Developer: Atebits
Price: Free ($0.99 in-app purchase to unlock some optional features)
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Letterpress is a gaming purist’s idea of heaven, classy to look at with a keenly addictive underbelly. Sure, it’s a word game with asynchronous multiplayer, something we’ve seen before but it does it so very well that it immediately leaps ahead of the crowd. This will come as no surprise when one notices its creator: Loren Brichter, known for the once upon a time best Twitter app out there, Tweetie. This is a developer who knows how important the little things are.

Letterpress is a two-player only word game. Players are presented with a grid of letters and one objective – to make words out of them. Each letter is worth one point, whether it’s an A or a Z with the winner being the person with the most points. Strategy comes in the form of colorization. Once a letter has been used by a player, it changes to their color thus leaving them in ‘control’ of the letter. If the opposing player uses that colored letter, they take back points from their opponent. Clearly, it’s worthwhile using the opponent’s letters rather than blank ones that haven’t been touched yet or, worse of all, one’s own letters.

It’s a simple idea but it extends to a highly strategic level. A letter can be ‘protected’ by using it and all the tiles surrounding it, ensuring that no points are gained or lost through its use. It’ll always remain that color. Once all the tiles have been used, it’s game over and the player with the most points wins. It’s the kind of game that can take minutes to complete or hours when played across the course of a couple of days. Battles ensue relatively easily when up against particularly wordy opponents.

Opponents are found through Game Center, either randomly or from one’s friends list. This is also where some useful features are lacking. There’s no way to chat with opponents or to automatically participate in a rematch, both features that I’d have greatly appreciated. Some kind of statistical tracking would have been great too, for avid players to see how their form is progressing.

These refinements don’t stop Letterpress being great fun, though. For $0.99, players can unlock the ability to play more than two games at once and to use different color themes and see their past words during a game. I’d recommend it purely to support such a great game, if nothing else, but such features are quite handy. A past word list proves particularly useful, given that words can’t be reused during a match. Letterpress might not be perfect but it is a heck of a lot of fun.

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