Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals Review (PS4, PS5): Stuck in a Loop

It appeared like Alex was damned to wallow in limbo till the top of time. 2016’s Oxenfree had a darkish ending that left its protagonist caught in a cycle the place escape was solely a mere fantasy. Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is the long-anticipated, oft-delayed follow-up poised to supply some type of closure, and whereas it does obtain that, it is usually trapped in its personal loop.

Oxenfree 2 seems like it’s repeating itself as a result of it’s so much like the primary recreation. The unique was a novel tackle the narrative journey style because it let gamers stroll and speak on the similar time, whereas using a free-flowing dialogue system that ensured conversations progressed organically. Gamers weren’t often doing a lot, however having the ability to transfer to the following story beat whereas additionally participating in dialog was a significant iteration on the regimented model of Telltale Video games, Supermassive Video games, and Quantic Dream.

It’s nonetheless an efficient approach to construct character and offers Oxenfree 2 ample alternative to flesh out its new faces. The way in which characters converse can be one in all its sturdy fits since they may speak all the way in which till the participant picks a response, that means conversations don’t have the useless air that’s so distracting in a lot of its contemporaries. The naturalistic performances additional floor these characters since they converse with hesitation markers and stammer very like actual folks with out it being a hokey crutch. 

Oxenfree 2 Review (PS4, PS5): Stuck in a Loop
Right here’s an instance of the dialogue overlapping.

All of those small selections play their half in making Oxenfree 2’s dialogue presentation so spectacular, however it’s nonetheless the identical formulation. Night time Faculty Studio seemingly didn’t enhance or broaden these programs to additional construct on the muse it laid all these years in the past. After seven years, it could have been extra attractive if the crew pushed ahead with some new tweaks or improvements since requirements are completely different now. Oxenfree ought to have been the place to begin, not the endpoint. The walkie talkie that may ping numerous completely different characters is essentially the most noticeable distinction, however these exchanges recurrently get interrupted or overlap with different dialogue.

Carrying over the motion system is extra detrimental because it drags down the tempo and stretches out easy journeys. Gamers can’t even management their strolling pace, however it’s nearly at all times too sluggish anyway. Taking a unsuitable flip can be significantly excruciating because it’s unattainable to rapidly course appropriate. Looking for collectibles or potential secrets and techniques solely to be met with a useless finish is demoralizing and infrequently not well worth the effort.

Transferring at a snail’s tempo curtails the urge to discover and, extra broadly, limits replay worth. Oxenfree 2 has some hidden conversations and lots of dialogue decisions, however it doesn’t seem to present gamers many alternatives to actually craft their very own playthrough. When so many scenes play out the identical manner or solely have negligible variations, the glacial strolling pace and unskippable dialogue simply make further runs much more unappealing. Prolonged and protracted loading occasions additionally regularly hinder its ahead momentum and are solely made considerably tolerable by its unbelievable horror-tinged ambient soundtrack.

Oxenfree 2 Review (PS4, PS5): Stuck in a Loop
Riley and Jacob have some nice heart-to-heart moments.

The pacing appears intentionally dialed down to present gamers extra time to stick to the forged. Sprinting to the top with a stranger wouldn’t have as a lot weight as crawling to the climax with a pal. Riley, the protagonist, and her new colleague Jacob are given the area to develop and grow to be greater than two-dimensional caricatures merely attempting to bust some ghosts. 

Riley is laid-back and has a nonchalant perspective that would have grow to be grating, however by no means does due to its largely competent (if typically overwritten) script. Studying her historical past and why she’s returned to her hometown are each intriguing hooks that additionally make her a extra nuanced particular person. Jacob is simpler and extra of an upbeat nerd that hides his staggering quantity of insecurity behind humor. His previous shouldn’t be practically as sophisticated or compelling, and it looks like his foremost function is so as to add the levity that Riley is emotionally incapable of offering. It’s weird that the sport lets gamers be imply to Jacob since he’s agreeable to a fault — his flaws are inner struggles that aren’t negatively expressed outward — however the two make for a strong crew.

Oxenfree 2 makes use of Riley, Jacob, and the antagonists to touch upon acceptance and destiny. The concepts are woven collectively properly since they manifest in another way in every character and grant alternate viewpoints that every one uniquely poke on the recreation’s themes. Whereas a few of these antagonists are faceless ghouls, having a extra human opposition with comprehensible objectives presents extra subtleties that spooky ghosts aren’t outfitted to provide.

Oxenfree 2 Review (PS4, PS5): Stuck in a Loop
That island is likely one of the few straightforward issues to recollect concerning the first recreation.

These themes are additionally integral to the plot, which banks too closely on information from the unique recreation. Whereas it’s a sequel, it’s extra of a second chapter that calls for an intimate familiarity of its forebearer. Regardless of that requirement, it does a horrible job at recapping these essential occasions by glossing over main beats from the final recreation and neglecting to correctly reintroduce characters. Sequels clearly can and will proceed prior storylines and reuse components of the forged, however it’s essential for mentioned sequels to present correct context for these components inside themselves; they shouldn’t nearly solely rely upon prior expertise.

And whereas a intelligent utilization of New Sport Plus, Oxenfree’s canon conclusion is locked behind a number of playthroughs that require sure decisions. This implies Oxenfree 2 is choosing up from a finale many doubtless aren’t aware of, one which’s radically completely different from essentially the most generally seen ending. Given how important these particulars are, it’s stunning Night time Faculty Studio leaned so laborious on this path with out offering a extra useful and thorough synopsis, particularly with the prolonged seven-year hole between video games.

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals Review: The ultimate verdict

It appeared like Alex was damned to wallow in limbo till the top of time, however it’s Oxenfree 2 that ended up being caught in a loop. A few of these replicated options work in its favor, like its fluid dialogue and forged of decently well-realized characters, but it’s too closely anchored to its predecessor. The aforementioned dialogue system is generally the identical and hasn’t been additional streamlined or upgraded. Traversal continues to be too sluggish. And regardless that its narrative builds on what got here earlier than, it struggles to offer a complete abstract of that first recreation and contextualize these all-important occasions. All of those stumbles imply that Oxenfree 2’s sign isn’t misplaced, simply filled with pointless static.

  • Naturalistic dialogue and performances each floor the characters

  • Eerie, but catchy soundtrack that reinforces its sci-fi horror temper

  • Does not present a recap of the unique Oxenfree, which is essential to understanding this recreation’s story

  • Too much like the primary recreation and fails to push ahead

Disclaimer: This Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals overview relies on a PS4 and PS5 copy supplied by the writer. Reviewed on model 1.02 and 1.002.000, respectively.

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