The game has solid controls and the fact that it allows for key rebinding is a nice touch.

GameByte Reviews: Lake Ridden

Lake Ridden is a new game from Midnight Hub released on the 10th of May 2018. We tested the game to see what it was all about. First up, it’s a first-person single-player puzzle game. If that’s not your thing, this game probably won’t be either. The developers described the game as a cozy supernatural adventure and we have to agree – after playing for an hour or so, the game is both relaxing and suspenseful at the same time. The puzzles vary from challenging to extremely easy.

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Although there’s many horror games that may appear similar to this one at first glance, the most horrendous thing I’ve come across so far is the cobwebs that are decorating the attic of the lodge I played in. This game definitely isn’t horror, but it doesn’t need it to be gripping and interesting.

The premise:

In typical first-person puzzle game manner, we set out to find and rescue our sister. To do this we travel to a mountain with a lodge on it, where we find some stuff that suggests we aren’t alone. The person whose things we find turns out to be a slightly loony inventor, and he’s responsible for the puzzles we have to solve. We also find out that we aren’t the first person to explore there…

The visuals:

I played the game with all graphics options set as high as possible (except for brightness), on a 32GB RAM, NVIDIA980ti, i7 Intel system, and the game looked pretty good. The graphics and textures weren’t anything exceptional and after 2.5 years in development, I’d have almost hoped for a little more, but the game more than makes up for that in the level of detail. The cluttered attic in which we explore and play is filled with pretty if dusty things.

Even the areas we can’t really access are filled with interesting books, bottles and somewhat creepy toys. The only real let-down I found are the rocks outside. They look unfinished, as if they haven’t quite rendered yet.

The lighting is spectacular and the creators use it really well – lamps and light-sources give a realistic glow, and the dark spaces give a sombre atmosphere where appropriate. The lamp we carry with us is neither blinding nor pure decoration.

Although the textures themselves aren’t that great, the level of detail on objects and buildings is. When inspected up close, the dolls for example have scratches and scuff-marks. A little later as we follow a spirit through a forest, the barren trees around us have a great amount of detail to them, from bark to branches.

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The audio:

Audio-wise, this game is spectacular. The music, sounds and special effects are very atmospheric and blend with the gameplay to the point where I forgot I was even wearing headphones. From nature sounds to backing music, everything fits and works together. The game itself is very story-driven, making the music essential to keeping up the scenes.

Headphones are recommended and definitely add to the immersion as sounds are constantly going on around the player. The game is eerie and the creaks chirps and swishes just work better with headphones. The sounds the developers chose feel very natural and fitting – while we explore what is essentially an abandoned building, we hear exactly what you’d expect…and a little more. Spoilers!

The gameplay:

Although the developers assure us that this game isn’t a walking simulator, we spend a lot of time walking back and forth between things to look at other things. This is neither bad nor disruptive, but in addition to solving quirky and innovative puzzles, you should be prepared for, well, walking.

The paths we walk – both metaphorically and literally – are fairly linear while still allowing for some exploration. There’s plenty of things to poke that aren’t relevant to advancing, meaning that in order to solve the puzzles to get ahead, you first need to find the puzzles. This isn’t difficult per se, but it gives the game a more realistic feel. The complete lack of HUD also adds to the immersion – the only thing we always see is a small circle in the centre of the screen that changes to a hand if we find something we can interact with.

I’d have liked the option to turn that off too, but it isn’t interfering much – in fact in the lighter areas, it’s barely visible at all. As for the general controls, they are quite good. If the game is missing anything it’s an option to change the FOV. For players prone to nausea and dizziness as well as those who simply prefer a wider field of view, having that option could make a big difference.

The puzzles are a mixed bag, and I mean that in a good way – from quick little things that only take a few moments to solve to more elaborate ones that take longer the game has challenge without being outright frustrating, and the simpler puzzles thrown in reward the player with easier success.

Final Thoughts:

This game is really great for being from a small company. The game has a brilliant atmosphere with fantastic lighting and sound. Visually the game is appealing with a great level of detail and so-so textures. Viewed from a bit of a distance, almost everything in the game is stunning to look at.

The puzzles are interesting with a good level of difficulty and a well-featured storyline – we discover what’s going on through scattered notes and pieces of conversation. It’s a lovely exploratory experience, and it does feel like a relief when we finally get out of the attic to explore the world around us.

The game has solid controls and the fact that it allows for key rebinding is a nice touch. The graphics options are a little limited, but not so much as to interfere with my enjoyment of the game. I definitely recommend it to fans of the genre and those who want to be.