Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals somehow has me excited about walkie-talkies

Oxenfree 2 protagonist fiddles with a walkie-talkie in foggy island town
(Image credit: Night School Studio/Netflix)

I’m still not entirely sure what’s going on in Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals, but that is also kind of the point of these games. In the sequel, new protagonist Riley has recently moved back to Camena and is helping an environmental organization study signals in the area alongside fellow local Jacob Summers - and whatever it is, it’s interacting with the strangeness back on the original Oxenfree’s Edwards Island.

Having recently played roughly the first 30 minutes of Oxenfree 2 at Summer Game Fest 2023, the mystery at the center of the game from developer Night School Studio and Netflix is, as with the first one, immediately compelling. I don’t know where it goes or whether the resolution is worth the ride, but I am willing to find out.

Anyone there, over?

Oxenfree 2 protagonist Riley and Jacob look at a strange portal above a bridge

(Image credit: Night School Studios/Netflix)

It helps that the original Oxenfree is fairly well loved and critically acclaimed. If you’re at all familiar with the original, Oxenfree 2 controls in much the same way - you move around, interact with various objects, and generally have a variety of conversations with yourself and NPCs while trying to navigate puzzling environments. While the developers claim playing the first is not strictly necessary in order to enjoy the sequel, I would probably recommend it unless you’ve no interest in understanding the background of what’s going on.

There are significant differences between the two games, and it’s not just the introduction of new characters. One of the bigger changes in Oxenfree 2 is the inclusion of the walkie-talkie, which gives players a bit more influence on when and how conversations play out. Previously, over-the-air conversations were much more one-sided and straightforward. 

"Just being able to call up anyone that you've already encountered and start a conversation," said Bryant Cannon, Oxenfree 2 lead developer and game director, when asked about learnings from the original game during Summer Game Fest 2023. "It's just something that we didn't have a lot of opportunity to do in Oxenfree one. Conversations were very reactive. Jonas is kind of a fire hose spray of talking at you and you get to kind of guide the conversation and choose what threads you want to go down."

"In Oxenfree 2 now, you meet these characters and you hear them on the radio and on the walkie-talkie you get to call them and kind of make these relationships over the air," continued Cannon. "And then whenever you go into a new environment, whenever you go into a new situation, you call them up and ask them, 'What do you think about this? What would you do here?' And kind of start and initiate controlled conversations in a much more tangible way than you could in Oxenfree one."

Despite how limited the demo was, it’s clear that the spooky vibes are very much in the same vein as the previous Oxenfree. Camena seems much bigger than Oxenfree’s Edwards Island, and there are plenty of opportunities for climbing and generally solving puzzles about how to access different areas. The new narrative options presented with the walkie-talkie are interesting, though I didn’t get to explore much of that myself.

With the added ability to just call someone up, it does seem like figuring out what dialogue is critical to the game’s story was not always simple for the developers. Frequently, players can interrupt various lines of dialogue whenever they want. According to the developer, there are still some lines that are considered critical enough that the NPC will finish it regardless of whether they’re interrupted - or how frequently - but the team really chose to lean into not doing that and instead embracing the fact that players aren’t always going to hear everything.

Oxenfree 2 key art features protagonist Riley and Jacob standing on a cliff overlooking Edwards Island with a portal above

(Image credit: Night School Studio/Netflix)

"We argue about that a lot; we argue about what's critical," said Cannon. "Because of the player speedrunning the game and skipping past something that is pretty kind of important to the story, we could say like, 'Oh, we have to speak to the player before they go to the next trigger, because they have to hear that.'"

“But is it really important to their understanding of the story? Is it gonna ruin the rest of the experience? Because if someone comes back and finds something new, that's what gives our games replayability and makes it something that feels like it has more life than just the one story that you get through the first time."

For example, there’s the backstory of a nearby shipwreck that could just be largely ignored. According to the developers, the vast majority of that conversation can be skipped. But maybe a player that skipped it the first time might stick around for the whole story a second or third time through the game, gathering a fresh and exciting lore detail.

Since then, all I’ve thought about is what perspective, what little tidbits and additional dialogue that I happened to miss in the first 30 minutes of Oxenfree 2, and what those odds and ends might add to my experience when I finally get a chance to play it again.

Oxenfree 2: Lost Signals is set to release for the Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, PC via Steam, and on Netflix for mobile devices on July 12. If the mysterious vibes of Oxenfree 2 aren’t for you, there are plenty of other upcoming new games for 2023 to look forward to.

Rollin Bishop
US Managing Editor

Rollin is the US Managing Editor at GamesRadar+. With over 16 years of online journalism experience, Rollin has helped provide coverage of gaming and entertainment for brands like IGN, Inverse, ComicBook.com, and more. While he has approximate knowledge of many things, his work often has a focus on RPGs and animation in addition to franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Age. In his spare time, Rollin likes to import Valkyria Chronicles merch and watch anime.