99

 

Most gamers are likely to have played a Telltale game or one similar to that developer’s trademark.The graphic adventure genre is nothing new, as we see early examples like Hugo’s House of Horrors. Not many studios manage to make the experience feel unique, however. Night School Studio has accomplished that with a game called Oxenfree.

Content Guide

Violence: Most would consider violence to be of the blood and guts or “shoot ’em up” variety. While Oxenfree does not feature traditional violence, it includes situations of a violent nature. At one point in the game you find your friend Clarissa is more possessed than the others. As I played this moment, she threw herself out the window to her death. This is simply one of the morbid examples of violence in Oxenfree.

Language/crude humor: I thought curse words would be more prevalent given the beginning of the game. The game started off with b****, d***, and h***. Later on during one of the more intense moments of the story, “GD” came out. I observed there being two crude jokes made. The first is about Alex and Ren being kids seeing each other naked and it not being sexual. The second joke is about a tower named after “Richard (Dick) Harden.”

Drug/alcohol use: The start of the game has what appears to be minors going to drink on the beach. The second offense is your friend Ren and his “special brownies.” The implication is that marijuana is in the brownies, although they are not mentioned.

Please take this content guide seriously.

Spiritual content: This is by far the area you need to read. The spiritual content of Oxenfree made this reviewer quite uneasy. As I played through the game, several moments were unnerving. The example I gave earlier about Clarissa was very traumatic to watch. You do not find her body afterwards, and it is nonetheless disturbing. These possessions happen on a constant basis, even to Alex, who you play as.

Your first encounter with possession is Ren. It is frightening to watch as he levitates in the air while you attempt to help him. None of these events are a pleasant experience. There is another moment with Clarissa in the Adler Mansion where your friends are lying around unconscious and she is laughing at you, awaiting in the game she wishes to play with you. The ghost also takes over your step-brother Jonas towards the end of a sadistic game of hangman.

1 John 4:1 says: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God….” My biggest suggestion to our readers is to pray about what you feel when you play Oxenfree. The last thing we want is for you to step into it, feel apprehensive, but then continue on because we scored the game well.

Positive content: Something I did not expect was the opportunity to refuse questionable actions. You are able to say no to cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs. You have the ability to shape the game in a more optimistic way with how you respond in dialogue. Speaking of dialogue, there is an opportunity to say if you are religious, and the following conversation leads into God talk for a brief moment.

Review

Just a bunch of friends, out for a normal night of fun… or are they?

The graphic adventure genre has staled a bit in recent years. The rise of Telltale games brought revitalization to it, and shortly after, everyone decided to make one. Game after game has gone by, and innovations have been few. With Oxenfree however, a simple approach has made a trite concept come alive again.

You start Oxenfree as Alex, a teenage girl making a trip to an island with her friends. The journey begins as your normal tale of high-school age debauchery, a group of underage minors drinking on a beach and playing their own version of truth or dare. As the story progresses, you accidentally open a portal into another dimension and allow a ghostly presence access to our world.

I was stricken immediately by the tension of this game. While the premise added to my feeling of stress, the personal interactions of the teens feels real and emotional. I experienced an involvement in their lives as I continued down the story’s path. Each time I choose dialogue, I nearly panicked, trying to pick exactly what the situation required.

What could possibly go wrong on a weird island?

You make choices by the selection of speech bubbles. It is your decision whether or not to make choices, which is a nice feature. Another touch I like is that as each character talks, they have a personal talk balloon to let you know who is talking. Night School Studio also breaks up the monotony of your traversing the different areas of the map by inserting plenty of small talk which pieces together each scene.

The only issues I have are twofold. Your preference of dialogue can interrupt whatever someone is saying which can be annoying if the conversation seems important. The teenagers can also chat right in the middle of an audio diary, which is also frustrating. You can replay them, but you should not have to.

This can segue us into the setting and soundtrack, both of which are magnificent. Every scene you move to has a different feel. You almost think your characters are walking across an interactive painting. The musical score imparts a beautiful tension to the scenes that makes you experience uneasiness and an anticipation for what will happen next, both feelings you want from this style of game.

This is a game I do not wish to participate in.

The narrative which underlies it all is disturbing. The portrayal of the ghosts is at first harmless, but grows into vicious encounters. First I am kicking a soccer ball with the poltergeist, then it is trying to assimilate my friends. The quick reversal from benign spirit to callous phantom happens almost too quickly.

Your only tool in all of this is a radio. It is a unique choice that adds charm to the game. While some uses like radio-activated locks are odd, uses like hidden clues leading to notes and anomalies to add backstory is a stroke of genius. You also use the two-way to tune in the correct frequency to free your friends from the spirits clutches. I wish I had such a powerful little device.

The story however leaves a bit to be desired. There are moments that need tying up. I want to understand Jonas more, and know why Ren has the insecurities he does. Nona is a character nearly unused as a plot device. For a narrative that is so well woven together and manages to touch on other secondary characters, the misuse of these others is a surprise.

Please stop laughing poltergeist.

The plot is not without plenty of high points. While ghosts confront you in the story, you also confront your own ghosts, otherwise known as the past. Most characters go through some development where we learn something of their backstory, but my favorite is the moments spent with Michael, Alex’s deceased brother. The game centers some of your play on time loops, and in periods of the ghosts messing with you and attempting to posses you, Alex relives several interactions with Michael. The cornerstone of the plot is repairing the past, and in these scenes you know you should not be there, but your actions can reshape the future.

Oxenfree has two endings, a good and a bad. It is tough to go into much detail without giving away plot points, but it is easy to figure out what dialogue options belong to what category. These choices change the other characters perception of you, which in a story with lives at stake will bring consequences.

Portal closed, now escape to the high seas.

My completion of Oxenfree brings me to a simple conclusion. Even with the flaws in the story, the setting and construction of gameplay has a beauty that is missing from other graphic adventure games. The small talk between the characters drives home your connection to them, and when Oxenfree ends, you feel as though you personally escaped Edwards Island. Night School Studio maximizes their visions strengths and limits the weaknesses. If you are into Telltale games and want something new to try, just holler “Olly Olly Oxenfree”!

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