The Letter: a visual novel inspired by Japanese horror films

Beautiful and terrifying

There’s something about visual novels that I absolutely love. When you’re not in the mood to be completely active in playing a videogame, but you don’t want to feel entirely passive like when you watch a film, they strike the perfect balance; involving you in the process of telling an involving story without requiring you to be behind every aspect of its progression.

Developed by the Filipino dev Yangyang Mobile, The Letter, inspired by famous Japanese films such as Ju-On: The Grudge and Ringu, looks like it will deliver exactly this with a few scares for good measure. If there’s one genre that should be able to benefit from becoming a visual novel, it’s horror.

The story of The Letter revolves around a chain letter. Not in an email. An actual physical chain letter. Honestly, I thought this was the most laughable concept possible, but after playing the demo I take it back; they’ve got something here. You can delete an email and forget about it, but you’d be hard pushed to forget a letter that you find under the floorboards of an old (let’s face it probably haunted) mansion you’re trying to sell.  The playable demo starts with you playing as real estate agent Isabella, but The Letter promises a non-linear story that focuses on six different characters in whose fates you will have direct involvement.

The novel’s visuals are beautifully hand-drawn, enhanced by wonderful background animations and expressive 3D character faces. This kind of animation definitely helps pull you into the story and its characters, and of course there are the usual decisions to be made and multiple endings to see. However, where The Letter really stands out in terms of immersion is by the addition of quick-time events that’ll determine character injury or death. These events seem simple enough, but they effectively add a sense of urgency to the story and a feeling that your involvement in it is important. What the developers have definitely got down, if the demo is anything to go by, is a chilling atmosphere.

The Letter is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and voter support on Steam Greenlight. It seems to be doing pretty well on Steam thus far, but less so on Kickstarter sitting at $11,691 of its $30,000 goal with only 5 days to go. Although The Letter is a little more involving than your average visual novel, it is still a visual novel absolutely and if this method of storytelling doesn’t appeal to you then it’s probably not worth your time. If you’re not sure, the developer has released a demo of the game so that you can decide for yourself. If you do decide you like it, you’ll get a digital copy for around £8.50 via Kickstarter, which isn’t bad at all for 180,000 words of what seems like a well-written and genuinely scary story.

If funding is successful, the game will be released on PC, Mac, and Linux in October of next year. Perfect for a Halloween read.

Main Image via Kickstarter