Loren Brichter. The name should sound familiar to everyone reading this. Loren was the man behind Tweetie, the incredibly powerful and substantially polished Twitter app that paved the path for most Twitter apps we see today. He’s the man credited with bringing the “Pull to Refresh” UI mainstream with its implementation in Tweetie. The success of Tweetie on the iPhone also led him to launch Tweetie for iPad & the Mac. Eventually, Twitter acquihired him and unfortunately, has been slowly murdering the apps. It was a shame to see the apps we all loved and used daily being turned into over-simplified feature-removed versions. Thankfully, Tweetbot was around to preserve sanity. A few months ago, news was out that Loren had quit his gig at Twitter. It wasn’t known what his plans going forward were, or whether he’d be back to building stupendously good apps.
Yesterday, it was official. Loren Brichter was back under the Atebits 2.0 banner and the first app he’d been working on all this while was actually a game. I’ve had the privilege of being in on the beta of the app and one way I could describe Letterpress is “Phenomenally Spectacular”. Letterpress is a simple Word Game that includes building words from a 5×5 grid of random alphabets. Letterpress is integrated with Game Center so that it can pair you with a random player or you can initiate a game with someone on your friend list. It uses Game Center’s Turn-Based Gaming feature, letting you play your turn whenever you find time. The game is somewhat a cross between Scrabble and SpellTower and the basic rules are pretty easy to follow:
- Create words (two or more characters) from a grid of 25 letters.
- Words can only be played once
- Tiles that form a word need NOT be next to each other.
- Every tile that is used in a word turns blue, thus earning you a point. A red tile belongs to an opponent.
- A game is won when all the tiles turn either blue or red. The player with the most colored tiles wins.
You tend to pick up on the rules once you start playing the game and the gameplay gets very interesting from that point. A lot of players I’ve played with strategize their choice of words such that they “lock” the most tiles (The game has a method where if all the surrounding tiles are won, the tile is locked and the opponent cannot steal it) and thus it sort of becomes easy for me to predict what they might do next. Of course, this adds to the whole enjoyment.
Even though Letterpress looks simple and minimal on the outside, it truly is a remarkable piece of intricate craftsmanship from Loren. The game has an abundance of tiny animations and is an absolute perfection in its implementation. Letterpress is a fine example of iOS apps that go the extra mile for the UX. The beauty of Letterpress is revealed the more you get addicted to it. The main screen shows you a list of all the games that are currently active and that you have either won or lost. Each game features a live representation of the letter tiles that have been won by you and the opponent in the game as a grid, the avatars of you and the opponent and his Game Center username. Tapping on the game takes you to the game screen, which shows a quick preview of the last played word by wiggling the tiles and a small animation at the top.
Back in the list of games, you can swipe from left to right to remove a game from the list. Go ahead and try this, because the animation here is nothing short of awesome. As you swipe, the grid preview of the game slides over the game details as a “Remove” button appears in place. Tap it and BOOM, the grid preview bursts into tiny little confetti. Lickable pixels right here.
Overall, Letterpress structurally seems like Windows Phone app, but definitely feels like a polished iOS app. And as someone who’s played with a lot of iOS apps in the last, it’s great to come across apps that are polished with pixels this beautiful. Letterpress is minimal in appearance but packs a lot of punch in its implementation. My only complain about the game is its icon — it just doesn’t feel right when viewed on a device homescreen.
Letterpress is a Universal app and is a FREE download on the App Store. There’s a 99 cents IAP that unlocks the ability to change themes (I still prefer the default one), play more than 2 simultaneous games and view last played words in a game.
Fun fact: The new Atebits logo is made out of 8 dots, or 8 bits. The logo also looks like an “A”. And whenever you see a loading indicator in the game, the logo with turn clockwise 7 times, before turning anti-clockwise the 8th time.