Game (?) Review: Kira Snyder’s Parish Mail Series

So I have (?) after the word “Game” in the title because unlike Gamebooks (which I’ve reviewed before here) which allow you to “stat” out your main character and then the choices of your actions affect potential combat/exploration in the game, Kira Snyder’s two installments in the Parish Mail series are less about combat and more about content.

In the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books I adored as a child, the end of every page required a decision that could cause your story to end immediately, go off in a different direction, finish the current story line, or draw you back to the beginning unexpectedly to start over again.

Choices in the Parish Mail series simply do not happen that often; however, they do change the tenor of the episodes, and provide a different set of clues to the supernatural mystery, as well as information about the various characters central to the support system of the main character, through whose eyes you are viewing the story.

The first story, The Dead Letter Office, like the other episode currently available (and presumably future episodes) is from the point of view very much that of the train of thought of a teenage girl. This can seem a little disconcerting at first, but makes sense as the story progresses. Through Celia, the protagonist, you unravel a mystery from a letter seemingly from the late 19th century left for her in a very special “post box.” Ghosts, magic, and good old fashioned detective work feature prominently…as does a little romance on the part of our heroine. You get to choose major directions in the story. These choice points only crop up 4 or so times in the narrative, but they provide great re-readability to the story as, in most cases, different choices yield different clues and slightly different variants on the adventure. You also get to help Celia choose her preferred beau as one of these options. The story is G rated, for those who may wonder, as a kiss traded between a girl and a boy character is as intimate as things get. While Celia and her friends are in danger, the danger is more like what Nancy Drew once faced (if ghosts and witchcraft were real) than say, the latest SAW film.

The story continues in Post Mortem (the story mechanism in Dead Letter Office works beautifully for many future features). You need not have read Dead Letter Office to enjoy and fully immerse yourself in Post Mortem (I can only expect with the name “Parish Mail Series” that the post office and letter based puns will just keep coming with each new installment). The point of view is the same in both works, Celia. In this episode, she has received a stack of mail from the special post box, seeking her help to right wrongs in the spirit world, between modern day and the late 19th century. You get to choose major directions in the story; and like Dead Letter Office, these points only crop up 4 or so times in the narrative, but still provide great re-readability to the story. And, like the first book, you get to continue her interest in the boys vying for her affections (though in this book, difficulties arise with all the relationships she has going with the opposite sex, many in ways that relate to the plot…or throw a red herring at it). It is a teen romance, so, like the first episode, they only get so far as kissing. The magic and ghostly aspects of the story easily overwhelm the small amount of romance, though the romance is done well in the event teenage romance is not your thing.

Both episodes are more than I typically pay for an Android App. Dead Letter Office runs $4.99, while Post Mortem is $3.99. My natural inclination for an Android app that is more than $2 is that it needs to be damn good to make me pay that much, and that there should be re-usability/readability to the item in question. However, I kept viewing these episodes more like stories or novellas than as apps; a novella on Amazon can run as much as $5 or as little as $1.99. The more expensive, either a) the better it is/more popular it is or b) the more delusional the author is about how good it is. In this case, however, the author has proven chops. Kira Snyder has credits writing for Eureka and Alphas (as well as some video game writing and a single episode of an awesome vampire romance, Moonlight) and I think she’s charging an appropriate amount for her work based on the quality as well as her pedigree as a writer.

Note that when you complete each episode, the story will suggest some alternate titles for you. So far, I have found none of the suggestions to be by Kira Snyder, and they are kind of random in relation to what you just read; for example, I don’t really care fro the Georgetown series they promote which appears to be a similar type of episodic story telling, but dealing with who is popular, who is not, and all the weird romance things of college/high school/whatever. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty done with high school at this point; if I’m going to revisit, there should be dead bodies, either of the murdered or shambling variety. Other than these, there is no type of advertising at all in these paid apps (which in my mind, is how it should be). At least one of the suggestions was for another story of this nature that did involve ghosts and the dead walking, so I might check that out and let you know how it goes.

As for Kira Snyder’s work, if you like the paranormal, like detailed and sensate driven settings, and don’t mind a little teenage romance (or, in fact, kind of like it despite what havoc Twilight has wrought on the world today), I highly recommend these two apps. I, indeed, liked these two so much I actually wrote reviews on the Amazon site (they are available through both Google Play and Amazon App Store), which sound a little like this review, because I cobbled from my own writing in those reviews to give the plot synopses here (without actually giving away any of the actual story…trust me, I need all the help I can give me). 

I, personally, am looking forward to the next episode from Kira Snyder, and what brave (but thankfully not stupid), teenage Celia does next.

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