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iAssociate: Mind mapping fun

Last year, I was introduced to Funny Farm while working on a team project with my inlaws. I absolutely loved the idea of a puzzle that grew as you solved parts of it. The game works by associating words with their natural connections, e.g. "On the Farm" could inspire you to think of cow, chicken, and farmer (among other words). You then spin out those ideas to further connections. The chicken might be associated with rooster, hen, and egg, and so forth. So I was really excited to encounter iAssociate (iTunes link).

Developed by Fredrik Wahrman, iAssociate brings Funny Farm-style interaction to the iPhone. It's a really fun (and quite challenging) implementation with over a half dozen separate puzzles to work on, promising hours and hours of game play.

Each puzzle starts you out with a core idea. It's up to you to brainstorm ideas that fit around that idea, expanding each node into a wider set of associations. The word map is easy to scroll, and even though the iPhone display is quiter small, you can interact with a virtually large puzzle.

The game play is slightly different from Funny Farm in that instead of entering text into a central guessing area, you type text directly into nodes. If there are five nodes with six letters each, enter your guess into the central node, matching against all connected nodes. (You do get partial credit for guessing the right starting letters but the wrong word.)

I have only one real beef with iAssociate, which Wahrman promises me is being addressed in the next release. And that is the text size, particularly for the instructions. As you can see in the following image, helper overlay text is tiny. Speaking as a member of the graying community with weak eyes and a growing obsession with high fiber foods, iAssociate proved to me that I really need to look into bifocals or reading glasses. The text was headache-inducing small.

Beyond that, iAssociate was a blast to play. I enjoyed stretching my neurons a little and it makes a very good game for collaborating with friends. I do wish that Wahrman had built in some kind of multi-player feature, so groups could work on the puzzle together rather than be limited to pass-and-play. Hopefully that will be added in the future.

iAssociate costs $1.99 on the App Store. You can download a few versions (under the name "Associate This" (iTunes Link) as well, allowing you to try the game play before committing to buying the full product.

TUAW received a review promo code for this write-up.

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