Letter Vetter – Game review

If you have ever played Papers, Please, the little experiment in totalitarian regime enforcement by Lucas Pope, the basic premise of Letter Vetter should be familiar to you. You play as a “mail assistant” who decides whether or not to let a letter be sent or not, but you are an anti-espionage agent, sent to a town called Pipshire in rural England.

Since we’ve started with a comparison to Papers, Please, I should dispel any notion that Letter Vetter is a grim slog through tough decisions in a dystopian, authoritarian environment. In fact, Letter Vetter feels like the antithesis to Pope’s tale in that regard.

Letter Vetter is a soothing game, played at a wooden desk with little handwritten letters that you open with the sound of tearing or rustling paper. Each letter is handcrafted, making for an experience that feels crafted with genuine care. Stamps are even a unique feature of each letter, depending on where the writer has sent them from.

So what Letter Vetter does well is the atmosphere. Soothing music tracks play alongside nature sounds as you sit in your office and read letters. You feel as though you are a part of Pipshire as you play through the game, becoming embroiled in petty dramas of the townsfolk, even as you remain distanced from them.

For the most part, this is what you do. You read letters, whether mundane, amusing, or even slightly sad. But there is another job you are there to do. No, it’s not just reading people’s mail to make sure they haven’t made any spelling errors (as exciting a game as that would make).

Letter Vetter Review

As an anti-espionage agent, you must figure out what, if anything, is wrong with a letter. You can discard letters, which ends a chain of conversation, meaning that while maybe you foiled a spy’s plan, you don’t necessarily have any definitive proof that they were a spy. Instead, you can forward letters with the up arrow to your supervisor, who will return to you the next day with a statement, which is often quite general.

If you forward more than one letter, your supervisor’s vague, nonspecific advice might be confusing as you try to remember which letter(s) was suspicious, and which one(s) they have written off as tosh. Your supervisor makes the actual process of forwarding letters not punishing, but one worthy of consideration. Sometimes you have to take a few moments to think or reread a letter once or twice to see if there’s anything suspicious. 

You might pick up on what seems like a suspicious code, weird capitalizations, or off spellings. When trying to root out enemy agents, you have to be observant. Zooming in with the right mouse button allows you to get a good look at an opened letter, and while a lot of the letters I read were purely mundane, stuff does start to crop up as days of reading letters in this small community carry on. Some folk insisted on meeting every day, it seems. Were those two people just playing a game of chess by mail, or was that using a secret code?

Someone died recently, and a lot of letters are being sent about a will. Could that be enemy agent activity..? More likely, no. I received several letters back from my supervisor, who seemed to be exasperated that I’d found anything in a letter. You found something in this? They asked, bemused. Perhaps I was just too paranoid? No, I thought. There had to be something in this. I kept tabs on the letter chain, waiting for something suspicious to come up.

Your time with Letter Vetter will likely be filled with the same kinds of thoughts and experiences. While some discrepancies were rather obvious and easy to keep tabs on, others were difficult, and I’m sure I let plenty slip through my fingers where I wasn’t looking closely enough.

Letter Vetter is the kind of game you boot up on a Sunday morning and play with a hot beverage by your side, wrapped in a blanket. It’s a reader’s game, a thinking person’s game. For fans of whodunnits like Sherlock Holmes, Letter Vetter feels like a gift. It’s not perfect – the controls were slightly unintuitive to start with (though you can consult them any time with the ESC key), and the delay of opening a letter and then resealing it by accident created some annoying, niggly little delays when I pressed the wrong button by accident.

But for what it is, Letter Vetter is practically perfectly crafted. It is a game that takes on exactly what it needs to in terms of size and scope and hones its detective narratives to a tee. It’s worth bringing a little notepad to play to scribble down your suspicions and keep tabs on people who you think are writing a little too weirdly for rural England discussions.

Summary

In the end, I can recommend Letter Vetter for fans of Papers, Please, as well as to anyone who enjoys old detective tales. It feels like a love letter itself to the genre and places you firmly in the shoes of a detective mastermind – or maybe just a regular person who reads other people’s mail for fun. It depends on how closely you read between the lines.

Leave a Comment