When you return to your childhood home, or back to the park you used to go to in college, is it the same experience you originally had? They are the same places, and to your knowledge, they look exactly the same. But now that you have more experience, are wiser (hopefully), and possibly a little grayer, retreading old grounds will always be different.
That’s what Night School Studios kept in mind for the sequel to Oxenfree, which is aptly named Oxenfree II: Lost Signals. The developers held a preview event to show off small bits of the upcoming game and spoke about its themes and what it is like going back to a game world they initially had no intention of returning to.
When watching the hands-off preview for the upcoming indie game, I got to see the island where the story will take place, as well as two of the major characters in the game: Riley and Jacob, the former of which is playable. Right off the bat, the game’s aesthetic will be instantly familiar to anyone who had experience with the original Oxenfree. However, the developers added a lot of subtle changes to the game to make it feel more modern and different. Parallax scrolling in the background makes moving through the island more cinematic. The attention to detail in the environments themselves and the introduction of the radio communicator that allows Riley to talk to various people on the island also help change up the formula up. All of these aspects let Lost Signals be its own game on its own terms.
When thinking about making a sequel, Night School Studios did not want to have the cast of the original game become a “Scooby-Doo gang” and travel around solving different paranormal mysteries. The characters and stories did not have to be the same, though the core pillars of the first Oxenfree will be found in its sequel. The Oxenfree series is a coming-of-age story for characters at a pivotal point in their lives, with paranormal spookiness and some weird stuff sprinkled in along the way. That holds true in the sequel, even with its tweaks.
Instead of following Alex and the other characters from the first game, Lost Signals will mainly follow Riley. She is unique compared to Alex and the other members of his group in that she is not a child, but in fact in her 30s. Throughout the game, Riley will have a unique perspective on the events that are unfolding around her, as she is not a bright-eyed child seeing things for the first time. She has experience under her belt, which allows her to look back on her life to determine where it should go from here.
This is something that the developers wanted to really focus on: Having characters that are going through transitional parts of their lives make important decisions. That’s a rich vein to mine from, and the developers want players to be in a position to make important choices during their playthrough. Riley helps with this by already being a fully grown person who is going through her second major life change. Even if the player does not have the full context, her choices and actions still have the weight of her past on them.
Sequels to media can usually feel like something that could be stapled onto the original, like an expansion or a literal “part two.” However, Night School Studio wants the sequel to be an extension or an addition, to be its own stand-alone story, even if the foundation was solidly built by the original game. It may feel very similar at times, but with the benefit of time and experience, it will feel like an original story all on its own.
Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is set to launch sometime in 2022 for PC, PlayStation 4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.
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