Your youth is supposed to be a time of innocence, discovery, and love. However, with naivety comes fear. Consequently, our minds play tricks on us, and it can be tough to pick out the facts from fiction. Varney Lake is the second instalment of the Pixel Pups series. As such, fans of Mothman 1966 will know what to expect. However, no prior knowledge is required to enjoy this title.
Developed by LCB Game Studio and published by Chorus Worldwide, this is an interactive adventure. Moreover, it has several branching storylines, oodles of mini-games, and some loveable characters. Subsequently, there is romance, childish hi-jinx, and a distinct coming-of-age undertone. However, there is also a sense of wonderment all wrapped up in a pixelated and dated package.
Varney Lake tells a story of friendship and exploration.
The plot of Varney Lake feels like an 80s adventure film. With bullies, underdogs, and plenty of strange goings on, this tells a captivating story. The “Only Child Club” comprises two cousins, Christine and Doug, and their friend, Jimmy. This trio of youngsters dream of a place of their own and plan outrageous ways to make money. Furthermore, they undertake every task with pride and determination as they work towards an end goal.
Talking of end goals, sadly, Varney Lake’s ending (s) feels rushed and poorly explained. Throughout the short game, you enjoy a handsome filler of background stories and meaningful chit-chat. Yet, the final moments are hurried and not in keeping with the remainder of the tale. Additionally, if you’ve played its predecessor, you’ll realise this is somewhat melancholy by comparison. This isn’t a complaint. However, there are no action sequences and the mini-games are the only thing that breaks up the flow of the game.
Jimmy is the master of new games. Accordingly, you get to experience his new creations. These rudimentary ideas use classic dice and card games while adding a new and unique twist. Each of the games is explained to you in the form of a discussion between the group. Amusingly, the cousins rarely know what is happening, and this adds a layer of humour to a dark and occasionally weird plot.
The mini-games are fun and simple, and form the backbone of many of the achievements. As such, completionists will have to master each one if they wish to complete this game. Alongside the money-making ideas, you’ll “enjoy” a spot of fishing. A legendary fish must be caught, and you are the team to make this happen. Sadly, though, the explanation behind this activity was badly explained, and I had zero idea of what I was doing. Therefore, I found it unnecessarily frustrating.
Varney Lake belongs on a 5.25″ floppy disk.
Varney Lake is reminiscent of a game belonging to an IBM computer. Its dated aesthetic is garish, pixelated, and wonderfully brash. Moreover, the text is sharp and basic, and the animation is practically non-existent. Furthermore, the backdrops are simple but effective and the characters lack a modern polish. Yet, I loved the retro style as it matched the slow gameplay and the weird storyline.
Alongside this, the audio is shrill, loud, and obnoxious. With minimal music and irritating sound effects, it could be an 80s cult classic. Disappointingly, though, the developers missed a trick! The lack of music and the reliance on sound effects create a hollow product. Yet, the game was suspenseful and tense. However, some creepy 80s-inspired tunes would have complemented the gameplay while overcoming this issue.
Thanks to the slow-paced and minimalist gameplay, the controls are simple. With limited inputs and no action sequences, you won’t struggle to pick this up. My only complaint is the poorly explained fishing. I desperately wanted to enjoy everything on offer, but despite the tutorial, I still was none the wiser.
Varney Lake takes around 2-3 hours to finish. However, if you wish to find every mini-game and see each ending, you’ll have to replay the game multiple times. On top of this, completionists will struggle unless they can work out the instructions for each money-making scheme. As such, this has limited replay value and longevity.
Varney Lake focuses on a new direction.
Mothman 1966 creates a higher tempo and more upbeat experience. Consequently, Varney Lake is missing these elements from its gameplay. Yet, the slower story and interesting plot twists keep you focused during each short playthrough. Additionally, I loved the unique mini-games and the relationship between the gang. Accordingly, I enjoyed it and I recommend that you buy it here! Will the kids fulfil their dream and earn enough money? Explore your surroundings, play some games, and don’t talk to strangers.