Oxenfree II: Lost Signals review: A poignant and worthy successor

Oxenfree II. Cr: Night School/Netflix.
Oxenfree II. Cr: Night School/Netflix. /

The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2016’s indie darling Oxenfree is here! Oxenfree II: Lost Signals is the latest venture from Night School, and if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you’re in luck because you can play both games for free right now.

Oxenfree II: Lost Signals shares a similar premise to its predecessor: both games are spooky coming-of-age adventures following characters as they traverse a mysterious landscape to place antennas. Both games are very story-driven and, in some ways, feel more like a visual novel. If you like games of that nature without combat, they will be right up your alley.

In the first game, we follow a group of teens, but Oxenfree II: Lost Signals centers on two adult protagonists, Riley and Jacob. Maybe because I am the same age as the characters this time, but I found myself relating strongly to Riley throughout this game. She has accepted a job as an environmental researcher in Camena, the primary setting for this game and a place alluded to in one of the Oxenfree endings.

Camena residents have been experiencing strange signals causing electronic disturbances. Riley and Jacob are tasked with placing the transmitters all over the island’s highest peaks so the research team, led by a determined woman named Evelyn, can trace the source of the interference.

Like the previous game, Oxenfree II: Lost Signals really shines in the quiet moments when we get to witness and influence the conversations between characters while they’re traversing Camena. Night School excels at writing meaningful conversations and branching dialogue trees. These characters feel fully realized. Plus, how the player guides the conversations can significantly impact the ending you get. Your choices help to shape the story.

Oxenfree II. Cr: Night School/Netflix.
Oxenfree II. Cr: Night School/Netflix. /

Also, like the first game, you’ll be equipped with a walkie-talkie and a radio, both of which are tons of fun to mess with. I highly recommend doing so during the game’s quieter moments. If your characters aren’t in the middle of a conversation, it feels like that’s the game’s subtle nudge to listen to the radio. You never know what you’ll find! From cryptic messages to an advice line to catchy tunes, there are all kinds of goodies to be discovered.

Another significant change in this game is the primary antagonist. Unlike the supernatural forces plaguing Edwards Island in Oxenfree, in Oxenfree II: Lost Signals, Jacob and Riley face off against a very human cult-like group called Parentage. What does Parentage want? What are they trying to do with the portals? It’s your job to unravel the mystery and Parentage’s motive. You might be surprised by what you learn. Who knows, you may even find yourself agreeing with them by the end of the game.

Let’s pivot to gameplay. I played on my iPhone because I knew I’d be writing this review for Netflix Life, so it seemed wise to play the game the way most Netflix subscribers would. Oxenfree II: Lost Signals runs great on mobile. However, there were times when the interface felt unintuitive.

I wish the small gray circles indicating interactive objects in the overworld were a little more prominent on the phone. Sometimes I struggled to click the buttons because they were tiny and occasionally easy to miss. Or, I’d try and click one thing only to mistakenly send Riley walking in the opposite direction, passing the signpost or collectible I was trying to inspect.

For example, in one early scene, Riley has to help Jacob break into his house. One potential entryway can send Riley through a doggy door that connects to a mudroom with several interactive items, like a broom and a light switch. But the buttons were so close together that I couldn’t click on any of them, and I even struggled to get Riley to back out of the doggy door.

Thankfully, there was another way forward, so it didn’t halt my progress too much, but there were a few moments of similar frustration throughout my journey across Camena. It wasn’t too debilitating, but it hindered an otherwise smooth playthrough.

To be fair, I have an iPhone XR, so those with larger phone screens might not have the same problems I did. I’m planning to purchase the game on Switch, so I’ll be curious to see how the controls differ there.

Oxenfree II. Cr: Night School/Netflix.
Oxenfree II. Cr: Night School/Netflix. /

Do you need to play Oxenfree before Oxenfree II: Lost Signals?

While the two games have different stories, characters, and settings, I highly recommend playing Oxenfree first. There is an abundance of references, callbacks, and easter eggs throughout the sequel, to the point that you won’t get as much out of the game and story without playing the first game beforehand or maybe even revisiting it if it has been a long time since you last played.

Overall, Oxenfree II is a strong and worthy successor to the acclaimed first game. It does retread some similar story beats to the first game, but I think there are enough changes and robust writing to put a fresh spin on it.

If you don’t want to play on your phone (even though it’s free through Netflix!), the game is also available to buy on Steam, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.

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