Words are touchy, treacherous things in Letter by Letter – and it’s awesome.

Words can hurt. Words can kill. Okay, so words can’t actively slit someone’s throat, but a well-placed move in Letter by Letter for iOS proves words are capable of giving your rivals a bad day. Let’s just settle by pointing out that words can sting like a paper-cut between your fingers. In fact, with Letter by Letter, your words may actually come back and haunt you.

Letter by Letter is a unique word game from Row Sham Bow, the folks behind 2011’s fantastic Facebook release Woodland Heroes. Most social word games are calm, ponderous affairs that swing for days between two opponents as they build words tile-by-tile until the fruits of their efforts spread across the game board like the branches of a tree. But if Scrabble or Words With Friends is an arboretum, Letter by Letter is a battlefield. The fight is over quickly, and it’s never clear who’s going to win until the very last second, because your allies keep turning on you.

Letter by Letter     Letter by Letter

Both you and your opponent share a rack of letters in Letter by Letter, and scores aren’t determined by the letters you use. Instead, each tile is worth a single point, and what matters is how effectively you can hijack your opponent’s words with those tiles. If you’re playing with the Red tiles and you manage to spell “moon,” you might feel proud of yourself until Blue comes along, adds “ing” to “moon,” and turns your Red tiles Blue in the process. Your rival gains seven points, and you lose four.

Needless to say, you can exact revenge when your turn comes up again, and that’s what makes Letter by Letter so fast-paced and fun. You can spell words forwards, backwards, and diagonally, which adds a slew of scoring options. The game isn’t about finding words to spell so much as it’s about finding the best words to spell. Sure, you can use up all the tiles on the letter rack, but you’re much better off placing one letter in a pivotal corner that earns you a grand score and steals territory from your rival (make sure you take a minute to listen to the lamentations of your rival’s women).

Thus, Letter by Letter is less about strategy and more about opportunity. You can plan ahead in a game like Scrabble, but dawdling will only earn you a quick defeat in Row Sham Bow’s game. You need to plow forward with every move, and some word game enthusiasts might want to retreat back into the genre’s richer, more thoughtful staples.

Also, Letter by Letter plays a lot like Letterpress, another word-battle game that was recently released on the App Store. These things happen, and it’s hard to measure one title as a better download over the other (both are rad), but if you’ve already played Letterpress, you already have an idea of what Letter by Letter offers. Likewise, there are some elements that should feel familiar to Wordox veterans as well.

To recap, Letter by Letter is what would happen if Words With Friends ripped off its shirt, beat its chest, and jumped into a fighting pit. Sound good? Download without delay.