Lake is best described as a “feel-good” game: it has easy (almost trivial) gameplay with light storytelling that doesn’t come with any unexpected surprises or plot twists, and which focuses on relationship build-ups with other characters rather than having the player face difficult obstacles.

You assume the role of Meredith, a software engineer who takes a two-week vacation to return to her hometown, after a very long time of being away, in order to substitute for her father, who is a mailman. She thus starts a temporary delivery job in Providence Oaks – a small and picturesque mountain town built around a lake. The days spent there will be filled not only with delivering letters and parcels to various houses, but also with plenty of events that will have her rekindle old friendships, make new ones and even find romance.

The gameplay is basically split into two main stages. Every day during your workday, you’ll drive the mail van around the town and deliver more or less 10 letters and parcels to their corresponding recipients. These locations are indicated on the map and can be visited in any order, as you see fit. There’s also no time restriction, the game will progress only after you have fulfilled all your orders of that day. Unfortunately, Meredith’s walking speed is slower than a sleeping turtle and even if there’s a sprint button, it doesn’t do more than increase her speed by what seems to me roughly 10% – barely noticeable anyway; dealing with her walking speed is the only difficult thing to do in the game.

Driving the van is effortless even for a person who has no experience with any kind of driving / racing games. It doesn’t require any mechanical skills. You can bump into any amount of street lamps or fences without taking any damage, and even the other cars will patiently wait in line behind you if you park in the middle of the street or stop ahead of you in order to avoid a crash.

While dropping parcels you’ll meet and converse with other inhabitants, catch up with them about the events that happened in the years you were away, or even get to know new and interesting people. Some of them will just chit-chat with you about literally anything, while others will enlist your help with various things: you’ll get to save a cat from eating too many cupcakes, go out on a fishing trip, babysit your best friend’s kids, take part in a photo contest, go to the movies or on the contrary work overtime for your obnoxious boss who dares to bother you even during your vacation. Most of these ‘quests’ do not have a considerable impact on the story apart from providing some additional dialogue lines or cutscenes, but choosing to do as many extra jobs as you can will ensure more choices at the end of the game, when Meredith is faced with a life-changing decision. They also affect how the three possible endings unfold, adding new scenes to the ending sequences.

The dialogues are filled with choices that consequently branch them out in various directions. Unfortunately, once you pick one of the available alternatives, you can’t revisit the other ones in the same playthrough. Unlike in similar games where the player is presented with multiple dialogue options that trigger the same answer yet expressed with different words, in Lake you can actually find out new information about the characters you’re conversing with based on what you select. Depending on what you pick, they will choose to reveal more or less details, and seeing every possible dialogue line in the game would require several playthroughs and a lot of patience and coordination. On the other hand, there will always be an option to cut the conversation short or to avoid accepting one of the tasks that these characters give you.

Among the townsfolk, there are two characters that Meredith can romance, and she can choose to pursue either one of them, or both at the same time, or none. The writing of these two routes neither goes too deep into an unbreakable emotional connection, nor remains shallow enough to justify missing out on these storylines. On the other hand, the player can opt out at any time from these two relationships in a very friendly and polite way without any negative consequences, while also keeping a positive connection with these characters.

Every single dialogue line is voiced and the voiceovers are truly memorable. The actors did a tremendous job in bringing the characters to life through their voice fluctuations and intonations that express a multitude of emotions. Depending on the tone one uses, a written line can be understood in several ways and since I’m usually faster at reading the subtitles than listening to the audio, I often found myself positively astonished at how the voice actors chose to convey the essence of the words I just read – it was basically with much more depth, emotion and sometimes even with a different meaning than the one I had from simply taking in those written words. As an example, sentences that at a first glance seemed to have a sarcastic note were delivered by Meredith’s voice actress with an affectionate inflection, a warmth tone and deep respect for the dialogue partner, topped with a bit of witticism and fun. Moments like these (and there are many of them) are what gives Meredith the positive, warm, friendly and polite personality that she exudes throughout the game.

Lake is a great game, one that grows on you with time. Initially I was afraid that the gameplay of delivering letters and parcels would be a bit too bland for my taste despite the fact that I do enjoy repetitive tasks, but soon enough I started to be really fond of the calmness and the zen-feeling that it brought me. After a couple of in-game days, I was already looking forward to driving the van, chatting with other people and listening to the van’s radio that always played chill music (featuring some awesome tracks by the way). Even if I could shorten my gameplay a bit by fast traveling to specific points on the map, I preferred to take the long road and drive all the way to every delivery target, taking in the beauty of the mountain scenery or exploring the narrow forest paths in an attempt to discover what lies beyond those isolated cabins. After the 9h I spent in Lake and seeing all the endings, I can finally understand why so many people love the game: it’s all about the feeling that it leaves upon you after finishing it. Lake has a subtle way of filling you with a serene emotion, kindness, tranquility, joy, satisfaction and positive energy.

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