Initial Thoughts and Expectations
Gabrielle: I’ve been waiting for this game for more than a year. If I remember correctly, I found it on Twitter while going through indie developers’ accounts to find games before it blew up in popularity. I really love games that tell you to relax for a while and take things slower, and my favorite thing about any game usually is exploration. Just running through a game’s map, discovering things, appreciating the landscape, it’s always fun and makes me feel immersed in the world I’m playing in. That’s what I expected: A simple, cute little game with nice art direction, a couple hours of fun, even if repetitive missions.
Dan: I honestly think you were the one to bring this game to my view. I sometimes feel like I have those things they put on horses to keep them focused in one direction, so I miss so much. I could not be happier that I took some time to sit down and actually play this game. It’s honestly an extremely pretty game that took me out of my usual high-speed, action-packed video games and told me to just take it slow. I never felt rushed to accomplish things or to speed up. Although I did drive like there were no laws. I enjoyed this adventure a lot.
A Quiet Town
Dan: Within the first few minutes, the game hit me with an emotional sledgehammer. Straight across my face at 300 MPH. A boss calls you. A simple thing, but the conversation is one I have had many times in my adult life, and every time it happened, a little piece of me died. The work I had done wasn’t enough. There is always more. Meredith is going through the same thing. Working too hard for people who don’t appreciate her. But she doesn’t let them hold her back from her time off… Gab, how did you feel about the story?
Gabrielle: It was a great surprise to see that it had one, for starters. I seriously thought it was going to be limited to ‘’You have this temporal job. Do it’’, because that’s not something unusual with this type of game (and that’s okay!). The cutscenes are not the best because we have to remember that we’re not talking about a AAA game here (Although there are definitely some that impressed me), but the story is so endearing. Same as you, I felt really touched by it. Meredith is a grown woman in her forties who slowly realizes that she might have not discovered her path in life at all, and what she’s currently doing takes a toll on her and doesn’t fulfill her at all. The thought of that happening is something that’s in my mind, and I’m guessing most people, all the time, so inevitably, I think the majority will be equally touched by the game.
What was exciting to find out were the branching paths!
Dan: We have a large enough wage gap where I can comfortably say we are both in very different chapters of our lives. I empathized with Meredith a lot because I feel that way a lot too. I am not OLD, but I am about to turn 30 in a year. A lot of my time is spent thinking about if where I am going is the right path for me. There are multiple paths in life, and that is a beautiful segway into talking about the game. The branching paths were not expected at all. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect going in. As I said, I don’t play a lot of indie games, so I was expecting a straightforward story with linear paths… not a fully realized town that I felt a lot for.
Gabrielle: Exactly! The cast of characters is so varied, and each one has their own quirks and things to deal with. It makes them exciting to know. I was genuinely happy when I talked to Lori and organized to watch a movie together or when I reunited with Kay, Meredith’s childhood friend.
Change of Pace
Gabrielle: The gameplay is quite simple. You drive your van, check on your map to see where you have to go (Or you could actually see the street signs), deliver the envelopes or parcels, and return to the mail station. You have some cute side-quests, like taking a cat to the veterinarian or taking pictures to start a photography club. I find it to be quite solid. It felt good to play, and these mundane tasks are exactly what puts you right in the very center of the town, so in my opinion, they work perfectly. The driving physics are great too; you only get to drive one vehicle, but it feels like you’re really driving, with the weight of a van and all. No crashing physics though! Which I’m fine with. It wouldn’t make sense with the rest of the gameplay and tone.
There’s one aspect of the game that adheres to the gameplay I want to know your opinion about. Most of the time, you’re inside the van, hitting the road, and there’s one thing with you: the soundtrack. You’re actually hearing the local radio who someone started out as a hobby. It has few songs, something which is even mentioned in-game, but I never really got tired of it or felt it was repetitive. It has enough songs that, each time I got back in the game, it actually felt like a companion during the travel. What was it like for you?
Dan: Honestly, sometimes I found myself missing stops because I really enjoyed listening to the music and just looking at the lake. I grew up on an island, so I have a connection to small towns and water. It just clicked so well for me. The music didn’t get too repetitive where it ever felt like a problem. It honestly felt like a real radio station because some songs would repeat. I honestly loved that cat mission so much because of the cats in the game responding to you with meows. That stuff makes me smile.
The driving was so smooth! As I mentioned before, I often got lost in just watching the scenery so much that I may or may not have crashed the van a few times. Thankful there was no crash mechanic because I would have cost the town an arm and a leg.
What Makes This Game Stand Out?
Gabrielle: I think it’s the sum of its parts that makes it stand out. Each of them is great on their own, but together, they make something really unique. You could easily compare this to something like Stardew Valley, for example, but the art style, characters, gameplay, and especially the fact that it actually has an ending make the game a totally different thing of its own.
Dan: So Stardew Valley has too much going on for me to relax. It actually makes me anxious to have to think about all the systems in it. This is very much what I want in a relaxing game. I had a lot more fun putting my phone down and just fully immersing myself in the game for this. I have a habit of checking my phone, but something about Lake made me forget all those responsibilities and made me realize they could wait. I had mail to deliver!
Should you pick this up?
Dan: I really do think this one is worth buying. It’s a very unique experience from a video game. It’s a must-buy for me. It deserves some time to really sink in and deliver some letters.
Gabrielle: Totally. Some people could find a problem with the playtime (It took me seven hours and a half to beat), but honestly, I don’t care how long any game is, but how effective they are at what they try to do and how much I enjoyed it, and Lake excels at what it set out to do, making it an experience that I can only recommend you to play for yourself. If anything we said sounds even a bit interesting, you should check it out.