Oxenfree 2 Portal
Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: Oxenfree 2 Is a Mature Sequel That Maintains the Original’s Greatness

Oxenfree 2 is a game about time. This will be obvious to anyone who’s played the original. However, it goes much deeper than that, as the passage of time has had a profound impact on how Oxenfree 2’s story is told.

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If you’re unaware of the original Oxenfree, it starred a group of teenagers who headed out to the deserted Edwards Island to host a beach party. This led to an encounter with supernatural phenomena involving ghosts hidden in radio signals and a series of perpetual time loops.

It has been seven years since the release of Oxenfree. The four-person team of friends at Night School Studio has now become a full-fledged business owned by Netflix. Each of the original team has aged nearly a decade. All this change is felt deeply in Oxenfree 2.

Oxenfree 2 Dialogue Tree 1

Screenshot by Siliconera

For starters, the cast is no longer a bunch of teens getting drunk on a beach and wondering how to ask their crush out on a date. Instead, we play as Riley and Jacob, two people of an undetermined but noticeably older age. Both are world-weary and cynical, beaten down by years of adult struggle.

The premise reflects this – both Riley and Jacob are working an environmental survey job with terrible hours and no doubt even worse pay. Their assignment is to set up transmitters to monitor the environment, and this inadvertently wakes up the ghosts on Edwards Island. Now the phenomena on the island is slowly spreading to the mainland. This is viewed by the duo as terrifying, yet frustrating, compared to how the teens saw it as terrifying, yet cool.

This more cynical, world-weary attitude in the protagonists causes Oxenfree 2 to feel more somber than its predecessor. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a shift in perspective. The first Oxenfree examined small town life through a younger generation, while Oxenfree 2 views it through the lens of the adults. Riley is someone who escaped the town and came back after some time in the military, while Jacob is the man who remained stuck in small town drudgery. This contrast serves much of the discussion between the two, as they both reflect on the decisions they’ve made to get to this point, and neither of them seems to have done better than the other.

Oxenfree 2 Radio Tuning

Screenshot by Siliconera

Obviously, I’ve talked a lot about the story and themes of Oxenfree 2, but I haven’t discussed the gameplay much so far. Much like its predecessor, this is a game built on its narrative more than its mechanics. There is still plenty of interactivity here though, and if you played the first Oxenfree, you know what to expect. You can wander about the map in a semi-linear fashion, with occasional choices based on the order you visit certain places. There are also puzzles here and there to keep things interesting, although few of them are particularly taxing.

There’s also the supernatural nature of what’s going on feeding into the mechanics. Multiple times you need to use a radio to tune into specific frequencies to advance the story. Usually this happens by summoning a ghost whose speech is stitched together from other radio broadcasts like an audio version of a ransom note. Most interestingly, there are now tears in time that the radio can tune into, and these allow you to bypass obstacles by warping to a period where those obstacles are no longer there. They’re interesting, but sadly underutilized as I only encountered maybe two or three of them in the entire game.

Oxenfree 2 Dialogue Tree 2

Screenshot by Siliconera

The dialogue choices are the real draw here, offering up the most changes on repeated playthroughs. This game has a lot of talking, and thankfully it’s all delivered with excellent voice acting. You can shape where the dialogue goes through various choices. These shape who Riley is as a character, allowing her to be nice, grumpy or anything in between. These are selected simply by pressing a button when a selection of speech bubbles appear, and this system has been vastly improved for Oxenfree 2. In the original game, selecting your response would often result in the dialogue being blurted out before other characters finished their statements. In the sequel, selecting a response locks it in, but Riley will only say it when another character finished their sentence. It causes conversations to flow a lot more naturally than they did the first time around, and it’s a welcome addition.

I can’t vouch for how different the game is on multiple playthroughs with different choices, as I only played the game through once. However, I got a good glimpse of places these choices would drastically change the experience. Riley’s relationship with Jacob is the obvious one, as he often speaks every thought he has out loud, and you frequently get a wide range of ways to respond to him. I was generally nice to him, but at the same time, the other choices made it clear you could instead be ruthlessly mean to this puppy of a man. I imagine that playthrough doesn’t result in him responding to the experience like he did in mine.

There is also a choice towards the end of Oxenfree 2 that obviously reveals that the game has at least three endings. No spoilers here, of course, but it’s clear that at least three playthroughs are necessary to see everything the title has to offer. Or you can just stick to the one choice you made as your canon and leave it at that. I like to think I made the right choice, but the nature of the games suggests that any of them could be justified by the right player.

Oxenfree 2 Transmitter

Screenshot by Siliconera

Oxenfree 2, in many ways, feels like more of the same, but equally feels like it builds on everything that came before. The age difference with the new cast offers many contrasts to the original. Many plot threads from the original get finally tied up here. And we also get to see more of the main town on the mainland, only referenced in the original.

It is important to have played Oxenfree before the sequel, so it’s helpful that it’s available on most modern systems. Many of the plot beats only hit me as hard as they did because of what I remembered from the first game, and the ending may be less impactful without knowledge of what came before. However, this is a double-edged sword, as what you learn in that game removes much of the mystery in this one. It can feel less tense as a result, as the horrors are no longer a terrifying unknown. There are still some excellent spooky moments, but I definitely wasn’t wondering what the hell was happening as much as I was the first time round.

Oxenfree 2 is a follow-up that has been worth the wait. If you were a fan of the first game, and I certainly was, this will give you more of what you loved. Like the first game, it asks complex questions about the choices we make in life and the direction they can take us, all wrapped up in some creepy analog horror effects. If you’re in need of a narrative adventure game focused on time in more ways than one, Oxenfree 2 is essential.

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals releases on July 12, 2023 for Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5 and mobile platforms via Netflix.

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals

Five years after the events of OXENFREE, Riley returns to her hometown of Camena to investigate mysterious radio signals. What she finds is more than she bargained for. Nintendo Switch version reviewed.

Oxenfree 2 is a follow-up that has been worth the wait. If you were a fan of the first game, and I certainly was, this will give you more of what you loved.

Food for Thought
  • The in-game walkie talkie is essential, as each NPC on the other end can offer additional lore information and have their own stories to tell
  • The walkie talkie button is on the same button the map used to be in the first game, so expect a lot of confused muscle memory if you recently refreshed yourself on the original
  • There is a dog and, most importantly, you can pet it

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Leigh Price
Leigh is a staff writer and content creator from the UK. He has been playing games since falling in love with Tomb Raider on the PS1, and now plays a bit of everything, from AAA blockbusters to indie weirdness. He has also written for Game Rant and Geeky Brummie. He can also be found making YouTube video essays as Bob the Pet Ferret, discussing such topics as why Final Fantasy X-2’s story is better than people like to think.