The idea of delivering mail around an idyllic and picturesque American town might not be for everyone, but it was one of the things that drew me to Lake in the first place. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a bit of a change from all of the adventuring and shooting; sometimes, it’s nice to be able to relax, play at your own pace, and see a heartfelt story play out.
That’s exactly what I got with Lake and it made for a really memorable experience. Sure, it has its imperfections and there were times when it could drag out, but the calm and peaceful nature of the game and the engaging storytelling that players can influence ensured that I had a good time playing through it.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Lakeputs players in the role of Meredith, a woman who returns to her hometown of Providence Oaks after a lengthy absence in order to cover for her Dad whilst he goes on vacation. What’s the role she is covering, I hear you ask? Well, she’ll take over as the mailman (or mailwoman in this case), meaning she’ll be delivering letters and parcels to the folk of the town. After living life in the city in a busy job, it’s a real change of pace for her; with the incentive of a break from that lifestyle as well as the chance to reacquaint herself with the town on offer though, her two-week stay in Providence Oaks could prove life changing.
Despite it being the biggest aspect of the game, I don’t really want to go into the ins-and-outs of the narrative to avoid spoilers. There’s something about learning about the personalities of the characters, the bond they share (or previously shared) with Meredith, and how they respond to her arrival in the town that feels like it’s meant to be discovered by the player.
I will say that I loved seeing everything play out though, especially since the decisions I made would affect the story. Whilst Meredith can be a little cagey about details related to her life, it’s up to the player to shape who she is in Providence Oaks – whether that’s someone who’s willing to share more about herself, someone who wants to focus on her work back in the city, or someone who might even be interested in looking for a bit of love. Whilst I won’t give away any details of all of that here, I will say that the story is very engaging, well-written, and features plenty of likable characters that you’ll be eager to learn more about.
“Whilst Meredith can be a little cagey about details related to her life, it’s up to the player to shape who she is in Providence Oaks – whether that’s someone who’s willing to share more about herself, someone who wants to focus on her work back in the city, or someone who might even be interested in looking for a bit of love.”
Outside of speaking with the many inhabitants of Providence Oaks and expanding your relationship with them, players will spend their time driving around the town and making deliveries. It’s the reason you came back, after all, so a fair bulk of the game is spent playing mailwoman. In many ways this can feel a bit repetitive, especially since you’ll be re-visiting a lot of the same places over and over again, yet I found it to feel more cathartic than anything. There was something incredibly relaxing about the process of driving from point A to B and taking in the attractive scenery, whilst knowing there’d be an intriguing interaction at the end of it made it feel worthwhile. You’ll also make some pretty interesting deliveries on your round, some of which are weirder than others…
Each delivery is tied to the little stories that flesh out Lake’s world. Whilst some run over Meredith’s entire stay back home, others are more like quick little ventures that give you a brief glimpse into the other little plot threads that run through the town. Admittedly, there were a few occasions where it felt like a story was missing a pay-off, but it’s hard not to be left satisfied by the experience as a whole.
It probably won’t be for everyone though, with Lake’s slow pace (you even walk really slow in-game) and repetitive tasks sure to put some players off. I noticed quite a few visual glitches when playing too, whilst it’s clear that some areas of the town didn’t get the same amount of attention to detail as others with some iffy textures on show. There’s nothing ugly and the game’s visual style sorta lends itself to simplicity anyway, but there were some locales that didn’t feel quite so picturesque as others.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
You know what, though? None of those issues stopped me from having a really good time with the game. The story was impactful without having ridiculously high stakes, the gameplay was peaceful and let me unwind and take in the views, whilst the way I could shape Meredith’s stay in Providence Oaks ensured that I was fully involved in everything that took place. Whilst the ending did feel a little abrupt (it took around four to five hours to reach it), the process of getting there was wonderful and really kept me fully absorbed in the tale. Whilst I was happy with the outcome I left Meredith with, I’m also excited to see what could have changed if I did things differently in subsequent playthroughs.
Lake is a memorable narrative-driven experience that gives players an idyllic and relaxing venture into a wonderfully crafted town. I loved meeting the folk of Providence Oaks and seeing how they would affect Meredith’s life, whilst the day-to-day tasks of making deliveries throughout the picturesque locale was pleasantly cathartic.
I have no doubt in my mind that the game won’t be for everyone, and sure, it does have a few little niggles that were hard to ignore when playing. They didn’t stop me from having a good time though, with my stay in Providence Oaks certainly proving to me a memorable one.
Publisher: Whitethorn Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC