Meredith Weiss is a big city workaholic in need of time off. Changing the sounds of the city to a rustic lakeside village, she takes on a job at the postal office to deliver mail. Lake is a story-driven, well, postal worker simulator. The player delivers packages and mail to the houses of the small town and that is basically the core game mechanic. This small town, Providence Oaks happens to be Meredith’s childhood hometown and while delivering mail in the region she sees how the town has changed and what has happened to the people while she has been gone and pursuing her career. Some people have died, the cat lady is still there, some of her friends from her teenage years still live there and have started families.
Discussion along the delivery route becomes the major plot device as new people are met and Meredith catches on the happenings of the town. This is not a Life Is Strange game though, there is no sudden supernatural elements or major plot twists and dead people. There are multiple dialogue options and as the player meets new people, they have the power decide whether to cut the discussion short or to end up having a little longer chat. Sometimes the discussions lead to side missions, free time activities, and even relationships. The voice acting is great and natural throughout the game. The story is mundane but purposefully so since the game is meant to be easy-going and slow.
The game looks good. It is not meant to be photorealistic or ground (and GPU) breaking, but quite stylistic. The landscapes and nature are the most realistic looking while keeping the painting-like aesthetics, but the people are heavily stylised and almost cartoony. The graphics do fit the game and its overall down-to-earth and laidback atmosphere. Having the main focus in the graphics on the nature was certainly the right choice as it creates the feeling of a remote yet picturesque town thus establishing the main selling point of the fictional town, its views and natural beauty. The town of Providence Oaks is fully explorable with the post van and the environment is carefully built; there are no repetitive areas.
Surprisingly for such a small indie game, the van controls are quite fluent, and it is easy to drive around the town. The walking in the game though is terribly slow and the character turns as nimbly as a bullet train but luckily most of the transportation is done driving the van around. The van is surprisingly fast though, at least it seems so since there is no speedometer, but luckily this little town apparently has no police force.
Whereas the purpose of the game is to feel like time has stopped and there is all the time in the world, and while the routine postal service can feel relaxing, it can become repetitive and unrewarding. The duty is basically the same every day: pick up the packages, deliver them, and talk to people. The only variable in the routine is the dialogue which changes as the story progresses. The town is meant to be quiet and calm but sometimes it’s almost eerily quiet as there seems to be no people walking around the streets.
Lake is a game for those seeking to have a small break from the busy world and for a little while be free of worries delivering mail in a small town, taking the cat lady’s cupcake-loving cat to the vet, and just being in no hurry. The game does not offer drastic and dramatic plot twists, but it is full of heartful genuine everyday conversations, catching up, and deepening relationships. So, take two weeks off from your work and welcome to Providence Oaks, now hiring postal workers.
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One & Series X/S, PS4, Switch
Release Date: September 1st, 2021
Genres: Adventure, indie
Images: Screenshots from the game, taken by the author.
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