Indie Spotlight – Oxenfree

Every year 5 teenagers go to an abandoned island looking for a spooky adventure and harmless fun. This year things don’t turn out as planned as they soon find out that ghosts may be real after all. Trapped and alone their only way back home maybe through a hand-held radio. The setup may seem cliché, but this story is much more complex than it appears to be. Oxenfree is a great narrative focused game that truly gives the player choice more so than most games out there.

Oxenfree doesn’t offer many control options other than subtitles and audio features, but with fine motor skill impaired gamers in mind I would say the gameplay is very minimalistic. There is no combat in the game whatsoever, as it only focuses on puzzles and dialogue choices. I played this on the PS4 so the action buttons on the right let you control the sentences you choose to finish a conversation. The trigger buttons are used to access the hand-held radio. To change frequencies on the radio you have to use the right control stick, but the touchpad will also work if you prefer. Dialogue may be timed, but none of the puzzles are and Oxenfree never forces you to make quick movements during gameplay. Subtitles are large and bold, though sometimes a tad bit spotty with background conversations. However, none of these particular ones are important to the story so I believe gamers with hearing impairments should be fine. Visually speaking Oxenfree is very bright and vibrant, but differentiating color isn’t necessary to play. Colorblind players shouldn’t worry at all. Occasionally, Oxenfree does have fast static transitions onscreen that could be disorienting for some, but only those who are sensitive to that sort of thing.

Disabled gamers should enjoy a stress-free playthrough with this game. Simple puzzles and dialogue choices will make for an easy time. Oxenfree will definitely surprise you with the amount of branching paths available in the narrative. This really isn’t a horror game though, so don’t expect a lot of scares. Play it for the intriguing story and you won’t be disappointed.

Written by: Michael Matlock

Michael Matlock developed a passionate interest in technology and has sharpened his love of video games since the ripe old age of four. Though born with the autosomal genetic disorder, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, honing his tech and gaming interests helped him cope with the ongoing degeneration of his spinal motor neurons and weakening muscular system. Michael firmly believes in the validity of gaming as an art form and enjoys both the atmosphere and soundtrack of a title as much as the gameplay itself. While entertained by a wide-variety of games, the Horror and Role-playing genres have repeatedly piqued Michael’s interest. The Persona series, in particular, had a profound impact on his life. After writing reviews for ablegamers.com for several years, Michael created his own YouTube channel, using The Crippled Critic alias, to highlight the importance of game accessibility. Most recently, Michael was asked to speak on the topic at Gwinnett College. The lack of control options in games and the tendency get rid of legacy controls, motivated him to help give other disabled gamers information about a game before they buy it. Today, Michael finds a lack of auto-aim to be a particular design annoyance. And though rapidly changing, Michael favors games developed on the PlayStation 4 and the PC platforms due to the additional options disabled gamers have to address a publisher’s oversights.

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