On Jan. 15, 2016, small indie developer Night School Studio will release its first game: Oxenfree. If you haven't heard of it before, it's worth getting caught up, because this is likely to be one of the most talked-about games of the first half of next year.
Last week, Polygon was able to play the first two hours of Oxenfree alongside Night School's Sean Krankel and Adam Hines. Hines previously worked as a writer at Telltale, which is evident through the game's well-written, fast-paced dialogue and focus on player choice.
Krankel, meanwhile, has a past with Disney. You can catch glimpses of those sensibilities in Oxenfree's gorgeous art style and approachable teenage characters. The story follows a group of high schoolers on a trip to Edwards Island, a quiet location for them to drink and play out classic teen drama away from the parents.
But what matters most in Oxenfree is what sets it apart from the past endeavors of Night School's developers. Oxenfree is actually more of a horror game, or, as Krankel calls it, "a thriller." It has a story that purposefully messes with the player's head, and an atmosphere of dread tenser than most generic gore-fests.
Around an hour into Oxenfree, the game presents a choice of two paths, two directions you can go in that will shape the course of the rest of the game. We chose to head to a waystation to find one friend. After our demo time was up, Night School shared the above video with Polygon, which shows what happens if you decide to instead head down the other path, to an abandoned military fort on Edwards Island.
Watch for yourself above to see how the game cleverly blends dialogue and drama with some freaky, unexplained events. Oxenfree will be released on Jan. 15, 2016 for Xbox One and Windows PC.