Lake Review

Dan Webb

I’m sure that all of us of a certain age and predilection have thought about moving out to the middle of nowhere, to an idyllic little town with a picturesque backdrop, to simplify their lives and strip away all the bullshit. It’s the 'Cheers' mentality, effectively, going to a place 'where everybody knows your name'. A place where the everyday stresses of being part of the rat race fade away into insignificance, while the pressures of the big city life melt away, and you can live in the moment. There’s something freeing about it… in theory.

Here's that Love Honey thing you ordered.

That, right there, is the concept that underpins Lake, a game developed by Gamious, that, for all intents and purposes, may as well be called 'Midlife Crisis Simulator'. In it, you play as Meredith, a big-city hotshot software developer in the 1980s, who goes back to her hometown of Providence Oaks for two weeks, to help out her father and deliver mail for him while he goes on vacation. And during those two weeks, as you can imagine from my intro, you embark upon a voyage of self-discovery, prompting Meredith to unpick the very fabric of her life, only to realise that she might not be as happy as she thought she once was.

For the most part, Lake actually nails that concept. While exploring a peaceful, beautifully handcrafted town - all white picket fences, with a hidden church, traditional American diner, and glistening lake that sits at its centre - surrounded by a vertiginous mountain range, Lake's Oregon setting provides a perfect escape from the trappings of the rat race. Throw in a cast of genuinely interesting characters and dynamic relationships that range from those you've only just met to old childhood friends who you've fallen out of touch with, and you have the ideal impetus for Meredith to reassess her life – and you to maybe even reassess yours.

That’s where the positives in Lake finish, though. Because outside of the game’s stories and its well-written, realistic characters, the rest of the experience is excruciatingly dull. Driving around Providence Oaks actually feels like a job, and the fact it serves as the vast majority of what you do in the game, it’s a painful and frustrating experience. Yes, you're rewarded with bits of story here and there, but the balance of story versus the mundane act of a digital postal job is definitely askew. If the Gamious' aim was to demonstrate the repetitive nature of menial jobs in a capitalist society, then the studio has absolutely nailed it, as Lake all too often feels like a chore. The fact that there’s only a few songs on the soundtrack also means that it definitely feels like déjà vu every time you get behind the wheel of your postal truck.

I might just drive this into Lake's lake.

Lake, considering its relative simplicity, is also a bit of a buggy mess. There's nothing game-breaking, but certain bugs definitely rank quite highly on the annoyance scale. Whether you’re talking about the time I had to choose a photo for a competition and all I could see was black squares, or the time that the invert option in the controls reverted to non-inverted and wouldn’t let me change it back to inverted, as well as the many, many graphical bugs, you simply can’t call Lake a polished game. Far from it.

"Video games are supposed to be fun," one of the more irreverent characters of Providence Oaks utters at one point, and it was then that I wondered whether Gamious knew exactly what players – and critics – would make of its game. And while games don’t necessarily have to be fun, they at least have to be alluring and interesting, and for certain periods of time, Lake is not.


Buried beneath Lake's innumerable mundane tasks are some really cool characters and stories. It’s just a shame you have to dig deep to really reach them.

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The game’s voice acting is actually pretty great. Shame about the fact that you have to listen to 2-3 songs throughout the entire game (or nothing) is absolutely ridiculous for a 6-8 hour game.


The idyllic town of Providence Oaks is a sight to behold, with a lovely art-style and some beautiful backdrops. It’d actually be a real pleasure to live in a place like this.


Lake is relatively simple to handle and the control system does the job. Nothing more, nothing less.


Too much delivering parcels, not nearly enough delivering stories.


You can’t really knock the achievements, to be honest, as they push you to experience the best parts of the game. Decent enough.

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