A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Oxenfree is a downloadable adventure game that features a group of teenagers on a small, remote island. These unaccompanied teenagers bring drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, and their dialogue makes frequent references to sex and violence, though nothing is shown. Drugs are frequently spoken about as well, and one character even takes hash brownies and experiences the effects afterward. As the protagonist Alex, the player can make decisions -- dialogue-based or actions -- that will affect the story line. Controls can also be somewhat confusing, and players will need to be in a specific location to make sure they can activate certain objects in the environment.
What's it about?
OXENFREE is a single-player adventure game that follows a group of teenagers who sneak off to the fictional Edwards Island in the Pacific Northwest. This seemingly abandoned outpost has an ominous history, which surfaces while they're exploring a mysterious cave and forces the player to make decisions that can affect the outcome of the story. You play as a spunky blue-haired girl named Alex, who brings a friend and her new stepbrother to the island, and they interact with other teens (who may or may not like each other). This point-and-click tale focuses heavily on dialogue sequences, as well as exploration and some puzzle-solving (including a "radio" mechanic that lets the group tune into supernatural elements by dialing to the right frequency).
Is it any good?
This mystery title is a fun, unique three- or four-hour adventure -- with an enjoyable story and characters to unravel -- but those with little patience won't likely appreciate the thousands of lines of dialogue to wade through. Some of the navigation is tedious, too, such as hopping over obstacles, climbing up or down rocks, or walking down twisting paths, as it all takes time, though it's likely required to let all the dialogue sequences play out. It's also strongly recommended that players use a game controller, because the keyboard and mouse controls aren't the most intuitive. The pacing is off, too, because some areas of the game are slow and drag on, while at other points some significant events take place in a short period of time.
Along with beautiful hand-painted 2-D environments, the real charm in Oxenfree is the character development. As Alex, you can decide what to say and how to act and choose the people you want to help -- interestingly, there isn't always a "correct" choice or one that doesn't have any repercussions. The music also adds to the atmosphere, but the voice acting is hit and miss (plus, teens don't talk like this). All that being said, if you're an adventure-game fan who likes slower story-based games, you should find Oxenfree an engaging sub-$20 download to play over a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about substance use. This game features lots more drugs, alcohol, and smoking than many other games; does this add to the story and gameplay or overshadow it?
Talk about decision making. The game challenges the player to make many decisions that can affect the main character's relationships, safety, and future, but are games such as this a refreshing change, or will players find that making choices is too much work?
- Platforms: Mac, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Night School Studio
- Release date: January 17, 2016
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Adventures, Brothers and sisters, Friendship, High school
- ESRB rating: T for Violence, Drug Reference, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.