When it comes to the Wii U, there’s no doubt that Nintendo has been very open to indie developers bringing their titles to the platform. There are numerous occasions where indies stand out more than AAA titles, bringing unique experiences to players. Developer Treefall Studios has brought us The Letter, a first-person horror adventure title, for the Wii U eShop. Is this a letter worth opening or should it remain sealed?
The Letter has you controlling Michael Kennedy, a young boy who finds himself in a dark room with no one in sight. He is left letters by his father, whom appears to have been murdered. The object of the game is to find all the hidden clues and letters so that Michael can discover the truth about his father. However, by the time you reach the game’s finale, the plot takes the ultimate “are you freakin’ kidding me?!” twist that should never ever be used in any form of storytelling. While I won’t spoil it for those that actually want to see it for themselves, it’s going to infuriate you beyond belief.
Gameplay is incredibly simplistic in The Letter. You’ll be using the analog sticks to move and look around with the flashlight, while you’ll jump with the B button and interact/collect items in the environment with the A button. If you want to, you can shut off the flashlight…but there’s really no purpose to doing that at all. The look controls are automatically inverted (which many have complained about but I’ve personally always played with inverted y-axis) and there’s no way to change it for those who don’t prefer invert. You’ll explore 5 areas containing clues as to the whereabouts of Michael’s father, but there’s not a whole lot to explore. As a matter of fact, you’ll be exploring this game for a matter of 10-15 minutes…and then it’s over. Yep, that’s all. There’s zero horror, zero action, and zero intensity. There are no enemies in the game and there’s nothing even coming after you to keep you a bit on your toes. You’re just wandering around each area, finding the objects and then moving on. Once the game is over, it’s over. There’s no replay value and nothing to go back for. If you go back to replaying it, it’s actually to try to get a bit more out of your two bucks (or 50 cents if you got it on sale recently), to see how fast you can speed-run it, and/or to show it to your friends and see their reaction(s) when playing through it. A horror game has to have an atmosphere that sends the player chills or even someone/something coming after you to add a bit of tension, but instead you’re left mindlessly exploring dead areas.
Visually, the game looks like something we’d see from a Windows ’95 game, and that’s clearly not a compliment. Objects are poorly designed with some serious scaling issues. In the first room, there’s a hidden letter that is massive on the floor and the best part, is purely visible in a pitch black room with your flashlight off. The teddy bear that’s littered around in the game doesn’t even look like a teddy bear, with what looks like a black sensor bar for its mouth and eyes. Toward’s the game’s finale, you’ll come across lounge chairs with fruit on it…the chair looks like it would be too big for even Bigfoot while the fruit and the plate it’s on itself are absurdly small. Even the texturing looks a bit uneven, with a roughness to it that when attached to a corner of an object, you’ll clearly see wasn’t polished. The text that appears on-screen even looks beyond dull. The main menu looks incredibly generic and boring, with an immensely low-res image of an envelope. I guess the one thing going for the visuals is that it runs without an issue. Oh, and if you’re looking for off-TV play, scratch that off the list, it’s not available for use here at all. As a matter of fact, there’s no GamePad use what-so-ever, other than it being a black screen.
Audio wise, The Letter has a soundtrack that really does not fit the game at all. For a horror game, atmospheric tracks really do a game wonders. In The Letter, we are provided music tracks in MIDI form that really do nothing but entirely detract from the game’s experience. Aside from the atmospheric, ominous track played in the second area, the tracks either have you scratching your head as to whether it’s supposed to scare you or grate you. Even the game’s title screen theme sounds too calming to get you into the spirit of what awaits. Sound effects are minimal as well, with nothing heard other than an occasional voice to try and creep you out (never does though) and the tone played when you collect an object.
Nintendo has been very welcoming with open-arms to indie developers to bring their games to the Wii U, but something went very wrong in their quality assurance department to let this project release in the eShop at the state it’s in. What we’re left with is a “finished” product that’s a slap in the face to gamers. The scariest part about The Letter is how it was even accepted to be released on the eShop. Short, boring, monotonous, dull, and the biggest middle-finger ending to the player, The Letter should remain unopened.
Overall Score: 1.5 out of 10 = Don’t buy it!
A special thank you to Treefall Studios for providing us a review copy for The Letter! Review based on version 1.0.
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