Lake by Gamious
Lake is an adventure game set in picturesque Providence Oaks, Oregon. The year is 1986, and you are Meredith Weiss, a software developer returning to her hometown after seventeen years to take over her father’s mail delivery route while her parents are on vacation. The story unfolds over two weeks, and there is a decision to be made at the end; will Meredith return to her high-powered job in the city? Or will she choose to stay in her hometown?
Lady of the Lake
Each day opens at the post office where Meredith gets in her mail truck affectionately dubbed “The Goose” and delivers letters and packages to the people of Providence Oaks.
Meredith’s workday consists of delivering the mail and interacting with the townspeople. I was given choices on these interactions. Should I help Miss Jenkins by transporting her sick cat to Mr Mackey the vet? Should I help handsome lumberjack Robert with his environmental preservation campaign? Should I go to the movies with the quirky and cute owner of the local video store? Or should I just go home after work and read a book or watch television?
The gameplay is intuitive and not complex with manual steering, fast travel, or optional autopilot if you still want to enjoy the view without fiddling with the steering.
The map was very helpful in navigating this lakeside community. After a few times around the lake, I found I was becoming familiar with the layout and the different neighborhoods.
Playing this game is a meditative experience. Lake operates slowly and easily, just as life does in a small, idyllic lakeside town. The soundtrack is unobtrusive; the radio in the mail truck gives the daily weather report and local news and plays some easy listening love songs. I felt immersed by the sounds of my truck, birds and wind in the trees, cars honking at my erratic driving, waterfalls.
One of the most engaging aspects of the game is the setting: The sun rises and the light changes throughout the day. If the weather forecast on the truck radio calls for rain in the afternoon, the clouds roll in and it will rain. You can feel the passage of time as you can drink in the beauty of the sunset light filtering through the September leaves.
After a hectic day at my real-life job, I found it relaxing to deliver the mail in this gorgeous postcard setting.
These Are the People in Your Neighborhood
Note: some spoilers in this section.
Along the way, Meredith meets various townspeople and it is through these interactions with the NPCs of Lake where the game shines.
The voice acting is superb and the dialogue between Meredith and the other characters was genuine and unforced. I found it a challenge to win favor with the over-sensitive and suspicious elderly Miss Jenkins, but once I offered to transport her sick cat to the vet, I could do no wrong in her eyes.
Reconnecting with my childhood best friend was also a process but very rewarding. The decisions you make for Meredith give depth and tension to the game.
It’s not all sweetness and light in Providence Oaks, though. Meredith uncovers some shady dealings going on about town, various friendly but slightly mysterious characters operating on the fringes, romantic tensions, and the constant pull of her old corporate life in the big city.
The choices I made for Meredith completely determined the outcome of the game and I would love to go back and play again to explore the roads not taken.
Smooth Sailing – Mostly
I had some challenges with the mechanics of driving the mail truck before I discovered autopilot which was a huge time saver. There was some value to learning how to drive the truck manually and taking the time to feel immersed in the experience. But the fact that there are no real consequences to bad driving was a bit jarring and took away from the realism.
I could drive the truck headlong into another vehicle or run over pedestrians without consequence. I could park in the middle of an intersection to deliver a package and a long line of cars would line up patiently behind the truck. Nobody would honk a horn or yell obscenities.
I know this is supposed to be a friendly, small-town but surely there should be some consequences to driving a federal postal service vehicle like a bat out of hell?
There were also some difficulties with glitches when Meredith got into a tight space on a wooded trail. I sometimes had to exit the game and then restart to get reoriented. Maybe the devs could offer (or already do) an easy way to get unstuck.
Meredith also moves at a snail’s pace, which was irritating sometimes. Even the speed walking option offers a marginal boost at best, perhaps increasing her speed to that of an energetic sloth. For some, this alone could cause them to bounce out from playing so we would love to see this patched in a future update.
I loved the serene gaming experience that Lake provided. The world design is superb and feels authentic. The characters are engaging and genuine. The conversation and interactions are natural and unforced.
These issues are slight and did not detract from my enjoyment of the game. Lake offers a pleasant and calming experience with plenty of interesting and empathetic characters for those who love games with rich storylines and decision making. Take a vacation at the Lake and see for yourself.
Check out the XBOX Trailer for Lake
Lake is available on XBOX Game Pass, Steam