No Jason here though.
Lake Ridden tries to do what many games have done in the past, provide an enriching story experience through the medium of walking through a detailed environment. We’ve seen this done many times before from as early as Dear Esther through the true walking experiences like The Witness.
While Lake Ridden provides a fulfilling puzzle based adventure the story leaves too many questions unanswered and much to be desired in its roughly four hour campaign. While the environment is amazing and characters are somewhat fleshed out several the puzzles will have were you ripping out your own hair through poor explanation, poor hinting and convoluted solutions.
You play as Marie, who after returning to your hometown take your sister and her friends camping. Your sister decides to book it during the night and you head out to find her. Along the way you’ll discover the mysterious manor house above Lake Ridden and its several ghost occupants as well as solve puzzles and try to piece together the mystery of where your sister disappeared.
Giving credit where it’s due the manor house and its surrounding buildings are used excellently in this game. Each building is richly detailed and used multiple times allowing you to gain an intuitive sense of your environment, much akin to the forests of Firewatch. One complaint I have is that buildings are stated to you through name’s never explicitly given to you as a character through a map or on screen identifier. This lead to several situations where I was hunting for a building I was right next to but never paired with the name I was given.
Puzzles vary wildly in Lake Ridden. While naturally there is an incremental difficulty curve across the game that curve has several bumps along the road. While you will never reach a point where you’ll be permanently stuck I did find myself spending a lot longer in certain areas because I had the solution however I’d not perfectly executed it. Although the game does provide you with a hint system they are not a linear progression of information and though some hints will tell you the final solution some hints will only continue to hint at it which is unhelpful for those who are truly stuck. It cannot be said that the puzzle is not interesting however and they range from environmental puzzles to physics puzzles and even a short detective section. Puzzles also makeup the only side content in Lake Ridden; several boxes are hidden throughout the world each hidden behind a tile puzzle and providing information about characters, the manor house, and life there before it fell into ruin.
From completing the game I found the story to be a fulfilling one, despite its rather obvious ending. However it had far too many holes which are likely to never to be answered. Side characters appear from out of nowhere and are given very little fleshing out over the course of the main story. For example: the game has a focus around occult happenings but fails to give any reason as to why they began. Did the owner buy a book and just fall into it? While the side puzzles answered some of my questions I still found myself leaving the experience with far too many.
Despite the story shortcomings the game is a technically sound experience. Beautiful haunting piano music blending serenity with insecurity keeps you company through the entire game. The environment itself looks great thanks to a smaller scale through the several cycles of time and weather as you play through the mystery. I did not encounter any bugs, errors, or glitches at all during my playthrough. My one personal complaint is that there is no manual save option, meaning I lost about 15 minutes of progress when I wanted to reset a tile puzzle as there is no option to reset them.
Lake Ridden is an enjoyable experience. Despite the lack of fleshing out the story is a fulfilling one; the puzzles are unique and interesting despite the rather strange solutions and iffy helps system; and the manor house and its surrounding buildings brilliantly designed and sensibly reused. The steam store page is correct when it states that this game is not a horror game or a walking simulator. At its heart it’s a puzzle game and how good you are at puzzles will be the biggest determining factor.