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Review | The Letter (Wii U)

Review | The Letter (Wii U)

by September 21, 2014 0 comments

The only letter here is “F”.

 

The Letter, developed by TreeFall Studios, is allegedly a first-person survival-horror game.  Ripping from the playbook of novelty horror games like Slender, where the player must search for various objects/notes- what sets The Letter apart, is its unbelievable incompetence.

The Letter Wii U eShop Nintendo Blast 1

The core essence of survival-horror is human psychology. Understanding the basics of how people perceive concepts is crucial if the designer/director hopes to lead the player to feel a certain way, especially in the horror genre. Eli Brewer, the mind behind TreeFall Studios, has no such understanding. Brewer’s idea of horror is approximately on the level of what an emotionally stunted child might think would be scary. The Letter has the subtlety of an incoherent Charlie Sheen interview and music that sucks your life away with every clunky note that fights for any semblance of melody, harmony or likewise normalcy.

Just by the way The Letter begins, a great sense of regret and shame emanates from the screen. A poorly conceived logo and a low resolution stained envelope with no options, only a prompt to begin the game. Upon starting the game, the most harrowing realization occurs; the vertical axis is inverted and there is no means to reverse it. Brewer was very selfish and presumptuous to not have an option (or any options) to alter controls and instead force the player to use this sadistic set up; either that or he just did not care or know how. After taking time to get oriented with the abhorrent settings, the bewildering slowness of looking around with the analogue stick reveals itself. In a game that depends on navigation in the first-person, The Letter completely botches the most simple aspect of the game, magnificently.

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The first area is a room with writing on the wall, which serve as instructions for the player, “Find the letter.” Some questions arise here; are these instructions from the designers? Or are these instructions supposed to exist in the reality of the game? This might seem innocuous, but it sets a precedent for the confusion to come it is distracting and takes the player out of the game as they are trying to decipher the context.

Pretty much every written message on the walls are from the designer, informing the user what they have to do because Eli Brewer lacks the technical knowledge nor does he grasp the basics of game design or maybe he really is just lazy. Typically, players can be guided by a simple visual trick, discreetly ushering their direction. This can be done so in a myriad of ways such as use of colour or lighting, UI design, level design or some kind of movement.  Eli Brewer manages to fumble every opportunity.

Wii U Horror Game- Introducing The Letter-n2g-1

The Letter is a barren game, lifeless and devoid of life or character. There are no ways to die, and there is nothing that can hurt you. No monsters, almost no animation to speak of aside for some swaying tall grass. Built with the Unity engine, the designer has peppered the locations with stock 3D models and a few, tragically, designed by Brewer himself. The world that Brewer created is a small one populated by a few whispering teddy bears, sign posts that feature comical webcam photos of a few of the indiegogo backers and the not so well-hidden letters.

Brewer’s world is five areas, four of which are really tiny and one of them can only be visited for a few seconds before the game automatically boots the player to the final area. Some of the most fecal-like muddy textures make the overall package feel cheap and grimy and in some instances, it makes it difficult to distinguish certain objects.

The cost of this game is $1.99, yet users on Miiverse still feel ripped-off. Eli Brewer had originally promised free updates, but has since gone silent, leaving all his customers feeling very disgruntled. As to why Brewer would release the game in this state instead of completing it first, alludes to the possibility he has no intention of completing The Letter.

The game is punctuated by an ending that completely betrays and grates on the audience, delivered in the clumsiest way since the movie, Monster a Go-Go. The indiegogo campaign for The Letter began on March 5th but was closed March 20th, 2014, only earning $377 for its $5,000 goal. Judging by the pitch video that was first shown as early as March 5th, the final product looks identical to the pitch that was used for the indiegogo campaign. Eli Brewer is a hack-fraud, con artist and his game is a scam.

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Check out the Score

GAMEPLAY

 Inverted vertical look only. It is a slow first-person boredom simulator, where you collect junk and walk around. The greatest challenge is comprehending the innumerable levels of incompetence displayed in The Letter. You can jump, but there is no reason to.

GRAPHICS

Stock Unity assets and absurd pop-ins. Eli Brewer has no sense of scale in his few original 3D model. Some objects are obscenely oversized making the player-character seem like a toddler in many instances. The cheapest and sloppiest production values I have ever seen in any game. The Letter is landfill of 3D geometry.

SOUND

Music lacks any coherent melody and is just obnoxious repetitive noise.

Value

The Letter is $1.99. That money can be used to tip your waitress who could really use it. Players on Miiverse have frequently expressed how they feel ripped-off despite how little this game costs.  It should be noted that the game can be beaten in about 7 minutes, has zero replay value, and runs poorly. Amusingly, the Indiegogo campaign pledge for $10, was the lowest pledge that would get you a free copy of The Letter.

Final Score

FINAL SCORE

This is not a video game; it is one man’s attempt to exploit ignorant consumers. On the surface it may vaguely resemble one, and I might have even recommended The Letter purely for novelty sake, but that would mean giving money to TreeFall Studios. Most indie games are made from some kind of inspiration or creative spark, but The Letter is a meticulous study of inept game design and artless execution. An unfinished product by a lazy creator who couldn’t be bothered to include something as simple as an inverted axis option for the controls, who seemingly only wanted to make a quick cash-grab at the expense of ill-informed consumers, or five year olds with their mother’s credit cards. This is not a good a game. This is not a bad game. This is a terrible game. Eli Brewer, you will not be forgiven.       0         

 

 

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