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Lake Ridden

Posted by GG Goblin On May - 15 - 2018

Not your average lakeside camping trip.

Developers Midnight Hub will be the first to tell you that their latest title, Lake Ridden, is not a walking simulator. It is not that there is anything wrong with walking simulators, some of them are incredibly engrossing. But the walking simulator genre has a real Marmite effect on players, and any game described as a walking simulator will easily be ignored by the haters. So no, let’s get this straight, Lake Ridden is not a walking simulator.

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Enough of what the game isn’t, more about what it is. Lake Ridden is a beautiful, atmospheric, story-driven puzzle adventure which could easily have been confused for a walking simulator at first sight, but quickly reveals itself to be packed full of head-scratching puzzles.

The story in Lake Ridden, or stories I should say as there is a sub-plot running alongside the main narrative of the game, are quite compelling. Set in the late 80s, as is quite fashionable now, players take on the role of a young girl on a camping trip with her little sister and friends. As is so often the case, the younger sister has run off into the woods, and the core drive of the players character is to find that sister. It is a fairly simple set up that could head off in so many directions, leading towards tragedy, horror or simply a charming tale, and early on in the game, it is difficult to tell where it will go.

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The forest in which the game is set is simply breathtaking, with some incredibly atmospheric lighting effects creating a mysterious mood. Little details, including the light, add to the immersion. I’ll be honest, I find forests creepy at the best of times, so I am not sure how much of the atmosphere is designed to give an eerie feel, and how much of it was in my head. Was I preparing myself for some kind of horror game? Whatever the developers intentions, it is impressive how the game triggers emotions at such an early point.

That tension ramps up somewhat when the player comes across a dilapidated mansion and grounds, which will become the centre of the players investigation into the sister’s disappearance. The idea of an old building hidden away in the forest sends shivers down my spine anyway, so by this point my imagination was starting to run wild. However, the narrative does a good job of keeping the player grounded enough to want to explore the mansion and uncover all of its secrets. Lake Ridden is not a horror game, despite the sinister overtones. Much like the forest, the buildings look amazing, especially when the player lights candles and such to bathe small areas in a warm orange glow. Sure, the whole thing can be creepy, but the drive to find out more about the story and the characters that the player comes across push through the tension.

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While the narrative is enjoyable and the mysteries of the mansion will keep moving the player forward, it is the puzzles that really stand out in the game. Lake Ridden is jam packed with all manner of puzzles, many of which will prevent the player moving forward until they are solved. For the puzzle game fans, having to find obscure clues in different locations that will open a lock or messing around with lights to form a pattern, are what gaming is all about. Many of the puzzles defy any form of logic in their solutions, and even the ones with a logical outcome can be very tricky to work out. Fortunately there is a hint system that reveals the solution in stages, so players can still get a sense of achievement from solving a puzzle without being given the full answer.

Once the player invests in Lake Ridden, it can become quite compelling. The eight or nine hour play time can be squeezed into a weekend for an extended gaming session, and will feel quite satisfying. The game is quite well polished, with only a few pauses to load new areas breaking the immersion. The biggest problem I had was getting lost or simply not knowing where I was supposed to go. The layout is not very intuitive in the mansion or on the grounds, so a fair amount of wandering is to be expected.

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Lake Ridden is a lovely looking game that takes the player on an atmospheric journey with plenty of puzzles to solve along the way. While there is a creepiness to the atmosphere and environments, the game is actually quite relaxing to play when the puzzles aren’t raising the blood pressure. The puzzles can be really difficult, but there is a hint system in place should the player need it. Puzzle adventure games tend to appeal to the more casual market, and Lake Ridden is a great puzzle adventure. But for those players looking for something more fast paced, a trip to Lake Ridden is not recommended.




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