Jul 11th, 2014

It’s hard to classify what is a game and what isn’t. It’s an argument that many have started over the past few years, arguing that games like Heavy Rain or Dear Esther are interactive experiences that tell a specific story, rather than a true game. I don’t subscribe to that notion of thought, as I feel as though games like Heavy Rain do deserve to be classified as a game. After all, there are multiple resolutions and depending on your performance, characters either live or die on the decisions you did or didn’t make.

The Letter is not a game. The Letter is a cobbled together experience using pre-existing assets to tell a meandering story that doesn’t make much sense at all. It plays like Baby’s First Game and if you can make sense of what story is being told, you’re a better person than I. Go ahead, watch the video above as NintenDaan takes you through empty environments. Do you have any idea what’s supposed to be experienced here? I assume the creators wanted to capitalize on the survival horror type Slenderman games that have been released on PC, but this is so terrible I’m left wondering why Nintendo even felt it made a meaningful addition to the Nintendo eShop.

The short answer is that it doesn’t. Even though the game is only being sold for $2, it’s not worth that. This should have been chalked up as a first effort at creating something that the public might want to consume. As it is, it’s little more than a walking simulator with bland environments and a story that doesn’t make coherent sense. There’s absolutely no reason to engage with the game, beyond the fact that yes there are some items littered about and occasionally you might be able to manipulate one of them in the form of being able to pick it up.

Nintendo is somewhat prided on its long-standing quality control. Before the Wii, Nintendo had a reputation for policing its platform heavily due to the video game crash in the late 1980s. The Nintendo Seal of Approval was given to games that are certified by the company, as a promise to consumers that the game you’re seeing meets standards set by the company that single-handedly revived the video game industry.

Shovelware Ahoy!


With the introduction of the Wii and its massive popularity, Nintendo let any company with money and a development team produce games for its platform. It’s how we ended up with games like Story Time Fairy Tales and Calvin Tucker’s Redneck Jamboree filling shop shelves alongside great titles like Xenoblade Chronicles and Super Mario Galaxy. Those games should have had no place on the platform, but Nintendo liked to capitalize on its licensing agreements.

The Letter is the same situation, only now Nintendo is desperate to attract people to the Wii U platform. They relaxed the requirements for what is considered an indie developer so that people would be interested in bringing their games to the Wii U. In some cases it’s been a great boon to the system, as it’s given us games like Shovel Knight. On the other hand, we now have to put up with stinkers like The Letter, which can be beaten in less than 6 minutes an doesn’t provide any meaningful gameplay.

Nintendo needs to understand the difference between quality and quantity. You’d think they are experts at this by now, considering the quantity of terrible games in the late 1980s is what invariably led to consumers not investing their dollars in video games, leading the industry to crash. Nintendo should be more responsible than this.

As for the developers of The Letter, c’mon. In what world is what you’re offering worth $2? I get more enjoyment out of shoving a pack of gum in my mouth that I spent $2 on than attempting to figure out what you’ve cobbled together. Plenty of two man teams have created great games, but this just isn’t one of them. It’s an embarrassment for the developer, but most of all it’s an embarrassment for Nintendo.

local_offer    Nintendo  the letter  wii u  wii u eshop  
  • Alex

    They say that Heavy Rain isn’t a true game. What about Ace Attorney then?

    • Daniel Gonzalez

      Fans say the funniest things.

    • There are lots of arguments about what makes a real game. I don’t like to get into them because I tend to enjoy what many people don’t consider games. This however, is not worthy of commercial success. It should not have been placed on the eShop at all.

      • Brian Hansen

        Now, I want to check this game out…just to have a laugh for a $$ bucks! Thanks Ash!

      • Daniel Gonzalez

        Well, what can you really say about a game that only received $377 of the $5000 that was needed? I guess that amount of money only equates to 6 minutes of gameplay. Looking at the game, and had it received enough funding, it was probably destined to be a stinker.

      • Arthur Jarret

        I enjoy what other people don’t consider to be games too. Like movies, good food, fine wine, gorgeous women and tv-shows.

        The word ‘game’ is a descriptive term, not a mark of approval.

        Regardless, thanks for this write-up – you could’ve made a review out of it, though – just add a score to drive the point home.

      • I am Error.

        At least Nintendo has the good sense not to feature it on the main eShop page. Not even on the day of its release. And if you go the Indie collection it is buried under much better titles. Still… this would make a bad FREE iOS game.

  • gerb1977

    Thanks………I figured at $2 it wouldn’t be great……..Too bad it isn’t even passable as a game.

  • palomino blue


  • Hikingguy

    I looked at it on the eShop and was not sure what to make if it. So I passed in it even though the price was cheap.

  • Thomas Fitzgibbon

    The Island at the end looked quite pleasant but the music was too amplified and amateurishly produced, which ruined the atmosphere it could have otherwise easily achieved. The rest of the game looks horrible. The brick walls look nearly identical to those in Zelda II and that was a NES game made in 1988! Also, does it really need to take half a minute to load a small mass of basic textures and polygons?

  • Beemo_Chop

    “… alongside great titles like Xenogears”?
    Did you mean Xenoblade Chronicles?

    • Yep, sorry!

      • Capt. Smoker

        Don’t blame ya for having Xenogears on the mind, just this morning I was day dreaming about that game, best ps1 jrpg on the system in my opinion and I’d argue a case that Xenoblade Chronicles was the best GAME on the Wii and Xenoblade Chronicles X wil be the best Wii U GAME of all time ^^

        • matthew garcia

          I loves xenogears. Disk 2 kinda dragged though

          • Capt. Smoker

            Was like shounen anime filler that disk 😀 probably even topped Bleach in that respect, in fairness though, Xenoblade bad it’s filler, like when you wanna bash metal face in the imperial city area and you gotta go through loads if bulllshit first >.< worth it though ^^

      • Darius

        Hey Ash I truly believe that this game deserves a mention. It’ll make a good addition to the Wii U


        • looks great but doesn’t seem like it has any chances of being pledged 🙁

          • Darius

            makes me sad

    • lonewolf88

      well she could had ment xenogears as in virtual console 🙂

  • anthony optimo

    Kinda want to check out Redneck Jamboree now.

  • bistricky

    “The Letter, which can be beaten in less than 6 minutes ” – Ashley

    That is absolutely hilarious.

    This day will go down as one of the most f*ck*d-up days in Nintendo history.


    • 00EpicGamer00

      Super Mario Bros. 3 can be beaten in under 3 minutes, lol. But “The Letter” doesn’t even come close to the charm of Mario Bros. 3. That’s for sure.

      • bistricky

        True, true …..
        Then again, Super Mario Bros. 3 has replay-value (hours on end) ….. this The Letter psudo-game appears to lack charm and everything else.

        • darkcreap

          And to add more, you can beat Super Mario Bros 3 in a short time if:
          1) You either use the magic flutes.
          2) And you master the mechanics so much that you never get killed and do everything by heart. The average player cannot beat the game in that short time, especially if you don’t use the flutes. I don’t think that players without good skills can beat it in such a short time.
          The flute thing was probably intentional due to the NES not having a save function other Mario games don’t have that kind of shortcuts. I mean, not that huge that you can beat the game skipping worlds 2 to 7 like you can in Super Mario Bros 3. Well, Super Mario World, but probably they noticed that in a game with save function it is absurd to give that. These shortcuts were more a thing to help people beat the game in a reasonable time in a time without save function in the games.

          • thedeciderU

            super mario bros. 1 and 2 have massive shortcuts and can be beaten very quickly.

          • darkcreap

            Sorry, you are right. I can’t believe I forgot those two being so obvious.

          • thedeciderU

            haha no worries! i just read your post and was thinking about some near speed run play-throughs of mario 1 and 2. i get your point though 🙂 i hope nintendo will be more careful about what they publish going forward. this “game” looks absolutely terrible. anxiously awaiting fatal frame. i’ve unfortunately never played them on ps2, and have considered buying them, but now that there’s an exclusive in the works for wiiu, i’m super excited to see what they come up with and looking forward to being scared! the last game i played that truly frightened me and made me feel anxious was zombiu in 2012, before that silent 1, 2, 3 in early 2012. they were fantastic.

        • lonewolf88

          idk man those graphics are pretty damn good.

    • Daniel Gonzalez

      Looks like something EA would publish.

      • lonewolf88

        not EA releases OVER HYPED ZOMBIE APOCOLYPSE ULTRA HYPE EXTENSIVE EDITION WHICH DOES NOT INCLUDE THE F MY ASS DLC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Daniel Gonzalez


          • lonewolf88

            my comment sums up every ea game.

          • Arthur Jarret

            They don’t have many zombie games – that’s Capcom & Activision.

            Did you hear they’re going to remake Pac-man in the Fifa engine?







            It’s called Suarez – the game.

    • Emu

      Gotta love it when people try to sell their midterm projects to the public.

  • Daniel Gonzalez

    Calm down Ash. It’s just a letter.

  • Ducked

    Wanna play a bad game? Play Home Alone 2 on the Gameboy.

    • Darius

      omg that game was hooooorible! Almost as bad as Zelda CD-I or Superman 64

      • Ducked

        “Superman 64 was amazing!”…said no one ever

        • Arthur Jarret

          Superman 64 was amazing, casuals just weren’t able to play it properly. If you’re a real gamer the game was fantastic!

          • Darius

            Trust me I’m a gamer I mean this is the field of study I’ve gotten my degree in but that game SUCKED

          • Arthur Jarret

            So does Kirby, my vacuum and some shady women I know.
            That doesn’t mean it’s bad.

          • Darius


    • Maybe Letter has same coders as Big Rigs or Desert Bus had. :p

      • Daniel Gonzalez

        How about Plumbers Don’t Wear Ties? 😛

        • RetroVintage

          I see we’re all AVGN viewers here :p

          • Daniel Gonzalez

            Appears to be the case. 🙂

          • thedeciderU

            haha true, but i played where’s waldo way before he made a video

      • ufg

        doubt they actually did any ‘coding’

    • thedeciderU

      or nes where’s waldo

      • Another game worthy of the Nintendo Seal of Quality!

    • Nintendo Seal of Quality on that one!

  • Lil J Moore

    A little harsh don’t you think?

    • I am Error.

      Then you’ve played it? What are your thoughts…

  • Christian Schoff

    Sorry had to stop at the 3 minute mark. HELLA boring.

  • It looks like something you’d see a College student make for Xbox Live

    • Assassinated23

      That’s probably exactly what it is, only he also(or instead) released it on WiiU

  • Squid

    This is the best article ever.

  • JBeauregard

    I knew what to expect going in. For $1.99, I felt fine buying this. Yeah, it’s a little rough, but I actually enjoyed it. was it ready for release? No, I definitely think much more needed to be done, yet it’s not broken and is somewhat interesting; but like I said, a $1.99 wasn’t the worst money I’ve ever spent. That title probably goes to hot dog flavored chips I bought on a whim a time ago lol

  • figs28

    “After all, there are multiple resolutions and depending on your performance, characters either live or die on the decisions you did or didn’t make.” so it’s still “just” interaction. You may define “game” as interactive digital media but then you should say it that way (and notice lots of other things would become games then – maybe even the “Letter”? You even called it Baby’s First >>Game<< so … yeah). My definition of video games is and always will be based on "game" as in board games or physical games (incl. most of sports). Something that can be played by 1 or multiple people at the same time and involves skill AND luck to win. Games that only involve skill or thinking are puzzles.

    • Assassinated23

      So does that mean, if a game has no randomized elements then it is not a game? Speed runners often know games so well, that skill is the only determining factor to how quickly it is completed. Are they puzzles now? If so, does that mean they are puzzles to everyone because luck need not necessarily be involved? I certainly don’t see luck being a requirement for a game to have. Even with randomized elements, if the gamer has the skill to cope with every scenario, luck need not play any role.

  • ZeldaFan83

    A videogame is a visual experience that is used for your personal entertainment. It can be this game, minesweeper, solitaire, ace attorney or the legend of Zelda. This is not a game I would buy or play but it is a game none the less.

  • C4

    “walking simulator”

    Bingo 😀

    Everyone including David Cage should take a look at Shenmue and some of the classic adventure games to see what makes them so exciting, intriguing and gives them their own flair. Personally I have nothing against games which don’t focus on action. If they are done well!

  • JB

    That’s pretty harsh, Ashley, You need to tag this article as opinion “Redneck Jamboree” was a masterpiece.

    • Capt. Smoker

      Cowboy hats mini games, world class, you just can’t ask for any more than that :p

  • Sdudyoy

    This game… It looks worse than some maps on Garry’s mod, and there are a lot of bad maps on Garry’s mod, and this is supposed to be a game?

  • Andrew

    Am I the only one that’s extremely curious about this game now?

    • Petri

      I kinda want it now.

  • ActivesiN

    meh this trash wasn’t even on my radar

  • SnappyJon

    Thank goodness for gameplay videos to help avoid accidentally buying games like this. Anyone who buys a game before checking out a video review or gameplay video is braver than me!

  • Jorge Almeida

    is this free at least?!

    • Jeffery02

      … It’s $2

    • I wouldn’t want it even for free, but if they pay me, I could play it for 6 minutes.

  • Nick Ruozzi

    I feel you, I want my 2 dollar back. I can walk through an empty field in my yard for free

    • MetroidZero

      With better graphics too!

  • 00EpicGamer00

    You should of included this game in the “Shovelware Ahoy” section: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/ee/Puppy_Luv_Wii.jpg
    I swear, this is the worst game I have ever played. I think this is the worst game in the history of forever, lol.

  • Will W

    The Dark side of indie development.

  • Epicstuf

    This looks like a crappy shareware title.

  • TheSkeletonMan939 .

    It’s pretty inspirational that Eli Brewer had the courage to claim credit for the game. That game is one of the most horrid things I’ve ever seen in my life.

    • I am Error.

      I can’t tell if the positive player comments on Miiverse are real or not… because I don’t see how any human could love this game.

  • D B

    Thats an awful lot of complaining over a $2 game, what do you expect for that price?

    • darkcreap

      There much better games for that price on the eShop.

    • I expect it not to be released at all. Some quality control please.

    • SkullScience

      As someone who grew up with $2 games with far superior gameplay on 8-bit systems, I find that remark offensive and ignorant. There is no excuse for this bag of crap! It simply diminishes the console and the store by clogging it up with shovelware. Make it free, show your potential by offering it as a free demo. To charge for this? Basically a con.

  • David Trail

    To be fair. It is the only really bad looking title on their.

  • Jonathan Dogey

    Wow, what a biased driveby shooting of an article. The Letter has tons of problems but I believe these can be fixed. In the meantime, there is a very casual title here that is just totally isolated by itself and shows how low budget a game can truly be. So perhaps it’s a game that’s so bad that you love to hate it? Like a mystery science theater movie? Yes, I agree. I have a point.

  • David Trail

    It is just one game, calm down!

  • Darius

    thank you Ash! you’ve saved me!!! I almost bought this game last night 🙂 my GF was sitting next to me like how good can a 2 dollar wii u game be lol good thing i downloaded guacamalee and batman orgins instead

  • David Trail

    I love the loading lol!

  • I am Error.

    Agreed, this title is like some tech demo from 1995… that a high schooler made in their computer science class. Pathetic.

    • 00EpicGamer00

      Sorry, I think that was me. 🙁

      Just kidding, lol.

  • Nicolas Dorion

    what is it like slender without the slenderman?

  • darkcreap

    What a piece of junk. 6 minutes. Only 6 minutes of gameplay.

    I don’t know how Nintendo let them publish this. This is clearly insulting. It is not just it is short, it is pure junk.

  • Looks like an Intel i486 demo game from the nineties. Please stop releasing crap.

  • eli

    I made a better game when I was 8, and it wasn’t finished…even if the mechanics are unexplained…

  • I sure hope AVGN will make a review of this, before it’s taken off from eShop. 😉

  • greengecko007

    Looks like a solid game of the year contender. Besides sporting an amazing draw distance and soundtrack, the constant loading screens will break up the game just enough so that you don’t have to ever actually feel scarred, broadening the target audience tremendously.

    • Daniel Gonzalez

      Sarcasm at its finest. Well played.

  • Purple

    Superman 64 looks 100 times better than this.

    • Daniel Gonzalez

      True. At least flying through rings was challenging.

  • Purple

    i’m giving up on Nintendo… because of this. This is the reason I’m giving up video games. Good bye VG world. Hello wooden yo-yo’s !

  • brian

    Speed limit 33, lol

  • brian

    Oh, and it’s Official Nintendo Seal of Quality, not Seal of Approval.

  • It seems to be about a little boy who was feeling alone and scared because he didn’t know where his parents went, and as a result it was dark in his dream for fear and no one being around signifies his feeling of being alone. Finding clues that lead to a conclusion of illegal activity is part of his fear that his parents have suffered a terrible fate. The writing on the walls may have been things his parents had said before leaving.


    This game was someone’s first or second attempt at making some sort of game. I’m guessing that it was actually made by a minor (Eli) with the help of his father or mother to publish it. It’s obviously that the game runs on Unity, the bumpiness in the terrain was probably him just messing around with the terrain editor, the trees and sky are built in assets and there other assets could have been gathered from anywhere. Plus the ending is cliche. The idea of it being all a dream is juvenile, I’ll admit I’ve had that idea a few times when I was young for endings of movies or games.

    Though just looking at the title screen you should know what type of quality to expect.

  • desgraciado79

    Great article.
    This is why I love this site the best.

  • gamingpalooza

    its $2… why complain?

    • I am Error.

      Because it’s Nintendo. Because the eShop is starting to be relevant. Because there are more impressive 2 dollar smartphone apps. Because if this is allowed on the eShop then quality control will allow other possibly worse titles onto the platform. Because it’s embarrassing.

  • lonewolf88

    okay guys gallop and ride is a amazing game like you’ll be addicted for life if you even touch the case the horse riding is so realistic its just simply amazing 11/10.

  • gregthecanuck

    Wow that was *very* bad!

  • thedeciderU

    i can’t believe this is a real wiiu game. what a pile.

  • I am Error.

    I watched the video… not sure where folks are getting ‘survival horror genre’ here unless it refers to suffering through this horrendous mess.

    The load times were a little frightening, though. A bit lengthy for what you end up getting.

  • PS4WiiURocks

    Hummmm not sure yet on this game..if anyone has played it let me know if it is worth it

    • iamserious

      The video was the full game!

      • PS4WiiURocks


        • iamserious

          Lol sad right?

          • PS4WiiURocks


  • eichs22

    I’d like to see you guys make a better game

  • Wow. I watched the video prepared to defend it, as I have games like dear esther, but this was indefensibly BAD.

    It was like some kids first attempt at playing around with a level editor. I did far better stuff than this a decade ago when I use to play around with level editors and so did many other people. Wouldn’t have dreamt of charging money for what I cobbled together though.

    I find it hard to believe this made it to the eshop there is a lot less quality control on the eshop than I thought.

  • MetroidZero

    I was waiting for Slenderman to appear. Oh well.

  • Guest

    Redneck Jamboree?

  • I am Error.

    So far this is the only review I’ve found for this title… it’s as if the other Nintendo sites are either afraid of it or have no idea how to respond to this thing.

  • brian

    Best part is the phone poles with wanted signs on them. First, the poles aren’t even along roads, they’re out in the open all willy nilly. Second, There’s no wires of any kind attached to them. So the phone/power poles are just… poles.

  • ufg

    I feel so proud, having followed this slightly-bad game company ever since the release of their platformer ‘the gem collector’ mostly just for funnies

  • Shadowking58

    It makes up for it with Shovel Knight.

  • TrueWiiMaster

    “there are multiple resolutions and depending on your performance,
    characters either live or die on the decisions you did or didn’t make.”
    You could do that with a book or an interactive DVD.

    Shovelware didn’t begin with the Wii. The fact is, shovelware has always existed, even on Nintendo consoles, and even with the Nintendo seal of quality. The Letter being a bad game isn’t in any way a sign of desperation or laziness from Nintendo. It’s just par for the course to get a few bad games with the good ones.

  • Here’s one game that received the Nintendo Seal of Quality: http://www.mcvuk.com/_media/images/XboxSecret_b.jpg

    Now let. it. go.

  • SkullScience

    This kind of garbage damaged the Wii’s reputation. This game would be fine free. A young or inexperienced dev showing what potential he/she has to the community. But to charge for this utter rubbish is just damaging to the Nintendo brand. There is no game here, just random ideas cobbled together. To those who say “it is only $2”. I grew up with amazing budget titles back in the 8-bit era, many had far far superior gameplay and longevity than this abomination!

  • Shootdatrupee!…

    The ending of this game does something every primary and secondary English teacher tells you NOT to do. Its shocking.

  • Denvy

    Oh please. The Nintendo Seal of Quality never meant that the games were good, or even halfway decent at that. There was a plethora of crap on the NES.

    • chris

      Not all of it had the seal

      • Denvy

        That’s not the point. There was a plethora of games that still had the seal that sucked.

  • Guest

    Cripes, when will people learn that the “Seal of Qualty” NEVER HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH SUBJECTIVE QUALITY. It meant only ONE THING–that the game was OFFICIALLY LICENSED BY NINTENDO, not some cheap knock-off, unlicensed crap. In that sense, Nintendo guaranteed ONLY functionality, NOT QUALITY.

    • chris

      And what does that entail exactly? That the game you were buying wasn’t shit!!

      So, yes, it works when talking about the quality of the product.