I’m always on the lookout for interesting new indie devs, and am always pleased when I manage to come across one. Or, rather, when they make themselves known to me. Today’s web crush contacted LGG&F to look over their newest game and it seems that they’re seeking to take over the mobile world with their engaging stories and vast knowledge of genres. If their upcoming game, The Letter, is any indication, I think I can expect great things from them in the future.
Before now, I’d admittedly never heard of Philippines-based Yangyang Mobile–my exposure to phone apps is somewhat limited due to my not having an actual phone that can play apps. Additionally, the only other game they have listed on their site at the moment, Bat Cat, while very cute, seems to be a Flappy Bird clone. However, since the company has only been around since July of this year, I fathom to guess that this isn’t indicative of the products they’ll be releasing in the future. This claim is only strengthened by their current Kickstarter.
Yangyang is in the process of trying to amass funds for their first full-length game as a company, The Letter. Juxtaposed to their homepage, which is full of cute, simplistic art, The Letter is, in their own words, “…an interactive horror, visual novel game that is… inspired by the famous Japanese horror films, Ju-On: The Grudge & The Ring” and other such horror staples. Additionally, its style is incredibly detailed and fits the mood of a horror game perfectly. The game itself boasts an impressive six character main cast, all of whom will be explored through their own chapter within the game, further muddying up motive and prodding the player to question who is really in the right, or if they can even trust what they’ve seen with their own eyes. However, the “main” character for now seems to be Isabella Santos, whom the demo focuses on. We follow her as she goes to the austere Ermengarde Mansion, both to make sure the building is up to snuff before she sells it (she works for a real estate agency, and this is a hot property) and to find her friend/co-worker who went ahead of her, and whom she now can no longer contact. Upon finding no trace of her friend outside of a static-laced phone call, Isabella heads towards the attic. But instead of finding her friend, she finds a horrifying letter with the words “help me” written over and over in something that could be blood, along with the instruction to send the letter to five more people on the threat of… something. Despite her desperate attempts to escape the clearly haunted mansion, she ends up at the will of whatever force may be behind the letter and the disappearance of her friend.
The Letter is clearly a project born out of love, and Yangyang’s ambition shows this. I have to say right off the bat that the art for this game is amazing. In fact, it’s much better than some licensed visual novel games I’ve played, so serious props to their art department. Plus, I love the inclusion of animated sprites for the characters: it really breathes new life into the narrative seeing characters react in real time! Also, I’m impressed that they’ve decided to put voice acting as a stretch goal. Such a thing in a visual novel takes tons of work, and for a game that boasts a plethora of endings, I can only begin to imagine how much more work it would be. The voice clips they have on the Kickstarter page are charming, and there’s something to be said for the minimalist voicing of “vaguely disgruntled/happy noises” to indicate mood, but I do think it would add a lot to this game in particular if that goal was reached.
As far as gameplay goes, The Letter runs smoothly as a visual novel and the pacing of the narrative seems to be good thus far. I don’t necessarily agree with the comment from One Angry Gamer that adding quick-time events are a “big step up from the standard visual novel,” however, if the popularity of Telltale games is anything to go by, a well done quick-time event can add a lot to a previously static narrative. I can only hope that Yangyang won’t overdo these quick-time events: too much of an already potentially bothersome thing will only slow down the story and take away the focus from the characters.
With four days left in their Kickstarter campaign, Yangyang needs to make it to $30k to get the game funded and they’re only a little over halfway there! I implore you to support them if possible. While I’m seriously not a fan of the jump scare school of horror, The Letter’s story is intriguing enough, and the characters interesting enough that I can let that slide. The cast of characters are extremely diverse, and you all know how much we need to support games that don’t just put white people in the spotlight. With the high quality of their demo, supporters can be sure to expect just as much care, consideration, and love to be put into the final product. I truly do hope that Yangyang mobile continues to develop and produce the games that they want to make; we need voices like theirs in the gaming sphere! Hopefully The Letter will be the platform from which they can grow into something bigger and continue to improve their craft.