Oxenfree puts you into the role of Alex, a teenage girl who along with her new stepbrother joins three friends on an overnight trip to a small local tourist island. The island has become virtually forgotten by tourists, though, and since it is also the offseason the teens have the island to themselves. When they decide to investigate a local legend about a nearby cave things take a turn towards the strange, and their attention quickly changes from partying with friends to reuniting their scattered group and getting off of the island.
Oxenfree feels more like an interactive indie film than it does a game. The majority of the gameplay comes in the form of selecting conversational options, and the game's few puzzles use the same mechanic. You'll spend a lot of time traversing the island back and forth simply to give the characters time to engage in conversation. And a significant portion of those conversations are focused on the characters' interpersonal relationships rather than the island's mysteries. Those of you who are looking for more 'game' in your games than story will more than likely dislike Oxenfree and might even find yourself hating the game. You certainly won't want to spend the time to finish the game.
That being said, the story in Oxenfree is pretty compelling and there are some interesting dynamics to the relationships between the game's characters. The game's conversation system also gives you some control over how those relationships evolve over the course of the game. The character conversations flow in a naturalistic way, and when it comes time to select a response you'll have very little time to make your choice between three different options. Take too long and you'll miss the moment, and the conversation will proceed without your input. There are times when your possible responses will be on the longer side and you'll find that your window will pass. This can be a little frustrating, especially when you feel that you missed an important moment during which you should have said something, but it doesn't happen often enough to have a big impact on the game.
The game's story was captivating enough to keep me playing in spite of the lack of any real gameplay challenge. Even though the story doesn't tie everything together at the end and leaves some questions unanswered, it does so in a way that leaves you thinking rather than unsatisfied. There's an epilogue to the game in which you learn a little about what becomes of the friends once they leave the island, and these stories are a result of the conversational choices that you made during the game. There's some motivation to replay the game taking a different tact with the conversations to see where that leads the characters at the end, but I haven't been compelled to do so myself. I enjoyed the game the first time through, but the thought of going through some of the long slogs across the island a second time isn't appealing to me right now. I can easily recommend the game to someone looking for something a little different, though, as long as they're OK with a game that's more story than it is game.
Final Rating: 82% - More interactive story than game, but the story will keep you playing.