Every now and then it’s nice to play a game with no stakes, an experience that takes you away from the outside world and acts as a comfy blanket. Lake is the latest game that achieves that. A new, narrative-driven game developed by Gamious, Lake follows Meredith Weiss – a career-driven woman who takes a break from her fast-paced job to visit her hometown and act as a temporary mail driver. Fortunately, I was able to play the demo before the game’s release on September 1st, 2021.
Country Roads, Take Me Home
The setting of Lake was something that immediately intrigued me. With the quiet mountain town aesthetic set within the 1980s, and the removal of modern technology, the game captures a simpler, more peaceful time that is very refreshing. You are immediately introduced to the beautiful surroundings: a crystal blue lake sits as the centrepiece in the town of Providence Oaks, the road is surrounded by lush green forests and the sounds of nature as you engage in the therapeutic gameplay. Lake has an incredibly welcoming, warming atmosphere that helps us empathise with Meredith when she finds herself becoming more enamoured with the town and its people. Whilst the demo only introduced me to the basic mechanics and several of the characters in the town, I was charmed by the game’s visuals and pleasant atmosphere in the short time I had with it.
The game lets you explore the world at your own pace, and does a great job at establishing a believable world: realistic radio broadcasts are filled with amusing dialogue and the kind of updates you’d expect from a small, quiet town. As you explore the town you’ll see farmhouses, small housing areas, as well as many local businesses such as VHS rentals and diners – all of which have their own characters and feel like real lived-in places. Lake‘s 1980s setting plays a large part in establishing the comforting setting by removing many of the stresses of modern life, such as mobile phones and the internet. This brings the world and its characters to the forefront and helps facilitate the many conversations you’ll have throughout the game. The 1980s setting also provides many pop culture references in the form of nods to movies from the local VHS rental store. These references are fun and make sense given the context of the conversations, making it feel refreshingly organic.
Small Town Joys
The primary gameplay of Lake is carrying out the role of the local mailperson in town whilst Meredith is spending time away from her job in the city. This gameplay involves driving around town and delivering to different addresses. This is how Meredith will interact with different townsfolk and learn about the different businesses and relationships. Driving is very relaxing, allowing you to take in the beautiful scenery of Providence Oaks. Your postal van controls very simply, and it’s enjoyable to cruise to your different delivery locations whilst listening to the radio. During your deliveries, you are able to speak with the townsfolk, and this is where the game’s dialogue options become a major component. For example, when talking to an elderly lady with a sick cat, Meredith can offer to deviate from her deliveries to take the cat to a vet, which in turn gives you more interactions the following day. During my playthrough, I spent time interacting heavily with the VHS rental store owner. Dialogue responses are fairly varied – for example, in some of the interactions with the store owner, Meredith is able to be lightly flirtatious if the player is interested. Additionally, you can take on activities during the day that give you opportunities in the evening.
The evening is where player choice becomes a more prominent factor. After completing your workday, Meredith heads home and, during this time, you are able to decide how you’d like to spend the evening. In the earlier days, the focus is on smaller activities such as reading a book or watching a film recommended by the video store owner. The demo intrigued me by hinting at future activities and interactions in the following days, with the whole game taking place over 2 weeks. It’s easy to keep track of your commitments by checking your diary back at home, although I’m interested to see if it’s possible to overpromise to the various townsfolk in the full release.
I really enjoyed my time with the Lake demo, and I’m excited to play the full game now that it has been released. Lake is like a toasty cup of hot chocolate – it’s an incredibly comforting, relaxing experience that offers players a small slice of life in a mountain town. You’re given free rein to use your time however you wish, to learn more about Meredith and the residents of Providence Oaks.
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