I should have never spent that $1.99. But The Letter called to me behind its first-person horror motif, foreboding in-game wall messages and a cheap price. The Indiegogo campaign whose goal was at $5,000 couldn’t possibly be that bad, even if they only raised $377. Releasing on a Nintendo console means it would have that “Seal of Quality,” right? Instead, The Letter is an insufferable rough draft that should have found its way into a trash can and promptly lit on fire.
The Letter starts out with just that, a letter. Michael Kennedy has read a note left by his father who has disappeared and is,most likely, dead. His father vaguely writes that something is wrong at his job site and there is no time to explain. He warns Michael not to go looking for him or else he may face a similar fate. So of course, Michael decides to do the exact opposite and go on a journey of finding his father by going to the last places his father was using his faithful flashlight in the pitch black night. Although his father can’t explain what is going on, he can leave several journal entries around the world you explore and apparently find time to decorate the walls with ambiguous messages and directions.
So to find one word that thoroughly describes this game…garbage. I would rather use a more inappropriate term, but we try to keep it at least PG-13 on VGU.
You see, nothing about this game is good. The textures look like they were pulled from games in the 90s, the letters that can be found add absolutely nothing to the practically non-existent story and the “music” is the same meandering notes on repeat throughout the entire game. However, the one aspect of the game that I found the most infuriating was the inverted controls for looking up and down. I know some people prefer that, but I can’t stand it and haven’t used it in a long time. And The Letter has no way to solve that. Just brute force my way through this game with a control scheme I don’t particularly enjoy.
Fortunately for players, The Letter can be finished in about 4-5 minutes if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, it may just take you up to 15 or 20 minutes if you spend time actually investigating the small, barren and bland levels.
Let that sink in for a second.
Yes, The Letter can be finished in almost no time at all. One could assume that the same amount of time was used to actually develop this atrocious excuse for a game. In fact, I was able to finish the game twice within 25 minutes because after my first playthrough I was curious about how quick it was. It took five minutes if you include loading between screens, the freezing before it would let me take control again and having trouble with the controls as I try to jump and find an item in the second section.
I wanted to point out the length because I know it’s important for some people. To me, it’s not. If a game can be finished relatively quickly, I am fine with that as long as the game has enough content to be engaging and entertaining if I decide to see it through the entire way. The Letter is not that game. A game like Gone Home can be finished when you know where the end point is, but at least it has a narrative that is well told and works. The Letter is more disjointed not only in the few places it takes place, but the plot that goes nowhere because it’s paper thin.
I have never played a game that felt this insulting before. And by insulting I mean, where I feel the people behind the game are actively doing this to piss me off. If I gave a homeless person on the street some money so they could have a meal, this game would be the equivalent of that homeless man throwing the cash on the ground, pulling down his pants while never breaking eye contact with me and taking a dump all over the cash. I feel that the team behind the game actually gave me a hint that I shouldn’t put any faith in them in the original letter to Michael:
“All I can say for your journey in life, do not trust anyone.”
To give you somewhat of an idea why I say this, I am going to do something no review should ever do. But for the sake of anyone reading this, I want to save you the time and money to ever witness this cobbled together “we just want to get this over with” ending. For those who would rather be disappointed, please avoid the next paragraph for spoilers.
Michael discovers that his dad went to a lab, and after aggravatingly searching for a key into the lab, you are able to find your way in. The lab is one room with a fire extinguisher in the corner, some lockers and a cardboard box, a bloody gurney with a syringe and a haunting message scribbled on the wall “Wait for it…” So you wait. And after about 15 seconds of being able to do absolutely nothing, you are greeted with a black screen that basically says something strange happened. The next screen has Michael standing on a beach, you turn around and run towards a pair of beach chairs. The player is met with another black screen and that reads his parents went to the mainland while you were sleeping. It was all just a dream. Then two more black screens thanking you for playing the game before you are whisked away to the main screen where all you can do is press + to start the game over.
Do yourself a favor and erase any desire to play this game. It is not scary. It is not fun. There is no hidden lore and there is certainly nothing that will pull you back for a second playthrough. It may very well be the worst game I have ever played, and if it isn’t, it certainly is up there. The execution of The Letter is lazy and feels like an easy cash grab for those like myself too gullible to do any research on the game before buying it. If anything, this would be more apt being called The Suicide Letter, because this game should kill any chances of this developer being picked up by a publisher.