‘We Are OFK’ review: sublime story hits all the right notes

A beautiful exploration of creativity and friendship in the City of Angels

We Are OFK will make you fall in love. In fact, this gorgeous visual novel builds such a powerful connection with players that you won’t just fall for OFK‘s charismatic cast – you’ll find yourself hopelessly in love with their favourite boba shop.

At the heart of We Are OFK is a group of friends navigating messy personal lives and exploring what it means to be creative. These friends (Luca, Carter, Jey and Itsumi) go on to form a band named OFK, whose music you hear throughout the game – but before there’s a band, there’s just four pals muddling through LA’s ups and downs. OFK’s birth has everything you’d expect from a fairy tale set in the City of Angels, from struggling artists to seedy label men.

In telling this story, We Are OFK adds colour and emotion to all of life’s mundanities. Luca’s story begins with a job he doesn’t enjoy, while Itsumi reels from a painful breakup. As they unknowingly stumble toward founding OFK, their relationships with each other are explored, developed, and occasionally challenged. These relationships are the driving force behind OFK’s plot, and each character relies on another to advance their story in some way. The first two episodes show Luca’s friends pushing him toward embracing his creative side as a singer, but his reluctance causes concern for his producer Jey, who worries the project will fall through. Impressively, We Are OFK manages to tell an arresting tale without losing sight of these grounded, human struggles – and the result is a story that keeps you laughing, crying and cheering the whole way through.

We Are OFK. Credit: Team OFK.
We Are OFK. Credit: Team OFK.

We Are OFK’s story would be nothing without its cast, and developer Team OFK does a phenomenal job at bringing each character to life. Every single character has their own distinct personality, and stunning performances from each voice actor sells every ounce of humour, style and emotion. Like We Are OFK’s story, these stars are human to a fault – for example, Luca is hilarious and loving, but doesn’t always realise he can be selfish; while the enigmatic Carter has a dry sense of humour and heaps of talent, but they have a real issue with opening up to those who care about them.

The depth of each character is explored through We Are OFK’s main interactive element, multi-choice dialogue options that pop up during conversations. These can lend a voice to their opinions on lighter topics like hentai and frog reincarnation, but can also allow players to try and convey the thoughts and emotions that a character is feeling at their lowest. There’s never any right or wrong answer – you’re here to learn about these characters, not decide their fates, and it’s a testament to We Are OFK’s writing that these dialogue choices feel stupendously powerful. Because OFK’s cast is so engaging, you’re compelled to do right by them; to help them fit in, or express themselves, in the way that’s best.

Having a slew of dialogue options pop up also serves an incredibly clever secondary purpose – you can only respond with one choice, but just by offering several, it adds oceans of depth to each character by demonstrating several things they’re thinking about in that moment. You never feel like you’re playing a stand-in for yourself – you’re always in the headspace of the person in the scene – and consequently, We Are OFK animates its cast in a way that few games have done before.

We Are OFK. Credit: Team OFK.
We Are OFK. Credit: Team OFK.

In the likely event that OFK’s band members win you over, their music is sure to go down a treat. Each of the game’s five episodes is composed to perfection by LA’s omniboi, along with an original song from OFK. Every track one melts seamlessly into where each episode is at, narratively and emotionally, and OFK’s songs all come with music videos that slips off reality for a few surreal minutes. These tracks aren’t just a toe-tapping good time – they serve to cement OFK’s identity as a band, and each have playable minigames to bounce along to: ‘Follow/Unfollow’ sees a drunk, emotionally lost Itsumi dive into an arcade cabinet to retrieve her phone, swimming through an underwater LA and returning lost cats along the way.

It’s clear Team OFK cares about the music, but it’s also lavished the same attention on the game’s art style. Though the game’s writing centres around collaborating with others, the art style illustrates moments of introspection and loneliness that are often only visible to those caught within. A shot of Itsumi, alone in her room after listening to a voicemail from her faraway parents, lingers just long to feel profoundly intimate – her isolation feels painfully real, and without a single word, you can sense she’s on the verge of tears.

We Are OFK. Credit: Team OFK.
We Are OFK. Credit: Team OFK.

Team OFK’s art style also manages to paint two sides to LA – there’s always a friend in reach, but a contradicting sense of loneliness is never far from the sidelines. Most background characters in We Are OFK are casually painted as faceless blurs, meaning that a character can stand on a packed dancefloor and still appear alone. At face value, the art is gorgeous and crammed with beautiful shots of sun-soaked streets, neon-lit clubs, and quiet companionship – but at a deeper level, OFK’s art style adds so much story and character to a game that’s already bursting with it.

We Are OFK’s riveting art style and sublime writing means it pulls off a bold idea – an interactive visual novel that’s deliberately not too interactive. We Are OFK is not supposed to have As Dusk Falls’ fiery quick time events, or Telltale’s game-changing decisions – choosing the perfect text embellishes a scene, but We Are OFK is designed to be watched like a biopic, and because it tells such a fundamentally powerful story, it doesn’t need anything else to keep players immersed.

It’s difficult to stress just how much We Are OFK accomplishes. This is a story of life, love and friendship that never fails to find a glimmer of joy in the bleakest aspects of the human condition. Relentlessly charming and profoundly impactful, We Are OFK is this year’s anthem for the summer that will leave fans breathlessly chanting for an encore.

The first two episodes of We Are OFK launch on August 18 for Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, and PC. This review was played on PC.

The Verdict

We Are OFK is a phenomenal game that brings its characters to life in a way that few games have ever done so vividly. An emotional, grounded story with giddy highs and aching lows, Team OFK’s debut is an essential experience that deserves a captive audience.

Pros

  • Brilliant writing and voice acting makes each character a pleasure to spend time with
  • The art style is beautiful and adds extra layers of depth to the game
  • A brilliant soundtrack from OFK and omniboi

Cons

  • If you’re looking for a fast-paced interactive story, look elsewhere
  • It would have been nice to see more of side characters like Queenie
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