Oxenfree II: Lost Signals review - the right frequency

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Oxenfree II: Lost Signals from Night School Studio is the sequel to 2016’s supernatural adventure that had you tuning in radios to channel the afterlife, and it’s kept us waiting for seven years. The sequel is every bit as good as its predecessor, sharing the same themes and concepts but bundling them in a new story. It’s not a revolution on what went before, but it evolves and expands on the story in new areas, so fans of the original will find loads to love here.

In Oxenfree II: Lost signals, you play as Riley, an enigmatic woman who has taken a job in the small coastal town of Camena. It doesn’t take long before you start to realise not all is as it seems, and that the nearby Edwards Island is causing some funky ruptions in the fabric of space-time.

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Those who played the original game will know Edwards Island as the prior story’s main setting, and throughout Riley’s adventure on Camena, those events will intertwine with the new ones. Oxenfree 2’s placement in the series mirrors its real-world release, taking place five years after the first game. You don’t need to have played the first game to understand Lost Signals, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of backstory and callbacks, so I would recommend that you do (it’s also a darn tootin’ amazing game).

Lost Signals adds a new walkie talkie mechanic that wasn’t in the first game. This tool lets you swap through numerous radio channels, allowing you to contact — or be contacted by — others. This means that you’ll develop relationships with the other people located around the island via mysterious night-time chats - or not if you choose not to heed their interactions.

See, pretty much everything apart from the main story in Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is (stealth) optional. You can choose to ignore everyone or you can make them your best friend; you can answer every call you get and complete lots of side quests or you can just mainline it.

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And that leads into the game’s structure. You’ll find yourself with side missions to do without even really realising they’re side missions. That’s not because the game is bad at signposting but rather that every encounter in the game feels well-thought-out and polished. Plus, you’ll actually care about what’s taking place, like finding Athena the missing dog or helping out a park ranger who is in danger.

The most interesting part of the way you play Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is that throughout your adventure, all the decisions you make have an effect on the overall outcome of the game. There are different endings, and you find out more about your character based on the things you choose to say or do too, which means this 5-7 hour long game has a decent chunk of replayability.

Despite all of these new features and story intrigue, however, Lost Signals feels like more of the same - and that’s both a good and a bad thing. Yes, the original Oxenfree was a great game, bursting with personality and originality, but gaming has come a long way since 2016. So while the sequel ties itself so closely to the first game, it also means that seven years later, we were expecting something more; a bigger evolution in design or gameplay or setting.

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The 2016 roots of the game show up in places like loading screens, probably my biggest gripe with the game. The loading screens rear their ugly head any time you move to a new scene, which is often, and generally last 5-7 seconds (on the PS5).The island of Camena is large, but with the advent of the PS5 and Xbox Series X and PC SSDs that promise non-existent load times, we’ve come to expect snappier transitions, especially from a game that isn't exactly pushing these consoles to their limits.

While Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is a great game, it certainly creaks under the weight of its lengthy development time. It was originally slated for launch in 2021, but then saw numerous delays adding an extra couple of years to its release date. And I think that’s what’s most obvious here: had it released in 2021, none of these issues would have been a problem because next-gen consoles wouldn’t have been a factor in its critique.

With all of that said, I loved Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. It evolves on the first game’s formula, continues its interesting story, and its setting is like no other. If you’re a fan of narrative games and can forgive some of the outdated design flaws, then this is an easy recommendation.

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Now, let’s hope they don’t make us wait another seven years for Oxenfree III.

Oxenfree II: Lost Siginals
Despite its outdated design, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is a great game that continues the story and setting of the original game with some added features and side stories. It’s more of an evolution versus revolution, but don’t let that stop you from exploring the dark and moody Camena Island.

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