But that’s not what I want to talk about today. Instead, let’s talk about the real reason the App Store is cool – the free Mac games! The selection available on the Mac App Store is still a bit slim (58 titles at the time of this posting) and many are ports from the iPhone and iPad, but there are a few gems that can keep you entertained for the low price of free.
Currently the most popular free game on the Mac App Store, Alpine Crawler seems a bit weird from a distance. It’s a side-scrolling game in which you navigate a truck across terrain. A timer is clicking down, and if it runs down to zero, you lose. There are no other vehicles, and you have only four controls; drive, reverse, gas and brake.
Seems simple, right? That’s what I thought at first. I then sent my pickup truck flying off a cliff. It hit the ground, flipped through the air a few more times, and then was destroyed. Whoops.
Alpine Crawler is a game about momentum. Your truck can’t climb every hill from a dead stop, so you need to gain a running start. However, going too fast will cause your truck to go airborn over bumps and hills, which means you lose all control and take damage when you eventually land. Success can only be achieved by staying cool under pressure and constantly adjusting the forward movement of your truck. It may seem easy, but Alpine Crawler is actually the most challenging game listed here.
Back in 1997 a small, three-man game development studio called Robinson Technologies released Dink Smallwood, a 2D adventure game. It was never a huge hit, but it developed a cult following due to its snarky, dark humor and well-paced gameplay. In 1999 the game was released as freeware, and since then it has been modified and ported in many ways, giving this relatively short adventure game a very long lifespan.
Now Seth Robinson, one of the game’s original developers, has ported the title over to Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad and Android, giving the title yet another lease on life. Dink Smallwood isn’t a pretty game by today’s standards, but graphics aren’t the reason most people enjoy this game. Instead, the love comes from its tongue-in-cheek writing. This isn’t high art – in fact, grammar errors are not uncommon – but for some reason, it works. From the moment I accidentally punched the head off a duck, I was hooked.
What is it about solitaire? If my grandmother spent as much time playing World of Warcraft as she spent playing Solitaire, she’d have a level 85 in epic gear by now. And many of my friends still admit to playing the game at work when they’re bored of frustrated.
Now with McSolitaire you can play it on your Mac as well as your Windows PC, and in fact you may find the Mac version to be better. Obviously, the game hasn’t changed much – solitaire is solitaire, and there isn’t much room for playing with the rules. However, McSolitaire is notable because of its excellent graphics, which includes not only a number of free-defined texture sets but also the ability to custom the card and the background by cutting-and-pasting your own images.
There are also a few other handy features, like the ability to create a game that is guaranteed to be solvable and a “Game Over?” button that will let you know if you’re truly out of possible moves or if you’re just missing something. If you’re going to play solitaire on the Mac, this is the (free) version to go with.
I ran into some other titles that I enjoyed, as well. Gold Strike, Doodle Hangman and and Sudoku Daily all deserve mention. On the other hand, there are a lot of really bad free Mac games on the Mac App Store, so tread carefully and pay attention to user reviews – if you value your time.