OXENFREE II: Lost Signals is following up on 2016’s indie hit, OXENFREE. Developer Night School Studio and publisher Netflix are bringing us back to Edwards Island for another go-around with the supernatural phenomena going unexplained in the coastal town of Camena, Oregon. While the first trip through this mix of Stranger Things, Midnight Mass, and Poltergeist had the player follow Alex and her group of friends exploring Edwards Island, this time around we meet Riley, an environmental researcher who returns home to do some work on radio frequencies and finds herself in a mess of spooks, cultists, and a lot to work through herself.
After getting to Camena, Riley gets connected with the research group she will be working with and meets up with Jacob, a simple guy who grew up in Camena and will work alongside Riley. As soon as the first radio beacon is placed, it quickly becomes obvious that things aren’t right, as portals and possessions players of OXENFREE will be very familiar with start happening here as well, and it’s up to Riley and Jacob to solve the problem and help put a stop to it before it’s too late. Tussling a bit with a cult-like group called Parentage, our heroic duo must hurry to close the portal that Parentage wants to open even further.
“…OXENFREE II: Lost Signals doesn’t have some of the same jaw-dropping moments players were able to experience in OXENFREE.”
While the story continues the mend-bending twists and alternate-dimension hijinks we had from the first game, OXENFREE II: Lost Signals doesn’t have some of the same jaw-dropping moments players were able to experience in OXENFREE. That’s not to say that the story is bad, as you quickly get attached to Riley’s snarky nature, as well as Jacob’s softer side, but because we know how things unfolded in the first title, some of that spice has dulled in the cabinet over the last seven years.
Quickly finding its footing and moving the story forward, OXENFREE II: Lost Signals still manages to surprise, thrill, and scare the players, just in the same way Aliens needed more than one Xenomorph to keep things interesting.
One of the main gameplay features, the dialogue system, has you regularly chatting with Jacob, and others along the way, as well as on your handy-dandy walkie-talkie to some people helping from a distance. Since OXENFREE II: Lost Signals works much like an old Telltale game or a new Don’t Nod one, the gameplay is really built upon environmental storytelling, the story you discover, and the dialogue you have with the people around you.
This means that if kicking back and listening to the characters discuss not just what’s happening around them but their personal lives and how it’s shaped them sounds boring to you, then you will be missing a lot of the substance OXENFREE II: Lost Signals has to offer.
“The puzzles in OXENFREE II: Lost Signals aren’t going to frustrate anyone…”
The puzzles in OXENFREE II: Lost Signals aren’t going to frustrate anyone, as most are incredibly simple, but one of them is just tedious—which I think will become a recurring thing now that we are past the dialogue and story portions of this review. Usually, you just use your radio to unlock portals, and that’s the gist of the “puzzles,” but in some cases, you’ll need to use four dials and rotate them until an image of a shape lines up correctly all while a high-pitched frequency is playing, and man, literally just playing with it in order to try to come up with what the game is looking for isn’t something I loved.
After you’ve got the story in place, conversations with friends, and the occasional puzzle, you’re pretty much left with just getting around the world, which isn’t fun at all. Grabbing some climbing gear to traverse rock faces, crawling through caves, trotting down the shoreline, and jumping across open ravines SOUNDS like it should be one hell of a time, but OXENFREE II: Lost Signals is slow-paced and monotonous with its traversal mechanics.
First of all, the pace at which the characters move is painfully slow most of the time. While that allows you time to talk with more characters and enjoy the art style (which is fantastic, on a positive note) when you aren’t entirely sure where to go or the game doesn’t make it clear, the trek back to your objective or simply wandering around trying to find it completely breaks the immersion (almost as bad as the several second load screens between each area of the map). I’m all for games taking their time, but OXENFREE II: Lost Signals wastes the players’ as you walk impatiently, waiting for more story or dialogue to happen.
“I’m all for games taking their time, but OXENFREE II: Lost Signals wastes the players’ as you walk impatiently, waiting for more story or dialogue to happen.”
The next issue with the traversal is some bugs and issues I found triggering the climbing animations. Several times I would be walking up through an area, meandering away, when I would come to a series of rocks that needed climbing—no problem! But at times, the hitbox to trigger the controller selection to climb is finicky and needs to be lined up just right. So, at least twice in my playthrough I found a rock that I thought I needed to climb, couldn’t get the input to show up, and wandered back looking for another way, only to find that, yes, I did need to climb that rock before.
I also encountered some bugs that weren’t great, most of which were just during animations or the like, but when entering the church, I walked through the doorway, and the animation crashed the game completely. Luckily, my save was intact, and I simply had to walk back up the hill to the church and try again, but with the length of time it takes to get from place to place, an animation crash or other bug could’ve been more devastating in OXENFREE II: Lost Signals than other games.
One of my favourite things to do with story-based games is to pull them up and play through them with my family or friends—especially when it’s got one I don’t think should be missed. Between OXENFREE and the sequel, OXENFREE II: Lost Signals, are two stories that shouldn’t be missed. The characters are impeccably built with flaws and pasts that need to be talked about and the mystery surrounding Edwards Island is right up there with Stranger Things, Midnight Mass, or Poltergeist. But between the loading screens and the traversal, I know it just wouldn’t be one they would be compelled to sit through.
While OXENFREE II: Lost Signals does a lot right, sticking too close to the first game, not making some of those changes that players had issues with the first time around, and then losing the surprise of what was going on in the story damaged the experience this time. OXENFREE II: Lost Signals was the safe choice and mega fans of the first will adore every bit of the sequel, it just could’ve been more.