Note: Most of this review is repeated from the originally published version back in May of last year. More of the review has been added at the end to discuss the new DLC expansion content.
I always appreciate when indie games try to experiment and take bold risks. In this case with “Lake” developers over at Gamious took a big risk right out the gate at essentially making a mailman simulator. Originally released back in September of last year on Xbox and PC, but only just recently got PS4 and PS5 releases. For the most part “Lake” actually kind of worked for me, assuming you are in the right headspace going into it. I’ve been working a lot lately, and I’ve just been wanting to come home, decompress, and just chill. What this game offers are a nice, peaceful experience that was very much what I needed to just zone out and not really require any kind of skill to complete.
The game takes place in 1986 in a very small town that surrounds a beautiful lake that’s called Providence Oaks. The townsfolk call the town P.O. for short and I just had to take a moment to appreciate that little post office joke. You play as Meredith Weiss who is a big city woman who grew up in this small town as a kid, but hasn’t been back in many years. Taking over postmen duties for her father for two weeks, Meredith begins to appreciate what makes a small town like this so magical in its own way, as well as rekindling friendships from her past. The entire story takes place in a span of two weeks and during regular work hours is where the gameplay comes in.
This is where “Lake” may lose a lot of its potential audience, the gameplay itself is very bare bones and often rather clunky with that frustrating feeling of a lack of polish. You have a truck to drive around. A map that identifies where all the stops you have to make are and that’s about it. When you get to each destination to deliver mail, you’re mostly just dropping letters off in the mailbox or grabbing a large parcel from your truck and taking it to the front door. Unless you make a stop at a particular home that introduces you to a recurring character, that’s where you’ll be presented with conversation and dialogue choices. That’s all there really is to it. The voice acting and dialogue is mostly alright and serviceable, but it was never super intrinsic or engaging.
There’s a bit of something more “between the lines” in the experience of playing this game though, all of the issues aside that feeling of repetition and traveling around this beautiful little town really began to click with me and made me realize how relaxing it was to play something that isn’t extremely stimulating, but instead wants you to take your time and enjoy the scenery. For that alone I think this is a very unique experience, but I guarantee it may not be something many players will have any interest in even trying. Which is a shame, but with its lack of polish I also struggle to debate against that opinion. Sure, walking around is agonizingly slow and robotic to the point where I’d rather get into the truck just to get to the house next door, and yeah, the radio seems to only have like less than 5 songs that play on loop, but the little story (while doesn’t always land in places) is charming enough and the mailman simulator experience sounds kind of awful in theory, it actually turned out to be a relaxing one for me. It’s a tough one to recommend, but I had a fun experience with it this week after some long work days.
Well, it’s been over a year since I wrote the review above, somehow “Lake” continues to stick with me. I really do admire how much of a peaceful experience and all-around positive vibes the game gave me to where I kept considering going back to play it. Well now I have no excuse, because the developers have come out with a prequel DLC just in time for the holidays called “Lake: Season’s Greetings” and this is just what I needed. With the crazy review season finally dwindling down, as well as the holidays ramping up, this Christmas themed story is just incredibly too cozy to resist. In this prequel you play as Thomas Weiss, Meridith’s father that you keep hearing about in the base game. Taking place in 1985 (the year before the base game) on the eve of Christmas, the busiest time of year for a mailman, not only are you given a lot of packages that need to be delivered, but you encounter some really wholesome story threads, along with visiting familiar faces. Playing the main game beforehand will really help you get better acquainted with the cast, even though this story only takes place one year earlier, it was really to see how things were different in the span of the single year.
The length of this game oddly feels about the same length as the base game, so this is a good handful of hours of new content. While the gameplay and map are essentially the same, aside from now being covered in snow to give that amazing small town Christmas magic, the sameness and simplicity was something I actually welcomed, having loved the base game so much for what it was. I also appreciated the new radio music, leaning heavily on Christmas music of course. Like the base game, this also gives you a variety of different endings you can choose from depending on your interactions with certain characters. All-in-all, this is more of the same, so if you enjoyed “Lake” then “Season’s Greetings” is a no-brainer for enjoying more of the heartfelt dialogue and just getting yourself excited for the festive holidays.
Base game 7.5/10 & DLC 8/10
For more information, visit: https://www.gamious.com/portfolio/lake/
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