Letterpress: A Game of Real Estate and Words

Developer Loren Brichter is perhaps best known for his work with Twitter. He’s the man behind Tweetie, an app that was purchased by Twitter and eventually morphed into an official offering from the social network. Brichter left Twitter and, until recently, has been teasing a new app.

That new app is not a Twitter client. It’s actually a game named Letterpress. A mixture of Scrabble, Boggle and real estate-style gameplay, Letterpress is an addictive, very competitive game. Let’s take a look after the jump.

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Know Your Lexis?

Letterpress is kind of a mix of both Scrabble and Boggle, two pretty famous board games. The aim of the game is to create words out of random grid of letters, gaining more points the longer the word is. Players can also steal points, therefore reducing their opponents score by reusing their letters in a word. Of course, words need to actually be real and recognised by the in-game dictionary.

The game ends when all the letters on a board have been used and the winner is determined by who has the bigger score. With less common letters regularly ending up appearing several times on your board, it can end in some challenge as you attempt to create more obscure and less common words.

The Letterpress game board consists of a 5x5 grid of letters that players use to create words of varying lengths and value.

The Letterpress game board consists of a 5×5 grid of letters that players use to create words of varying lengths and value.

As mentioned before, using a letter that your opponent has already played moves their point across to your score. However, that essentially invalidates the letter from being used to steal points again. You can use the letter in another word, but no points will be gained or lost. Therefore, once you’ve lost a letter, it can’t be stolen back.

Letterpress games in progress; by paying for the in-app upgrade, players can have more games on the go simultaneously.

Letterpress games in progress; by paying for the in-app upgrade, players can have more games on the go simultaneously.

This presents an interesting mechanic. It’s easy to miss an S, or an I, N and G on your grid and play a word only for your opponent to affix those extra letters to the end of your word. Not only does this steal all your points from that play, but massively increases theirs. It’s something that can get frustrating but is also exciting when you pull the move on your opponent.

Design

Letterpress is very digitally authentic, unlike if the game came from, perhaps, Zynga or a developer that likes to indulge in skeuomorphism.

Letterpress has a variety of themes available for customising the colour scheme of the game.

Letterpress has a variety of themes available for customising the colour scheme of the game.

Instead, Letterpress opts for a more minimalist and squared style that comes in a variety of colours. Through the app’s settings, one can opt for a number of different colour schemes ranging from the default blue-red “Light” theme to a brighter turquoise-pink “Glow” scheme.

Game Centre and Stability

Letterpress works through Game Centre, allowing you to begin games with opponents either randomly selected by Apple’s service or from your friends list. When up and running, the Game Centre integration works well and is a much better alternative to some sort of proprietary network that many opt for.

Letterpress is deeply integrated with Apple's Game Centre.

Letterpress is deeply integrated with Apple’s Game Centre.

However, Letterpress is suffering from some Game Centre issues. Perhaps due to significant demand at launch, I encountered many problems with stability in Letterpress requiring relaunches of the app to get working. In some cases, Letterpress would even roll back plays, which was frustrating. Hopefully these issues may die down after initial launch demand simmers.

Final Thoughts

When Loren Brichter started teasing his next iOS project, I didn’t expect it to be a game. However, Letterpress has turned out a success. It offers an enjoyable and addictive experience wrapped in quite the attractive interface. Unfortunately, it looks like the game might be already subject to the honeymoon phase, turning into an app that isn’t played after the first few weeks.

The app is available for free, although if you’re intending to play quite a bit, the $0.99 in-app upgrade becomes a necessity to enable more games on the go at once. It’s a bit of a surprise charge, but it’s low enough for us to forgive it not being enable by default.

Letterpress becomes one of the games that you have on your phone, playing it only went your push notifications tell you do so. However, the very integration with Game Centre makes it one of the best games to offer that functionality and it was easy enough to invite my fellow members of the AppStorm team into games without a complex process.

Overall, Letterpress is a great game when it’s not experiencing stability issues. It looks nice; it plays nice. Let’s just hope that history doesn’t repeat itself and a certain notable casual gaming company decides to snatch it up, Brichter with it.


Summary

A simple game where players create words out of a random grid of letters, scoring points as they do.

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