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Game review 06 September 2021, 15:00

author: Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana has been covering video games and tech for over a decade for publications like 1UP, GamesRadar, TechRadar, MacLife, Blast Magazine, and more. Twitter: @giansaldana

Lake Review: Stillness in the Ordinary

Sometimes a break from your current reality is what you need to clear your mind and realize whatís important in life. Are you drawn to money, career, or are your friends and connecting with special people what you really yearn for?

The review is based on the PC version. It's also relevant to XSX, XONE version(s).

Meredith Weiss, the protagonist of Lake, goes through these questions as she takes a break from her big tech job in 1986 and covers for her father as a postal worker back at her hometown of Providence Oaks. This fictional Oregon town has her delivering mail to people she once knew, reconnecting with old friends, making new acquaintances, and deciding where her life will lead. Itís not just a game about delivering mail Ė itís a game about dealing with the decisions life can bring.

  1. Ordinary, but captivating story;
  2. Colorful cast of characters and personalities;
  3. Vibrant visuals and lighting effects.
  1. Cutscene fade-outs ruin the flow of the game;
  2. Music on the radio gets repetitive;
  3. You donít actually see how certain activities play out.

Working on vacation

Each day during Meredithís two-week stay at her sleepy town requires her to do actual work by driving around town delivering mail to those on her route. Sometimes you will need to approach a mailbox to drop off letters, other times you will need to go to the back of your truck, pick the right package, and walk it to someoneís front steps to drop it off.

Delivering mail isnít the most glamorous part of the game, but it does serve to move the story along by giving your days a sense of purpose. The first few days even have you delivering mail to people from Meredithís past allowing her to reconnect with them. Here is where you can choose your conversation choices, allowing you to be polite, blunt, or just plain snarky.

As you get to meet more of the townspeople, Meredith will also be able to do favors for them after she finishes delivering mail. Some will even ask her to deliver certain things during her routes, changing up the flow of the day Ė even if itís only by a little. Some of these favors are entirely optional, but they do open up future conversation options and potential romantic interests.

There is a plot here, of course, but itís nothing that will blow you away as it reflects the everydayness of Providence Oaks and of Meredithís life. The flow of the game starts off slow as you realize what the town has in store, and you will eventually realize there isnít anything particularly amazing about your surroundings. This is a slice-of-life game filled with mundane things that eventually serve a purpose.

Visually, the game offers a vibrant palette of colors despite how average the town looks overall. Small details like the movie titles in the townís video store give life to your surroundings. The music you hear on the radio ranges from mellow to folk-inspired tunes, but it gets repetitive as you will hear the same song play day after day. Even the game pokes fun at itself when Meredith tells the DJ he needs to get more music.

Relaxing vibes

Driving around your mail truck is pretty basic but provides you a quick way to get from point a to point b. You canít knock things down, crash into buildings, or destroy anything, so your drives feel more stifled than adventurous and it becomes apparent that you are playing a game that isnít as much about action as it is about taking a break from reality Ė Meredithís reality and yours, too.

Driving and walking feel a bit sluggish, and this is perhaps on purpose to further resonate with the relaxing, slow pace of the game. Even ďrunningĒ is barely noticeable, making driving your main means of getting around town. This wouldnít be a problem except each time you enter or leave your truck, the game quickly fades-out instead of actually showing Meredith getting in and out of it. This causes a break in the relaxation and makes you wonder why itís there in the first place.

Now, itís not that delivering mail isnít fun Ė itís great during the first few days into her job as it allows her to meet some interesting people. But after that magic of meeting new characters is gone, you realize becomes just like real life: you just want to be done with work so you can have fun afterwards. Thankfully, you can quick travel to various locations around town to speed things up.

Everyday choices

Sadly, whenever Meredith embarks on some of these activities with or favors for her neighbors, the game doesnít really show them to you sometimes. Cutscenes do occur here and there, but you donít see Meredith caring for her elderly neighborís cats or babysitting her childhood bestieís kids. All you see is her arriving to her destination and then it fades to black. You think something special will happen, but when it does, itís not fully shown, so you donít get to savor it.

By the end of the two weeks, you do start to realize how much youíve connected with certain characters and how much you will miss them. Each one has their own charm and unique personality; from the crazy cat lady to the motherly diner waitress to the farmer who also doubles as the townís DJ. Your choices can help shape their own life and ambitions, and while these donít impact the story as much as you would hope, they do make you feel good inside.

There is no question Lake is rather ordinary, but itís precisely that ordinariness that lets it shine despite its flaws. Delivering mail and driving around the same familiar streets can easily get monotonous, and a few design choices ruin some of the relaxation that comes from the job, but it makes up for it in the unique interactions between Meredith and other characters. Their outcomes may not be groundbreaking, but it serves to tell a story about the normalcy of life and the choices we make to find happiness in what we are doing.

Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com

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