The Lake House: Children of Silence
Year Published: 2013
Publisher: Alawar Casual
Developer: Alawar Friday's Games

Alawar, the publisher/developer of The Lake House: Children of Silence, has put me in a very awkward situation. When I first played The Lake House back in 2016, it was on their Hidden Object 6-in-1 Bundle available on Steam. It was one of the first hidden object games in the "Exploring an Abandoned Town" subgenre that I had ever played, and certainly one of the creepiest. Despite some predictable and yet implausible plot twists, the creepiness of its main antagonist, a man in an unsettling mask, or more accurately, the mask itself, stuck with me years after that play.

Even the town is rundown.

Fast forward to 2022, when I replayed this game so I could review it. I loaded up the 6-in-1 bundle on my new PC, played through The Lake House, and when I got to the end I realized something was missing. I could've sworn there was a bonus chapter that explained the origins of the evil mask and an art gallery that contained some behind-the-scenes dialogue about how the game was developed. This was now, somehow, all missing. I noticed that while the store page still claims the version of The Lake House on the bundle is the Collector's Edition, I quickly realized that these words were missing from the title screen as well as the button for the bonus content that should've been there and unlocked upon completing the main story.

Some really messed-up stuff is going on here.

Sometime between 2016 and 2022 there was an update to the bundle. Because of the discontinuation of Adobe Flash, one of the games (The Other Side: Tower of Souls) can no longer be launched, so it was replaced with a different game. My best guess is that something about that update changed The Lake House to the standard edition. My belief that this was probably an error is evidenced by the fact that the Collector's Edition content seems to only be missing from the English language version. By changing the language to French, for example, the bonus content appears. Unfortunately, this is of no use to me as I only know English.

I posted about this problem on the bundle's discussion forum in hopes that Alawar would fix it. It's been two years, it's still not fixed, and they never replied. While I could probably live without the art gallery and development notes, I felt the story really needs the bonus chapter to be complete. But I had to be sure to write a fair review, so I managed to find the Collector's Edition on sale at GamersGate for $2.25. I bought it, played through it again, and can now confirm - the story needs that bonus chapter for closure. Otherwise, you never find out where the mask came from, why it's so evil, who put it on their face in the main game's ending, and if anything will ultimately be done about it.

The residents aren't the friendliest.

So, the publisher made a mistake that they are not willing to fix, but that is not really the fault of the game itself. If this was a review for the entire 6-in-1 bundle, I'd probably have to recommend skipping it. At this point it has one game that doesn't work at all (and trust me, it was glitchy even before it went completely dark), one game that's missing content, and one that also has a lot of bug complaints that are probably never going to get addressed, either.

But this is not a review for the entire bundle, just The Lake House, so I'm going to say that if you can find the Collector's Edition somewhere for a reasonable price, and I'm going to assume you're already a fan of the Hidden Object genre if you're reading this, then I can recommend it. It's light on puzzles, but very heavy on atmosphere.

The story, if you must know, involves a man named Henry and his fiancee, Ann, who return to Ann's long-abandoned home on a lake to solve the mystery of her younger brother, Tom, who disappeared and was presumed dead years ago. You no sooner arrive when Ann is kidnapped by a mysterious masked stranger. As Henry, you investigate the lake house and the nearby town to discover the truth about Tom and rescue Ann. Henry also learns some seriously weird details about his own past that he should probably already know, but I guess he has repressed memories - a lot of them.

I love this game's hidden kitties, even though they're just background.

An interesting detail from the dev notes is that the game's artist drew around 50 masks before settling on the design used in the game. They made the right choice. I've played other HOG's in which masks were central to the plot, but none gave me the vibes that this one did. It's why I say that bonus chapter is so important. The whole story hinges on it, and a game shouldn't be advertised with content that it doesn't have. If Alawar ever fixes the problem on Steam, I might adjust my score at that time. It's not that I don't think The Lake House is a great HOG, but I shouldn't have had to jump through hoops and buy it twice for the complete experience.

SCORE: 3.5/5