REVIEW: Lake

A relaxing game with good voice acting and pleasing environments, but the characters are flat and the situations seem forced and unrealistic.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Gamious
Publisher: Gamious,
Whitethorn Digital
Release date: 1 Sep, 2021

Intro

Lake is a narrative, slice of life, adventure game featuring full voice acting an array of different characters.

Meredith Weiss, a forty-something software developer form the Big City, takes a two-week holiday from her high-pressured job and returns to her home town of Providence Oaks to help out her father and deliver the mail.

Exchanging her high pressured life in the city for the laid back pace of a small town is difficult at first.

Since leaving she has built up a strong reputation for excellence and has surpassed all expectations in her job and become an invaluable member of the team.

Visiting the place she grew up in, and meeting old acquaintances, stirs up old memories and rekindles lost friendships. The pace of life in a small town is stark in comparison to the bustling metropolis she is accustomed to, and it starts a thought process of where she is in her life.

Meredith has to make choices about the present and the future and ultimately decide what lifestyle she really wants.

🕹️Gameplay🕹️

Meredith drives the truck around town and stops at destinations denoted on her map to deliver letters into the post boxes and parcels on the door steps.

All parcels are stored in the rear of the van. Generally you will have four or more parcels to deliver each day. Match up the description of the parcel with the street name to choose the correct one.

The truck is very easy to steer, although it is difficult to keep in a straight line, and there is brake assistance. You cannot damage the truck although you can turn it over which can be corrected by a reset option. The mini map is very handy to see where your deliveries are located and you will use it a lot.

The Mini Map is crucial if you want to plan your route effectively. There is no timer or demands on this but it will save you a lot of time backtracking.

Sometimes, whilst delivering mail, a character will appear which starts a conversation and provides dialogue choices.

Luckily, Meredith is very sociable and likes to talk. She is mainly polite but occasionally you have a few options to be rude.

A character may ask you to perform a task or do a favor for them, or they might even invite you join them after work for a social event.

Can you babysit the neighbor’s cats? Now I wish I could remember what I was doing tonight. Oh I have a journal. I’ll just check that. Oh I can’t access it during conversations.
The planner shows all the events you have agreed to attend.

After you have completed delivering your mail you return to the depot and then your home. At home you have the choice of staying in and watching TV, reading a book or attending a social event if you agreed to it during the day. Your parents or boss often ring and update you on events in their life and ask you questions about how you are getting on in Providence Oaks. Your boss can add pressure by making you work and provide a reminder of your busy life in the city.

The boss makes it quite clear that you are an integral part of the business. This makes your decision that little bit harder.

You work five days, delivering mail, talking to characters and making new friends whilst reminiscing old times with characters you knew before.

📺 Graphics 📺

Characters are very colorful and distinctive and environments inside look quite detailed. Some of the outside scenery can look a bit basic at times however, but overall, the pastel aesthetic looks quite charming and gives the town a sleepy feeling.

🎵Sound 🎵

The voice acting is superb with emotion and clarity but there is no music during conversations which I thought was sorely needed.

There is music playing in the form of a radio station when you drive, but it is quite repetitive and sounds similar, with country and western and folk vibes.

🤔Overall Impressions🤔

I’m a little torn about Lake and whether to recommend it or not; Crucially it didn’t evoke much emotion in me, and for this reason I don’t think I could fully endorse it.

There is a lot to like about Lake. It has excellent voice acting, a wonderful pastel colored environment and a tangible feeling of relaxation and a slow way of life. If this is enough for you then it may well appeal.

I reasonably enjoyed my time in the world of Providence Oaks but there was a nagging feeling that this town was full of robots and manipulated by a control Centre somewhere in the woods. Whenever I tried to do anything illegal, I was prevented from doing so. Want to crash your van into an oncoming vehicle or run over a pedestrian? The van mysteriously applies the brakes and stops you from doing so. I know this isn’t Grand Theft Auto but it just felt weird and out of place!

Very rarely does such a polished game with such excellent voice acting fall so flat in the emotion stakes. I kept asking myself, why am I not feeling anything? Is it the dialogue? Is it the characters? Is it the story? Well, to be honest I think it is a little bit of everything.

For a start, there is a noticeable lack of music in the game. I have played a LOT of dialogue-based games like this and music plays a massive part in evoking emotions and tugging on the heart strings. There is no music whatsoever during conversations and without this supporting layer, proceedings feel flat. The voice acting is excellent, apart from a disastrous cameo appearance from McKenzie Crook, but it is not enough on its own.

Some of the dialogue choices seemed odd, especially the characters you are forced to romance. I felt quite uncomfortable choosing certain selections. The choices I were given appeared to be steering me in a direction I did not want to go in, and both romance options just felt a little creepy. I hardly knew these characters yet I was being asked to make serious decisions about our future. You still have the option to brush these weirdos off but it was just indicative of how conversations felt manipulated and not the choice-based options that were promised.

I felt that the relationship scenes were rushed and unrealistic. There were no moments of tenderness so it was difficult to get on board.

To be fair though, some of the decisions about your future were agonizing and they did make me stop and think at the time. It became apparent though that no matter what choice you make, the answer will always be the same. I found this out when experiencing all three endings and trying different dialogue branches. The endings were quite disappointing considering they were basically identical. It felt very lazy and they should have been expanded on a lot more.

There were some promising glints of good writing, especially with her jilted friend Kay, but they mostly fizzled out and didn’t amount to much; Even the finale which finally got me infused was bizarrely quiet and ended abruptly.

I enjoyed the relationship between Kay and Meredith. It was the only relationship I felt invested in.

I enjoyed some of the leisure activities Meredith was invited to. I tried to accept every request to experience some character development and variety in gameplay. Some of them hit the mark but others felt woefully flat again and missed a real opportunity to build connections between characters. It was quite frustrating as everything looked and sounded wonderful but the dialogue was bland and dispassionate.

Some leisure activities were interesting and comical and well worth spending the time participating in.
A quiet fishing trip. The perfect opportunity to get to know someone. Unfortunately, it was spent in silence. Another opportunity missed to develop characters.

The day-to-day job of delivering mail became a little tedious after a while. The songs on the radio repeated a lot and became annoying enough to be relegated to very quiet background noise. The radio announcements were interesting and added spice but there were not enough of them and they were too short.

You get the occasional weather change which makes things a little more interesting. I always like driving at night.

The game is described as open world and you can visit any location without time constraints, but there’s nothing much to see and interact with apart from trying to get the achievements. If you try and talk to a character outside the story line you will get a one line answer which repeats. The characters feel lifeless outside the constraints of the story.

Taking a photo of lightning can be tricky!
There are no time constraints in Providence Oaks though so fill your boots. Shame there wasn’t more to explore and interact with.

🍳Verdict🍳

I quite liked the premise behind Lake. Unfortunately, the opportunity to bond with characters and develop meaningful scenarios didn’t quite work.

Lake is very relaxing to play and will appeal to those who just wish to chill and enjoy the sights and characters. If you are expecting a deep and emotional experience then I would look elsewhere.

Written by
Janner
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