Fall is finally here – the leaves are changing colors, the air is getting cooler, and the games are getting cozier. Mail Time fits in perfectly with this idealized fall aesthetic, with its gentle autumnal colors and mushroom motifs that make you feel like a flower fairy exploring a back garden. I’ve had Mail Time on my radar for the best part of a year, so I was very excited to finally try it out on the Nintendo Switch.
Mail Time is a 3D adventure platforming game set in a cozy forest where you play as a Mail Scout – a tiny humanoid creature tasked with delivering mail to the denizens of the area by running, jumping, and gliding through the environment. As a long-time fairy enjoyer and self-confessed character customization addict, the game’s concept immediately appealed to me. I’m also a former scout who loves collecting badges, so it’s almost like this game was made specifically for me.
Let’s start at the beginning. The character customization menu is wonderful. I’ve written before about games that give me gender euphoria and how a lot of that feeling comes down to creative and flexible character creation options, which Mail Time is full of. According to the website, there are over 44 million possible combinations of hairstyles, outfits, skin tones, backpacks, and gliders. You can also choose between three sets of pronouns, masculine, feminine, and neutral, which is a nice touch for me and all the other cottagecore nonbinary gamers out there. Personally, I’d like to see a few more options, but any attempt to go beyond the binary is appreciated.
A lovely detail that not all games include is that your custom 3D character also generates a unique 2D copy for Mail Time’s RPG-style dialogue boxes. Seeing my character’s extremely expressive and charming reactions to in-game conversations never gets old, especially in moments where they stare directly at the camera after making a politically relevant point about landlords. The writing itself is wonderful, too. The humor is light and goofy with the occasional jab at real-world issues, which I appreciate. There are a couple of spelling errors here and there but nothing that can’t be fixed in an update.
Mechanically, however, I’m not having the best experience with Mail Time. To be honest, going into this game I didn’t expect it to be so heavily based on 3D platforming, which is not my strong suit. Getting to key locations and finding key items is heavily dependent on precision jumping and gliding, something that isn’t a universal skill. There are a bunch of great accessibility options, but none of them really address this fundamental gameplay feature. I’ve found myself getting stuck in various parts of the map because I can’t make a specific jump and any alternative routes aren’t well signposted in the environment.
Even though the Steam version of Mail Time has been out for a few months now, I’ve been playing blind so that my honest opinion on the game itself and its Switch performance isn’t tainted. Because of this, until re-reading the official game website before sitting down to write this review, I didn’t know that you can use the Mail Scout badges you collect to upgrade your glider. This sounds like a great system as I’ve only been missing key jumps by a few pixels, but at no point during the game itself have I been told this.
Navigation is a real sticking point for me as well. Mail Time, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have a map menu, so I’ve been relying entirely on my pretty shoddy memory to guide me through the garden to my delivery clients. The left side of the screen houses little icons that let you know your current quests and who you’re trying to find, which is great, but with no map and no quest markers, finding those clients is frustrating at best and can feel impossible at worst. Especially if you don’t know about the aforementioned glider upgrade.
As pleasant as Mail Time’s atmosphere, music, and writing are, the clunky platforming and lack of direction make it hard for me to want to continue playing. It’s a massive shame as I know the small but dedicated team worked really hard on this game, and there are several elements that I adore, but it’s hard to feel the cottagecore coziness when you’re running around in circles looking for a mysterious bird named Kaz who everyone except you, apparently, has seen.
Mail Time has a lot of great ideas and a ton of promise, but the finished product falls short of my expectations from a cozy, postal worker game full of mushroom people and sapphic snails. I’m not sure if any of my concerns are addressed in the PC version, but maybe wait for an eShop sale before giving this one a go, depending on your 3D platforming prowess.
If you’re after some Switch and mobile games to keep you warm this fall and winter, check out our feature on the rise of cozy games, or read our Song of Nunu preview to prepare yourself for some wholesome Willump content. For something entirely different, glide over to our Blade Ball codes and Coin Master free spins pages instead.
Mail Time shrinks you down and immerses you in a beautiful cottagecore wonderland, but its tricky platforming and dizzying navigation make for an experience that’s sometimes cozy but mostly confusing.