Version tested: Mac
It's fair to say that gaming on Macs has hardly been Apple's number one priority over the years. But whether it intended for it to happen or not, the vast success of game sales on its various iOS devices has given the Cupertino giant reason to try and tap into Mac gaming as well.
Rather than simply bolt yet another section onto its increasingly clunky iTunes App Store, Apple decided to open a standalone Mac App Store on January 6th, complete with around 200 games to choose from. Most of them are absolute junk, obviously, but there are plenty that are worth checking out if you happen to have a half-decent Mac.
You might reasonably ask why anyone should care. After all, Valve got there first with its Mac game store on Steam, and has a growing selection of over 80 games vying for your attention. The answer to that is price. Following the lead of the aggressive pricing strategy on the iTunes App Store, many titles – whether casual or hardcore – are significantly cheaper on the Mac App Store than you'll find them elsewhere.
So, without further ado, here's a run-down of the best and most interesting titles currently available, and why you should care...
And Yet It Moves
- £4.99 (Steam price: £7.99)
Comfortably the best game released on WiiWare last year, and also one of the strangest. The basic idea of this is to fashion a route to the level exit by literally twisting the world around you. At the start, it's all rock and shrubbery, but someone obviously slips something into your drink halfway through. Suddenly you're oscillating gently on pulsing columns of sound that fade in and out, and trying not to get sucked into inky voids, while an inverse doppleganger demands that you also get it to an exit. Although the controls lack the fluidity and flexibility of the Wii, this is still an essential purchase.
- £2.99 (Steam price: £6.99)
Another PC indie classic that received acclaim away from its native platform was Osmos. In this instance, it was possibly the first app to show off the potential of the iPad, thanks to its absolutely stunning visuals and intuitive touch-based gameplay. The simple, calming premise of consuming other, smaller motes to make yourself bigger is more engrossing than it has any right to be, and at this price it's an absolute steal. The fact that it still plays brilliantly and looks incredible on a bigger screen ought to be enough for you.
Kaptain Brawe: A Brawe New World
- £7.99 (Lite version free. Not currently available via Steam)
Who could have predicted that 2010 would end up the best year for point-and-click adventure games since about, ooh, 1995? You probably have to be demented to find time to sift through about 500 games to find that out (i.e. be me), but on the plus side you get to discover hidden gems like this, a loving homage to the comedic spirit of the genre's best. Cateia Games can be forgiven for still designing for 4:3 screens (err, hello), because its sparky space opera is as warm and inviting as a toasty cashmere sweater on a voluptuous lady.
One of the 40 bajillion indie games that passed us by in the last few years by has been given a new lease of life with its unheralded inclusion in the Mac App Store line-up. Despite failing to offer the option to fiddle with screen resolution options (and therefore not looking quite as gorgeous as it might) and being somewhat limited in scope, Blush is nevertheless adorable. You control a jellyfish, swimming around and trying to gather up as many eggs as possible within a time limit while also whipping anything in your path with your flapping tentacles. What that has to do with blushing, I have no idea.
- £5.99 (Steam price £6.99)
If PopCap had its way, it would be illegal not to own a copy of Peggle. Instead it must try its hand the old-fashioned way and continue to lure us in with the game's irresistible addictive (that's addictive, not addicting, you word-inventing loonies) qualities. It's still as strangely alluring as it ever was. Strange, because it manages to create the illusion of your luck being down to skill, and for that we salute it. Minus points, though, for only allowing you to play it in windowed view. Buffoons.
- £2.99 (Correction: Steam price £7.99)
You might remember that we rather enjoyed Braid back in the day. Well, now you can pick up Jonathan Blow's excellent time-shifting platform-puzzler for next to nothing on the Mac App Store. Although brilliant and cheap downloadable titles seem to be ten-a-penny right now, this hasn't dated at all, and if you missed out on it first time around, don't make the same mistake again.
The Inevitable iPhone Port Onslaught
No, that's not a game, but it probably ought to be. Scanning the Mac App Store, it's pretty obvious that certain savvy and/or money-hungry developers have spied an opportunity to port over their iTunes best-sellers on the assumption that plenty of people out there will fancy playing them on their MacBook on the move, or perhaps even their impossibly gigantic iMacs. Takes all sorts.
Top of the pile, obviously, is the insanely popular Angry Birds, which is, completely unshockingly, exactly the same only with more pixels and a £2.99 price tag for the privilege. Similarly ubiquitous and similarly £2.99, Flight Control also makes an appearance and is, again, a solid, unremarkable port of a game that only really works if you can plot the landing paths with your own fingers. The beautiful and entrancing rope twister Zen Bound 2 is also £2.99, and well worth picking up if you've missed out, while the 59p cutesy puzzler Toki Tori actually manages to be a third of the price that you can currently pick it up on iPhone for. No-one said it had to make any sense.
Elsewhere in iOS port land, we find the beautiful, enjoyable puzzler Ancient Frog still worthy of the £2.99 price tag – mainly because, unlike most of the other iOS games here, it's not arbitrarily five times the price. Sadly, the lovably bonkers avoid-'em-up The Incident is, at £1.79, about 50 per cent more expensive, but given that it's still cheap we won't prattle on about it too much. The bloody brilliant Pinball HD has also gone out at £1.79. Buy the iPhone or iPad version as well for 59p, and play the best pinball sim around for bugger all.
Meanwhile, in adventure land, the folks at Argharta Studios haven't quite figured out that £4.99 is probably too much for the interesting-but-not-brilliant 1112, and it's the same deal with Anuman's pretty average Dracula Series, which is going out at £5.49 for each of the three parts, as opposed to a sum total of £1.78 for the entire series on iPad. Hmm. And if you haven't meddled with Hothead's Precipice Of Darkness RPG series, you might be tempted at a mere £1.79 a pop.
In terms of the bigger, full-priced releases, there's pretty much sod all around right now, though we suspect that will change in the fullness of time. For the time being, Civilization V looks like a bargain at £17.99 (against its £29.99 price on Steam right now) [Correction: Kristan is an idiot, it's Civ IV: Colonization, not Civ V, and it's cheaper on Steam -Ed.], though you wonder who would pay £29.99 for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare three years on from release. The thoroughly excellent Bejeweled 3 also looks like a steal at £11.99 (Steam price £14.99), though hideously addictive match-three RPG hybrid Puzzle Quest finds itself in the rare position of being more expensive on the Mac App Store at £8.99, versus £5.99 on Steam. Funny old game, prices.
Note: All games were reviewed on a 2.26GHz Core Duo Mac Book Pro 13", with 4GB RAM and NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB video RAM.