Oxenfree, by Night School Studio, mainly takes place on an island and follows a group of teens as they become stuck in a time-looping nightmare. after one of them uses a radio and accidentally opens a portal to another dimension, unleashing ghosts into their reality. The look for this game was developed by artist Heather Gross, and the visual style she put forth in terms of background and foreground is that of expanse: the game’s world is, excluding close quarters, always zoomed out, and uses the simplistic yet incredibly detailed background and foreground imagery as a way to keep the player’s attention on the game’s story, characters and world.
The characters themselves are, for the most part, minimally designed, with more attention to their facial expressions and body language and movement, mainly in static illustrations revealed in the game and half-way regarding the non-static 3D models; in-game, these models are mostly shown from a zoomed-out perspective, putting more emphasis on the body movement and language. I believe this is done to showcase how small the characters truly are in the game’s world, in regards to how big the story gets.
The way the level art is displayed definitely reminds one of Disney films such as “Bambi” or “Snow White”, as the backgrounds and foregrounds always had exquisite detail combined with a pleasantly soft story-book quality. Oxenfree’s approach is no different, showcasing a similar fusion of realism and ethereal qualities; the art itself has a very painterly feel to it, which pushes the illusion of ink-on-celluloid that this game puts out.
What really makes the illusion work, however, are all the details put into the art; the grass on a hill, the rust and graffiti on the outside of a radio control tower, the inside of caves, the depths of an ocean: all of these are filled with extra dust, grime, spots, cracks, and all kinds of environmental or man-made debris and elements, but done so in a way that it seems to appear out of a classic-yet-modern fairy-tale illustration.