Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals occurs five years after the events of the original game, wherein Alex stops the vengeful crew of a destroyed submarine from crossing dimensions and possessing the bodies of her and her friends. It's a lot. It's a lot for a game that looks so soft and welcoming, with pastel vistas and Disney-ish characters.
That's what works about the horror of Oxenfree, though. These dolls exploring a beautiful storybook world, delicate and defenseless against the nefarious supernatural forces that bleed through the fourth wall. In the gameplay preview of Lost Signals, it's clear that Night School Studio has dialled this tension up one more notch.
Check out the reveal trailer for Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals below!
In this adventure, Riley returns to the island of Camena, close to Edwards Island. She's collected reports of technology like radios, televisions, phones and so on going haywire in the town, and so she arrives to get to the bottom of the conspiracy. However, as she experiments with the weird behaviour of the electronics with her own equipment, she discovers Parentage.
A masked esoteric cult dead set on undoing Alex's efforts to seal away the corruption from other dimensions, Parentage are livid that Riley has interfered. It's then down to our heroine to install transmitters to reverse Parentage's plan and ensure that the rifts remain closed. Easier said than done and time is not on her side. So, it poses the questions of what lengths is Riley willing to go to, and what fate will befall Camena when the sun rises.
From the postcard-style map alone, Camena is a lot larger than the compact stage of the original game. Caves allow the characters to travel from one location to the other quicker than they would above ground, which was both a smart nod to its predecessor and a way of sustaining the spookiness. The side-scrolling scenes offer a lot more visual variety, too, and there are different traversal methods that have different effects on the storyline.
For example, Riley might be accompanied by her pal from high school, Jacob. I'm not sure if there's anything in the similarities of the names of these heroes and the two central characters in Oxenfree, but given that it's, you know, Oxenfree, I'm not willing to let it go unnoticed. I see you, Night School Studio. I see you.
Anyway. Riley might have Jacob by her side, and Jacob isn't too keen on scrambling across ledges and rocks to continue their journey. The player is able to use climbing rope to rappel to the bottom safely or choose to take a riskier if quicker path. In one example, Riley could either leap across a gap, say she's going to leap and back out of it, or avoid trying the leap at all. There were about five different outcomes to that one choice, explained the developer, so the interlocking systems and corresponding relationships with Lost Signals' characters are much more intricate.
In fact, there's a whole new way of communicating across the island - the walkie talkie. Riley's walkie talkie connects her to other people on the island, offering her side quests that may help her on her way to her ultimate goal. Although, there is the possibility that strangers could contact her... and you could just ignore the call.
Night School Studio emphasised that there will be a whole host of personae to meet and greet in Lost Signals, and that their friendships with Riley will be dependent on a number of different pivotal and not-so-noticeable decisions. If you haven't played the original game, then the developer does advise that you do some reading up on it, but you're good to go without the lore of Oxenfree being a necessity.
The most intriguing part of the showcase in my opinion was the little light that Night School Studio could shed on the themes of the second game, and what differentiates it from the original. Oxenfree is one of my favourite games in the whole world and I know I'm not alone in thinking so. Ergo, one of the concepts that Lost Signals explores is the feeling of uncertainty over one's past rather than the optimism for the future that Alex and company had as young people about to go to college.
Riley is in her thirties and has a lot of life experience under her belt. In tuning into the time tears - artificial rifts caused by Parentage's activities - it brings her into a moment in the past. The world is different and she's able to use those differences to traverse things in the environment. Yet, they also symbolise an opportunity to change the path that she was following to take her to the point where she's at in the present.
If you had the chance to change something in your past, would you do it? "Different" doesn't necessarily mean "better." But, the temptation might be tough to resist. I imagine this is where the cult and the beings from the other side will step in to twist Riley's words and try to find a weak spot. With a larger world, new dialogue options and channels, and a much more expansive cast of characters, it looks like Lost Signals is going to serve up the scares and push players to answer some somber questions about themselves. I'm into it.
Featured Image Credit: Night School Studio
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