Some Thoughts on Lake
Its weird that I would find comfort in a game that was all about delivering mail to people’s houses, and yet, here I was, at the end of Lake, having delivered mail to a small town community and I thought it might have been one of the best games I had played all year. It delivers on its premise of putting an interesting story, a return to your hometown, romance, rekindling friendships and more, all wrapped around you going out day after day to deliver mail for the Postal Service.
In Lake, you play as Meredith Weiss, a successful software engineer in 1986/1987. You have just completed work on a new software package and you need some time off from the grind of the job, so you go back to your hometown and decide to deliver the mail. Yeah, I thought it was weird too. Why get away from your job to go and do another job. But who am I to say anything when I take vacations from my job to go and work at E3. So Meredith heads back to Providence Oaks to assist with the delivery of the town’s mail from the Postal Service. Now, I would tell you that from the art and color palette, this is the USPS, but since I doubt there was any licensing done, it is never explicitly referenced as such. Either way, you spend your time delivering packages and letters around town, all the while, meeting and chatting up the residents of the town.
The mail delivery mechanic is simple enough as you have a list of locations with a map that you are given each day and you have either letters or packages to deliver around town. You take the mail truck to the locations, grab the packages from the back of the truck, or just walk up to the house if it is a letter. It seems like such a simple and benign mechanic, and yet, I found joy each day, planning my route, trying to find the quickest route back to the Postal Office. It was also neat to go to places and see the fun touches the developers had with the town. Sure, there is a Cat lady, and a lumberjack dude, and even some stoners in a camper. But my favorite place was the video store, and not just because my love interest worked there. It was more about the fantastic parody movie covers that were in the store. You had The Bee instead of The Fly. Or Blade Jogger instead of Blade Runner. We even have Sapien instead of Alien. I must have spent 20 minutes just finding all the parodies in the store.
As mentioned, though, you can find romance in the game if you are looking for it. It is not sophisticated, but I did have fun talking with Angie and working my way from friends to significant other. And with romance comes choices. You can get together with either a male or female person in town, which is a nice twist, although in the time frame this game takes place, it would not have been as positively looked upon if you select the female interest.
The story that unfolds in the background of it all is the idea of sticking with the hustle and bustle of your corporate life, or sit back and enjoy the slow pace of this small wooded community. Or maybe you just say screw it all and hit the open road to see the country. It is always there, slowing pushing you towards your choice, either from phone calls with your parents, to the person that you might be smitten. Its funny, because I just wanted to deliver more mail, even with the story. Something about the soothing mechanic of driving and delivering that became my main focus, story be damned.
So yes, the mechanics of the game are simple, and you may find the story a little passive, but if you just want to spend a few hours, chilling out, delivering mail throughout a town while learning more about its residents, you will find Lake to be a great adventure.