By Robert VerBruggen
Smashell | Dev: Antab | Score: 3.5
This is a unique score-attack 3-D platformer. You play as a ball (resembling Samus in her more compact state) and, in a small stage you choose at the outset, jump on enemies to kill them. As the game wears on, buttons pop up on the floor, and you can jump on them to accumulate coins, health, and power-ups (which include a double-jump and a robot coin collector). When you run out of continues, it's game over.
You fight everything from simple enemies to a cannonball-launching boss, and the graphics are colorful and well-presented. The sound is pretty standard for this type of game, but it works.
Due to the game's high-score focus, you rarely get much of a sense of accomplishment, but it's still a worthwhile endeavor. It's definitely worth at least a demo download.
Weapon of Choice | Dev: Mommy's Best Games
This Contra-style run-and-gunner offers four different endings, with branching stages and several interesting play mechanics.
Instead of having a fixed number of lives, you have a team of soldiers to fight as. Each has a unique gun that works well in certain situations. By saving downed operatives, you can unlock new characters and revive ones who've been hit. There's also "Death Brushing," a feature that puts you into bullet time when an enemy gets perilously close. This is a great tool for keeping safe, and when one of your soldiers does take a hit, you send the next one in on a "Revenge Missile" you can target.
Weapon of Choice is a machismo-fueled blast to play, with old-school thrash-metal guitar music, multicolored blood spatter, lots of heavy-duty weaponry, and plenty of huge bosses. The only real problem is that it's very short and easy; from the time you first boot it up, it'll only take a few hours to learn the game and get all the endings on all the difficulties. Still, at $5 it's a steal, and we'd love to see a longer and harder sequel.
You can read CheatCC's full-length review here.
Word Soup | Dev: Fuzzy Bug | Score: 4.2
This is a charming, colorful, and carefully designed puzzle title. Basically, there is a bunch of letters in a grid, and you use them to spell out words; the letters can connect in any direction or combination of directions, so long as they're touching. When you spell a word, the letters you used disappear and you get points (more points for longer words and words that use rare letters). You can ask the computer to find words for you a limited number of times, and you can scramble the tiles as many times as you'd like.
In the standard mode, you have five minutes to find as many words as you can. The hardest-to-use letters (like Z and Q) give you extra time when you use them. The relaxed mode is the same, but without the time limit. In the special challenge mode, you start with a full grid and pass through a series of "levels" defined by how many letters you've used. The more points you earn in a level, the more letters you'll get to replenish the ones you used. Here the emphasis is on finding long words with rare letters, because if you don't get enough points out of the letters you use, you'll run out.
It's remarkably simple, of course, and probably not the kind of game you'll be playing day in and day out. However, its cute look, intuitive controls, and clever premise give players hours of verbal IQ-testing fun. It's also a lot of fun to play with a friend's help. If that sounds like $5 well spent to you, it probably is.
CCC Freelance Writer