We Are OFK Review – Please put the phones down — Explosion … – Explosion Network

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Synopsis:
From indie pop band OFK: the Music Biopic series and Interactive E.P. about four friends dreaming, dating, and paying rent in Los Angeles. A story of the creative process, and the things that get in the way.
Publisher: Team OFK
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Also available for:
PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Cast: Ally Maki, Teddy Dief, Fiona Rene, Syhaya Aviel, Sara Amini, Greg Chun, Yuri Lowenthal, Deedee Magno Hall, Kaiiji Tang
Developer: Team OFK
Director: Teddy Dief
Writer: Teddy Dief, Claire Jia
Producer: Mikayla Foote
Casting & Voice Director: Khris Brown
Composer: omniboi
Since We Are OFK was revealed, it’s been a bit of an enigma. Just what is this? A music project? A music game? A biopic? It’s a little of all of them, in truth. It’s a virtual band created by developer Team OFK, and there’s a real album of music you can listen to online. The game is the virtual band’s origin story, their life, love and personalities that make up the band explored in a five-episode series. 
I’ve had the chance to play all five episodes of We Are OFK for the purposes of this review, but the game is launching with just the first two, with the other three to release over the next three weeks. The game’s structure, like a streaming series, is shared everywhere, from the main menu offering different “who’s watching?” profiles ala Netflix to each episode starting with the same opening credits sequence, which you can skip if you choose. 
There’s little that you need your controller for here, other than making some dialogue choices and adding flair to the music videos (which I’ll get to). Still, it’s not the lack of “proper gameplay” that I found disconnecting me from the story and being in the moment for character beats; it’s how Team OFK chose to tell a lot of the game’s narrative. Characters spend an obtuse amount of time texting each other in this game. They also write in an exceedingly cringy short-hand. It’s 2022, and all of our phones have auto-correct; I stopped using short-hand text years ago. I may have said, “y have u ben ritin this way????” when I was in high school, but I certainly wouldn’t now. Maybe I’m too old, but the youngest characters in the game are only a couple of years younger than me. It’s not just the short-hand that bothered me; I could have dealt with it if there wasn’t so much of it in We Are OFK. I felt like half the game was characters texting each other and me just clicking ‘X’ to get through the messages. There’s a disconnect between me and the characters, as their annoying lingo made it hard for me to connect and understand them. Having so many scenes of text messages also just annoyed me, and I began to wonder if anyone talks on the phone in this game, which someone makes a joke about in the last episode.
I did enjoy the characters when I got to spend time with them face-to-face and not buried in their phones. Itsumi is a fun-loving pianist who I see a lot of myself in; she’s not the lead singer of OFK but feels like the lead of the game. Luca is the band’s lead singer, and I loved his style and how he’s a hopeless daydreaming romantic. Jey is the brain behind the music, and she has an unappreciated production skillset but just wants to make great music, which I appreciated immediately. And Carter is a tech-wiz who somehow manages to create a VR cat. They never really explain how it works, but that cat, Debug, becomes as much a band member as Carter. The voice cast is fantastic, and the unique personalities of each member of OFK are exceeding charming.
We Are OFK hits its high notes in the game’s last couple of episodes, where adult questions and discussions around growing up, losing loved ones, relationships and more are the focal points. There’s a constant background of the games industry being a mess, with everyone but Jey working in video games as a day job. We Are OFK fires on all cylinders when these issues are at the forefront. The game’s obsession with texting worked during a tense scene where two characters angrily text back and forth at a very inappropriate time. That felt real, and how something like that would play out, and I felt my heart racing as the texts flew back and forth. 
There’s also little to no player choice here, which I don’t mind, I’m okay with an interactive Netflix series like this, but it’s worth mentioning for those who think you’ll be shaping and having a bigger hand in the creation of the band because you’re not.
Music is, of course, a big part of the game, and the music of OFK is at the backend of each episode when you get to partake in a ‘music video’ for the band. These aren’t real music videos; they’re fantasy, but during these, you’ll get some control over the characters moving on the screen and can shape and play with things to the beat. They’re a lot of fun, as redundant as that word can be, but they genuinely are. It helps that the music is also excellent, and I’ll happily listen to OFK once all the tracks are released online. As of writing, it’s just Follow/Unfollow, which is still a banger. 
There are many things I liked about We Are OFK, from the characters to the music, the art direction and the thematic ideas that hit, and as a project, I am in love with the idea. I can only hope there’s more of this, music, game and add some merch to come. But the disconnect the text messages caused me felt like being brutally ripped out of the experience; I began to roll my eyes when a phone icon popped up on the screen.
(We Are OFK code provided for review)

[He/Him] Founder & Content Manager of Explosion Network. Currently on a mission to get Rhea Seehorn an Emmy.
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[He/Him] Founder & Content Manager of Explosion Network. Currently on a mission to get Rhea Seehorn an Emmy.
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