As many people on social media are learning the hard way these days, our written words are forever. Not so in indie developer 5am Games' upcoming Letters – a written adventure, however, as players will have the power to change a girl's life by altering the text of her correspondence. At least, we will if the game is able to reach its Kickstarter crowdfunding goal.
The game tells the story of a shy Swiss girl named Sarah, who conversed with her Russian pen pal Katya through letters and chat messages from the late '90s through the 2000s. By reading through her mail players will get to "meet her friends and family and watch her grow up from a child into a young adult trying to find her way in life, navigating school, friendship and everything in between." But you can do more than just observe, as you will need to "make decisions for Sarah that will change what kind of person she'll become" by using a "keyboard or gamepad to run and jump through her messages, solving riddles along the way."
Presented in a charming hand-drawn aesthetic, Letters takes place entirely within the letters and online messenger chats between Sarah and Katya. Promising a "journey through time with messy children’s desks full of toys, colorful drawings, and enchanting memories," this "adventure game about friendship, growing up, and finding your place in life" thrusts you into the role of a "tiny Sarah" as she moves through the text, interacting with illustrations of both her friends and family and obstacles that block her path. The only way to get past these drawings is to select the correct words to "throw" at them in the hopes of changing them accordingly.
Adding an important layer of complexity to the gameplay, you not only have access to complete words, you are also able to "create new words by breaking apart the existing ones." There will usually be multiple solutions to the puzzles, encouraging players to experiment, "think outside the box and play with words in a new and fun way." But as in life, words do still matter, so beware the decisions you make as "every action has a consequence." It's up to you whether to "take revenge on your sister, play video games all day and fall in love." Of course, if you don't like the direction Sarah's life is going as a result of your actions, you can always try again and "rewrite her story with every playthrough."
Originally conceived as a student project prototype at the Zurich University of the Arts, which is still available to download on itch.io, Letters – a written adventure has since been expanded into a three-hour experience per playthrough. In order to help the three-person Swiss team reach the finish line, they have launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise approximately $20,000 USD by November 22nd. If successful, we could see the game released on Steam for Windows and Mac as early as February 2021, with a Switch version and mobile ports also being considered.