Title: We Are OFK
Developer: Team OFK
Release Date: August 18, 2022
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Team OFK
Genre: Visual Novel
We are OFK is a music biopic game released episodically across three weeks. Its first two episodes were made available upon its release date of August 18, with its other episodes being added and updated for free when paying a one-time fee of $19.99.
We are OFK is set in modern-day Los Angeles, following four characters who aspire to become musicians while working their day jobs to pay rent and get by in the iconic city famed for its recognition for the visual arts and home of the rich and famous. Citizens of Los Angeles sure dream big, and it’s no different with its main characters who gradually end up as friends and band members.
Players will become quickly familiar with its four main stars Itsumi, an easily anxious yet enthusiastic young lady who plays piano and keys and who currently feels homesick since moving away from her doting parents, and Jey, a level-headed, established producer is encouraged by her family to move up in the career ladder to achieve greater success at the cost of her happiness. Then there’s Luca, a bubbly and opinionated songwriter for a video game company who wants to branch out and be authentically himself instead of representing existing properties, and Carter, a chill and laid-back person well equipped in dealing with all things special effects related but not in letting go.
We are OFK’s structure presents its first four episodes that follow one character specifically within the group, with its last episode – being the much longer one that clocks in at almost an hour and a half – touching upon each of them and wrapping up where their character arcs and plotlines eventually lead them.
Much of the build-up is sitting back and watching how these realistic characters struggle, deal with their ongoing personal issues, and mature from them as they learn to value one another’s input and appreciate each other for their support. We say “sitting back and watching” because that is precisely what you get with We are OFK. No amount of labeling it as a “Choose your own adventure” game will cut it and instead denies what We are OFK actually is – an interactive film, albeit with the bare minimum of the keyword.
There is almost no player interactivity within We are OFK, and it is, instead, for the majority of the time, a completely cinematic experience. It is a highly casual and cozy experience not just because of its light-hearted, grounded, and feel-good premise and execution but because it does not offer any challenge. Achievements can and will unlock as you progress and finish each episode. The only part requiring successful input is during its minigames for its music video segments. Instead, the challenge is to remain focused enough to see it all through.
Furthermore, these episodic music videos accompany every episode as the most interactive heavy segment within the game that is played before the episode wraps up with a concluding scene. These involve little minigames such as chasing down cats and skateboarding in space. This is where the developers got creative since the sky was the limit in visualizing how its characters dealt with their conflicts, juxtaposed to their everyday locations and interactions with fellow humans trying to make it through their day.
There are five episodes, and the length of the entire experience is helpfully visually indicated underneath all its episodes, even if you have yet to unlock them. Its episodes are mainly presented as a minimalistic yet stylish visual novel where there are choices to pick from frequently. But none of these have consequences because it has only one end.
What makes We are OFK stand out as its own thing is just how untraditional it is as a piece of interactive fiction for all these reasons. First, it’s one of, if not the very first, game to market an actual band, since before the virtual band’s actual EP dropped in real time, each single was released via the episode.
There does tend to be a bit of whiplash from its narrative when getting to its fourth episode, which takes place away from the locations we have gotten so familiar with. This brings up an external factor about one of its characters which feels far too separated from the highly connected ties of the main cast that has been previously established. The story even ends up relatively flat once seeing just a single episode for its predictability in its plotlines and structure of getting to know one character whose arc can be too expected and mundane to call it unique just because of the game’s innovative surface design.
In fact, as an origin story of creating a band, there’s not much about the music industry or artistry in the plot. There is instead a focus on the bonds developing and being challenged between its main characters. So it feels safe to assume that a continuation will happen to explore their future as a musical unit instead then. For now, there are an incredible number of callbacks to previous episodes in its fifth and final chapter that makes past events and dialogue all the more meaningful, but the trek there can be quite the task to stick to.
While We are OFK does a lot in being nonconforming in what a video game should be as an untraditional piece of interactive fiction, it still includes an incredible number of genre inclusions, even in the slightest way that spices up its visual novel formula to add just that bit more of interactivity within specific episodes. So, for example, episode 3 has a JRPG minigame, and episode 5 has a choose-your-own-adventure type of minigame called The Debug Gambit.
Regarding how the game runs, it occasionally skipped dialogue three times in my playthrough and does not allow rewinding or a text log to recheck these missed pieces. You would instead have to rewind the whole scene.
Luckily for a character-driven game, its characters are at the steering wheel at all times. This is of great importance for such a conversation-heavy game since seeing the origin story of this virtual band starts with how its characters react to, advance from, and tackle their personal life events. The issue with this is just how mundane and even predictable it all is. Topics such as turning down or accepting a better job opportunity and completely disconnecting from an unfulfilling relationship give way to the relevant character’s growth. Yet, it has all been done to such an extent before.
We are OFK misses more than it hits. Some scenes and dialogue are meant to be comedic, but jokes fall flat, and only once did it get a laugh out of me. The dramatization of certain character arcs was expected for their characters, so instead of adding complexity or depth, it made them feel basic and uninspired. However, it’s not all downright disappointing.
There is a genuine authenticity to the entire product overall. The inclusion of text messages that are interacted with reading as being ripped out of our own real experiences in conversing with our closest friends is beyond believable for it. Conversations always come across as unscripted and natural – the dialogue feels authentic. With that, its characters feel just as normal as ourselves, no matter how unrelatable or, dare I say it, dislikeable they may initially appear as. Its four main characters tend to be quite self-entitled and self-orientated, but this establishes a point for most of their growth in the end.
Themes and aspects such as finding enough comfort in a new place to learn to call it home, being able to move on from your past that holds you from your potential, seeking happiness over success, and feeling self-satisfaction and self-love over the need to be validated by others first are merely stepping stones to the characters’ growth. However, they are tackled in a wholesome and encouraging manner while still being grounded in reality. Finally, the unification of all these troubled individuals makes their slow but constantly growing development as comrades to band mates beyond wholesome and appealing in the end.
The music of We are OFK is a joy to listen to, as one would expect for the kind of game, although some lyrics are a bit too on the nose to take them seriously. Unfortunately, follow/Unfollow, the very first song presented in the first episode is the worst culprit for that.
We are OFK is a quintessential, modernized, cozy game, something becoming increasingly sought after since the success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons during the lockdown. It’s essential to have that haven. For a game that is so natural and embracing of different ethnicities and sexual orientations and its LGBTQ+ friendly representation, it has its heart in the right place.
The main takeaway is a reassuring reminder of the importance of having any form and size of a support circle because no matter how tough times, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. But, unfortunately, despite such a grand message, it does very little to make an impact, especially in owning such themes and presenting them in their own new and refreshing way since these have been done repeatedly and to a far better standard. It is wildly unique and creative if we are talking about its aesthetics. Furthermore, it is its most memorable aspect since everything else is either middle of the road or falls completely flat.
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