“Time marches on and sooner or later you’ll realize, it’s marching right across your face!” Not many would think a game, where you get to play the local Postmaster, would have such inspirational quotes pulled right out of the classic 1980’s movie ‘Steel Magnolias’. Well I am here to tell you that Lake by Gamious is dripping with 80’s references. Served to you on a warm plate with blueberry pie, this game is out as of September 1st, 2021 on Xbox and Steam and is exactly what you expect with many pleasant surprises.  

You play as Meredith Weiss, a MIT graduate who comes back to her hometown of Providence Oaks, Oregon in the 1980’s just to do a favor for her father while he is on vacation. The favor? You’re the new postmaster in this sleepy little lake town. Well, just for two weeks that is.  

The Story

You drop in on Meredith’s daily life, working late on a computer program called Addit ’87 while her entire office, including her boss Steve, are at a Labor Day party. She’s working late to make the deadline on the program and is entering in a journal entry talking about the events of the day and how she is excited to get the two weeks away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Followed by a call from her boss essentially trying to guilt her into staying, you pick up very quickly on how demanding and toxic her current work situation is and begin to understand the necessity for the get away. Meredith is a lovable and goofy character who you easily believe needs some sort of change in her life. The problem is, will she find it in Providence Oaks? Or will you lead her right back into the demanding position she is taking a break from? 

You get a quick run down from your new coworker, Frank, and then you’re ready to go on your first day! Delivering packages and letters throughout the town while running into some old familiar faces from Meredith’s’ past. You soon learn that Meredith left the scenic lake town for college 22 years ago. You quickly begin to understand the big and small changes that have taken over the town and even have an opportunity to make your own mark. Will you rekindle old relationships or start brand new ones in your short time in Providence Oaks? 

As Meredith, can reconnect with an old friend, Kay, and become a regular part of her life again. Touching even the coldest of hearts with the story of her time while Meredith has been away you have to navigate the choppy waters of a long-forgotten friendship that ended at the worst of times. Kay is a loud and fun character who spends her time running around the house with her kids or running shifts at the local diner. Decked out in hammer pants and loud floral designs, Kay was easily one of the most amusing characters you get the pleasure of meeting. Meredith could also romance the resident movie buff, Angie who is a goofy and intelligent soul who prides herself in being as forward as possible, not shying from correcting behaviors, including her own poor ones. Angie is bright and bubbly with lots of jokes ready to roll and you may find out just how free of a spirit she is if you play your cards right. What about the other romance option, Robert Harris? The local lumberjack, while tough and buff, has a soft spot in his heart for the expansive woods that surround the town. Stepping right up to the plate to take action of protecting the forest from being picked apart and torn down. How does the song go again? “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Will you allow Meredith the option to be up-in-arms with her fellow Providence Oakens?  

These aren’t the only notable characters, mind you. The local crazy cat lady, the sassy and wise diner owner, the local DJ Farmer and even Meredith’s parents have plenty of personality to pass around. Legal activity, illegal activity, and why exactly the town has a 15-year-old mechanic, all of the interactions I had with these unique characters had me chuckling and in awe of their audacity while all I tried to do was deliver their mail. When it comes to storytelling, Lake deliversTruly the purpose of this game is for you to learn about the characters and their daily lives. If you choose to avoid them, the game would be quite simply the absolute worst, so have fun with it.

lake

Source: Screen capture – Caitlin Rutz

The Gameplay

The entire game revolves around your ability to deliver mail and the choices you make during that time. You can walk or speed walk around the main street and drive your van around the outstretched subdivisions that are coiled around the lake during your daily mail runs.  If this sounds boring to you, that’s because it is! The game, while it is technically about delivering mail, really is not. Its about creating connections within a tightknit community. To speed up the process you can avoid doing favors for the residents of Providence Oaks by choosing from a few dialogue options. However, the whole town will hear on the morning Radio show how terrible of a temporary neighbor you’ve been. Every so often your boss, will call you and ask you to do favors for him regarding Addit ’87 which you can also turn down, you are on a weird pseudo-vacation.  

You can also set waypoint markers, check the mail and parcels you are set out to deliver on the daily, and even go into an autopilot mode if you don’t feel like breaking the road rules on your own. The NPC’s driving on the road do yield to you, within reason. No damage is ever done when you run into trees, signs, and tunnels. And yes, I did test to see if you could be hit by a car and no you can’t. For a game named after the lake in the middle of the town, you sure can’t run off the road into it either. 

It seems also very pertinent to tell you, dear reader, you cannot pet any animals in game. This to me, while small, seems like an important situation I have seen many games be scrutinized for. However, the gameplay is smooth if not relatively seamless. The controls are easy enough to understand, and it’s all very self-explanatory. You rely on your joy-cons for camera and movement control, ‘A’ to select things and talk to people, the right trigger to either accelerate the van (if you’re in it) or walk quickly, and finally the left trigger to reverse the van.  

The game is far from having its own issues, however. Some technological problems prevented me from continuing my story after the sixth day. To the point where I had to save the game and then try to reload that save. Which seems easy enough until I couldn’t select either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the pop up for “Are you sure you want to reload this save?”. I had to physically force stop the game on my Xbox One and completely reload it in order to continue. A plus side to all of the issues is that they are working like crazy to get out some patches already. They had a day one patch on Xbox and if you get the chance to check out the games’ Twitter they have a thread going about what they have fixed and other ways to avoid the bugs that are happening. 

lake

Source: screen capture – Caitlin rutz

The Graphics

This entire game screams that it was designed around an aesthetic. The colors, outfits, and character models are all designed to be something that resembles pop art with the perfect balance of bright and pastel colors.  The landscape is basic but pretty and believable, some things in your landscape are hyper realistic, the mountains in the distance and the lake for example. But all this work is going into the landscape and background and you can turn around and see a weird green box that is a dumpster with no logo.  

Some of the physics are a little buggy. A lot of clipping happens in the game which, being a Bethesda buff, I’m used to. Regardless, it happens enough that it’s distracting. Characters clip through any extra accessories they are wearing, the mail van clips through any shrubbery you run into, some of the mail clips through the mailboxes or packages clip through the doorways and porches. This being said, it is actually a really gorgeous game. The scenery is peaceful, fun and colorful. The outfits that each character periodically changes into are so fun and retro that I was excited, jealous even, of these cute little costumes. To the point that I even wouldn’t mind being Meredith for Halloween this year.  

You can tell that a lot of thought was put into the little things and honestly the effort makes it well worth it. The video store for example has elaborate and life-like movie posters and box art of some movies that will make you giggle at the creativity. Feel like renting ‘Back to the Present’, ‘The Brunch Bunch’, or how about the cult classic ‘The Stony Thriller Photo Display’? It is so great to see the work the team put in, even with the bugs. 

The Audio

The soundtrack in Lake is unique and fits the entire vibe of being in a small town. You can listen to the preset soundtrack they have or listen to the radio in the van. The entire soundtrack is full of new music just for the game and honestly, I would buy a CD or Vinyl of the soundtrack.  Better yet, when you step out of the van to deliver a package, you can hear the music fade as you walk away. There isn’t much variety to the music that is played on the radio, but it is upbeat and fun to listen to regardless. 

Some of the character voices are comical and then some are believable. One of the first people you meet when you get back in town is Mrs. Jenkins, a crazy and endearing cat lady who seems to be voiced by a much younger voice actress trying to do an old lady’s voice. On the other end of the spectrum there is Mr. Harris who is the local lumberjack who has a strong young voice that fits the character design very well.  

At night when you can decide what Meredith is to do with the remainder of her evening, you can sometimes choose to watch TV, watch a movie, or read a book. All of which have their own unique dialogue and audio that plays when you decide to do that activity which is also funny and awesome to hear. Though the TV or movie audio will shut off randomly creating an awkward few seconds of silence as you’re waiting for the cut scene to end.

lake

Source: screen capture – Caitlin rutz

The Summary

If you’re looking for a game that has a lot of action and adventure, I can tell you that you’ve looked at the wrong review. Lake is boring and uneventful when it comes to the usual video game appeal. This game isn’t about the game play, it’s about the narrative and story line. While Lake isn’t without its fair share of problems in almost all fields you can judge a game in, it is well worth it if you are wanting to drive a Postal Van, GTA style around a lake, and deliver packages while learning the town gossip. 

Overall, I would suggest this game for people that are bad at first person shooters and those who are just wanting a compelling narrative driven game in-between bigger titles or as a pallet cleanser. If a patch is created for the glaring issues, this game could go off without a hitch. I’m giving this one a 74.  

Price: $19.99 

Developer: Gamious 

Publisher: Whitethorn Digital 

Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC 

 

Score

Caitlin

Caitlin Rutz

Video Team

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