Playing with words sounds like the premise of a bad ’90s “edutainment” game, but Letters: A Written Adventure uses that exact premise. Solving puzzles is the key to progressing in protagonist Sarah’s journey, making choices with words as you play. Like countless puns over the years, it’s simple yet effective, and tickles your brain appropriately.
From Sarah’s childhood to adulthood, you guide her through difficult decisions via letters she writes to her correspondent. Later, Sarah moved from handwritten letters to computer text, as we all have. Early on, decisions arise that change the outcome of the game. Unlike many games with the promise of decisions that mean something, Letters more or less delivers. After 3 plays, I saw a few different lanes that had varying changes, including interactions with different characters and slightly changed platforming challenges.
Here is Sara!
That said, like most games of this ilk, you won’t see a huge shift in direction for every scenario. Rather, it’s a new flavor of the same story already told, with identical narrative beats and climaxes switched between characters and storylines. Still, the new faces and writing were enough to justify each part, and if you’re only interested in specific choices, you can start with certain chapters.
My only complaint with the story is that the main premise is somewhat flawed. For a game about matching, it seems like you’re the only one getting attention. You never learn much about your correspondent living in Russia, which is rather a shame, because the relationship is rather unique and should be explored.
It’s unfortunate that the one person you always talk to doesn’t have much depth in the game.
The gameplay, at its core, isn’t exactly challenging. It’s a puzzle platform game where your main activity is solving puzzles. Some may roll their eyes at gameplay like this, but there’s a simple joy in finding the right words to break down obstacles, and I have to admit I was very impressed with it. For example, when you walk on a sheet of paper, the drawing of a one-winged bird can block your path. Adorably, he asks for another wing to fly away. With the word “drawing” floating, you remove the “wing” part of “drawing” and throw it at the bird. After the bird says goodbye, it flies away using its new wing.
The same joy found here is the same you would find in a crossword or word search!
As I mentioned, Letters is a puzzle platformer, but the focus is on puzzles. The platforming is straightforward with no real challenge, which isn’t a problem at first, but particularly large levels that require you to drag words from end to end can make things tedious. Puzzles related to these words are always fun, but collecting the words can get a bit gritty.
Although many elements of Letters are of higher and lower quality, artistically they are consistent across the board. It’s beautiful to look at, and the evolution of the art style from childish doodles to pixel art on your desktop is a marvel to behold. There’s even a change to the palette as you progress, and that sometimes includes slight gameplay changes as well.
The shift from art book designs to cute pixel art is refreshing and a cool connection to history.
Through each letter and text, I enjoyed my time with Letters and was surprised by some of the changes found throughout. Appropriate length ensures the game never exhausts its welcome, and the replayability of parts makes Letters an overall adorable adventure.