Gives “word slinger” a whole new meaning.

Of the many lessons my parents taught me growing up, “words can hurt” is probably the one I heard most. At the time, I assumed they were just telling me to be kind to others. Having recently played Writer Rumble, though, I now realize they meant it in a far more literal sense.

The game’s premise is a simple one: you and another player (or AI) compete to see who can spell out the most words by connecting adjacent letters on a playing field. Time is a huge factor, as each successful word will deal damage to your opponent. If you manage to drain their HP before they drain yours, you win the round. To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap, it’s basically Boggle with the intensity turned up to 11.

From that humble concept comes a bounty of intricacies. For starters, each letter has a point value associated with it, making certain words more powerful than others. You also can’t use a single word more than once in a given round, which causes your—and your opponent’s—pool of options to diminish over time. To avoid the all-too-real issue of running out of possible words, the game allows you to shuffle the playing field with the use of a power-up. But this is a double-edged sword, as it forces you to adjust to a new batch of letters as fast as you possibly can. It’s extremely intense, and I say that as a compliment.

A good vocabulary is the best possible weapon you can have in Writer Rumble, but the inclusion of characters with different capabilities and power-ups that, amongst other things, flip your opponent’s letters upside down and regenerate your HP, help level the playing field a bit for those with a smaller lexicon. It’s anyone’s game, really, and the tide can turn at the drop of a hat. There were multiple occasions where I felt certain I was going to win, only to be pelted by a swift barrage of words from the other player. Every round is frantic from start to finish, leaving no time to get cocky or pat yourself on the back.

Although the multiplayer—both online and local—is likely what will keep you coming back, the single player mode is far from shabby. You’re tasked with fending off waves of increasingly powerful enemies, and if any of them get close enough, they’ll begin attacking you and draining your HP. It can get hectic really fast, which makes it an excellent place to sharpen your skills before taking on real people. On the rare occasion I was having trouble getting an online game going, I found myself having just as much fun slaying AI opponents.

Writer Rumble

As much as all of these additions improve the core experience, it’s all for naught if the game as a whole lacks any sort of longevity. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Writer Rumble. It has the kind of addictive quality that all word games strive for, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going to fire it right back up when this review is finished. In fact, I’ve played it so much that I see grids of letters in my head whenever I close my eyes. True story.

But despite my obvious love for the game, I encountered a slight problem on the iPhone version: the lack of screen estate makes it easy to tap the wrong letters. This wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this is the kind of game where every second counts. It was something I was able to adjust to and, with enough practice, avoid, but it was irksome all the same.

Writer Rumble

Even so, Writer Rumble is one of the most enjoyable word games I’ve had the pleasure of playing on iOS. I’m no betting man, but if I were I’d say it’s in the perfect position to become the next big thing on the platform, which is somewhat surprising in light of its long and tumultuous development cycle. The developers encountered tech problems and other such fiascos over the course of the game’s creation, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the finished product was void of issues like bugs, dated gameplay, or sloppy presentation—all telltale signs of a troubled development.

Whether you’re a veteran wordsmith or a noob looking to improve your vocabulary, Writer Rumble will have you hook, line, and sinker.