“Words are the threads that connect people together, so when someone writes a letter to you, it unifies your lives a little more and shows they care about you. That’s what I love about letters.”
Typing games aren’t exactly the most popular genre, but when done well they can be a lot of fun. There is nothing quite like the panic you feel when hastily trying to spell Latin words while dodging projectiles in The Textorcist, or the beauty of using text to unfold the world around you in Epistory. There is a magic in words that can be used to create gems.
Every Letter, developed and published by Violet Fairy, is not really a typing game in the sense that The Textorcist and Epistory are; words aren’t used as a tool to progress. Instead, it is an experience. A way to let go of anything holding you back creatively, telling you to just write. As someone who has studied creative writing and often finds themselves struggling with writer’s block, I knew that this was a game I needed to pick up and it was exactly what I wanted it to be.
As Every Letter begins, we quickly learn that we have been hired as a letter writer for a small company. Our job is to take notes written by the boss, notes which detail what the client would like written down and who it is to, and turn them into letters. The letters should be from the client’s point of view, channeling their emotion and putting across their questions whenever relevant, but that is all the instruction we are given. We’re told: “All sorts of people pass through here, so these requests could be anything. Just do your best to understand the sender’s thoughts and try to put them into words.”
At its core, Every Letter is essentially a writing prompt generator. The main game, I hesitate to call it a story mode, gives players prompts with varying degrees of emotion attached. One prompt asks the letter writer to put together the first act of a play for a struggling playwright, another is a girl writing jokes to her penpal. A particularly emotional prompt asks the letter writer to pen a rather heartbreaking letter from a daughter to her deceased father. Each prompt brings something different to your desk. There are three rounds, each with three prompts for the player to choose from. The prompts do not seem to repeat within story mode, so if you do not want to follow a certain route, or don’t feel like you are in the right frame of mind to write a love letter or a baby announcement, there is no need to do so.
Charmingly, some of the letters interconnect with one another. Where one letter mentions a surprise for a grandma, another letter mentions what that surprise is. A girl writing jokes to her penpal gets a love letter in response. This is a really nice way to feel involved in the people’s stories and does give it a slightly more game-like feel.
The fourth letter you write is a bit different. You are asked to write a letter to yourself. It can be about anything, it is not ‘proofread’ by the boss, and there is no real reason to worry about what you put down on the paper. I found this a nice exercise, accompanied by the gentle background music and the click-clack of typewriter keys.
There is no real need to write anything at all in the letters if you don’t want to. Every Letter is built on trust more than anything. While the boss claims to proofread the letters before sending them off, the game doesn’t punish you for any reason. Write a barrage of swear words to the boss in a colleagues resignation letter or nothing at all, it doesn’t really matter. The game tells you as much, saying that it is rare that thank you letters are sent to the company, and that “all we can do is keep writing our best letters and hope the words matter to someone we’ll never meet.”
However, I do think you are cheating yourself just a little bit if you rush through all the letters to get the achievements. The beauty of Every Letter is the ability to be creative, think through a prompt and explore it in your own way.
If you enjoy Every Letter as much as I did, particularly as a creative outlet, then you can jump into endless mode, which does what it says on the tin. You are repeatedly given sets of prompts, some of which you encountered before in the story mode and others which are entirely new. This can help you complete those story paths if you weren’t lucky enough to get all of the letters in the nine prompts you had before, and lets you rewrite any letters you wish you had taken a different route.
There are a few things to consider when writing, though it doesn’t matter if mistakes are made, which encourages players to take it slow. There is no backspace button, so mistakes are permanent on the page. Similarly, there is a space limit both capping how long the letter can be and how close to the edge of the page you can get.
Every Letter is not exactly a complex game. Gentle music floats in the background, accompanied by the clack of typewriter keys as you pen your letters. The screen is more or less static on a background of an office with a typewriter in front of it, none of which is particularly thrilling to look at. There are thin threads of story but nothing big and the ending is a single drawing of some people with some text across it in a visual novel style. And yet, it is very charming in its own way. It is charming because at its core, Every Letter is a love letter to human connections, and how words can bring us together. It is a reminder to contact those we love and to think about how important others are to us. And it is, most importantly, a reminder to take care of yourself.
Every Letter is a game which will appeal to certain groups more than others. If you like cozy games, it is perfect for curling up with a cup of tea and delving into the interconnected storylines. If you are a writer, it is a lovely way to unwind and relax without the pressure of creating something great.
Megan played Every Letter on PC with her own copy.