(Wii U eShop)

The Letter (Wii U eShop)

Game Review

The Letter Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Dave Letcavage

Return to sender

In The Letter, players take on the role of Michael Kennedy as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of his father. Through a series of hidden letters left by his dad – these are actually labelled “Hidden Letter” despite their pronounced placements in the landscape – Michael receives clues which he follows in his determination to find the truth. What comes next is advertised as being a mix of adventure and horror, but we think that description is deceiving. For one, calling it an adventure suggests that you’re embarking on some sort of remarkable or daring escapade that builds up to something. Even though it may sound like The Letter fits the bill, in actuality, it doesn't. And with a complete lack of suspense, no ominous imagery and literally zero scares, there’s even less of a reason for the word "horror" to be uttered. So what kind of game is The Letter? Quite frankly, it's an awful one.

Right from the start it's abundantly clear how rough The Letter is going to be. The title screen – with its generic text, lack of a menu and a blurry image of an envelope – isn't concerned with first impressions, and that’s never a good sign. Instead of a tutorial or proper introduction to the controls, button mapping details are presented on the GamePad and this is the only point they can be viewed. Calling the presentation and interface minimalistic would be an understatement, especially when you consider that the game can't even be paused. There’s no HUD or on-screen text to assist you, and outside the occasional button-prompt alert when loading, the GamePad isn’t used in any meaningful way. To start, you’re plopped into a room with your flashlight focused on a message on a wall that simply says, "Find the Letter."

The gameplay is as primitive and bland as can be; you move around, pick up objects of interest, jump, and toggle the flashlight on and off. Essentially, using the joysticks for movement and pressing the A-button to interact is the extent of what will need to be managed. There isn't any platforming or puzzle solving, and the environments exist only to provide a space for the player to walk and scavenge through. Considering the Y-axis is inverted, and there are no options or menus of any kind, movement itself can be a chore. If a majority of players don’t prefer inverted controls in their first-person games — which seems to be the norm — then The Letter has already alienated most of its potential audience by not presenting a choice; since walking aimlessly is pretty much the best way to sum up the gameplay as a whole, this glaring blunder is even more perplexing.

In each area you’re left to explore without a clear understanding of what it is you’re supposed to be doing. There might be a message written on a wall or sign that tells you to find something – a letter, a key, a clue — but there aren't any tutorials or guides to establish the rules of this process. Is there a sequence of interactions that will cause a cabinet to open, or are there any weird tricks with the flashlight that will uncover hidden messages? Turns out, it’s nothing like that. All that’s required is that you wander through the environment until coming across something that you can pick up, and then you pick it up – that’s it. Since there are no indicators or button prompts to alert you that you've stumbled upon an item of interest, be prepared to hit the action button when approaching anything that’s small and not a patch of grass. Once you've collected all objects or unlocked a door, it’s onto the next area.

There are five areas in total, three of which are extremely small, and none of them carry any sense of purpose outside of putting distance between the player and their objective. It’s a bunch of generic stuff scattered throughout bland spaces, and nothing serves to provide context to the circumstances, nor is it pleasant on the eyes in any way. Fuzzy low-res textures, a stuttering frame rate and little detail of any kind make it feel like you’re venturing through an amateur project for a game design course. As a whole, it’s so unattractive that we never had even the faintest compulsion to explore; we just wanted to find what was necessary and move on. There are no enemies, no ways to take damage or get killed, and absolutely zero signs of life; The Letter is remarkable in that it is potentially the only horror game with a complete absence of looming danger.

The Letter attempts to lure you through the non-existent gameplay and carelessly-constructed environments by introducing the notion of a murder mystery, but it won't take long to realise that the plot is also entirely devoid of substance. Those that brave the monotony with the hope that the climax will provide meaning to their invested time will be completely let down with how it all comes together, or doesn't, as is actually the case. Not only does the story close with a cheap twist that’s taught to be avoided in Creative Writing 101, it literally proves that everything leading up to that moment meant nothing. Our first playthrough was completed in about a half hour and, once you know where the items are located, a replay can be wrapped in less than five minutes. At least The Letter has the good manners to keep things short.

Conclusion

The Letter isn’t just paper thin, it’s a half-formed thought scribbled almost illegibly across a post-it note. With a plot that never goes anywhere, gameplay that’s practically non-existent and cringe-worthy production values, we can’t help but wonder how this even made it onto the Wii U eShop. It functions, but it’s so disjointed, underdeveloped and brief that there’s no reason to give it your attention. Warn your friends, write it off, and then move on.

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User Comments (98)

Einherjar

#5

Einherjar said:

Im so sick of all these dark "spooky scary" first person games -.-
Why must every so called "indie dev" jump on every bandwagon possible ? sigh

WilliamK

#6

WilliamK said:

@shashwat Yup! I did order it just to help the guys, but since it shows Tv-Off mode on eshop and actually has none, I got very upset and feel bad about it... no save sucks too, but, for a 5 minute game, why bother? I'm really impressed on how bad this is, I just hope the guys get some actual money, some talent, and make something better next... :-p

TreesenHauser

#7

TreesenHauser said:

I watched a video of someone beating this in five minutes, and that's all I needed to see to know this "game" is garbage. I don't care what folks say about more updates coming, blah blah blah. No excuses for releasing an unfinished game, no matter what the price is. Even if this were free I probably wouldn't consider wasting time downloading it.

S-Miyahon

#8

S-Miyahon said:

I remember reading that this was some indiegogo project that failed to reach its funds, so the dev used whatever money he had from the project to produce it. I wonder how the backers are feeling right now :P

PikminWorld

#13

PikminWorld said:

It's a shame this game didn't turn out well. Which is probably why it popped out of no where with little knowledge prior to its release. Hopefully the developer can make it into something better or at least create another game that's way better. Surprisingly, the Miiverse community while mixed on the game, actually seems dedicated to the game and enjoys it to some degree. More or less they're dedicated to the developer and are giving tons of suggestions to him.

Tysamu

#14

Tysamu said:

If you go on miiverse and check it's community (go to all popular posts) you'll see that people are actually defending the game. What's more alienating is that they keep talking about how this game will have free DLC, that it was a WIP, and that there was only one developer.

Like really? That's an excuse? No. Nuh-uh. Can't accept that.

kurtasbestos

#15

kurtasbestos said:

It was all a dream!
No wait... you play from the perspective of a ghost!
Or... you were responsible for the murder in question!
Just kidding, aliens!
I mean, it's a flash-forward to the future when you solve the mystery of your own death in the past!

...did I guess the right cliche?

Seriously, though, I LOVED the screen savers included with Windows 98. This game looks great!!!

Discipledoctor

#17

Discipledoctor said:

Yes, a 1/10! Don't get to read those very often. Thank you for suffering for us, kind NL writer.

@kurtasbestos Your first guess was right. For real. This game, man. This game.

BakaKnight

#19

BakaKnight said:

Geez... so it doesn't just look like a "simple WIP first person horror game demo" made in Unity, like many free ones that overflow the web, it's exactly as those and not even the best of its kind (maybe it could be the worst of the pile actually >.>; ).

Really unbeliavable that they dared to sell this on the eShop -.-

MrV4ltor

#21

MrV4ltor said:

@MyMogo2 Doesn't matter. He should have waited until those were done and release the game with them. Also: A polished turd is still a turd.

Dawn-Shade

#23

Dawn-Shade said:

Is it weird that I can't find this on eshop? :o
I access it from WaraWara plaza, but it just display some kind of error message. I even searched the eshop but still this game can't be found.

Dr_Corndog

#24

Dr_Corndog said:

Finally, a game that understands that inverted is the proper way to play a dual-analog FPS!

Gerbwmu

#25

Gerbwmu said:

I'm holding off on my purchase until I can get the physical retail version. It's gonna be epic!

justlink

#26

justlink said:

@PikminWorld The gamemaker said he posted the game when he had almost no funds left so he'd have more once people bought. The games still in 'beta' and should be rereviewed when all the updates and dlc release. The first updates already under review.

ricklongo

#27

ricklongo said:

I saw someone on another site wonder whether the designers were going for "worst game on the entire Wii U library" here. I think they were, truth be told - a "so bad it's interesting" kind of thing. It seems to have worked, too, since the game made the Top 20 e-Shop sales this week, presumably on the back of all the bad press it's gotten.

2Sang

#28

2Sang said:

I love the caption for this review. I feel bad for the creator, but hopefully an update will give it more content.

MAB

#29

MAB said:

Boring, bland, repetitive, no challenge, can be finished in 5 minutes... Sounds like every Mario game ;)

FritzFrapp

#30

FritzFrapp said:

At 0:38 in the video it states 'Why am I here?'

I found it quite eerie that they seemed able to read my thoughts, so perhaps it's a little unfair to say there is absolutely no suspense or horror in this game.

Regardless, perhaps a Gallic update could upgrade this to a French Letter – that might at least be interesting. As it stands, this is just junk mail.

Sir_JBizzle

#31

Sir_JBizzle said:

Now you can't have your cake and eat it too. You complain about games like Skyward Sword holding your hand, then finally a game comes along and gives you no tutorial and you give it a hard time. ;-)

Okay seriously, the developer actually gave you a copy to review? I wouldn've been way too ashamed to do that. Lol. I give you guys props for the thought you put in the review :-)

Sir_JBizzle

#32

Sir_JBizzle said:

@kurtasbestos

It was all a dream!
No wait... you play from the perspective of a ghost!
Or... you were responsible for the murder in question!
Just kidding, aliens!
I mean, it's a flash-forward to the future when you solve the mystery of your own death in the past!

Those aren't all bad. Weren't a few of those scenarios alt endings for the first couple Silent Hill titles? Of course those were excellent games, so there's that :-)

DefHalan

#34

DefHalan said:

From the sounds of it this is basically a different type of kickstarter. Release a rough base game then make improvements and additions from the income. I have been talking to the dev and will probably support him ($2 isn't bad to help someone realize their dream)

TG1

#35

TG1 said:

This game needs work for sure!

One of the areas I'll defend it on though is the inverted controls. I see all these "expert" gamers on Miiverse saying how hard they are. Sorry, but if you can't handle inverted controls in a first person game, you've no business calling yourself an expert!

MoonKnight7

#36

MoonKnight7 said:

"...we can’t help but wonder how this even made it onto the Wii U eShop."

My thoughts exactly.

Stu13

#37

Stu13 said:

Is the lot check staff on strike? The Miiverse community for this is hilarious. The people defending it must be really sore about those 2 dollars that they'll never get back.

gatorboi352

#40

gatorboi352 said:

The Miiverse community for this game is exactly why I will never ever trust Miiverse to seek out honest feedback on a game.

mystman12

#43

mystman12 said:

I'm still considering buying this. :P
Too bad the ending was spoiled... I wanted to experience the horrible ending for myself!

reali-tglitch

#44

reali-tglitch said:

Considering the fact that the one-man dev of Treefall's first game was a game 2 years ago called 'Night Detective', that looked like a poopydoodoocacapoopledoopledoggiedoople 2004 point-n'-click flash game, he has made some serious progress.

He has also promised that DLC is in the works. Curious as to what it will be. I did buy it to support the dev, considering he wasn't asking for a ludicrous price.

Dodger

#45

Dodger said:

So like Dear Esther, but a lot worse? A bunch of walking around with little interaction with the world for the sake of uncovering a story, but with a really boring story?

TG1

#46

TG1 said:

@reali-tglitch Actually TreeFall did a couple games before Night Detective (which is a recent release) but your point is well taken. A 3D game on a HD console is a step up from simple PC games.

The first batch of DLC's already been submitted (and will be free) so hopefully it'll be decent.

Zizzy

#48

Zizzy said:

"The Letter isn’t just paper thin, it’s a half-formed thought scribbled almost illegibly across a post-it note."

Oh my god, so good.

DiscoDriver43

#49

DiscoDriver43 said:

well you can't say he didn't make a something about with what he little he got from that failed kickstarter :p

anyway, this game looks like a tech demo for a ps1 game.

DiscoGentleman

#50

DiscoGentleman said:

@MyMogo2 doesn't matter at all. Would you order a steak at a restaurant, be given a package of frozen meat and be okay with being told, "the chef will work on it"?

TG1

#52

TG1 said:

@DiscoGentleman Not the best example really. The Letter isn't a good game, but we knew that going into it at least. $1.99 failed crowdfunding game - adjust expectations accordingly.

Knowing the context of a poor game doesn't mean defending it.

Mega719

#54

Mega719 said:

When I saw the screenshots on the eshop it look awfully like those shovelware simulators Stan reviews on YouTube. I know it would seem unfair but Nintendo should but guild line's to the amount of quality indies put into their games. No shovelware

Benocle

#55

Benocle said:

Come on guys, this isn't some greedy money-sucking corporation that tries to exploit kids with crappy games. This is one guy developing something just because he is following his passion. Of course the game is bad, but he is just asking so little for something that he probably spent a lot of time and effort on. Call me stupid, but I am gonna support this. He can have my $1.99 and I hope he keeps doing what he loves.

brandonbwii

#56

brandonbwii said:

I've been in constant communication with the developer on Miiverse asking about all of the negative feedback, including the ending. He claims he was not out to be "cliche" but that this game reflects something that happened to him in his younger days.

@Benocie
I plan to buy the game myself once the first update is released.

brandonbwii

#57

brandonbwii said:

@Mega719
I don't think shovelware should be blocked as quality is highly subjective. What Nintendo SHOULD do is have a specific section for game under five dollars. That way the splash screen would show more quality games, since they are typically at a premium ($15).

I'm not one to defend this game though. So many on Miiverse defend games because they're indie or made by one guy. It's frustrating when they do that. Gunman Clive, Retro City Rampage, and Cave Story were done by one guy and they hold up against muti-team AAA projects.

Also how far are you going to go defending an indie and bashing a major developer? If you're going by that logic, then NIntendo's bad decisions should always be defended as they don't have the funds that their competitors do.

midnafanboy

#58

midnafanboy said:

I bought this game i don;t know why but i didn't care.But my god this game is terrible it still needs some work, a lot of work and i don't care. I wasted money on it is like 2 dollars.I really hope the developer actually works on this game with his updates and dlc he's been talking about in the miiverse community.

MeloMan

#60

MeloMan said:

Quote the video: "Why am I here?"

Sigh.... I just want a good point and click game to play... this is one of the simplest genres to NOT eff up, and someone manages to. I might as well buy Secret Agent Files: Miami, at least it got a 3/10. Ah well, there's always Syberia for PC I never finished.... <_<

GrimSh

#61

GrimSh said:

Wow... so Nintendo won't respond to my request for a dev status, yet people like this get their request fulfilled???

What the hell?

ElkinFencer10

#63

ElkinFencer10 said:

I can't WAIT to play this. Woefully poopsiedoodoocacapoopledoople games are my favorite to collect. They make great party (or better yet, DRUNK party) experiences.

EaZy_T

#64

EaZy_T said:

Oh my... this 'game' is the worst. I really don't think DLC can fix it, it's just horrible.

robaLEX

#67

robaLEX said:

i hope the guy who made this do something nice with my $1.99 bucks :(
awful awful game.

retro_player_22

#68

retro_player_22 said:

I never even heard of this game let alone the Indie Gogo Project that promotes it. Now that I know, I probably skipped this.

sleepinglion

#69

sleepinglion said:

Man, the positive comments in Miiverse seem... fake.
Like, really really fake.
Not sure how to investigate this, but there seem to be WAY too many fans of a seriously terrible game.

Nictendo64

#71

Nictendo64 said:

I got this game because it was 1.99
It's the worst thing I've ever played. It's confusing, the right stick is inverted, no pause menu, looks like it came from 1990, and what's worse, I can't tell if I'm a child or a really short person. Everything is out of proportion. This is one of those rare cases where I would actually complain about loosing two dollars.

jakysnakydx

#72

jakysnakydx said:

@Stu13 Lot check has nothing to do with quality control. They actually don't even check for bugs. The purpose of lotcheck is literally to see if the game identifies with all of the requirements set forth by Nintendo in regards to intellectual property usage (referring to things like Wii Remote instead of saying Wiimote, logo's, etc.) Nintendo allows developer's to release literally whatever they want so long as it doesn't infringe directly on copyright, contain excessive gore bordering on horrific, pornography or deep religious views. (I.e. difference between Fire Emblem God references and the binding of Isaac)
Just so you don't blame Nintendo for what the developers did, lol. I feel bad for the poor lotcheck guys... can you imagine playing this kind of garbage and NOT being able to say something.

midnafanboy

#74

midnafanboy said:

@jakysnakydx He knows its terrible, he said in the miiverse community that he is making updates and DLC. Maybe that might help the game maybe we should just wait for that i am.

DiscoGentleman

#76

DiscoGentleman said:

@jakysnakydx thanks lol. I tend to speak in jumbled metaphors, in general. Most of them fall flat.
I don't know where this dev picked up the brainwashed tween demographic, but Miiverse is lousy with 'em in The Letter's community.
Like... How do you talk reason with the unreasonable? Gotta give up and let 'em eat (poopoodoodoodoggiepoople) cake, I guess.

MagicEmperor

#77

MagicEmperor said:

I got this and even when I expected crud, I didn't expect TOTAL crud. Wow. But one good thing came out of The Letter: I had a younger guy play it when he was over and I hyped it up as a really scary game. He was confused by the third area and asked, "So, where's the monster? Anything?"

This is hands down the worst game I've played in years. End of story.

MagicEmperor

#78

MagicEmperor said:

@sleepinglion I can't fathom how anyone can defend this game "because it's cheap." Take a look at Gunman Clive. Whether you like it or not (I personally think it's excellent for what it is), it offers WAY more content and is replayable, and it's also $1.99. It almost feels like the supporters on Miiverse are paid. How could anyone excuse this crumpled up Letter? A true mystery.

jariw

#79

jariw said:

@jakysnakydx From an old NoA document: Lot Check is made up of dedicated game testers who methodically explore every possible unwanted scenario that your game may encounter. Their purpose is to ensure that players are satisfied with a consistent, bug-free interface to your game and to the Nintendo- specific features. Lot Check also tests your game on every hardware revision that Nintendo releases (hence the name “Lot Check”).

AFAIK, the lot check would check for game changing bugs, but (as you said) not for any quality control of the game itself.

Ralek85

#80

Ralek85 said:

@Einherjar What are you saying? I don't see how bandwagoning has anything to today with 'indie devs' in particular. It's just 'devs', to single out indies in this context is ridiculous.

Einherjar

#81

Einherjar said:

@Ralek85 Care to show me a "Slender-esque" game from a major studio then ? Also, this IS an indie developer who IS bandwagoning. So its a perfectly legit question to ask why they felt the need to do it in the first place, when this "genre" in particular is the sheer definition of overused.
And i never excluded major studios from bandwagoning in general. Its just that indie devs mostly go the "its exactly like X" route to ride on the success of a certain other game.

Genesaur

#82

Genesaur said:

@Tysamu Yeah, exactly. Being a work in progress certainly isn't a valid excuse, because a game should only hit the eShop when it's complete. I feel that people should always look back on this sorry mess whenever they get upset about a game being delayed for the sake of balancing, tweaking, polishing, etc.

Ralek85

#84

Ralek85 said:

"Why must every so called "indie dev" jump on every bandwagon possible?"
You most certainly did not include 'major devs' here, you would have just wrote 'devs' then, instead of the explicit qualifier 'indie'. Maybe you meant something else, but that much I can only guess.
"Care to show me a "Slender-esque" game from a major studio then ?"
But you didn't specifiy that, you just said "jump on every bandwagon possible". There were plenty of major studios jumping on the "WW2-fps" "cod-esque-fps" "zombie-shooter" even "MOBA" bandwagon among many others.
Like I said singling out 'indie devs' on this seems misleading at best.

I haven't played the game, but I was told, that it was very close to the Stanley Parable. "It's like X" is also not something that only indie devs do, maybe it is more common with them, I don't know that would be really hard to ascertain. As to your original question why they do it at all, and maybe more commonly so than bigger stuidos, it might be due to factors like lacking brand recognition as well as a lighter PR budget on their part.

raghouse

#87

raghouse said:

According to TreeFall Studios youtube channel autosaving, a new start screen (with continue option), and increased detail on the levels has already been added to the game (version 1.1)

64supermario

#89

64supermario said:

Called that score. As the game stands right now, its worse than that one game about recycling, and the most recent update that is coming out doesn't fix ANY of the problems with the game, it just makes the graphics a little nicer for the loading screen and title card, adds a useless save function to an extremely short game and adds a few more useless objects to the huge overworld. I guess he did add a level, but once again, that's not what's holding this game back.

NodesforNoids

#93

NodesforNoids said:

I had an idea for a game.. Just like this, but obviously different.
In fact, a college friend has been working on DOOM, QUAKE and UT mods for YEARS. Recently, after producing a small engine similar to UT, but with different texture distribution, he asked if I wanted to make the idea reality.
I would, someday, but probably not soon.
Regardless, this was my idea.
The Forsaken

  • takes place entirely in an abandoned hotel
  • 300 unique rooms
  • 1200+ interactive items
  • puzzle based gameplay
  • ambient noise, little music (except from sources in the game world. eg: radio, TV, record player)
  • One puzzle goes as follows:
    You awaken in a room and you're locked inside. You try to kick it open with no success. Using a chair against the door produces a similar result.
    You examine your surroundings. The bed is a mess and a scrap of paper on the end table draws your attention. The lamp doesn't work.
    The scrap is covered with gibberish. It looks like numbers.
    You can move the bedding about.
    You discover a locked box under the pillowcase.
    Looking around the room, you spy a painting on the wall and an oddly shaped lemon on the ground. The lemon is actually a candle.
    Searching the bedside table reveals a book of matches.
    Melting the lemon produces a key from within the candle.
    The key opens the box.
    A note with the phrase 'just one more' written hastily is inside the box.
    The old 'safe behind a portrait' apples here. The safe opens with the combination. Another, larger key is inside. Combining the keys fits the lock, ensuring your escape.
    But escape isn't going to be any easier. New puzzles must be solved as you advance in your journey.
    Someone wants you here and they want to have fun.
  • Early on, it becomes obvious an audience is watching
  • Reasons behind your panic to escape are clear early on
  • Even without antagonists or combat, there is still a great level or terror and suspense
    Should everything work for me to ever make this game, I'd expect it no earlier than summer 2017. It's a pipedream, at best, but an idea I've had percolating for 6-8 years now.
xj0462

#94

xj0462 said:

the first 1/10 on an wii u eshop game? it can't be that bad for 50 cents

MadAdam81

#95

MadAdam81 said:

@justlink still no update, just another quick and terrible upcoming game sold cheap to make another $20,000. This guy must be laughing to the bank.

MadAdam81

#96

MadAdam81 said:

@MagicEmperor so the only use for this mess is punishment? Be nice, or I'll make you play 'The Letter'?
No amount of updates can fix bad story, bad gameplay, bad engine without making an entirely new game.

jakysnakydx

#97

jakysnakydx said:

@DiscoGentleman This is some 3 months late, but absolutely. When someone's head is so far up their own bum they think the sky is blackish red you can't argue with them. They are only defending what they see although they are looking in the wrong direction.

Ninteen84

#98

Ninteen84 said:

Its .49 and I have 1.37 in e-shop credit, so I almost bought it, I mean even the eshop icon tells you its not well made, but I figured it would be at least playable.

But just by reading the last paragraph of review I can tell the ending must be "its just a dream"! (I have not played the game so if this is an actual spoiler not my fault)

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