The original Lake was my personal Game of the Year back in 2021; its calm, almost soothing atmosphere and gameplay hit the spot for me in a way I really didn’t expect. I adored exploring the lake-side town of Providence Oaks, doing a spot of mail delivery and getting to know the small cast. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, granted, but I found it to be a mesmerising experience.
Fast forward two years, and we’re now treated to a DLC-prequel (you’ll need the original game to play) in Season’s Greetings. Set one year before Meredith Weiss returns home to P.O to take over her father’s mail round, we play as said father Thomas as he prepares for the Christmas season. There are a few other returning characters, but we also get to interact with a new crew of people, including local bookstore owner Beth, and a crew of roaming reporters who’ve come to P.O to profile the town for their news show.
Much as before, it’s meeting and greeting that really makes Season’s Greetings an enjoyable experience. Each come with their own back story and experience, and while it’s not a novella in terms of exposition and lore, each character is enjoyable to chat to, be it helping decide on a name for the post van, or just offering advice to an old friend. P.O is the typical idyllic TV movie version of a small town, where everyone knows your name, very few are on even remotely bad terms, and everyone is willing to help each other out. And it’s a lovely experience all round.
Almost as enjoyable is the act of post delivery service that form the backbone of Thomas’ story. Over the course of about two in-game weeks, we set off each day with a set of letters and parcels to get to their new homes. There is almost zero challenge here, but that’s no bad thing – instead, it lets us soak in the atmosphere of the lake-side town, admiring the lovely visuals, listening to the once again excellent soundtrack (most songs return, but a few festive additions have been made) and just enjoying this more sedate way of life for a few hours. Often a delivery will turn into an interaction with one of the cast – be it an impromptu news interview or a chat about a letter chain scam – but those that don’t are a simple case of pulling up to a letter box marked on the map and dropping the letter in before setting off. Gamious acknowledge that they present a markedly simple version of the postal service, but it suits the mood and style of the game just right.
Being a prequel, Gamious take the opportunity to set up a few events in the main game, from the reason the Weiss parents take leave when Meredith arrives, to certain other character traits that affect Meredith’s story too. This does have the knock on effect of being slightly restrictive feeling in terms of dialogue choices – one certain character’s run in with his boss is less worrisome knowing he’s still employed in the original Lake – but they make up for this by offering a bit more to do with the other new cast members.
My only other knock on Season’s Greetings is in the technical capacity. Lake had a few bugs and glitches here and there, but it seems Season’s Greetings is just as afflicted at present. One occasion saw me stuck behind the car lift at the garage after talking to the mechanic, with a reload placing me back at the exact same spot. I was only able to get out by waiting for him to approach again so I could initiate dialogue again and thankfully it spawned me back on the side of freedom. We can manually save the game, but auto save overwrites itself so if you don’t have a recent manual save to go back to, then it in the aforementioned instance it could have required a full restart.
There were a handful of other, smaller issues (sound cutting in and out, the van noise disappearing for a whole day, the camera getting stuck super zoomed it). These weren’t game breaking, but it did suck a little of the atmosphere out when they occurred.
Outside of these rarer occurrences, the actual meat of Season’s Greetings is yet again one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had in gaming this year. It’s been a joy to head back to P.O and catch up with new and old faces, the chill atmosphere and pace is a welcome change from some of the more bombastic games I’ve been playing recently, and it has almost – almost – achieved the impossible task of making me excited for Christmas.Become a Patron!
This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.