The Letter: A Horror Visual Novel Review

Introduction

The Letter is a horror visual novel developed by Yangyang Mobile. It originally saw a release on PC and Mobile in July 2017. It came to Switch and Xbox One in December 2021, then PlayStation in March 2022, after being ported and published by Ratalaika Games and EastAsiaSoft.

*Disclaimer: A code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. This in no way affects the review, as my thoughts are mine and mine alone.

Review

What if you had the opportunity to sell a big and beautiful mansion? What if there were rumours that it was haunted? Would you still want to sell it, or would you run away? Well the Ermengarde Mansion is one such a mansion. Located in the quaint and peaceful countryside, in the town known as Anselm Village. It has been abandoned and forgotten. Until Briar Realty Corporation decides to sell it and Isabella and her friend find themselves on a mind bending, horrific, and sometimes gruesome endeavour to try and clear the spirit from the house.

The story takes place over a course of two weeks. From October 17th, to November 1st. You also see the events that happen to seven different people throughout this adventure, and they’re all intertwined. After Isabella finds a mysterious note while preparing the mansion for an open house. Unfortunately anyone who sees it then gets cursed, and eventually killed. As you progress, you get to decide on whether you want to grow your relationship with everyone involved, or push them away as you try to solve the mystery all by yourself. The writing in the game is absolutely stellar. As you play through, there’s a lot of dialogue expressing how the character you’re playing feels in any current situation. It made them feel like actual people who were put in these actual conversational situations. Maybe not so much the horrific events that happen, but that’s just another topic entirely.

Considering you play as many people throughout the same two week time span, I expected there to be a lot of reused dialogue. Like everyone sitting in a room together, discussing everything, and each time you just see it from someone else’s point of view. But honestly, it only happened three or four times throughout the entire story, and even when it did, the moment was so brief that I didn’t think any of it. But it was fun seeing the other side of the conversation. Like when Hannah and Marianne are talking about marriage. Or when everyone is in the mansion, when shit is hitting the proverbial fan, and you see a scene from Ashtons’ point of view, then Lukes. It was fantastic.

The game doesn’t go hard with the horror at all. Instead of constantly having the horror around 24/7, it builds to it. It leaves you in suspense. It makes you wonder, “when is it going to happen next?”. It made for such a captivating read that I never wanted to put down. One second one of the characters is in a room, then they close their eyes to feel the nice country breeze blow through, and when they open their eyes, they’re in a whole different house. Blood on the walls, floors, ceiling. Suddenly it’s dark and raining, and there’s a mysterious girl crying somewhere. But is it a person, or the angry spirit?

With this being a visual novel though, that means there are plenty of endings and routes galore. When I said the game doesn’t have reused scenes in one playthrough, that much was true. But when you start doing more than one playthrough, this is where it can kind of become a hassle. I ran into quite a few scenes that I had already read, but because it was technically on a different route of the flow chart, it didn’t count as read, so the game wouldn’t let me skip text I had already seen, because in its eyes, I hadn’t seen it yet. On my second playthrough, I tried to get the true ending. Too bad I did it completely wrong and ended up killing literally everyone off. But to my dismay, this actually unlocked a lot of backstory for the mansion, and the evil spirit itself.

The downside? This backstory could only be viewed in a certain scene in the final chapter. It keeps getting worse though, because the last two bits of backstory don’t get unlocked until you get the true ending. Then you have to get back to the last chapter, but you don’t get to choose a starting point on the flowchart. You HAVE to start yet another new game! So it takes at least three full playthroughs to see all the backstory. But this was made a touch easier with the way the skip system works. You can set it so that it doesn’t just skip text, but lets you skip to the next big decision immediately!

There’s even some QTEs sections that make everything even more intense. Too bad between input delay and needing to mash some buttons faster than I possibly could without setting my controller a certain way, it would sometimes turn fun, tense situations into annoying sections entirely. Like when I had to mash L2 and R2 as Marianne at one point. I eventually did it, but I didn’t want to just skip it, nor did I want to turn the difficulty down.

I didn’t expect to see much messed up stuff on the bad ending with killing everyone off. But honestly, you learn so much deep seeded and pretty messed up lore while doing this. It made me really rethink everything that happens if you actually keep everyone alive. But even the true ending was really messed up and bittersweet. To say I felt for these characters throughout the whole read, is an understatement. I learned to love them, and I even got choked up a little sometimes. But I will say, some of the gruesome scenes you see when killing everyone off, aren’t for the faint of heart. Some show a huge amount of gore, and others may just make some people feel uneasy. But even after doing one playthrough, I still found myself wanting to see everything. In the end it was totally worth it.

Unfortunately I did have a few bugs here and there. The save system in the game makes absolutely no sense. Some lines that should’ve been voiced were not. Whether they forgot to record the lines, or it was an audio bug, I wasn’t too sure. I would sometimes get put back minutes of reading when loading my game. But this was remedied by just skipping over the text. I also had a few moments where the QTEs would bug out after I finished them, and wouldn’t progress the game no matter how many times I tried to redo them, or skip them entirely. So I’d have to start a new game to remedy the problem. Halfway through my second run, the game also COMPLETELY deleted my ENTIRE save file. So I had to redo it all. At least it only took a matter of minutes, but it was still a pain.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Fantastic Character
  • Horror Isn’t A Constant Thing
  • Amazing Story

Cons:

  • Annoying Bugs
  • Save System Doesn’t Start You Where You Saved
  • Button Mashy QTEs

Summary

I expected to take my time with this VN. But it pulled me in so fast with its exceptional writing, fantastic characters and well done psychological horror that I didn’t put it down until it was over. Though I had to deal with some annoying bugs and some annoying QTEs, it was well worth it in the end, especially when they helped add to the entire suspense of the game! This is a VN that’s well worth the read for any horror fan!

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Game & Developer Information

Developer Website: Yang Yang Mobile
Developer Socials: Twitter
Publisher Website: EastAsiaSoft
Publisher Socials: Twitter
PSN Store Links: £TBA/€TBA Europe / $TBA North America
Trophy Information: 56. 40-platinum 1 / Gold 2 / Silver 5 / Bronze 48

The Letter: A Horror Visual Novel Trailer (Switch, PS4/PS5, Xbox)

Published by oniwalker

Co-owner of NodeGamers(dot)com. Reviewer and Guide Writer. I'll play just about anything as I cry about my backlog!

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