Lake was one of my favourite games of last year. An utterly chilled experience, it saw you step into the shoes of high-flying city worker Meredith Weiss as she returns to her sleepy hometown to cover her dad’s job while he’s on vacation. You spend your days driving his delivery truck around the picturesque lakeside town of Providence Oaks, chatting to residents and becoming involved in their small dramas. It’s like Paperboy without any of the pressure, and an utter delight to play.
And so, when Lake: Season’s Greetings was announced earlier this summer – a chance to revisit Providence Oaks, but this time in the throes of winter – I whooped with joy. I was looking forward to getting to know the residents even better – and I just knew that Providence Oaks would look absolutely beautiful decked up with Christmas lights and under a sheet of snow.
I wasn’t wrong: PO, as the locals call it, is the quintessential Christmas town. If this was a real place, I’d aspire to live there. It’s perfect – save for the odd nosey neighbour. But Lake: Season’s Greetings doesn’t quite hit the same spot that the main game did. Sure, it’s nice to be back in that gorgeous little American town, but it’s missing some of the substance that kept me hooked to Lake the first time around. I find myself not caring about the characters as much, their stories not quite mattering to me.
This time, you’re not playing as Meredith. Set nine months before the events of Lake, Lake: Season’s Greetings puts you in the shoes of Thomas, Meredith’s dad. It’s the same old routine, though: wake up, head to the post office, and begin your round. Thomas is an amenable fellow, but it feels like there are less general interactions on his round. The vast majority of time I delivered a parcel, for example, it was left on a doorstep, with nobody answering the door.
Of course, there are interactions, and you’ll meet some familiar faces around Providence Oaks. The video store owner, one of my favourite characters, is here, amongst others. But her role feels muted somewhat; instead, the most important players in Lake: Season’s Greetings are new characters. A storyline revolves around a TV crew who end up in town over the festive period and while it’s well-written, I just didn’t care about the characters quite as much.
I’ve also found the soundtrack to be rather disappointing this time around, too. As Thomas drives around, he’ll be treated to the radio: a mixture of radio phone-ins and songs. Unfortunately, you’ll be already familiar with most of the songs as they’re the same that play in the main game. Some Christmas tunes would have gone a long way to set the festive tone here.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t joy to be found here, though. I’ve still loved every moment of driving around Providence Oaks, taking in the beautiful scenery – now more gorgeous than ever thanks to the coating of soft, white snow. It really is picture-perfect, and you’ll undoubtedly want to stop and admire the view every once in a while.
Popping into some of the stores on the main street is still a joy, too. The video store filled with its spoof films still makes me smile, and there are a few new additions in there like ‘A Christmas Gory’ and ‘A Christmas Barrel’. Classics. This time, you’ve got a bookshop to pop into, too, and just like the video store, you’ll find some very creative book covers in there. I laughed hard at ‘The Wizards’ by ‘Ronald Dill’ – a perfect spoof of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.
I haven’t played anything as delightfully Christmassy as Lake: Season’s Greetings, and for that it’s an absolute success. It’s just a shame that the stories around Providence Oaks haven’t been quite as compelling as those in the main game, making it more of a slog to get through. Still, I’m glad to have seen Providence Oaks covered in snow: simply beautiful.