Publisher: Freedom Games
Developer: Kela van der Deijl
As I?ve written before, the problem with so many games from the Wholesome Games movement is that they?re not actually all that fun. They dress themselves in the trappings of being cute and cozy and cuddly, but too often, they?re not exactly enjoyable to play.
Given that, Mail Time deserves all kinds of credit for being very clearly a Wholesome Game while also being somewhat fun to play. It?s occasionally cloyingly sweet and overly desperate to be liked, but at the same time, it?s also got some good ideas and it executes them well. Given some of the other games the movement has spawned, that counts as a relative win.
Obviously, you?ll need a very high tolerance for cutesiness and whimsy if you?re going to enjoy Mail Time. It?s a conflict-free game with no penalties and no death, in which you play as a gnome delivering mail to the citizens of Grumblewood Grove so you can earn enough badges to become a full-fledged mail scout. You start off the game by choosing everything about yourself, from your hairstyle to your preferred pronouns to your backpack colour, and then you go and help your animal friends, whether it?s delivering from a sternly-worded letter from a beaver to the bird who plays his music too loudly, or finding some coins that a rabbit lost so they can be returned to his cat landlord, or helping some shy girls share love letters with each other. Also, you?re only a few inches tall, as are all the animals, which means that the flowers tower over you, and you can use a piece of mail as a hang glider to soar around the world.
If none of that scared you away, then you?ll be pleased to know that the game mostly works as it should. Just by the nature of the game, you?re always being given something to do ? and even if they mostly amount to fetch quests, the characters are likeable enough that talking to them is fun. Likewise, the world is beautifully imagined, with vibrant colours and a laidback vibe that?s hard to resist.
That said, even if you?re a fan of whimsy, there are aspects of Mail Time that may drive you nuts. Personally, I found it a little frustrating that the game didn?t have any kind of map: you have all these letters and trinkets to deliver, but unless you memorize exactly where everyone is, you?ll need to search round for them every time ? and it doesn?t help that so much of this garden-y world looks similar. On top of that, the jumping controls can be a little wonky (though it?s not as if there?s any penalty for mistimed jumps, so this is more a minor inconvenience).
Still, it?s a testament to Mail Time?s indefatigably upbeat attitude that not even annoying issues can bring the game down too much. It?s a cozy game that doesn?t assume that being adorable is a substitute for being engaging. Hopefully more games of this ilk can learn from it, because all things considered, it?s nice having games like Mail Time around.
Freedom Games provided us with a Mail Time PC code for review purposes.