Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals review: Radio activity

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals tells a tale that's beautifully haunting in more ways than one.


Something is once again going bump in the night in the sleepy coastal town of Camena. It's a city that has been no stranger to weird phenomena, but this time, the source of the strangeness appears to be coming through radio waves and electromagnetic signals. That's part of what has brought Riley Poverly back to her former home, but what she discovers will shake her and players to the core. Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals from Night School Studio is a gripping supernatural tale that puts its main character through the wringer and also comes to affect many of the people she comes into contact with over the course of a single evening. It's a powerful story and one that's worth experiencing at least once and possibly more than that.

Home station

Riley holds her walkie-talkie in Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals.

Source: Netflix

Oxenfree 2's story follows Riley, who is starting a new line of work in her old home of Camena. It's a simple enough job. There are some strange radio frequencies that are coming through the island town's main radio channels, so Riley has to partner up with an old high school acquaintance named Jacob to plant transmitters across the area, which should straighten things out.

Players are quickly lured in with Oxenfree 2's elegant dialogue system. Riley will frequently engage in small talk with Jacob or with the many people she comes into contact with through the walkie-talkie system. Players can make dialogue choices or opt not to make any response at all, which will come to shape Riley's character throughout the story.

After establishing itself for the first half hour, the narrative quickly grows intense through shifting images that sometimes border on jump scares, an increasing usage of scrambled radio signals, and the introduction of supernatural presences. This is where Riley begins to see past and future images of her life, revealing more about who she is to the player at home. However, while these revelations are critical to showing Riley who she is and what she has become, it soon becomes clear that they aren't entirely tied to the main objective. There's a deeper mystery at work, one that should appeal greatly to those who have played the original Oxenfree without alienating those who haven't.

Part of the reason that this central mystery resonated more as the game progressed was because of Oxenfree 2's dialogue. Oxenfree 2's dialogue sounds entirely believable throughout the story. At no point did I feel like these characters weren't relatable human beings. Conversations flowed naturally, reactions felt like they fit the moment, and the script wasn't bogged down by needless profanities or exaggeration for exaggeration's sake. It's a credit to Night School's writing and the performances of Oxenfree 2's voice actors, which will have players sympathizing with Riley, Jacob, and the other characters they'll encounter over the course of the story. Even the characters they don't meet in person, like Park Ranger Shelley, feel relatable.

Likewise, none of the twists or reveals that come in the story's latter half feel hamfisted or out-of-nowhere, and they actually help add to the eventual climax and resolution. Riley's reveal to Jacob a little past the halfway point (I won't spoil it here, but you'll know it when you get there) hits hard, especially as it explains exactly why she is where she is at the start of the game. The best part of this scene is that players can opt to have Riley exposit on this moment as much as they want. Whether Riley is an open book or someone who wants to keep everything as close to the chest as possible is up to the player, and it ultimately helps shape what they see in the story's climax. There was another moment right before the final sequence where I was convinced that Riley and Jacob would be facing whatever awaited them at the end together until a gut-wrenching twist convinced me to approach the finale differently. It exemplifies how brilliantly paced Oxenfree 2's story is, keeping players questioning themselves up to the bitter end.

Nothing but static

Riley and Jacob have a poignant talk on the bridge in Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals.

Source: Netflix

For the most part, players are welcome to explore Camena at their leisure. However, there are a few exceptions, and this is one of the few instances where I took exception with Oxenfree 2's story. Players will frequently encounter puzzle sequences as they explore. They can be as simple as finding a way into Jacob's house or as complex as tuning some old EMF devices to the right frequency to explore a time tear.

The issue comes when some of these sequences are time-based because there are few indicators that time is of the essence. One puzzle, in particular, had a voice on the other end of the walkie-talkie counting down. It wasn't until the voice got halfway through their countdown that I realized that I was supposed to be seeking something out. I came to greatly appreciate Oxenfree 2's minimalist approach in the sense that there's no HUD, few "game" notifications (the only exception being a few visual controller/keyboard tutorials), and no objective text or markers. That's great when it comes to creating a greater sense of immersion, but it can throw players off when a timed objective suddenly pops up.

Outside of that, players are welcome to explore, which is nice because Oxenfree 2 has a few collectibles and side quests worth taking on. Finding loose pages across the island can help flesh out the game's lore. At the same time, helpful folks across different walkie-talkie channels will be grateful for Riley's assistance, which can help shape her character for the ending sequence.

Oxenfree 2's integration of the walkie-talkie and the emergency radio is brilliantly done. In addition to helping push the story along, each can be used to solve puzzles and help Riley plant her transmitters. Tuning the radio to the right frequency to create a reaction with the supernatural sky portal is one of the most novel uses of a game's rumble feature I've seen in years. Even outside of puzzles, Riley can listen to the radio whenever she wants and find different stations that help enhance the narrative experience. The sad and disturbing tale of the local baseball station, specifically, is one that started to haunt me by the end.

Starting over

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is a chillingly beautiful story that can mean different things to different players. Those coming in from the first Oxenfree can see it as a worthy follow-up to the acclaimed original story. People like myself who are coming in without having played the first game can appreciate this story of a woman who has lived a life filled with regrets, desperately returning home in a futile effort to start over, who can't avoid confronting the mistakes of her past and what they'll mean to her future. In between all of it, she has a job to do and comes to realize that reality itself may hinge on whether she's able to do it before sunrise.

Night School's writing can't be praised enough, because the team is able to be whatever it needs to be in the moment. It can be a supernatural thriller when the time calls for it. It can be a coming-of-age tale when the moment is right. It can go from buddy comedy to buddy drama in an instant. All of it works, and it's a credit to the writers and the voice actors. Oxenfree 2's story will put players through the emotional wringer, but it's a ride that's worth taking.

This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is available today on PC, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch for $19.99 USD. It is also available on mobile devices at no extra charge to Netflix subscribers. The game is rated T.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

  • Haunting, yet beautiful story
  • Writing and acting are brilliant
  • Walkie-talkie and radio are strong mechanics
  • Gut-wrenching twists with multiple endings
  • Time-based puzzles aren't always recognizable
  • Can't manually save
From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 12, 2023 12:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals review: Radio activity

    • reply
      July 12, 2023 5:13 AM

      Completely forgot it was coming out so soon (my gosh today)! Loved the first game so much. I was debating while reading this review if I should replay the first one but was worried I would get burned out by the gameplay. Your second-to-last paragraph about your experiences with it having not played the first helped seal the deal to just jump right in. So happy the dialogue system is still awesome, adored that about the first game especially on multiple playthroughs. Thank you so much, this was a beautiful written review.

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