Backlogged: Oxenfree

 

Oxenfree 7_5_2019 10_18_33 AM.pngOxenfree was, uh, free a few weeks, maybe months now, ago on the Epic Games Store. Jay has been telling me for about 2 years now how good Oxenfree is. So I immediately picked it up and, in true fashion, didn’t play it for a month or two. He’s also the one who recommended SOMA to me and that is now one of my favorite games of all time. While Oxenfree doesn’t fall into the same caliber of the game for me, it was very good.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. A group of teenagers go to a haunted island to drink and party. There they discover a mysterious cave and set off an event that has them being chased by an evil entity the rest of the night. There’s a mystery, time travel, and scary ghosts in the PA system! Yes, it’s a generic horror plot but Oxenfree’s biggest strength is it’s cast of characters.  Every line of dialog is voiced and the characters are written so well that I actually started to miss them after the credits rolled.

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Oxenfree isn’t a game as much as it’s an interactive story.  Like a TellTale game (RIP) with less quick time events. There aren’t a lot of choices to be made other than what the main character, Alex, will say next. It’s a very on-rails experience and while I’m sure I could have taken a slightly different route and had a slightly different experience I didn’t feel the need to replay it….until I went to go take screenshots for this post.

I completed the game in 2-weekend play sessions. In all, it took about 8 hours from start to finish. Like I said, I loved the cast of characters and the story had some fun twists and turns. Playing through Oxenfree felt like binge-watching a very good show, I just had to know what was going to happen next. The setting is a tourist island that seems to be closed for the season. The only full-time resident has recently died so you will end up in her house looking for answers. The characters manage to awaken some sort of ghost trapped in what appears to be a radio signal. Throughout the night this ghost possesses Alex’s friends as it tries to get back to the world of the living.

The visuals in Oxenfree are perfect for the story it’s trying to tell. Everything is lacking just a little bit of detail, it’s colorful, but also mostly covered in fog. I found that it set a great atmosphere for the whole story. I think if they were any more cartoony or realistic they wouldn’t have been nearly as effective. I also love that the loading screens show the polaroids that are taken in various parts of the game. These add a little more detail to the graphics and always feel like an intimate moment between the characters

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There is a bit gameplay in Oxenfree besides choosing dialog trees. Alex carries a radio with her that when tuned to certain frequencies can trigger events. Each zone on the map has some unique radio stations that are interesting to listen to, so it’s worth pulling it out when you enter a new area. Also, there are a few collectibles. I found a lot of them but I didn’t go out of my way to look for them all. I’d would recommend Oxenfree if you’re looking for a laid back game with a very good story.

 

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Alright back to the screenshot thing. See there’s a little detail I missed after the game returned to the screen. What I assumed was the new game button actually said “Continue Timeline?”. I needed screenshots so I went back in for some pictures and the opening scene was a little different than I remember. So I played on…for another few hours actually. I may need to go back and go through the whole story again and see what I can change the second time around.

 

 

Backlogged: The Last Door- Season 2

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The Last Door: Season 2 took me longer to finish than the first season both in hours played and the time I took between each episode. Season 1 grabbed me and didn’t let go, the story was interesting with each episode leaving me with such a good cliff hanger I just had to know what happened. Plus, it was the first point and click game I’ve played in a while so the novelty also had a strong pull on my playtime. Season 2 on the other hand, had a good story but wasn’t nearly as compelling and I spread it out over a few weeks. It took me 7 hours in total to get through all 4 chapters. There were a few achievements I missed so there is more content there if I ever went back for a second playthrough.

I chose to both games of the series through Steam but they are also available on mobile devices.

Story

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I was a bit worried when season 2 was not a direct continuation from season 1. This season has us following Dr. Wakefield, Jeremiah Devitt’s psychologist as tries to unravel the mystery of where his patient’s disappearance. He consults with his colleague, Dr. Kaufmann, who has more knowledge about the occult circumstances of Devitt’s disappearance.

Episode 3 was by far my favorite. The setting, Elis Mor, was amazing. This was an island with weird rituals, creepy residents, and an ominous deep hole where a monster supposedly slept.

Gameplay

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Much like season 1, the gameplay in The Last Door – Season 2 does not get too in the way of the story. The puzzles aren’t easy but with a little thought, they can be solved fairly quickly. I did find myself running between rooms and areas frequently as I had missed a small detail or had a new idea for a solution.

I liked the inclusion of multiple areas and a map this time around. Each episode in the first game

When it comes to gameplay, Episode 2 was my favorite. It was filled with riddles and made me feel smart when I could figure them out without looking up a guide. Thanks for stroking my ego!

Episode 3 was by far the hardest for me. I will admit to looking up the solution for a particular part but that was only after a half-hour of running around trying objects with different things. I forgot that objects can be used with people as well. To be fair though, I probably wouldn’t have ended up figuring this out on my own and I wanted to keep progressing in the story.

Sound

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The Last Door would be a much less exciting experience without the fantastic soundtrack and sound design. I’m not usually paying enough attention to the sound for it to matter in most games but The Last Door does everything right in this category. There are intense moments that are heightened by the sound. The sound is also the only way for this game to really deliver jumps scares, which it does sparingly but in the right places.

Graphics

The art style The Game Kitchen chose for The Last Door works in a way I didn’t think it would. The low resolution actually makes some of the monsters and settings creepier. You can’t tell exactly what they are but your mind fills in the rest. I find that this works very well for this style of game.

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Final Thoughts

I found this season creepier overall than the first game but the story and mystery weren’t quite as compelling for me. The season did bring some nice changes from Season 1 in terms of gameplay. The story did start to get a little fuzzy towards the end of Episode 4 but I wasn’t disappointed in the ending. It was as close to closure as you can get with this type of story. A good thing too since there are no plans for a third season.

So if you’re looking for a horror game with a great story I cannot recommend The Last Door enough.

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Backlogged: Tengami and Where is My Heart?

I haven’t done this in a while. July has been a crazy month for me in my non gaming life. Between going on vacation and taking on some more responsibilities at work  there hasn’t been a whole lot of time to work on my backlog. These games I actually finished back in June but haven’t had the chance to write about them. Both were under 2 hours long, I wish Tengami was longer but Where is My Heart? couldn’t end soon enough.

Tengami

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Developer: Nyamnyam

Playtime: 114 minutes

Tengami is a point and click puzzle game in a world that looks like its made out of paper. The game itself  reminds me of an interactive pop-up book complete with tabs to pull and flaps to flip. The goal of the game is to go through each level and find a flower to put back onto the Cherry Blossom tree.

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Each of the four levels reflect the four changing seasons and have a few puzzles to solve on each. The puzzles are difficult but not impossible to solve without hints. The glowing circles on the interactive parts of the world were very helpful. While I tried to use hints sparingly, there were some puzzles I just couldn’t wrap my head around to start until I looked up a walkthrough.

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At the end of each level you are rewarded with a Haiku

While it did feel a like cheating to use a walkthrough for some puzzles, I really wanted to see more of the world. I love the art in this game, it’s simple,unique and very visually pleasing. Couple that with the great soundtrack and you can see why I didn’t want to spend hours figuring out that a few symbols were actually Japanese numbers.

I wish the game was longer. It seemed as soon as I was really getting into it it was over. That’s one of the issues with short games. Overall it plays really well, the character walks a bit slow but other than that it’s a really enjoyable experience that I highly recommend.

Where Is My Heart?

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Where is My Heart? They’re all over the place.

Developer: Schulenburg Software

Playtime: 98 minutes

I picked up this game in a Humble bundle a year or two ago. What started off as a cute platformer with an interesting idea became a headache after about 10 levels. Where is My Heart tells the story of a family of forest spirits whose world has been fractured. You are tasked with guiding them through each level to put their world back together and gather  hearts.

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Hey Ma, I’m in two places at once!

The main feature of the game is the shattered world, the level is broken up into different pieces and shuffled around. This adds a challenge to the platforming. Jumping out of one square could drop you into one across the screen. After a few levels, this becomes more of an annoyance than anything special. It’s not the easiest platforming and when you don’t know exactly where your character is jumping to, it ends in a lot of missed jumps and miserable deaths.I wouldn’t recommend trying to play this in one sitting, I ended up with a headache trying to keep track of how all the shattered pieces were connected together.

Each forest spirit can power up and transform to have different abilities. This adds a few more mechanics to the game. For example the Rainbow spirit, who looks like a fluffy marshmallow, jump and rotate the screens to get to hard to reach places. The Deer spirit can jump higher than the rest and the bat spirit can reveal hidden passages and platforms.

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The spirits are allergic to spikes and water. I must have died 50 times on this levle.

I think I would have liked the game if it was a normal platformer. It’s challenging enough as such but throwing in the confusing, jigsaw, shattered levels makes it frustrating. I understand why they did this, it’s a unique idea and it is fun for the first few levels and if you took this feature away, it’d be just another retro looking platformer.