Most people tend to venture out into the world as they grow up, be that by way of meeting new people, travelling the world, or moving for university or college. This is where a person’s character is shaped and fine-tuned, though it’s often a person’s home that has the most impact on who they eventually end up being. It‘s difficult to accept, but where you grew up and who you grew up with casts a huge shadow over your life. Returning home after leaving tends to shine a light on this fact. Lake tells the story of Meredith, who returns home for a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of her life as a software developer. She finds that while much has changed around town, the roots that bind her still grow strong. It’s a simple and well told tale that I’m sure will resonate with many.
Meredith’s home town, Providence Oaks, is a gorgeous rural wonder, surrounded by mountains and a huge lake. It’s the perfect setting for what is primarily a delivery game, with Meredith taking over her father’s job at the Postal Service for two weeks while she unwinds. Each day, her trusty mail truck fills with letters and packages that need to be delivered. There’s a radio to listen to, and wildlife to admire as you drive down the open roads. Sometimes you get errands to take on while you work, photography challenges or simple extra deliveries. Mostly, it’s a lot of driving through beautiful woodland and along vast lakeside trails. Lake is very much a chilled out experience, with little to distract you from your job as a postal worker.
There’s a bit of drama, of course, as decades old disagreements rear their heads. Meredith’s boss from back home can’t seem to stop calling her, asking but really demanding that work be done, even on her vacation. In its short runtime Lake perfectly encapsulates what it can feel like to return home from a new life, complete with the awkwardness of bumping into old flames, and the growing feeling that maybe things weren’t always as great as you’d remembered.
If, like me, you used to enjoy sticking to the traffic rules in games like The Getaway and GTA, then you’ll love Lake. There’s no real penalty for driving fast or recklessly, but I never really felt the need to. I obeyed stop signs, parked my van carefully with each delivery, and made sure to let other drivers out ahead of me every now and then. Lake does a great job at imparting a feeling of calm that makes you genuinely want to play ball with its somewhat mundane delivery simulator. The residents of Providence Oaks are well written too, meaning that you’ll likely take up every offer for extra meetups and side missions like I did. There’s nothing too involved, most of it plays out over short dialogue sequences or fetch quests. Providence Oaks and its residents sure are charming though.
Lake is set in 1986, which does add a retro nostalgic vibe to the proceedings. There’s a VHS video store, some bloody excellent knitwear, and a soundtrack that sits somewhere between Shania Twain and Brian Eno. It’s a joy to spend time at the local diner, or to visit the lumberjack that lives on the outskirts of town.
Given how breath-taking the views can be in Lake, it’s all the more noticeable when bugs ruin the fun. During my time I encountered strange pop-ins, objectives not loading correctly, and lighting glitches that really took me out of my long cruises around town. They were fairly few and far between, but Lake is a short game and thus its bugs really stood out.
Lake will appeal to those who like their games chilled and their pop with an alternative country twang. There’s little more to do than deliver packages, hang out with locals and admire the scenery, but when the setting is a town as beautiful and scenic as Providence Oaks, that’s more than enough. A few minor bugs aside, Lake is a great way to spend 5 or so hours. It’s even better if you simply want to unwind and go for a drive. If you do give it a chance, you’ll find that by the end of it you’ve made your mark on the town. There are certainly worse places to call home, after all.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S
Code provided by publisher for review purposes