Whether it is weathering an on coming zombie horde or fending off malevolent spirit, in most horror stories the ultimate goal is survival. However, even in the most hopeful horror stories, not everyone will make it through alive. Some people are just not going to get a happily ever after, which gives more weight to the narrative and the actions of the characters. Each and every choice matters, and one misstep could be the difference between surviving and dying a horrible death.
GB Patch’s Lake of Voices is built around the idea that ‘anyone can be saved, but not everyone can be’. It’s a story that forces players to accept the fact that there is no perfect solution to every problem and that sometimes, in dire situations, sacrifices must be made. Lake of Voices follows guard for hire, Kikka, and her companion Belleme as they attempt to cross Sinnlos, a lake that’s home to gruesome monsters. The creatures that dwell beneath it’s murky depths have claimed the lives of many unfortunate travelers. In order to complete the journey, Kikka and her companion must rely on mysterious Guide if they have any chance of surviving the treacherous two day journey. However, they are not the only travelers hoping to cross Sinnlos, but with a larger group, the chances of survival are significantly decreased….
Lake of Voices is a bit of a departure from GB Patch’s previous romance heavy visual novels, and while this title does have some romance, the bulk of the story is dedicated to the characters and their journey across the lake. The entire game takes place over the course of two days, with players taking control of Kikka and her decisions/actions. We hold the fates of each of the characters making the trip across Sinnlos, with each choice determining which characters will survive the dangers of their journey. Lake of Voices is a game where anyone can and will die, there is no way to save everyone, something I learned the hard way… death is inevitable and EVERYONE has the potential to meet a grisly end, including Kikka. Not many games have the balls to kill off characters, let alone the protagonist, which gives each and every choice the player makes in the game so much more weight.
The choices matter, and GB Patch simulates this with several timed choices that force players to make split second decisions, increasing the sense of urgency. Each choice has a significant impact on the course of the story and the fates of each of the characters, one wrong move and it could be the end of you or any of your companions. But, there is a second layer to these choices, players can choose to not make a choice and simply wait out the timer, which in some cases is the best option. Rash decisions are just as dangerous as inactivity, so, I highly recommend playing around with the choices in order to find the right balance, though, remember that even if you do everything “right” not everyone will survive.
That said, survival is the ultimate goal of the game and while that sounds easy enough, it’s everything that can go wrong, will go wrong so you have to be on your toes at all times. Due Lake of Voice‘s short run time, the writers waste no time dropping the player into the action of the story, this would normally be a setback, but this sense of urgency really works thematically. And yet, the game doesn’t feel short, GB Patch packs a lot into the game, striking the perfect balance between building up the world, while also holding just enough back to retain this sense of mystery about the lake and it’s monstrous inhabitants. There are a few routes that reveal the truth behind the lake and the Nixi and trust me it is totally worth trying to get those endings… it changes everything!
The bulk of the story focuses on the the journey across the lake and the various dangers the characters face, but, each route also reveals a bit about each of the characters and their motivations for crossing the lake, which ties in with the romance. However, due to the urgency of their journey and the dangers they face at every turn, don’t expect any long drawn out confessions or kiss scenes… there just ain’t time for that when you’re trying to avoid murderous monsters and a rickety bridge labyrinth. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few sweet moments between the characters, there are, the romance is just handled in a much more realistic way, given the dangerous situation their in. And like the rest of the game, it’s worth noting that sometimes even if you do everything right, and gain all the appropriate affection points Kikka can still not end up with her chosen love interest…
The characters really make Lake of Voices work, they each have their own reasons for crossing the bridge some of which are apparent at the start of the story and others you discover only after unlocking certain story paths. Each character, has a distinct personality that brings something unique to the dynamic of the group: Margret is intelligent, but excitable; The Guide is enigmatic and distant; Bemelle is a lovable and noble; and Lu is pessimistic and insecure. The voice acting really goes a long way towards making these characters feel more real, since you can hear the strain in their voices as the events of the game begin to take a toll on them both mentally and physically.
Though, I will say that the delivery of Kikka’s VA was much more wooden than the others which made it hard to relate to her during some of the more emotional scenes, but, it does fit with her more guarded personality… However, with that said, I did enjoy Kikka as a protagonist, since the writers took the time to realistically develop her as a character. She is a strong character with agency in her actions throughout the game, but she is vulnerable enough to be relatable to players. She isn’t unchanged by the events of the game, she mourns each loss and regardless of the ending you get it is implied that Kikka never gets over her journey across the lake. There are many layers to her that you wouldn’t necessarily get just playing through the game just once, so I highly recommend playing it several times to get the full scope of the characters and the story. Trust me on this one, you won’t be disappointed.
Lake of Voices is an eerie and dark visual novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. GB Patch immerses players into the danger and suspense of the story with several meaningful choices that give weight to the life or death situations portrayed in the game. Despite the game’s short run time, Lake of Voices has a depth that you’d expect from a much longer game, you really feel for these characters and their plight, so when someone is lost to horrors of Sinnlos, you feel it. Very few games have managed to get me this emotional about fictional characters, but, when your choices determine whether or not they live or die, it’s hard not to get attached. I highly recommend Lake of Voices, for a free game, it really gives some of the commercial games I’ve played a run for their money… just wow!
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