I Don’t Want To Wait For Our Lives To Be Over
HIGH Wandering around the video store.
LOW Some distracting pop-up.
WTF I beat that high score the first time, why am I being patronized?
It’s no secret that I will happily sit and watch some of the sloppiest mid-’90s dramas. There’s a part of me that loves low-stakes, emotional conflict that plays out with soundtracks from bands like Dido and Our Lady Peace. This stuff just taps directly into my brain and makes me happy.
Enter Gamious’s new title Lake. It’s a project steeped so deeply in this ’90s drama aesthetic that I would have sworn it was written by Kevin Williamson (of Dawson’s Creek fame) himself, and not the Netherlands-based team that it comes from.
The story is about Meredith, a computer programmer in 1986 who returns to her hometown of Providence Oaks after a 22-year absence. For reasons that feel perfectly in line with the setup, Meredith decides to help the local postal service for two weeks because her father has just retired and left a gap in their workforce. Along the way she meets many of the town’s residents, catches up with old friends and navigates potential romances.
Lake is played in third-person in a small open-world, and the player controls Meredith with the aim of delivering several letters and packages each day. With the freedom to roam anywhere, it’s possible to decide whatorder to deliver them, and there is no discernible time limit. The focus here is on relaxing drives in a mail truck, listening to twee Sheryl Crow-esque tunes on the radio, and exchanging niceties with the locals.
All dialogue involves choices that shape the narrative. For example, Meredith can choose to aid the video store owner with some errands, compete in a photography competition, or she can ignore all of it and stick to her route. Regardless of what is chosen, all of these directions feature a refreshing lack of high drama. Even when presented with a ‘serious’ choice between ratting out a co-worker or staying quiet, the outcome either way is pleasantly and reassuringly mild.
I do want to call out that the atmosphere in Lake is that of rain-soaked Oregon. In the hands of another team, the lighting and setting would have led to sinister goings on, a mysterious murder, or encounters with the paranormal. Instead, we are refreshingly met with situations like a sick cat that’s eaten too many cupcakes or a teenager that just wants to be listened to and encouraged.
With everything geared towards being non-threatening, Lake ends up being exactly like the specific type ’90s drama that was extremely popular with teens during that period. The time I spent in this world was rich and rewarding, and it only falls down in the multiple endings and potential romantic connections — I steered towards the most unlikely outcome, which was to turn down all romantic advances and choose to leave Providence Oaks. Some of the characters’ reaction to this decision was so mild that it was hard to believe that they were in love with my character in the first place.
Lake is a comforting game that lives and dies based on how well a player will connect with its very specific setting and vibe. It worked for me, and I hope it works for many others.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Gamious and published by Whitethorn Digital. It is currently available on XBO, XBX/S, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX. Approximately 7 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Suggestive Themes, Use Of Drugs And Alcohol, and Strong Language. The age rating is completely baffling to me. At worst, some marijuana is smoked and people gamble, with no major consequences to these acts. Nothing else in this game suggests that teens and up could not play this game.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles can be altered and/or resized. The game is fully playable without sound.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are remappable. The camera can be inverted on both the X and Y axis.