Get away from it all with Lake

I spent the last week leaving my job working in technology and traveling back to my hometown by the lake to deliver mail. It was as quiet as you would expect.

Lake is a strange game. Constructed as a story-driven experience, however, it steadfastly refuses to tell much of a story. It’s an open world where you freely drive a vehicle, but built-in safety measures prevent you from bumping into pedestrians or straying too far off the road, ensuring that you are always a law-abiding citizen. Lake is also about characters and dialogue choices, but the decisions you make are so undramatic that they hardly matter most of the time. And yet, against all odds, Lake is also a surprisingly intriguing and fun affair.

Players step into the shoes of Meredith Weiss, a middle-aged software developer in 1986 who returns to her small hometown to deliver the mail in place of her father, who is taking a well-deserved vacation after his years in the game. postman’s truck. Like Meredith, you must deliver the mail, catch up with people you haven’t seen since childhood, and find something to occupy your afternoons, like reading a book, watching TV, or meeting a friend.

For the first few hours, I kept waiting for “something” to happen. Even knowing the essence of the game, it is almost difficult to imagine playing something so disinterested in getting your attention. After adjusting to what Lake was saying, I began to enjoy what was happening. I got to know the streets and planned an efficient delivery route. I paused to take a picture of the lake with Meredith’s camera. I memorized the chorus of that song that I enjoyed on the radio and started humming it as I drove to a package delivery on the other side of the lake.

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If you expect a big turn, you will be disappointed. At no point will aliens invade the city, and no major drama threatens to tear the rural community apart at its seams. Meredith’s personal and internal conflicts unfold silently during the weeks she spends with her, but it is all very low-key.

Accusing Lake of being boring could be missing the point. At a fundamental level, it is boring driving the same truck through the same city every day, delivering packages and letters to the same houses over and over again. The small town people you meet are sometimes a bit eccentric, but they rarely share ideas or ideas that really make you think. They are too busy talking about their memories of husbands who passed away years ago or what it’s like to work at the store counter for so long.

As I played, I started to think of Lake as some kind of anti-game. Where most video games cry out for attention and get your heart rate racing, Lake does his best to keep everything pleasantly sleepy and at peace. Most storytellers will tell you to skip the narrative between highlights, leaving day-to-day stagnation out of the mix, but Lake takes the opposite approach.

It sounds easy to listen to pop from the mail truck radio, but there are too few songs to really keep you engaged in what you’re listening to. As you progress from the vehicle to your eighth installment of the day, you can hold down a button to accelerate, adjusting Meredith’s pace from frigidly slow to a little less frigid. Every now and then Meredith might make a remark about the envelopes she’s putting in those mailboxes: Handwritten addresses? They may be having a party. This other pile? They seem to have some overdue bills.

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Along the way, it is the simple conversations with the townspeople that provide moments of curiosity and interest. Was the clerk at the video rental store flirting with me or is she just effusive? Is my best friend from high school mad that I haven’t kept in touch or has gotten over it? Who wanders that field over there? If I bother to stop my truck and get closer, I run into the local metal detector enthusiast. Did anything ever come out of the meeting? Maybe or maybe not.

Taken together, Lake’s strangely repetitive gameplay tells a story about quiet lives lived in small places, the value found in routine, and fostering connections with those with whom one lives.

I would stop before offering full endorsement and recommendation; Lake has a few glitches, including game saving and animation issues that caused me to lose progress. Some of the dialogue feels trite. And a lot of character animations happen off-screen, which hurts the immersion. However, I think some players can find a lot to love in Lake, and I am one of them. Developer Whitethorn Games has been very determined with Lake, providing an almost stress-free experience that is neither more nor less than it pretends to be. Most gamers have never entertained the fantasy of being a small town postman, but I suspect the novelty of that idea might have some appeal, especially if most of your game time is spent shooting aliens, racing cars. cars or jump between buildings. Lake doesn’t have any of those things, and it’s precisely for that reason that it feels like such an enjoyable game.

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