We Are OFK has its heart in the right place, of that I’m sure. It is an interactive series across 5 episodes that tell a linear narrative story of a band finding their origins and the power of creativity. These are largely universal themes of standing up for yourself, finding what makes you tick and making friends along the way. It is part slice of life melodrama and part band biopic but it runs into a few problems along the way that stop these messages landing nearly as well as I’d hoped.
Firstly, as I feel the promo footage for the game didn’t explain this properly, We Are OFK is a linear visual novel. You can interactive with some timed dialogue choices and choose from selections of text message replies to send but the story will play out the same regardless. The way how We Are OFK feels though is like you are watching a streaming series as if you pause it, you’ll see a timer bar and how far into the episode you’ve got. There are 5 episodes, releasing weekly and each ones around an hour in length. For 90% of the episode you’ll be watching and choosing options. For 10% a music video for a track from OFK’s debut EP will play with some interactive mini games included as the song plays out. It’s not a rhythm game, it’ll be things like collect the cats or smash the statues and usually this is purely moving a cursor and mashing a button.
The four main characters in We Are OFK all grow and develop over these episodes and they have in jokes, personal slang and drop pop culture references like they’re heartbeats per minute. This initially is quite amiable but the sheen of it wears off very quickly because of how hipster and vacuous the dialogue is. Some of this might be LA centric but I have never seen a group of people talk in such a convoluted manner. If its not starsigns, its boba tea. The script also comes from the school of Netflix writes for teenagers. This means every third word is fuck for very little reason or effect. If every emotion is preluded with a fuck and rounded off with another, how do you know what is supposed to hit home hardest? It is lazy and infuriatingly infantile.
This spreads to the characters personality too. Each character ticks a diversity quota and that’s both lovely and slightly sinister in that it feels like we’ve gone down a shopping list. I’ve worked too many corporate jobs where someone says “we need one of those, one of those and one of those” and this feels a little similar at times. I really appreciate that not everyone’s story is purely about identity – these are characters with issues that so happen to be X, Y or Z. What is more exhausting is that each character feels narcissistic. They wear their issues like personality badges and enjoy wallowing and being broken. It reminds me of when indie game movies were a fad for about 18 months a few years back. It would be 90 minutes of developers saying “being indie is so hard” but without any depth, scrutiny, analysis or solutions. If you have to sit through people whining for hours about their lives but then don’t take the steps placed before them to make a difference, it becomes difficult to care or root for them. We Are OFK isn’t quite as bad as those indie movies but it veers towards a similar fate.
Then lastly, there’s the complexity of their messages on sticking it up to corporate overlords and the LA creative scene. They shouldn’t sell out the artistic integrity and being successful over being artistically fulfilled is a bad thing. Then we get given a cat hologram which feels designed purely for merch opportunities and the whole game is here to entice you into buying an EP. Thankfully one message that does land is “don’t be a starving artist” but the game does romanticise the artist life in a way that feels unrealistic and for many unobtainable.
Ultimately, I came away from We Are OFK very conflicted and confused. Some great voice acting, polished visuals and some catchy songs are all here to give We Are OFK an excellently polished sheen. I enjoyed the characters in part and some of their plights. It is however dragged down by this sludge of trying to be so cool and so hip that it alienates anyone who doesn’t pride their entire existence on being trendy and sassy. From language, to personality – it all feels too stilted and cringeworthy. Imagine Life Is Strange using the word hella in every sentence – that’s what you’ll get here.
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