One of my favorite games of 2020 was Fatum Betula, an unsettling lo-fi first-person adventure by Bryce Bucher. So, when I was another game by Bucher appear on the Switch eShop called Mysteries Under Lake Ophelia, I had to check it out. And while I’m not much of a fishing enthusiast, the game’s simple mechanics and charming style won me over.
Mysteries Under Lake Ophelia isn’t anything resembling a fishing sim. It recalls fishing minigames in titles like The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time. You’re a kid hanging out at a single weird lake fishing for catches. You hold a button to track and cast your line, and then you hold it to reel in. Fish will pull against the hook after they’ve bitten down on it, so reeling in a fish becomes a matter of timing your button presses to haul it to shore without snapping the line. Extremely simple stuff, but just tricky enough that you do have to pay a little attention.
The game starts you off with a lure and line that can’t cast very far or sink very deep, but you can upgrade your gear by selling your catches to a man who sits at the fire by your camp. That’s the basic loop of Mysteries Under Lake Ophelia — you fish a bunch, make some money, gain access to further and deeper reaches of the lake, and repeat. Eventually, you might notice a strange glow coming from the middle of the lake, and well, I won’t say exactly what happens, but suffice it to say that this is a Bryce Bucher game, after all, and visually sensitive players might want to scope out the warnings offered when you first boot it up.
There’s not much else to Mysteries Under Lake Ophelia. You can cook up fish to increase your “luck,” you can find secret lures hidden in the lake and surrounding ponds, and you can chat with the strange dude who sells you gear. That’s about it. That’s really all it needs, though. It carried me through a cross-country flight, and while I might wish the creepy ending either had more build-up or was withheld entirely, the game still reinforced my appreciation of Bucher’s work — and I can’t wait to see what he does next.