iAssociate 2 for the iPhone ($3.99) is a truly unique word game. It seems like most of the word games you come across in the App Store are variations of Boggle, Text Twist or Scrabble. iAssociate 2 is refreshingly unlike any of these.

The object of iAssociate 2 is to uncover associated words which are all related to a theme, such as food.  You are initially presented with one central word (the theme word) that is surrounded by related words whose letters are represented by dashes.

The number of letters for each word is in parentheses. You simply guess what the unknown words are. When you type in a correct answer, 250 points are added to your score, the completed word turns red, and new associations (indicated by dotted lines) appear. If you only guess one or more letters in unsolved words, you receive 5 points per letter. Each puzzle also has at least one bonus word that is more difficult to solve. As you gain points, new levels are opened up, and you are awarded medals.

Initially, the game can seem intimidating since you aren’t given any clues, aside from the number of letters and the theme of the puzzle, to assist you in figuring out a word. But, there are techniques for solving the puzzles that make the task of solving easier. For example, assume your known word is “horse” and you see several associated words related to it. Possibilities might include “colt,” “foal,” “mare,” “filly,” “equine,” etc. You can type your guesses on the blank words, or, to save time and effort, simply click on “horse,” and type in your guesses.  If you do it this way, the game will automatically fill the associated words into their correct slots.

Even if you don’t have any idea what the related terms might be, you can still solve the words simply by typing each letter of the alphabet in turn until you uncover the first letter, second letter, etc.  This becomes tedious pretty quickly, but sometimes that’s the only way to make progress.

iAssociate 2 offers help in two forms. First, you can request help for individual words within the app by pressing the “hint” button, but you are limited as to the number of hints you can receive in a given puzzle. The app also allows you to request help via Facebook.  Simply press the Facebook button and then touch the word you can’t solve.  Your request for help will appear on the app’s Facebook page and another player might just give you the assistance you need.

I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to solving puzzles, so I’m not likely to use the hint button or the Facebook option.  However, I am not above using Google to figure out related words. For example, I worked a puzzle that included numerous words from WWII, including the names of certain aircraft.  I utilized Google to research WWII aircraft, discovered possible words, and eventually I solved the puzzle.  What’s great is that, not only did I have fun solving the puzzle, but I also learned some history (and aircraft trivia) in the process.  That’s one reason I really like iAssociate. I always learn something new while I’m playing it.  How often can you say that about a word scramble game?

What’s Macgasmic: iAssociate is a wonderfully unique word game that is both challenging and fun.  Gameplay is simple once you learn a few solving techniques. And, when you uncover words, more associations are revealed, so the game is similar to a treasure hunt—one clue leads to another and another. I really enjoy the easy pace of the game. You don’t play against a clock, though you can earn medals for solving puzzles quickly.  My favorite aspect, as noted above, is that the game encourages learning as you discover new associations and words.

What’s Not: The game does have a few weaknesses, all of them related to typing. If you only partially solve a word or phrase, you have to retype the whole thing in order to solve it. For example, in one puzzle I typed “One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest” (obviously I misspelled the word “cuckoo”).  So, the game showed me the consecutive letters I got correct:  “One flew over the c—-‘- —-.”  But I couldn’t just type the remaining letters to solve the phrase.  I had to retype the entire expression again.  On the iPhone’s tiny keypad, this gets pretty frustrating. Also related to the iPhone’s small screen is the fact that words can be hard to see, especially when the puzzle expands.  You can zoom in slightly, but I sure hope there’s an iPad version in the works. iAssociate would be much easier to play with on the bigger screen.

One last quirk I noticed:  when typing abbreviations, you have to type with the exact punctuation and spacing that the game creator used or you will get the word wrong.  So, if the solution is J.F.K., but you type J. [space] F. [space] K., you will only get the first letter and period correct. This isn’t a major problem, and I can’t think of a way the developer could avoid it. But at 3:00 a.m. with only one word left to solve, little annoyances like that can make the game less enjoyable.

iAssociate 2 for the iPhone is available on the App Store for $3.99. You can purchase an earlier version of iAssociate for $1.99 or download a free lite version, but in these versions, hints and Facebook help are not available.

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