Delivering packages is not exactly our idea of relaxation, especially after hundreds of hours spent in Death Stranding, but that’s precisely what Lake is all about. This indie title by Gamious is about Meredith Weiss, a forty-something-year-old who left her quiet hometown of Providence Oaks, Oregon, behind for a career in the big city. The game opens with Meredith taking a two-week break from her demanding job in the computer industry and returning to Providence Oaks for the first time in more than 20 years. However, her visit is not exactly recreational as she has agreed to fill in for her father, the local mail delivery person. So while her parents are enjoying a well-deserved holiday in Florida, Meredith will be delivering the mail.
Lake is set in 1986, an era where cellphones and the internet have not yet changed the social landscape forever. Instead, everyone in Providence Oaks has their own ways of staying busy or productive. Officially, Meredith only has to ensure that the letters and parcels on her delivery list arrive at their destination. Still, more often than not, the people she encounters have additional demands. Whether helping the local cat lady get her pet some help after feeding it cupcakes or assisting the local video-shop owner in promoting her business, the stakes are rarely very high in Lake. In fact, Meredith can also decline to help anyone and simply focus on her actual job instead of letting the whole town take advantage of her generous nature. However, Lake is a short game, and helping the locals adds some variety to the peaceful deliveries, so we ended up doing as much as possible. From babysitting and catsitting to drinking under the stars with hippies, breaking the hearts of two suitors, and going fishing with the local grouch, we made the most of our time in Providence Oaks.
Each day in Lake begins with Meredith standing next to her mail delivery van with a list of locations marked on her map. Players can then hop into the truck and get started with the task at hand in any order that they prefer. Once the final delivery has been made, Meredith can drive back to the post office and end the day. During deliveries, Meredith can talk to some of the townsfolk and even agree to after-work activities, such as the aforementioned babysitting or fishing. Unfortunately, most of these scenes tend to be non-interactive at best or a single line of text before a fade to black at worst. Each day also typically ends with a phone call from either Meredith’s parents or her boss back in the city to cap things off.
It would be an understatement to say that Lake is a very slow-paced game, but we found ourselves really enjoying the experience despite this. Providence Oaks is a very scenic town and driving the mail truck around while taking in the sights remained enjoyable until the last day. A fast travel option and the ability to set the truck to autopilot also exist, but we never made use of it. Some players might find the process of delivering mail and parcels a little too slow-paced, so it’s a good thing that there’s a demo available to try out first.
Visually, Lake is a decent-looking game with beautiful environments and interesting characters. The art has an exaggerated cell-shaded look to it, which is most noticeable with characters’ faces. However, as much as we liked the character designs, there’s no denying that their facial expressions and lip-syncing could have been a lot better. Nevertheless, driving around the lake with the sun shining over the fields and forests is a very pleasant experience. Some of the smaller touches, such as the parody covers of famous eighties movies in the video store, are also great. We also laughed out loud during one delivery, which involved dropping off what was very clearly a wrapped chainsaw at a ramshackle cabin in the woods.
We enjoyed the audio in Lake, too, with the voice acting being the highlight. The actress who voiced Meredith did a great job, and some of the supporting characters, such as her childhood friend Kay also deliver energetic performances. For the soundtrack, the game features tunes from the only radio station that can be picked up in town. Unfortunately, it’s run by a potato farmer from his shed, and the song selection is limited, to say the least. However, while the music isn’t exactly our cup of tea, the tunes fit the style and setting of the game perfectly, and after a few hours, the songs began to grow on us.
Players can control Meredith on foot and drive the mail truck, but neither can be classified as fast. There is a button for making Meredith walk a bit faster, but not much. Apart from delivering letters to mailboxes and dropping off parcels on doorsteps, there isn’t much interaction with the game world. Apart from an arcade machine at the diner that can be played, most of the interaction comes from walking to the back of the mail truck and selecting the correct parcel. However, this was a bit glitchy as, occasionally, Meredith would simply close the doors again without removing the chosen package. Driving around is very simple, especially as the rules of the road don’t apply to Meredith. We were never reprimanded despite numerous traffic violations, which included holding up an entire street by parking on the wrong side of the road while making a delivery. In fact, the only tense moment came from a superior arriving to question us about improper use of company property. Still, even this turned out to be related to the activities of a co-worker and not Meredith.
Despite the game being relatively simple and lacking in any real challenge, we enjoyed our time with Lake. In total, it took us just under eight hours to get all of the achievements and see the different endings. Unfortunately, replaying some scenes to see the different outcomes revealed that a lot of the dialog options don’t really influence the story in a meaningful way. There are some big decisions to make, such as whether to romance Angie, the owner of the video store, or Robert the lumberjack, but the rest of the interactions are very slice-of-life stuff. Our overall experience with Lake was very positive, though, and it felt like a mini-break from some of the more demanding games we’ve been playing. It’s not a game that will appeal to everyone, but if you can appreciate a slower-paced experience and don’t mind some repetition, then Lake might be just what you need.
- OS: Windows 10 (64 bit)
- Processor: Intel i5 4750 / AMD FX-8350
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 760 / Radeon HD 7950 (2GB VRAM)
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 2 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Based on Low graphics settings. Dedicated GPU required.
- OS: Windows 10 64 bit
- Processor: Intel i5 7600 / Ryzen 5 1600
- Memory: 16 GB RAM
- Graphics: Nvidia GTX 970 / Radeon R9 390 (4GB VRAM)
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 2 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Based on High/Ultra graphics settings. Dedicated GPU required, SSD recommended.