After thoroughly enjoying the demo as part of the Summer Demo Showcase earlier this year, I was excited to finally sit down with the full release of Lake, from Gamious and Whitethorn Digital. It’s a wonderfully chill adventure, one that I didn’t want to leave such is the calming nature of the atmosphere and experience. It’s not perfect, but it’s fantastically enjoyable from start to finish.
We take on the role of Meredith Weiss (Em for short), visiting her childhood lake-side town after almost 22 years. She’s here to cover her father’s old postal worker role while he and her mother jet off on holiday. Being such a long time since she visited the town, and coming from living in a bustling city working a high pressure IT job, she must reacquaint with the town, people, friends, and lifestyle that she used to know. Along the way, we meet a range of interesting characters who’s aims and goals might just affect Meredith’s own.
The game is broken up into days over the course of her two week stay. Each one begins with us driving around the town of Providence Oaks delivering letters and parcels, before heading back home for the evening. While this aspect of Lake is simple – there’s no time pressure or deadline to speak of – it’s really quite nice to just drive around this picturesque place taking it all in while listening to some rather nice country songs on the radio. It’s not the most visually stunning game ever, but there’s a sense of place and solidity to Providence Oaks and the surrounding forest.
On route, we usually end up meeting one or two of the cast and have a conversation with them about all sorts of topics, from lumberjack Robert’s quest to save the forest to Maureen’s gossipy-but-good-natured prying and more. I left Lake having felt a real sense of what it’d be like to be in Em’s shoes, and wondering if I’d really want to go back to city living after spending two weeks in PO. Dialogue is nicely handled, with characters all portrayed well. There’s also a branching path to follow, with many of the conversations presenting us with several dialogue choices to make. These affect our relationship with several of the characters, and by the end there are some choices to make for sure. No spoilers here, but Lake allows us to keep our options open pretty much until the end for where life takes Em so we don’t need to worry so much about missing out on one thing or another early on.
In fact, my only major criticism of Lake is that the end kind of pops up without much warning, and so I was forced to choose one option without really having a chance to see all available first. An auto save is present, but for some reason on my data the last auto save was at the start of the game, and my last manual save was around an hour and a half before the end. So if I want to see other outcomes, I’m going to need to play this section again and save it before the last chapter.
Hopefully this is just one of the bugs that’ll be ironed out at launch. Others aren’t quite so bad, and range from not being able to select some items in the menus, to people glitching through the floor as they walk, or one where I was unable to end my day after delivering all the mail. A save and restart fixed the issue luckily.
However, abrupt ending aside there’s a lot to like about Lake. The characters are all interesting, the setting is lovely to look at, and the vibe of just idling around delivering post, hanging out with people, and making new friends is wonderfully calming. There’s an option to have the van auto drive to the next landmark, but I rarely used it as I just enjoyed driving along, listening to the radio, and admiring the view. It’s the kind of life I’m sure most people dream about at some point, and I can’t say I’m not one of them. Of course, it’s the idealised, movie version of small town life, but damn if it is great while it lasts.
Plus, it has plenty of pop culture references throughout. Being set in the 80’s, this small town in America is just getting to grips with blockbuster movies, music, and early video games. It’s real neat to see the parodied VHS box art in the video store, and others talk about bands like Journey or films like Nightmare on Elm Street with wide eye enthusiasm at the new hotness. I’m sure there were a few references I didn’t get, but on the whole this aspect just added to an already enjoyable game.
Oh, and one of the dialogue options lets us make a character watch Jaws, so, 10/10.
Lake is a wonderfully chill adventure. The sense of place is great, the characters we meet are all interesting and entertaining, and I found it to be a great way to unwind after a long day – the way it should be. Well worth checking out, and an adventure I’ll come back to time again.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.