Title: Lake Ridden
Developer: Midnight Hub
Publisher: Midnight Hub
Release date: May 10, 2018
TL;DR: A puzzle-laden, story driven adventure with bundles of atmosphere!
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Midnight Hub’s Lake Ridden promises “a story-driven puzzle game, focusing on narration and atmosphere,” and it certainly delivers.
You play as Marie, a 13-year-old girl, looking for her younger sister Sofia, who has gone missing on a camping weekend. Your search starts in an appropriately unsettling night-time forest – the bright glow of fireflies flitting around gives some contrast to the muted colours of the wood, and silhouettes of tall trees are made all the more eerie by the blanket of fog that has surrounded everything.
As you make your way through the forest, you are greeted with locked gates and derelict cabins just begging to be explored. Everything looks eerie and abandoned; gates are held shut by thick roots and ivy, and stonework is crumbling in disrepair.
Mysterious notes and letters help you decipher a puzzle or code that you will need figure out to progress, and you are able to interact with various objects along the way, from doors and drawers to abandoned teddy bears. You can light candles and lamps too which, other than giving the obvious advantage of brightening up your current surroundings, can also be used as a handy way to mark which places you’ve already explored. This becomes really useful as the areas open up and getting disoriented starts to be a potential issue – especially as the game has no map.
The puzzles you will encounter in Lake Ridden are varied and engaging. Some will require you to simply look for clues to input a code on a keypad, while others will have you finding and assembling interactive parts to make something work, or pulling a series of levers in a particular order. As the game progresses, the puzzles get progressively harder and more intricate. There’s good news if puzzles aren’t your strong point though – the game has a handy hint system that you can access should you get really stuck. I’ll admit that I did have to resort to one of the game’s hints on one particular puzzle that had me stumped for about 40 minutes!
The start of the game is fairly linear, but as you move from the denseness of the forest and onto an old abandoned estate, it becomes progressively more open and allows you to explore. It was at this point where I could have literally lost hours exploring every room and outbuilding – and let’s not even get into the fact that you can open most cupboards and drawers. With so many letters and journal entries to be found, the compulsion to check absolutely everything is very real here.
The story is kept deliberately vague. You find old letters and photographs that hint that something odd is going on with Lake Ridden and that other people have gone missing here in the past, but you’re given enough to make you want to find Sofia and figure out what’s going on – all while managing to maintain the feeling that a jump scare could be thrust upon you at any time.
You’ll get some help along the way from the mysterious Nora, as well as other, former residents of Lake Ridden. Various dialogue options are available as you talk to them, though as I’ve only played the game through once, I’m not sure if these have any real impact on the story. Even so, they are a nice – and unexpected – touch.
All notes and letters that you find are kept in a file that you can refer to at any time. Various puzzle boxes are scattered throughout the game and protected by a simple-looking grid puzzle, each of which gives you some insight into the history of Lake Ridden, though these seem to be optional side items that aren’t required to complete the game. To help with these (and anything else you may have missed), the game gives you the option to select each chapter from the menu, encouraging you to go back and pick up any collectables you may have missed on your initial playthrough.
The only real area that the game fails is the lack of maps. You are told you need to go to a specific place, but it’s not clear where that place is. I was told to look for something in the “courtyard,” and, even though I did have an idea of where that was, I spent a good 15 minutes wandering around in circles, trying to find what I was looking for. More frustrating than game-breaking, for sure, and this could just be down to my bad navigation skills.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing Lake Ridden. It took me roughly ten hours to finish my first playthrough, and that’s missing quite a few of the collectables along the way. It’s a game I’ll definitely be going back to for those last few achievements.
- Varied and engaging puzzles.
- Easy to become disoriented with no map.
Rated: TBC; suitable for young teens or older. No violence or gore but subject matter may make it less suitable for young children.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.