Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
I’ve said it once before and I’ll say it again, I believe the Switch is the perfect console for this generation for visual novels. No matter the genre of visual novel, there is probably something on the Switch that will suit your fancy. Because of that, it is a very competitive market when it comes to what games players want to spend their time with. Being a fan of horror I tend to seek out more horror-based visual novels and luckily I found Yang Yang Mobile’s The Letter: A Horror Visual Novel. Originally released in 2017, The Letter served as Yang Yang mobile’s first title, a very successful Kickstarter project brought to life by a group of very passionate developers out of the Philippines. This past December The Letter was released to the switch. I’m a little surprised that this flew under my radar as I’m normally really good about keeping up with Indie visual novel studios. Being Yang Yang Mobile’s first attempt at a visual novel, I believe that it is good. However, The Letter does suffer some problems that keep it from being a truly great experience.
The Letter opens up as players take control of Isabella Santos, a bright-eyed 26-year-old realtor attempting to make a big sale on a supposedly cursed mansion. Isabella is pretty superstitious, but the amount of money that could be made on this deal would be able to help her and her family out for a long time. Isabella swallows her fear until one of her inspections leads her to a room that she gets trapped in. On the floor, she finds a letter with the cryptic words “HELP ME,” written over and over, and at the end of the letter, it’s stated to bring 5 people. Upon reading the letter Isabella is attacked by a vengeful spirit but breaks away just quick enough. The chain of events that unfolds weaves a tale of suspense, horror, and anguish for those who get trapped in it.
The story revolves around seven central characters and is broken up into seven chapters. Each chapter is from a perspective of a different character. While this is nice, it does lead to the player replaying a lot of the same scenes just from a different character’s point of view. When you’re at the midpoint of the game it does get a little redundant especially because a lot of the flavor text stays the same. The overall story is very compelling and I believe it’s well done, but there is a lot of filler in The Letter. The pacing is all over the place, the story doesn’t really get going until the last three chapters. While I like the characters but because of the pacing issues, I had a hard time getting connected with any of them. One of the characters drops a hard R during one point in the story everybody just ignores it. The character never says it again and then switches to something that is still just as offensive.
To The Letter’s credit, it is very choice-heavy, a single character’s relationship to another character can change the path that the story will take. There is a lot of replayability, the second half branch is insane and you can view it at any time. I can’t confirm the exact number but from my research I’ve seen that there are over five thousand paths that the story can go. If you’re a completionist you know this would definitely be something that you would want to look for, even if it doesn’t change the outcome a whole bunch.
One of the aspects where The Letter really shines through is its art and character design. Each character’s personality really shines through their design. You can see a character at first glance and really know the personality of that character based on what you’re seeing. There is a little difference between their live 2D model and their static sprite that’s in the corner for the character that the chapter is currently focused on. There is also full English voice acting in The Letter. There are some pretty big names in there, but I’m not going to spoil anything.
Outside of the issues with pacing that I already have discussed, the Switch port does have some issues and some glitches that took me out of the experience. The major glitch that I experienced was that the voice acting was very spotty. Whole lines of dialogue wouldn’t be voiced even though the backlog says it was voiced. Another glitch that I experienced constantly was that the journal would just be blank. It would tell me that I have a new journal entry and I would go check it out and every single page would be blank and I wouldn’t be able to navigate the menu of the journal. While not a glitch, you can’t use the X button to close a menu item off the screen and sometimes it covered text. I don’t necessarily believe that this is the fault of Yang Yang Mobile as this could be on the side of the company that ported it to the Switch but it does hurt the experience.
Overall the more I thought about my time with The Letter the more I’ve come to enjoy it. It’s a very ambitious (maybe at some points too ambitious) first attempt at a horror visual novel with excellent art and sound design. However, this does not excuse the poor pacing, weird character decisions, or glitches that I’ve experienced.If Yang Yang Mobile has learned from their experience in making this game, their future titles will be better. Currently, The Letter is out for PC (Steam) Android, IOS, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
The Letter: A Horror Visual Novel Review
The Letter: A Horror Visual Novel Review
Overall the more I thought about my time with The Letter the more I've come to enjoy it. It's a very ambitious (maybe at some points too ambitious) first attempt at a horror visual novel with excellent art and sound design. However, this does not excuse the poor pacing, weird character decisions, or glitches that I've experienced. If Yang Yang Mobile has learned from their experience in making this game that their future titles will be better.
Full English voice acting
Amazing replay value
Switch port contains multiple glitches that affect the log, journal and voice acting.
Weird character decisions make it hard to focus on scenes that are suppose to be impactful