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LAKE Adventure

by B.J. Best profile


(based on 26 ratings)
8 reviews

About the Story


LAKE Adventure!

By Eddie Hughes

Copywrong 1993

* * *

Revisited by Ed Hughes

March 2020


Game Details


2nd Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

Winner, Outstanding Retro Game of 2023 - The 2023 IFDB Awards


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Number of Reviews: 8
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful:
IFComp 2023: LAKE ADVENTURE, October 10, 2023
by Kastel
Related reviews: ifcomp2023

This game is an antidote for those obsessed with personal histories and their ultimate meaning.

We first learn that this game was originally created in 1993 by a thirteen-year-old Eddie Hughes. It was rediscovered by a forty-year-old Ed Hughes in 2020, and the version we have includes his thoughtful commentary. Hughes has also helpfully provided us with maps of the game in the form of his old math notebook. And as we'll learn later, the game is a recreation of the old lake house and the time he and his good friend Richard spent at the lake.

As the player progresses through the game, the author seems to gain and lose interest in a work he was once obsessed with but now barely remembers. Hughes laughs and apologizes for his younger self's antics -- a fully realized house with descriptive rooms like More Halls is very funny -- but the player will almost immediately encounter oddities. They can't go to his sister's room -- in the maps provided, it's blotted out. (Spoiler - click to show)Why are we collecting memory shards? The more we traverse, the more personal this game becomes.

It’s very tempting to compare it to B.J. Best’s other old-IF-in-IF work, And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One. Not only are they reminiscences of the past via interactive fiction but they relate to the relevance of the past and interactive fiction in our present. That work is, however, a coming-of-age relationship between two adolescents. We are playing the game with someone who is reflecting on his youth.

Instead, the game is more like Drew Cook’s Repeat the Ending as both include fictional commentary and also look to the past for meaning. In Cook's game, we find an affirmation of interactive fiction as a mode of artistic expression. We leave that game emotional and hopeful for Cook's growth.

In Hughes's game, we find nothing.

What remains of LAKE ADVENTURE is an adventure game full of bad memories not worth revisiting. Hughes doesn't want to remember (Spoiler - click to show)how heartbroken he was over his sister's death from leukemia nor does he want to think about Richard's death after drifting apart for so long. But the past has caught up with him and won't let go.

The finale gives me dread, especially since it felt like I was roped into relive his trauma. I wonder what went through the minds of young and old Eddie. Why did they put me through this torment? I guess they just didn't know what they were getting into -- and that's the really terrifying thing about rediscovering memories: we don't know what's going to come out of it.

This game is my nightmare. It goes against my beliefs about the importance of memories and traumas in autobiographical works, but I cannot simply look away from it. I know I have to stare at its truth because it is after all naive to believe that uncovering and reliving memories is unconditionally good for you. It can harm you. It can compound your trauma. It makes you remember what you've rightfully forgotten. You become an empty shell, begging "ancient history" to fill you with something, but all you've really done is widen the hole in your heart.

LAKE ADVENTURE is a tragedy for Ed Hughes and people like me who seek comfort in introspection. We can only relive the past for so long before it hurts us in our most vulnerable. Only through forgetting some memories can we find real meaning in our personal histories.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Goes straight to the heart, October 29, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: AGT

Goes straight to the heart. In addition it is also a very good game which drew me in. Not sure if the memories were 100% true or partly fiction but they could all be true so in any case thanks for sharing.

It has a lot of things in common with Repeat The Ending. However, the game element/puzzles are more traditional and puzzly in LAKE Adventure. But their stories are both very impactful and sad.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Post-post-modern and emotionally raw, January 4, 2024
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp. I beta tested this game. Also, this review contains spoilers since it deserves to be discussed in its full context).

I regret not having a stronger grounding in literary theory pretty much any day ending in y, but that lack feels especially excruciating as I turn to LAKE Adventure, because it’s operating within a movement that I’d love to be able to name definitively. Instead, I’m going to have to wildcat this thing and call the game part of the New Sincerity. Like, we all know that modernism happened, right, and dramatized the way that conventional narrative forms and naïve realism were no longer tenable in an increasingly polycentric and polyvalent world, right? And then came post-modernism, which responded to the anxiety that forms might be empty by turning a microscope onto said forms, exalting self-conscious exploration of structure above superficial considerations of plot and character.

But after post-modernism exhausted itself (er, to the extent it has – again, I am mostly groping blindly here) something had to come next, and for many, that something had to respond to the ongoing felt need for old-fashioned emotional engagement and catharsis. But how to manage that in a world where a genre-savvy audience goes into a work knowing all the tricks? Paradoxically, the author needs to meet them where they’re at, and move outwards into ironic distance to create the preconditions necessary to eventually move inwards to identification. Thus the New Sincerity; think of House of Leaves, which for all its metafictional flourishes has as its engine the failing marriage between the two leads. Or of the Sandman comics, which move into an epic register to chronicle the exploits of the Prince of Stories, but ultimately are largely concerned with how he’s a shitty boyfriend. Or – to tip my hand – think of And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One, B.J. Best’s Comp-winning game from 2021; a coming-of-age story about the pre-teenaged angst of moving away from your best friend, it could have been saccharine-sweet but for the way its narrative was ramified through text adventures within text adventures (with bonus parallel text adventures as an Easter Egg).

LAKE Adventure is doing something similar, I think, but there’s no risk that anyone will find this game cloying. It’s also part of what I’ve called a confessional turn in recent parser IF (think of this year’s Repeat the Ending and Hand Me Down; also, I really need to stop trying to name things, I’m bad at it), positioning the game the player experiences as a diegetically-created work whose origins are themselves elements of the game’s story. The premise is that the game’s central character, Eddie Hughes, has dug up an old text adventure he wrote when he was 13 (and later revised when he was an older teenager) and, facing the doldrums of the first months of 2020’s lockdowns, is watching on Zoom and commenting along as a friend plays it for the first time.

This is an excruciatingly painful framing device. Like, I am one of the few (maybe only?) people in the world who’s experienced something like this: I presented Sting, my memoir game, to a meeting of the Seattle IF Meetup in 2021, and while they were completely lovely about it, sharing scenes from my actual life as rendered into parser form – in real time – was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever done. And that was just a game that emulated how I was when I was a young teenager, rather than one actually reflecting my 13-year-old sensibilities. Unsurprisingly, Eddie is diffident in the extreme, repeatedly asking the player whether they want to stop playing, apologizing for the overly-faithful implementation of his childhood home, and audibly squirming when his younger self-insults the player for turning on the TV by calling them a “vidiot.” No wonder that self-deprecating phrase “I guess” is by far Eddie’s most common verbal tic as he attempts to narrate his lost youth.

For all that LAKE Adventure boasts a note-perfect recreation of a late-80s childhood – there’s a birthday party invitation recognizably created via Print Shop, and the in-game narration focuses with hyperspecificity on the material and brand of young Eddie’s swimsuit – it’s not nostalgic, and in fact is anti-nostalgic. While the few glimpses we get of adult Eddie’s life indicate that it’s unremarkable but stable, his youth was anything but. The plot of the game-within-a-game is notionally just about visiting a birthday party for his best friend’s sister, but it’s haunted by numerous specters, from his parents’ shattered marriage to his own sister’s illness to a history of bullying to the sad fate of his friend. Snatches of this dark reality come in extradiegetic Shards of Memory, which take the player out of the idyllic lake-house setting to experience snatches of Eddie’s contemporary reality, or in adult Eddie’s understated acknowledgement of the ways that the game functioned as an escape from an untenable situation, or from the incursion of graphic violence into a heretofore-innocent story. The game mines pathos out of the implications of the smallest detail or slip of the tongue:

"Your mother’s clothes are on the floor in piles. Some are dresses. Some are jeans. It’s a good thing you know how to do your own laundry!

"Anyway, the bathroom is to the east and my paren—my mom’s—room is west."

And I’m not going to quote it, but there’s nothing in this year’s Comp that hit me as hard as the description of the doll.

The player has work to do along the way; there are puzzles that keep you busy, but mostly what I found myself doing was reflecting on memory. The game is a palimpsest, with some of the darker elements presumably added in by the late-teenage Eddie who knows how some things end up, changes that retroactively reconfigure what’s come before in a way that makes the original forever inaccessible. Of course, that isn’t even a metaphor – to invoke one of my many strange points of bleed-through with this game, my memories of my sister’s last months are already confounded by all the times I’ve remembered them. Later, in the climax, the player’s explicitly confronted with a series of young Eddie’s most traumatic experiences, and has the option to either embrace or reject these memories – but for those seeking comfort in coming full circle will be disappointed to learn that these choices make no difference to the outcome. Then the tragedy of young Eddie’s disillusionment is driven home by a sequence that runs through all his hopes for the future, from romantic conquests to worldly success.

After all this, LAKE Adventure ends with a coda that could be seen as a final, superfluous twist of the knife. The Zoom session is cut short as Eddie’s daughter comes into the room and kicks him off the computer for an early-COVID remote study session for her ancient history class. She’s uninterested in her father’s half-hearted attempts to tell her what he’s been doing, and the game draws the curtain to leave his final, plaintive question unanswered: “I’d like to know if ancient history matters.”

It’s hard to get to this point and not feel beaten down. Again, this is the genius of the New Sincerity: narrate Eddie’s life from front to back, and we’d roll our eyes at the naked emotional manipulation, but let his pain peek out through the multiple overlapping layers of narrative, and it’s heartrending. This final suggestion that all of this was for nothing is almost too much to take. Yet it’s worth being pedantic about what Eddie’s asking: not whether the past matters, but whether history does. We routinely conflate the two, but in fact these are radically different, for the past is what happens, and history is what we write about it, how we try to wrest brute facts into narrative. While we don’t have details, it’s nonetheless pellucidly clear that Eddie’s experiences have shaped his life for good or ill – hell, just about the only thing we know about his daughter is that she’s named after his sister.

The judgment on history, though, is more equivocal; Eddie spends the whole game running away from or apologizing for the story he’s made of his traumatic past. And yet, even in this reticent, half-unspoken way, he does share his embarrassing juvenilia, and if it is possible for history to matter, surely the necessary first step is for someone to read it.

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LAKE Adventure on IFDB

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The following polls include votes for LAKE Adventure:

Outstanding Retro Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best retro game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Suggested...

Outstanding Game in an Uncommon System of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2023 written in an uncommon system. Voting is open to all IFDB...

Outstanding Game of the Year 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best overall game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members. Eligible...

See all polls with votes for this game

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