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Night In The Woods Vs. Oxenfree: Which Game Is Better?

On the surface, Oxenfree and Night in the Woods may seem like totally different games that couldn't possibly share a comparison. However, both games bear a similar essence based on their themes and messages. And though the supernatural works its way into both stories, their main aim is to be full of heart and powerful emotion.

The style and design of both games are some of the most visually unique to a video game, but one is a much larger adventure than the other. Below, we'll examine some of these categories prevalent across both games to establish a true victor.

10/10 Collectibles – A Draw

We start the comparison with a draw for the collectibles you can acquire across both games. Oxenfree includes more traditional ones that you find around the environment, which come in the form of backstory letters from Maggie Adler and anomalies triggered by your radio. At the same time, Night in the Woods has a more fun and creative way of going about them.

Both collectibles are relevant to the respective stories, with the pages Alex collects in Oxenfree explaining the truth behind the supernatural events of Edward's Island, and Mae's assigned journal capturing her summarized thoughts about specific conversations and plot points through humorous doodles and writing.

9/10 Sound Design – Oxenfree

When it comes to sound design, Oxenfree is the clear winner. It's one of the game's most crucial elements that helps build the mood and story. The sounds from radio channels, the eerie music following the characters throughout, and the heavy reliance on distortion for the voices of the trapped souls and static noise work beautifully together to capture the haunting atmosphere.

Not to mention that Oxenfree also has voiced characters, which gives them a lot more personality and engagement with the choices made. Night in the Woods is more subtle in its sound design. Many of the conversations contain little of it and are generally silent. The music has a much more soothing aesthetic than Oxenfree as well.

8/10 Character Design – A Draw

Regarding character design, this one earns yet another draw. Although Night in the Woods and Oxenfree couldn't be any more distinct in terms of the way their characters look, both feature a memorable and compelling cast. Characters in Night in the Woods have more adorable animal qualities, while Oxenfree portrays humanlike models.

Granted, Oxenfree's characters are smaller 3D models whose details aren't nearly as visible amidst the in-game map compared to the up-close 2D of Night in the Woods, but its loading screens act as a clever solution with selfie photos you can view. And the chemistry, spirit, and drama Mae and her friends express match that of Alex and her group.

7/10 Supernatural Atmosphere – Oxenfree

Oxenfree undoubtedly comes out on top for establishing a solid supernatural atmosphere. A combination of the music, sound, and creepy occurrences in the already-ominous secluded setting of Edward's Island are the primary factors to this conclusion. The story also being tied to possession by extradimensional beings, whose harsh voices sound chilling, only further drives it home.

Plenty of dark and sinister undertones arise in Night in the Woods beneath the bright, cheery facade of Possum Springs, but aren't as persistent. That's mainly because Oxenfree takes place during a single night, whereas Night in the Woods spans the course of several days. And the daytime setting distracts from the supernatural mystery.

6/10 Story And Pacing – Oxenfree

Oxenfree is a game where things delve into the supernatural and begin going awry right from the start, but Night in the Woods takes a more gradual approach to things turning dark. That's reflected in the pacing and playtime of both games, Oxenfree clocking in at around four hours and Night in the Woods at approximately twelve hours.

It all varies based on how much you care to explore, and Night in the Woods is heavily rooted in exploration. Oxenfree doesn't provide as much room for it but is far from linear since you're encouraged to obtain multiple endings through the different choices you can make. Both Night in the Woods and Oxenfree's stories also address mental health, especially grief in Oxenfree. The supernatural twist, however, is realized better in Oxenfree.

5/10 Art Style – A Draw

A third and final draw goes to the art style of these two games, for both carry a uniform and vibrant visual style that feels extraordinarily unique. Even some color palettes are the same, such as the beach campfire scene in Oxenfree and the forest campfire party from Night in the Woods, even though Oxenfree has an overall night theme.

Both offer a nice variety of color transitions. Whether it be the bright oranges of day contrasted with the black and purple night or the yellow interiors of buildings with greenish purple caves in Oxenfree. The way the art appears on-screen is where all the difference lies since Night in the Woods is a 2D side-scroller while Oxenfree is a 2.5D third-person exploration game.

4/10 Minigames – Night In The Woods

Where Night in the Woods has a complete one-up on Oxenfree are the minigames. Night in the Woods incorporates an abundance of them into the gameplay. There's a music minigame where you can unleash your inner Guitar Hero skills with Mae and her friends, a pierogi-throwing one, and a full-length computer game you can play called 'Demon Tower,' among countless others.

The dream sequences in which Mae encounters giant animal figures and completes certain tasks are another version of minigames that place more significance on the story. This is an exciting component of Night in the Woods, and one that leaves much desire for having them in Oxenfree.

3/10 Dialogue System – Oxenfree

Considering that the development team behind Oxenfree, Nightschool Studio, is made up of former Telltale Games employees, the dialogue system they designed is pretty impressive. It evokes a more natural conversational dynamic, where the dialogue continues no matter which part of an area you find yourself in, and has three branching options to select.

In comparing the UI for the dialogue, both Night in the Woods and Oxenfree utilize speech bubbles for their characters. However, the content inside the Oxenfree bubbles is the potential dialogue paths you can take rather than the actual lines. The various colors also make them pop and help convey the alternate responses.

2/10 Gameplay Mechanics – Oxenfree

Oxenfree and Night in the Woods are two very differently structured games, but when it comes down to it, Oxenfree contains the more interesting gameplay mechanics. That's because the concepts of rifts and time loops serve as the game's core hook and, become the puzzle-solving mechanics of winding tape recorders and opening triangular rifts when matching the correct frequency on Alex's radio.

Aside from the minigames, which are an essential aspect of the gameplay, Night in the Woods consists of traditional platformer mechanics that involve running, jumping, and the occasional tightrope walk, as well as first-person hand-grabbing mechanics. Oxenfree, on the other hand, also includes climbing as part of its traversal.

1/10 Verdict – Oxenfree

It's a close one, but Oxenfree ultimately takes home the crown. Night in the Woods and Oxenfree are equally narrative-driven games with a fantastic cast of notable characters and stunning original art. When there are three different categories resulting in a draw, it just goes to show how each game is well-executed regarding characterization, art direction, and replayability.

The determining factor is the engaging story and immersion, and Oxenfree truly excels at immersing you in the supernatural mystery of the events that transpired on Edwards Island. The distorted audio cues, eerie ambient music, branching character relationships, and use of environmental storytelling all work harmoniously in favor of Oxenfree.

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