“If someone gets pulled into the lake, they’ll instinctively reach for anything to hold onto. Do not let that be you.”
I had been looking forward to reading Lake of Voices ever since I first heard about it. Its character-focused supernatural horror sounded exactly like the kind of thing I like. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed when it was finally released on Steam and itch.io last week. With full voice acting and beautiful art, Lake of Voices is especially high quality for a free release, and I would recommend it to any fans of visual novels who can appreciate a bit of the grotesque and uncanny.
This is the third VN by developer GB Patch Games that I’ve read, and each time I’ve been impressed with their ability to come up with unique story ideas. A Foretold Affair casts the player as a mysterious masked seer who has had a vision of their future spouse, and tasks them with convincing their soulmate of their destiny without creeping them out too much while also on the run from bounty hunters. And while I thought GB Patch’s 2017 NaNoRenO entry, My Magical Divorce Bureau, suffered a bit from trying to fit too much into too short a story, it’s still worth checking out for the hilarious concept of a divorce lawyer working in a world where various supernatural creatures are trying to force each other into marriage all the time. Lake of Voices keeps up this trend with its setting of a massive lake only traversable by a sprawling maze of magically shifting bridges, with the help of a nameless guide who won’t spare a thought for letting one of his charges die if it means the others survive. It’s a really fun and spooky setting that I was excited to learn more about as I played.
The one element of Lake of Voices that wasn’t quite to my taste was the structure. The VN contains a multitude of choices, many of which are timed, leading to several different possible outcomes for your trip across the lake. While this does add a sense of uncertainty and urgency that works really well for the story, I find that I usually prefer fewer choices. Having a lot of freedom to control the protagonist’s actions and change the story can be fun at first, but when I read VNs, I like to make sure that I’ve seen all the branches and haven’t missed anything before I call them finished. Too much branching can make me frustrated and overwhelmed on my quest for 100% completion. But fortunately for people like me, one Steam user created a helpful walkthrough for all the achievements—which is much more helpful in navigating the lake than the story’s own curmudgeonly Guide.
And despite his incompetence at his job, the Guide was probably my favourite character in the VN. His standoffish and mysterious nature intrigued me, and it was exciting when I finally found a path that led me to learning more about him. But it’s hard to pick just one favourite character when each of the travelers seeking a way across the lake also has their own goals and secrets to discover. I enjoyed every route of Lake of Voices, and I hope that anyone else who tries it out does too.