Marie and her sister Sophie went camping a fair while back, but
Sophie went missing. She was there, albeit on the other side of a broken
bridge, but when Marie found her way across she was nowhere to be seen.
What happened is reflected on by Marie and is what unfolds over the next
6 to 8 hours.
I do like a game with complete freedom of movement, where you can go
anywhere and look all about, propelled by the W key and steered by the
mouse. To me it feels the most natural of all game constructs, and helps
draw me in to the environment. And when the environment is as richly
detailed and constructed as this, the immersion is further enhanced.
You play Marie, and quickly find yourself searching gardens, an old
estate, and eventually an island in the lake. Just as quickly, you find
yourself guided by a voice who identifies as Nora, and things clearly
aren't as straightforward as they might have seemed. A diary about a
missing boy, and then some other things, confirm it.
The game world is littered with letters, notes and diaries,
especially inside the dilapidated mansion and its outbuildings. There
are numerous things to open and rummage through, most not eliciting
anything of interest, but not all. There are also a bevy of puzzle
boxes, some musical some not, which contain items or clues of
importance, or perhaps just some more detail to the backstories of the
people who once dwelled here.
You don't have to find or solve everything, but (not surprisingly)
you do have to find the things that matter. Inventory items will be used
throughout the game, in simple and not so simple ways.
It's a fairly dark (in terms of lighting) environment throughout, but
there are all manner of things you can ignite to help throw light
(metaphorically and physically) on what you are doing. I found it was
most useful outside, not to help see where you were going, but to help
find your way back from some locations. I did spend a fair bit of time
being lost as I rambled around the estate, and when I needed to
backtrack, being able to follow the lights I had lit on the way out was
helpful indeed. Getting to and from the island in the latter part of the
game is a case in point.
I did think there was a little too much wandering around trying to
find a particular location (the estate isn't quite a maze but in the
dark it is easy to get confused and turned around), and way too much
backtracking. The latter wasn't because I had missed something, but
because the game made you go one place to do one thing, then a ways away
to do something else, then back again to do another thing. Lots of games
do this, but here, and largely because of the strength of everything
else, it felt unnecessary.
While you propel yourself around with the W key and mouse, you
explore the world with the mouse. Hotspots and icons will indicate
things to be done, but not always. If for example you have a set of keys
and you are convinced you need to go through a particular door, try the
key. Some conundrums lead you to the water, but you still need to drink.
Speaking of which, while some were repeated a bit too often (and
became tired as a result), the conundrums and puzzles were generally
well done. Early on they are relatively easy, by the end of the game far
more complex. Notwithstanding the repetition there is a good variety,
many familiar but some not - positioning cogs, concocting elixirs,
repeating patterns, creating the right image on a set of rotating discs,
even firing a crossbow. While most are not difficult (and a progressive
hint system is available through your notebook), they all require at
least a modicum of gray matter. Some require much more. I thought the
light puzzle towards the end and the clues that were involved (assuming
you had found them) was top notch. The very final puzzle required an
effort that was beyond me though; I thought I knew what to do, I just
couldn't work out how to do it. YouTube helped.
The notebook is a source of great assistance. Hit "N" and
the notes/books/papers etc. you have found will be available, helpfully
tabbed in a file system to indicate what they are and in which location
they were found. You will need to review these notes for some puzzles,
and for more detail on what went on.
As indicated up front, Lake Ridden looks good. Things that are
supposed to be old and rundown look like that, and "feel"
appropriately dusty and dilapidated. Lighting the lamps and candles
throughout the mansion imbues the rooms with some warmth, but can't
banish the fact that they are devoid of current life. Outside is equally
as impressive, whether it be the rambling garden or the soggy lake.
The sounds are as good as the visuals, and the music is well used. It
isn't scary or even tinged that way, but the game does create a
broodingly sad atmosphere.
Not everything hums. There are some gaps in the narrative, and the
supernatural elements might not gel for you. While the voice acting is
fine, I did think Marie was a little too composed given her age and what
was going on. And as noted, you do spend a bit of time getting lost
trying to find the next location, even knowing the location you need.
The game autosaves, so wait until you get the little save icon top
right of screen before exiting in order to limit what you have to
All up, while it could be tightened and a little more focused, there
is an awful lot to like down by this lake.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-6700 4GHz