• Review: Devil's Attorney (with a bit of Letterpress thrown in for good measure)

    This week's iOS game review is all about Devil's Attorney, a game that's been getting a little bit of praise here and there. But for the life of me, I can't really understand why; in my opinion, it's a pretty average game with no real innovation and boring gameplay.

    You're the devil's attorney in Devil's Attorney, or in other words, a lawyer who defends people regardless of how guilty they might be. The game tries to inject a sense of humour into proceedings by letting you assume your clients are all guilty, but it doesn't have any bearing on how you cases pan out; instead, that's all up to you.

    Gameplay consists of fighting battles in court. Not with words or actual dialogue, but with an arsenal of moves and abilities. Devil's Attorney plays a lot like a turn-based strategy game; there are rounds, where you can choose to use abilities to attack the opposition, which can consist of the judge, witnesses, evidence, and experts.

    Every one of your opponents has credibility, also known as hit points or health. Your attacks and abilities can either do direct damage to an opponent's credibility, or they can reduce the amount of damage a witness does, temporarily or otherwise. The judge usually has a special ability that can restore the credibility of witnesses, add a damage boost to witnesses, or something else. Witnesses usually do direct damage to your case strength, or your hit points. Evidence also does damage to your case strength, sometimes boosted by the presence of experts — but remove the evidence from the case and the experts will also go.

    It all plays a lot like Pokémon battles or any other turn-based strategy game you might have played, and once you get the hang of things, courtroom battles become very stale indeed, feeling very "samey" and devoid of any real challenge.

    Winning cases nets you money, which you can use to buy upgrades your apartment (and for yourself). These upgrades increase your Materialism, Decadence, or Vanity, and as you increase these stats, you gain new abilities and attacks to use in the courtroom. All pretty standard fare for any turn-based strategy game, and nothing we haven't seen before.

    And for Devil's Attorney, that's pretty much it. There's honestly not much to it — you can have fun if you're not looking too closely, but otherwise, it's a dry, repetitive game that doesn't offer anything interesting or out of the ordinary. I guess the real issue is that Devil's Attorney knows it doesn't have much going for it, and so it tries to make up for that by throwing in some cheesy humour, giving it that "tries too hard" vibe.

    Which brings us to a strategy game of a different calibre, one that's on an entirely different plane of existence… Letterpress, by the same guy who developed Tweetie for iPhone way back when.

    Letterpress is Loren Brichter's take on the wordplay strategy genre, and it's pretty amazing. It leverages Game Center to allow asynchronous, turn-based multiplayer gameplay. You can invite your Game Center friends to a game, or just play with someone random, and from there, you start a battle of the minds.

    Letterpress is what would happen if Words With Friends and Battleship got together and had some fun. Both players share the same palette of letters to make words with, and every time you make a word with a letter combination, you capture those letters — unless the opposing player has already protected that letter by surrounding it with letters they have already captured.

    Letterpress allows all kinds of words, from the ridiculous "zzzs" to the longest word you can play, "microminiaturizations". Over 15 million words were played after the first week it was available, and there are just 395 words allowed in Scrabble but not in Letterpress. More facts and figures here, including a list of every word allowed in Letterpress.

    But what makes Letterpress great isn't that it has simple, addicting gameplay, but what I'm calling the Loren Brichter special: the entire game is done in OpenGL, an impressive feat which means the game doesn't use any graphics, save for one image. Every single aspect of the game is polished to perfection. Every animation is custom and randomised. Every sound is unique and adds that little extra to the game. It's an incredibly pretty game that is a new twist on concepts we've already seen, and that makes it great.

    It has various themes you can choose for the different colour of the tiles, different strategies for playing words (check out an introduction to Letterpress strategy if you need a few pointers), and simple, engaging gameplay.

    Perhaps the better question is whether people will still be playing Letterpress a week or a month from now, but we've talked about it for two weeks in a row on the podcast, and the momentum doesn't seem to be slowing down — you should grab it from the App Store, friend up a fellow MacTalker on Game Center, and get right into it.

    Devil's Attorney is $2.99 on the App Store, and Letterpress is free with a 99c in app purchase to unlock the ability to play multiple games at once. I'll leave it up to you to decide which one offers better value.

    Benny Ling plays games when he's supposed to be doing other things, such as writing about games, studying for exams, or catching up on his Letterpress queue. He also writes the daily news right here on MacTalk, and, if you are so inclined, you can follow him on Twitter.
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