For each level, you must enter three valid words or else lose a life. Initially, you will see one letter on the screen — all three words must begin with this letter. Let's suppose that the first letter is M. Your first word could be "mom" or "matinee" or "malapropism", anything goes so longs as it is a valid word and begins with M. After you enter the first word, another letter will appear — let's say U. Now you must enter a word beginning with M and containing U somewhere within it. "Mug" or "mousse" or "mellifluous" all work. Finally a third letter appears: H. Your final word must start with M and contain both U and H, although the positions and order of the two latter letters do not matter. Thus you could enter "mush" or "matchup" or "mouthwash".
After three words, the level ends and you get to do it all over again with new letters and a slightly shorter time limit. Occasionally, you will also get a fourth letter to include with word #3. This letter is optional, but if you manage to include it in your entry (along with the other three letters as usual), you will receive one of three power-ups: extra time, level reset, or even an extra life! Later in the game, use [space] to activate your extra time power-up and [shift] to use the reset power-up and give yourself a fresh set of letters. This comes in handy when you've been dealt XGQ or some other such nonsense. Points are awarded for time and for each letter according to its rarity, so aim for the longest words you can manage and try to throw some Zs and Qs in there if you can. As you progress, the score multiplier increases but the timer shrinks, providing a nice risk vs. reward quandary when typing out long words.
Analysis: Word Machine plays a lot like Clockwords, right down to the steampunk style, which is interesting, since Clockwords was Mochi's runner-up. I guess the judges really knew what they were looking for in a word game! Though both games have a free-form format that encourages lengthy words, Word Machine gets the edge in terms of pacing. After just a handful of levels, you begin to feel the squeeze of the time limit, and if you manage to prolong a game upwards of ten minutes, you're doing pretty well. Comparatively, Clockwords' difficulty ramp seems more like a plateau that just... keeps... going...
On the other hand, Clockwords won't ever leave you out to dry with such combinations as KBQ. I mean really, what can you do with that? Kilobriquette? Kumquatberry? Stanley Kubrique? It's nice to have the lives and the do-overs, but you shouldn't have to need them to advance. Plus, you would think that both games would draw on the same dictionary, given that Dictionary.com co-sponsored the contest, but it seemed like more false negatives came up in Word Machine. In particular, many plurals do not seem to be recognized. I don't remember that happening with Clockwords, but I might just be imagining things.
So yeah, Word Machine could use a couple of tweaks, but overall it's still a solid game for any word-lover. That is to say, Word Machine accomplishes praiseworthy gratification for any discriminating linguaphile.