Letterpress: A Word Game Redefined

After being acquired by Twitter in 2010, atebits seemed to disappear from the app world. Just recently, its founder has surprised us by announcing the revival of the company as atebits 2.0. Its goal? To make things, the first of which being a game.

The brainchild happens to be the game we are reviewing today, Letterpress. While it is obvious that Letterpress is quite different than the rest of the word games available for iOS, is it strong enough to bring atebits back to the developing scene, or does it leave them in the dust? Find out after the break.

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How to Play

Letterpress’s gameplay is reminiscent of both the board game Othello and the game Word Mole for Blackberry. The goal of this two-player game is to cover as much as the board as you can by spelling words. Once the board has been completely filled, the game ends, and the player with the most tiles occupied wins.

Simply tap on tiles to spell out the word you want to play. You can rearrange the tiles by dragging the letter to where you want it to be.

Simply tap on tiles to spell out the word you want to play. You can rearrange the tiles by dragging it to where you want it to be.

Spelling the words isn’t hard — the letter tiles don’t even have to be adjacent to each other to string a word together. However, no word may be played more than once. You also need to prevent your opponent from claiming tiles, which forces you to construct words out of letters that they have already played.

If one of the tiles you have used is completely surrounded by other tiles you have used, it turns that tile a shade darker. It also makes this tile much harder for your opponent to claim.

Redefining Wordplay

There are several defining features that set Letterpress apart from many other word games out on the market today. Perhaps the biggest separator is the expansive dictionary that is built into the game. Letterpress’s dictionary includes more modern words that may not necessarily exist in the typical Webster’s Dictionary. Yes, that means words like “swag” or “bro” are completely legal to play.

Letterpress's dictionary is friendly to words found in either Webster's dictionary or UrbanDictionary.

Letterpress’s dictionary is friendly to words found in either Webster’s dictionary or UrbanDictionary.

Another interesting and unique feature is that matches are created solely through Game Center. There is no local multiplayer mode or computerized mode. You can either play with your Game Center friends or a random player. This leaves the difficulty of the game to be either tailored to what you want or completely random.

The game is played at your own pace. Depending on how fast you play, your game can be played in a matter of minutes or over the span of days. There is no time limit on your move either, so there is no push to play in a timely matter if you do not want to.

Sometimes you will have to face very difficult opponents; other times you can win in a breeze.

Sometimes you will have to face very difficult opponents; other times you can win in a breeze.

Lingering on a slow-pace, however, may not be the best thing to do in this game. Unfortunately, you can only play up to two games at once if you are running the free version of the app. By upgrading the app for $0.99 via in-app purchase, you are able to play unlimited games at once.

One thing is for sure, though — Letterpress is undoubtedly a fun game. Gameplay is personalized; the difficulty and pace are completely up to you. Its competitive nature is what really draws you back to the game, as well as the promise of a laugh or two if a funny word is played.

Words in Style

Letterpress boasts a very unique user interface. Unlike many other word games, Letterpress doesn’t strive to look like something else. The app is basically gradient-less, which emphasizes the modern design of the application and shows that Letterpress is its own entity. The lack of gradients allows for the use of colors without them looking gaudy, which is especially hard to pull off in an iOS app.

The best of both worlds — a simple user interface design paired with astonishing animations.

The best of both worlds — a simple user interface design paired with astonishing animations.

Animations in Letterpress are also quite notable. Most animations are very subtle, but there are a couple animations that are simple but still look stunning. For example, the shatter animation after removing a game from the main screen is simple, but looks so perfected. Little details like those really demonstrate how well this app is put together.

If the default “Light” color scheme doesn’t suit your fancy, five or six other color schemes can be unlocked upon purchasing the full app.

The Verdict

At the end of the day, Letterpress is definitely one of the best games I have played. Almost every aspect of it is revolutionary, from the gameplay to the graphics themselves. Letterpress is without doubt a game I can rely on to returning to and having an enjoyable battle between friends. Its malleability makes each game fresh and unique, and gameplay never gets stale.

However, Letterpress is not perfect. The lack of a local multiplayer or computerized mode makes it impossible to play when you are not connected to the Internet, leaving users with WiFi-only iPads without a game to play when wireless service is not available.

Letterpress is the way to go if you are looking for a simple, fun word game these days. Even if you do not want to spend $0.99 to unlock the full app, the free version is just as addictive and fun as its paid counterpart.


A word game with modern twists.

  • http://www.amperspectives.com Andy McClung

    Love this game! My best score so far is 20 to 5. (I almost had every tile on the board.)

  • Sue Gilbert

    Greatest game that I cannot play. My first two opponents never returned. i won the third game. Now I can’t play for free. the only screen that appears when I tap on “new game”
    is an offer for the paid version. I would like to play the free version, but can’t access it. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling. that didn’t change anything. The problem was the same on my iphone4s and my ipad2. Has anyone else had the same experience?