There is a missing girl, who vanished suddenly on a night out in the wilderness. Marie, her sister, sets out to find her. The goal of Lake Ridden is to explore the woods, an estate, and a lake in order to figure out what happened to her. With a heavy emphasis on the story, you must solve numerous puzzles to proceed in the task of finding her. While at first it appears to be a simple rescue mission, after a paranormal voice starts offering help in finding the sister you realize there is much more mystery involved. It’s a pretty casual experience of walking around but does have some pretty difficult puzzles. Will you be able to find your sister before it’s too late? Are ghosts really trying to help, or lead you astray? You’ll have to find out all the answers through a well-developed thought process that demands you pay attention to the clues.
Here’s what I liked:
Pay Attention— There are a few repeating puzzles that can get boring and easy. But then there are one-of-a-kind tasks that can be extremely difficult to figure out. You must sift through notes that you find to figure out the clues. If you like difficult puzzles, you’re in for a treat. You’re offered a few hints but even then it can be a lot of critical thinking. I’ll admit it, I had to look online for answers to a few of them. I was completely stumped, which is a nice change because normally games are a bit too easy to figure out. This is harder than most puzzle games I have played. You’ll either love it or hate it.
Pleasing to the Senses — Imagery and sound are at the forefront of the adventure. Walking around, you’ll most likely appreciate the artistic design of the eerie environment. It’s suggested to play with headphones, which does dramatically affect your experience. There are times you’ll be walking and random sounds will briefly spook you. This is a ghost mystery and the main theme with haunting seems to be random moving objects and loud sudden sounds. The time of day changes based on your progression, and you get to see most areas in both day and night.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Backtracking — During the first section of the game, you’ll basically solve puzzles in small areas. You then move on to the next, never having to go back. When you get to the estate area, it becomes a tedious journey of walking back and forth between locations. You’ll do more walking than puzzles which may hurt the enjoyment you had previously. There are no markers or paths to follow, you must almost blindly figure out the next goal besides a few hints and a voice that tells you where you should go next. It’s not easy to explore the areas. It gets dark and the design of the large area seems like a sloppy layout. Needless to say, I got lost more than once which means walking around almost aimlessly just hoping to stumble upon the right building or path. To add insult to injury, if you load your game after quitting, or maybe the game froze (it did a few times for me), you’ll have to unlock doors you already opened as well as light candles again. Why must we be tortured?
Confusing Plot — You can play the entire game and still not be sure what exactly transpired. I read around online to try to piece everything together. Marie is only 13 years old. What is she doing looking for her sister all by herself? At first, the story leads you to believe the sister might have been roofied in the woods. At least that’s what I gathered from it. Then it suddenly becomes a ghost story. What happened to the guy? There are many unanswered questions, all the way until the ending. Being a 13-year-old, it’s hard to believe she can solve complex puzzles that would put Sherlock Holmes in a sweat. Her vocabulary while speaking is also at an advanced level that doesn’t match. She isn’t a carefree young teenager, but somehow a prodigy. It’s just not believable. Now you basically have two missing girls in the same family, without any outside help from the families or authorities. It seems like a step backward on a story-focused mystery.
Like usual, there is a mix of good and bad elements. I would say Lake Ridden has an equal amount of each that balance each other out. The quality of visuals and sound are high and the puzzles can prove difficult to most people. However, the backtracking and lack of a believable story set the game at just being pretty decent, but nothing you would rave about to all your peers. A map would have been a great addition to exploring, allowing you to mark areas of interest or just simply help you find your way if lost. If you have a craving for a supernatural puzzler, you’ll be content. If the story is what you’re after, you’ll likely be disappointed.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Lake Ridden was published by and developed by Midnight Hub on Xbox One. It was released on September 3, 2019, for $12.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.