Many times when mobile game developers go wrong, it's because they're trying to replicate a home console experience on a device that fits in your pocket. There's something to be said for thinking small and nailing a simple concept with precision, and that's just what 'Monster Words' does.

Courtesy of the one-man garage developer Enemy Hideout, the game is maddening in a good way. It Voltrons the concepts of word searches and crosswords into a tight package. We hated 'Monster Words' and threatened it with vulgarities when we had trouble figuring out its puzzles, but bought it flowers and called it genius when we were finally able to solve them and feel better about ourselves.

You sort through a bank of word fragments you can flick to the top of the screen in any order. The goal is to come up with the word suggested by a hint at the top of the screen. If you're stumped you can pass and go on to the next clue, clearing out some fragments to narrow down your choices.

There's a throwaway monster motif attached to the proceedings, but the game would be just the same if it were programmed on DOS rather than iOS. If you've played one level you've pretty much played them all, but the satisfaction in sorting things out and moving on keeps you coming back for more.

The purportedly free game is all too aware of its addictive nature, which is why it only offers the first 16 levels off the bat, requiring you to fork over in-game currency to unlock more. In a cheap marketing ploy, the game hands over currency to you after you beat each level -- you can also use it to unlock hints -- but doesn't give you enough to unlock more levels unless you plunk down real money.

The developer told us it costs $3 to unlock all currently available levels. We would have rated the game a point higher if it charged that price upfront rather than make it seem as though the game was truly free. 'Monster Words' carves out its niche and does its thing too well to ignore, but don't go into it unless you've got $3 to burn.

RATING: 7.5/10

'Monster Words' (Free-$3), available on iOS, was published by Enemy Hideout. The publisher provided a code for review. We played the game for three hours on an iPod Touch.