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Paranormal thriller 'Oxenfree' hits PS4 in May

Engadget Engadget 27/04/2016 Jessica Conditt

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Oxenfree is an acid trip wrapped in an enigma and smothered in nacho cheese -- and on May 31st, it's coming to PlayStation 4. Oxenfree hit Steam and Xbox One in January, and both of these versions get upgrades on May 31st, too. Developer Night School Studio created a New Game+ mode for the Steam, Xbox One and PS4 editions, allowing those who have already finished Oxenfree to dive back in and experience a new, yet familiar, adventure. New Game+ includes fresh dialogue choices, new locations and alternate endings (on top of the game's multiple existing conclusions).

"We've heard emphatic, wildly differing opinions on how the game ended, both giddy and rage-filled," Night School co-founder Sean Krankel says. "So, without getting too spoilery, we wanted to make something that let those players push on the surreal rules that govern the island even more by holding up a proverbial mirror to the creatures they've been dealing with. This mode is definitely for the true fans."

On the surface, Oxenfree is a narrative-driven adventure game about a group of teenage friends partying all night on an island. It sounds like standard teen-movie fare, but the island happens to house a decommissioned military base and a series of ghostly, mind-melting mysteries. Alex, a teenage girl who drags her new stepbrother to the party, leads the group as they venture deeper into the island and uncover its secrets.

At its heart, Oxenfree is emotional and complex, with trippy twists and revelations that have left plenty of players reeling.

"We hoped that players would connect with Alex's story and the island where the game takes place, but we never realized how much the time-looping mind-bendy stuff would affect people," Krankel says. "We've had a ton of folks reach out telling us everything from how Oxenfree made them rethink their real-life relationships to just being too scared to play the whole game."

Alex uses her radio to dial into various aspects of the island, including the creepy kind. This mechanic is all about sound, and the PS4 version of the game takes advantage of those scratchy airwaves by placing them inside the DualShock 4 controller itself. Players will sync up the changing colors on the light bar and hear broadcasts directly from the gamepad.

Night School is happy to break down the boundaries between digital and physical spaces: When Oxenfree launched, it included an alternate reality game that should eventually direct players to a real-life location and the secrets therein. No one has cracked the code just yet, since all of the clues aren't available, but Krankel says more hints are coming this month. In fact, the ARG has been leading up to today's announcement of fresh story content in the New Game+ mode.

"I'm completely blown away by some of the theories behind the ARG so far," Krankel says. "Some super smart, creative people out there."

Krankel is excited by the response to Oxenfree in general, even if he doesn't fully understand some of the most creative reactions.

"I'm equal parts disturbed and delighted by some of the fan art, but welcome to the internet," he says.

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