Meredith has taken over her dad's mail route in picturesque Providence Oaks while he's on vacation so let's see if Lake delivers the goods.
In Lake, you play as Meredith Weiss, a middle-aged woman who works at a software company and has accepted her Dad's offer to deliver packages and letters in a small lakeside community for 2 weeks while he's gone. I was drawn to Lake because I share some similarities with the premise: I was born in '86 which is when the game takes place, my Dad was a postman, and I work as a software programmer so how could I not play this game?
Overall, Lake is a very simple game. For 2 weeks, you start your day at the post office, get in your van, and drop off packages and letters to the townsfolk. Some homes will be empty but you'll occasionally find that someone is home and all too ready to strike up a long conversation. Meredith grew up in Providence Oaks and there are still some people living there from her childhood such as the old cat lady and an estranged friend. Some conversations start out awkward given how long it's been since Meredith visited the town but over the 2 weeks, you have the opportunity to foster some substantial relationships with the people of Providence Oaks.
While the actual gameplay of Lake has you merely drive around and drop stuff off, the relationship-building is where the gameplay really shines. Every conversation can be approached in different ways depending on the choices you make which have lasting effects on future conversations and scenes that play out. For example, choosing to take an old RV off a couple's hands when they leave gives you the option of passing it on to a friend who's going on a long trip but only because you decided to take them on a date and convinced them to leave the city because their business isn't doing well.
All of the characters' stories are connected and each player's playthrough will be unique. For a small town, there's quite an interesting cast of all different ages and backgrounds and your short visit can have real impact on the fates of these characters which culminates in a wide variety of different endings. There are also many lighthearted humorous moments thrown in that bring a charm to the story which sometimes makes playing Lake similar to watching an episode of Joe Pera Talks With You.
Unfortunately, the graphical quality of Lake is pretty subpar throughout. The scenery and characters look good and there's an attractive landscape to drive around with many little pockets of homes and small landmarks like a wooden tower and the town's mini main street. However, I experienced many glitches in my playthrough and there are some parts that feel obviously rushed such as the fact that the back of the mail truck where the packages are stored is just a grey void when you open it.
Examples of other glitches that I saw include characters randomly appearing and disappearing in conversations, Meredith handing a cat to someone and saying that it's the mail, a character glitching out and appearing in the middle of the ground whenever I talked to him, and my van got completely stuck twice. For that last one, there is a fast-travel option where you can warp to a few different locations around the lake so thankfully, I didn't have to restart my day to fix it but the fact that it happened so easily is surprising. I could have just finished the day's deliveries on foot but Meredith walks so slow even with the fast walk button pressed down that it wasn't an option.
Lake is a short and enjoyable story-driven game with interesting mail delivery gameplay that drives you to get to know the townsfolk. The story and interactions provide much lighthearted fun so if you can get past the graphical issues and bugs, there's plenty to make you play Lake over and over so you can see how your decisions influence the people of Providence Oaks.
- + In-depth decision-making influences the story in many substantial ways
- + Interesting characters and enjoyable writing
- + Many lighthearted and funny moments
- - Glitches will take you out of the experience
- - Graphics are quite basic overall
- - Fairly short campaign