We Are OFK (2022)
Developer: Team OFK
I started playing We Are OFK over a month ago, and although it isn't a long game I've been wanting to complete all the released episodes before getting to a review. Thankfully, despite being an episodic game, it only made you wait a week between releases and therefore felt relevant and catchy, like a TV show. We Are OFK is an episodic, musical visual novel about a group friends who form a band together. We Are OFK is a heartfelt story with fun aesthetics and a stellar soundtrack, but it's greatly lacking in engaging gameplay.
The story starts from the perspective of Istumi, a 20-something piano player living in LA. She works at a large videogame company named Leviathan with her friend Luca, a vocalist and composer. Luca lives with Carter, a visual FX artist who puts on shows at a local club. At a party, Luca runs into Jey, his former TA from a music course in college and now music producer. Jey convinces Luca to send her music that he's been working on lately, but he's been out of making music for a while and feels reluctant at first. Jey and Luca begin working on music together and shortly after Itsumi begins to help with keys and Carter contributes visuals. Meanwhile, the four of deal with struggles in their personal, romantic, and work life throughout the story. Each chapter focuses on a developing conflict and allows the player to get to know each of the characters through the music video portions as well.
The aesthetics of We Are OFK really stood out since the first trailer I saw. It's a heavily pink and purple "pop" look to all of their posters and cover art. During the main story of the game, the style is similar but shifts to warm, desert-like environments of Los Angeles combined with simple shapes and fluorescent neon lights. There's a lot of style put into the environments and the fashion, however, the character faces not as much so. At times I felt that the characters' simplistic expressions didn't match the emotion or dialogue of that moment. We Are OFK is game where it's basically all about the music, and I definitely have a lot to say about it. I'm in love with the EP that the band released and I've been listening to each track non-stop since they each dropped. I'm not usually that into synth/electro pop, but these songs are all so catchy and the lyrics are excellent. I still find myself going back to the first single, "Follow/Unfollow", the most - so I recommend checking that one out for starters. The soundtrack of the game outside of the EP is different but still good, just more low-key and jingle-like.
Normally I wouldn't post a trailer or non-game clip, but I need everyone to watch OFK's Game Awards show.
I knew going in to We Are OFK that it was a form of a visual novel or interactive fiction - I've played plenty of games like this in the past. Yet, even for the genre, I found that the amount of interactivity and gameplay was incredibly minimal. The dialogue choices you make, whether they're timed or not, don't really impact the story or dialogue in any significant way. Sometimes there were long story scenes without any choice inputs and I was able to literally put the controller down and just watch for a while. The game attempted to give a little more interactivity in the "music video" parts of each episode. These would include controlling one of the main characters or the environment while scenes of a music video would play. Now, I think this is an excellent idea, but unfortunately the execution was sub-par for most of the music videos - it almost seemed like they progressed to become less interactive each time. The first time it happened, I was excited to move around the world as Itsumi and move around an arcade-like world while collecting points. In the second video, it cut between interactive and non-interactive scenes so much that I would lose opportunities to interact. By the time you realized which button you needed to push to make something happen, the scene had already switched to something else. I would've been okay with the rest of the game's interaction being made up of occasional text choices if they'd actually made these music video parts rewarding to play and made the interaction parts longer.
The way the story developed through the weekly episodes in We Are OFK definitely made me feel like I was watching an animated TV show. More than half of the episodes actually made me cry, and I also had several moments where I found myself laughing at the characters' antics. It's a story that young millennials or older gen z can relate to most strongly thanks to the dialogue style and references. It's also a story of what it's like to be a child of immigrants and struggling to follow your passion while balancing the wishes of your parents. You learn organically through story beats and relationships that all four of the main characters are queer. For example, Luca never states his sexuality, but with him being such a romantic, we see him date women and men throughout the story. All the characters grew on me and I related to them in some way, but I especially loved Carter for their nerdy ramblings and their connection to their Latine family. It's honestly such an memorable and unique story, I just wonder how much it needed to be a video game as opposed to being an animated show or web series. Also, I found at times the story progressed through time skips without making the player aware of how much time had passed or what had happened in that time. It made it a little difficult to keep up with the setting. I was actually a little confused as to when exactly the group members stared calling themselves a "band", including Itsumi and Carter, as at first it was simply a project between Jey and Luca.
We Are OFK is an excellent story about being creative, queer, and authentically yourself while having friends by your side to support you when life gets overwhelming. It might not be a game I'd recommend to everyone, since some people would expect more from the gameplay, but when it comes to the music I will continue blasting the EP from the rooftops. This game moved me in more ways than one and I feel like I really got to know the characters. OFK continues to exist as a band outside of the game and I look forward to more music and more content from them in the future.
We Are OFK is available on PC, Switch, PS4, and PS5
Played on: Switch
Playtime: 6 hrs