Oxenfree

Oxenfree

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Laksya Jan 7, 2017 @ 7:09pm
2
The "time loops" aren't time loops at all.
*SPOILERS APLENTY*

Alright, so there are a lot of theories out there trying to explain how the time loops work, where they originate and why the problem is not fixed at the end of the second playthrough (the "good" ending). But I always find them unsatisfying as they leave plenty of aspects completely unexplained. So after some thought, I've come up with a theory that explains, I think, a great deal.

- The submarine crew members (I'll be calling them the Crew), after the explosion of the nuclear core, are sent to the Middle/the Between, an empty space between the different realities (like "The Void" basically: hello, Whovians). Through cracks in the fabric of reality created by a certain wavelength emitted by radios, tvs, phones, CAMERAS and whatnot, they are able to see all instants in all of the Universes, which explains the things they say they've seen like the beginning and end of the Universe.

- The "time loops" aren't really time loops, that's just what the characters rationalise them as, just as they called the Crew "ghosts". In fact they are moments when, through Alex's radio, one reality bleeds through to another. Objects move, the Alex and Jonas from another reality aren't standing in the same spot, the scenery changes and even time travel becomes possible. Time loops would imply things happen in exactly the same way each time, but that's not what's happening here: weird things appear, we witness conversations we have no background for, and the characters are even translocated elsewhere. Plus, time loops do not explain time travel OR the sudden location changes. The only way to go back to your main time stream according to Maggie Adler, is to emit the right wavelength after having crossed through, which would breach the gap. This is why Alex needs to play the magnetophones at just the right speed from inside the anomaly when she's trapped in one, and why she needs to tap into the right frequencies to send the Crew away when they're trying to stay in her reality and occupy her friends. (Magnetophones -> Alex is in another reality. Radio tuning -> something is coming through into her reality).

- Alex remembers things because she is holding the radio through which the localized cracks originate, putting her in the epicenter of the disturbance in the walls between realities. People around her are eventually affected as well and start remembering things, but never those who are far off.

- Clarissa is battling with depression if we are to believe the many clues regarding her backstory (even Michael tells Alex that she has issue in one of the "flashbacks"), in some realities she commits suicide by hanging herself or jumping out the window.

- The freaked out Nona we encounter towards the beginning of the game might be the one who sees Ren drown in another reality later on in the game. This would explain her state of shock and the fact that Alex and Jonas freak her out (sounds like something really bad happened the first time Nona encounters them. Ren drowning in front of her and Alex + Jonas disappearing right after, leaving her all alone, does seem coherent with what she says). This explains how Nona remembers the other timeline and encountering Alex and Jonas before: Alex was closeby when it happened (plus, the experience was probably traumatic enough to somewhat impact her on the long-term).

- Anna and Maggie are the ones who broke through to the Between, through their experiments they widened the cracks the Crew were "talking" through. That is why they said that Anna and Maggie "grounded them". That wasn't child talk, they were litterally grounded as they were set free to pass into an actual physical world. Anna tried pushing them back and closing the passageway but died before succeeding.

- According to the crew, Anna and Maggie helped them in discovering a way to return but it takes time: maybe they can only truly cross over with a physical body, which they don't have, so they need to adjust to the wavelengths of human brainwaves in order to possess them. Also, having been in a place where neither matter nor time exists, they are no longer human and might have acquired some degree of control over reality (appearing/disappearing, turning Gravity around, stuff like that... Yeah this part is a bit wonky I know).

- If you let the Crew keep Clarissa, she is erased from the main time stream, which means she never existed: that's why no-one remembers her on the ferry headed for home. Likewise, if you bring Mike back, everyone will just act normal because in this new reality you've created he was always there.

- In the end of the game when you're looking at the picture, time does not loop, we simply switch to another universe in which Alex is about to meet up with Ren and Jonas before catching the ferry.

- You can save your "Alex v1.0", and even an Alex v2.0 if you send yourself a warning through the radio, but there are still millions of Alexs out there who will go through this ordeal.

So there it is, this is what I've thought of up until now, but there are still some fuzzy areas unfortunately, like HOW (or why) do the magnetophones magically appear in the right spot every time... Or why when the Crew get Clarissa they take her away from the reality instead of just staying there...

Hell of a game, isn't it? ^^
Last edited by Laksya; Jan 16, 2017 @ 6:01am
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Cookie Heavy Jan 8, 2017 @ 3:45am 
Yup
yonsito Jan 11, 2017 @ 1:04am 
It is indeed one helluva game.

I like your explanations. But all theories will remain speculative until we either find something in the game or hear from the developers themselves.
I find it reasonable to assume, however, that the story touches on the Many-worlds interpretation rather than time travel. MWI explains the wave function collapse with a possibly infinitve number of different objective realities and "waves" and "the wave" feature prominently in the game.

The most interesting question for me is whether there is more of the story to discover inside the game. I finished the game twice and got the "grocery store ending". Yet you can continue the game/timeline and start on the ferry boat again. Is this so that you can try other endings or can you really do things differently? Some things did change from the first playthrough. And the "ghosts" drop all sorts of hints in the second playthrough. They tell me that hopefully the next Alex makes fewer mistakes. They tell me that we can consider ourselves actors in a play but they also say that it is nice to break the script for once, implying that it is indeed possible to deviate from the script.

I would be nice if the devs would write down their thoughts about the game one day. The story is just too good.
Last edited by yonsito; Jan 11, 2017 @ 1:05am
Laksya Jan 11, 2017 @ 8:32am 
I've done 3 playthroughs for now, and will eventually do a fourth (Achievement hunter, I can't help it). The additional information you gain on the second playthrough doesn't seem to change with further games, but the story is incredibly rich in terms of scenario: choices you make impact conversations (more than actual events really, but I think this is just what this game is: a treasure hunt for information to make the story complete) and you do gain quite a lot of it by trying out different Alex personalities.

I DO have a new fun theory linking the story to the players: you know how throughout the game you speak through a mirror with another Alex, and the dialogue you choose doesn't always match what that other Alex is saying? It doesn't even match your choices at the end of the game when you become the Alex in the mirrors. The other thing is that when you make the choices, your Steam username appears above Alex, and the mirror-Alexs you get have their own names (which change everytime). I wrote the names down, and all of them are in fact actual Steam usernames. So the "advice" you get is actually the advice another Oxenfree player gives you! It doesn't really tie into the story but I thought it was a nice, funny touch ^^
It might also imply that Alex's multiverse is in fact composed of all the playthroughs of all the real-life people who've played Oxenfree...

I think the "breaking the script" thing just relates to the fact that in this moment the "ghosts" have interrupted the usual development of the story to talk to you (and offer you The Deal).

The grocery store ending (aka the new beginning) is the one you get everytime starting on the second playthrough. For me it is the definite proof that there is no "time loop", because whether you save this "Other Alex" or not does not impact the next playthrough: you've merely saved one Alex in a million.

I really don't think the devs will give anything up, since that would basically kill any need for more than one playthrough, which is kind of the point... (I'd still be overjoyed to hear from them, but the game would be ruined for the people who haven't played/discovered the game yet). But hopefully they might publish updates which offer new content or stuff, like they do for OneShot (if you haven't played it and enjoy the timey-whimey-not-sure-what-is-going-on games as I do, I HIGHLY recommend it).

I've also been fiddling with the name "Oxenfree" : I suppose it comes from the childish saying "Olly Olly Oxen Free" which signifies a game is over, and that everybody is "free". But the game doesn't seem to end, so I feel like we're still missing something... It might be a touch of irony from the devs' part, but that would just be mean of them, wouldn't it ^^
Last edited by Laksya; Jan 12, 2017 @ 1:35pm
Jekyllson Apr 15, 2018 @ 7:51am 
I just finished my first playthrough, and I want to thank you for explaining so much! I got the "good" ending, and I was so confused that time seemed to loop!
Laksya Apr 17, 2018 @ 9:02am 
Originally posted by Jekyllson:
I just finished my first playthrough, and I want to thank you for explaining so much! I got the "good" ending, and I was so confused that time seemed to loop!

I'm glad this was of some use! :) My obsessiveness thankfully comes in handy from time to time! ^^
Last edited by Laksya; Apr 17, 2018 @ 9:03am
Laksya Apr 23, 2018 @ 4:09am 
Hey, thanks for the feedback!
I really like your explanations of the magnetophones and Clarissa, so thanks for that!

About the different Alexs, what I mean is that although you can affect your next playthrough in very limited ways through the radios, for all intense and purposes all of your playthroughs are independent, because they're all different Alexs from a different reality. You can "save" a whole bunch of them, but at the end of the game when you're looking at the last photo, you switch realities and find yourself with a brand new Alex who hasn't lived through all of the events yet and who isn't affected by the fact that you just saved everyone (how frustrating ^^) . There is basically an infinite supply of them (ghosts refer to this a few times, "maybe the next one will do better", etc...)

I think the devs' intention was to confuse players and push them into multiple playthroughs to collect as much info as they can and explain the game. Having the characters rationalise things in the wrong way serves that purpose, and also shows impressive character realism since that's probably the easiest way to explain things first off in that situation, before you as a player learn to know better :)
Jupiitermoon Oct 4, 2021 @ 4:21pm 
Just finished the game for the first time and I’m not sure if you’ll see this as your original post is from 2017 but your explanation is great!!
I see in one of your comments you’re wondering about the name, and I did notice during my play through that when you see Clarissa after she jumps out the window whilst possessed then levitates in the air, before she disappears she says “calling all the outs in free”. I picked up on it because this phrase is where the saying olly olly oxenfree comes from and it means in other words, all who are out may come in without penalty. Still not so sure what the significance of this is though?Maybe the crew members encouraging Alex to keep exploring as she won’t be in harms way? I don’t know, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts if you do see this! ^^
Jupiitermoon Oct 4, 2021 @ 4:21pm 
Just posting another comment since I forgot to clicked subscribe to the discussion and I want to make sure I catch your response if there is one!
Laksya Oct 6, 2021 @ 4:11am 
Woaw I hadn't thought about all this in ages but it's a pleasure to come back to it!
Yes I was never really satisfied with my understanding of the title, but I'd never noticed that sentence you just said! It's definitely not just chance that she says those words.

It makes me think that the trapped spirits who are talking through her are sort of calling out "the end of the game", warning Alex that soon they'll all come out through the cracks. Which figures, since the crew has seen a plethora of Alexs come and go and time means nothing to them, they already know the time-line of the game, of the story.
Jupiitermoon Oct 11, 2021 @ 9:06am 
Ah yes i love that idea that the crew members are calling the end of the 'game' as such! It would certainly make sense if that turned out to be the case.
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