Oxenfree was the first game from Night School Studio, and it put the developer on the map in terms of audience awareness. The graphic adventure impressed with a compelling mystery and interesting characters. Five years later, Night School Studio is returning to that world for a follow-up. Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is the next chapter in the series, and I took an extended look at it in an early preview.
It’s happening again
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals maintains the first game’s setting of Edwards Island, taking place five years after the events of that story. Though it is a sequel, Lost Signals follows the story of a new main cast. Players take on the role of Riley Poverly, a woman who has returned to her home of Camena in order to investigate some mysterious radio signals. There’s electrical disturbances, TVs on the fritz, and satellites going haywire, and Riley wants to get to the bottom of it.
Though the first Oxenfree dealt with some serious themes, a lot of it was through a more playful lens, thanks to the relatively young cast of main characters. This is one of the key differences between the original game and its sequel. In Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, our protagonist is a grown adult, somebody that has “already experienced the world,” as the developers put it.
Focusing on an older character means that the developers are looking to tackle some more mature themes in Oxenfree 2. When speaking to them, they stated that this new game will be “thematically distinct” from the original. One of the central themes in Oxenfree 2 will be reflection; looking back on the choices and actions that have brought us to the present, and wondering if those choices were correct.
Every which way
Speaking of decisions, Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals will once again be heavily focused on player choices, with decisions made by the player having a major impact on where the story goes at every turn. In Oxenfree 2, Riley will often communicate with other characters using a walkie-talkie. Every now and then, Riley will receive messages over the walkie-talkie from people she doesn’t know. She can choose to speak with them, or just ignore their message and keep moving forward. In one instance, there’s a character that reaches out to Riley, that can have a profound impact on the game’s ending if you pursue their branching storyline. You can also not respond to their initial message and never experience that aspect of the game.
The section of Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals that I got to see during my preview of the game took place roughly an hour into the story. It’s here that I learned more about Jacob, an old high school friend of Riley’s that accompanies her on her journey. Jacob can be a bit of a goof, and isn’t nearly as athletically inclined as Riley is, which comes into play frequently.
During the sequence I watched, Riley and Jacob were scaling a mountain. There were two paths to take - an easier, but longer path, and a path that was a bit more risky, but quicker. Taking the quicker path meant risking leaving Jacob behind. It wasn’t specified what exactly would happen if Jacob got left behind, but I was told there would be “consequences.”
Portals to the past
Early on in Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, players will meet The Parentage. This group of masked strangers is also invested in the mysterious radio signals for an unknown region. It’s still unclear what The Parentage is exactly up to, but they’re certainly not good guys, and will serve as an antagonistic force to Riley and Jacob.
Once Riley and Jacob made their way into the abandoned mine, they stumbled upon a glowing crack in the air. This is what the game refers to as a “Time Tear,” a fissure in the time space continuum. What’s really interesting, is that these Time Tears serve as portals, allowing people to step through and visit a location during another point in time. When Riley and Jacob enter the Time Tear, they’re transported to the late 1800s, when the mine was still operational. This will happen a number of times throughout the game, though I only got to see the mine during my preview.
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals may be the second installment in a series, but the developer’s are making a conscious effort to make it feel unique from the first game, both thematically and in gameplay. There are many questions about the story, world, and characters, but we’ll have to wait until Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals launches next year to get that answer.