I wish I hadn’t taken almost two months to get around to writing about Oxenfree, because I’ve forgotten most thoughts I had about the game when I played it. I remember going into the game knowing basically nothing about it other than that some of the Spawn on Me folks really liked it; I was surprised to discover that it it was a 2D take on Life Is Strange mechanics. Not the time travel mechanic, but the general feel of controlling a person wandering around, interacting with a small group of other people, making choices that affect how those people feel about you, with something supernatural going on as a vehicle to give more weight to the experience.

Which, honestly, I would love to be a trend (and, for all I know, is in fact a trend): I’m all for there to be more games exploring interpersonal interactions instead of shooting, and doing that in 2D feels like it wouldn’t hurt the core of such games while significantly lowering barriers to entry / costs?

The flip side, though, is that, while I was happy to have played Oxenfree, it (clearly!) didn’t grab me. Not sure how much of that was the story it was telling, how much was the mechanics, how much was my tastes, how much was my mood at the time.


Or maybe I’m wrong in saying that such games wouldn’t lose anything being transported to 2D: maybe it doesn’t make sense to talk about the core of such games as divorced from presentation aspects? So maybe in fact there’s something important about being embodied in a way that a 3D game having you wander around a school (and other similarly contained areas) can emphasize but that a 2D game having you wander all over a mountainside has a harder time pulling off? Or maybe there’s something to the cinematic high production values approach and how I respond to them?

Typing that out, either of those hypotheses actually makes total sense. Still, I’d like to try out more games like this, whether in 2D or 3D. (And, to be sure, it’s not like those two games are the only examples, e.g. The Walking Dead also fits into the box I’m trying to describe.) And I certainly wouldn’t discourage other people from playing it: I’m happy to have played it, after all!

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