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The Best Games in the Mac App Store at Launch

The Mac App Store launched earlier today, bringing the relative ease and slight addictiveness of obtaining programs the iOS way to Apple’s computers, finally allowing OS X users to nickel-and-dime our e-wallets to death the way all those iPhone and iPad users get to. Upon browsing the store, in the midst of the obligatory litany of throw-away games and limited demos masquerading as free games lies a decent amount of extremely worthwhile and critically acclaimed games — something most platforms don’t generally accomplish at launch.

The Path

Tale of Tales’ adventure-horror is weird. Like, weird weird. It’s loosely based on a twisted version of “Little Red Riding Hood,” where the player must travel to grandma’s house and is instructed to “stay the on the path.” Of course, the whole point of the game is to wander off the path, into the strange wilderness, where the player experiences super surreal and extremely creepy things. The game is very much an experimental and exploration game, with nearly all of the content actually optional, and sporting multiple endings affected by how the player plays. The Path is probably the best and the most surprising game to be available at launch on the Mac App Store, both because of its high quality and its extremely unsettling nature, and a $9.99, it wouldn’t be a good idea to pass up.

Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 1 and 2

Precipice is a perfect storm of geek culture and old school gaming. It’s essentially a parody of turn-based RPGs, set in the Penny Arcade universe, yet modified with a steampunk theme. They’re genuinely funny, well-made games, and were originally planned as a four-part series, though after the second game’s release, the plan ceased, but in an effort to finish the story rather than leave fans wondering, the story is being released in prose via Penny Arcade’s website. At the moment, both games are on sale on the Mac App Store for $3.99 each, an amazing bargain considering I bought both games for $15 each when I originally played them.

Angry Birds

Listen, we weren’t joking when we said Angry Birds is going to be on everything ever, probably one day resulting in frying pans that can run the game. As expected, Angry Birds launched with the Mac App Store for the same price as its PC counterpart, $4.99, four dollars more than its iOS counterpart. Regardless of the price, Angry Birds has basically become a killer app, and a platform hasn’t arrived unless it runs the bird-kamikaze simulator. For the uninitiated, the player basically uses a giant slingshot to fling birds at structures which hide pigs, in order to defeat the pigs and retrieve kidnapped bird eggs said pigs stole. The game has a few mechanical issues, and it’s pretty simple, targeted toward the casual audience, and yet, man. You just really want to throw birds at pigs for some reason. The $4.99 price is pretty steep compared to the $0.99 price of the iOS version, but honestly, $4.99 would be a fine price for the game if the $0.99 price wasn’t around making you feel like you’re overpaying for the OS X version.

Puzzles Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Puzzle Quest is an interesting beast. It’s been around for a long time now (in video game years), dating back to 2007. Like Angry Birds it’s pretty much been published for just about any modern day platform under the technological sun, and again, just like Angry BirdsPuzzle Quest has ended up on everything ever because the game has universal appeal. Basically, it’s another match-three game, except it throws in nearly every element of role-playing games imaginable, from capturing and training mounts, to leveling-up characters, to highly-customizable statistics and equipment, to castle sieges, to capturable territories, to crafting, to sidequests, to an in-depth story: If an RPG has had the mechanic, it’s probably in Puzzle Quest, and all tied into various match-three types of gameplay. The game is one of those simple-yet-complex masterpieces where the player can play for a five-minute train ride, or sit in bed and play and oh no it’s almost time for work. The current price fo $14.99 may seem steep, but if you’ve ever played a video game before, you’ve definitely paid more for less potential time spent playing a game.

Peggle and Peggle Nights

For me, at first, Peggle seemed like one of those games that appealed to casual players because they weren’t really aware of the much better experiences, casual or hardcore, the gaming world had to offer. I finally gave in and tried it out one night, though, and it turned out I was all kinds of wrong about my initial assessment. It’s fairly simple, essentially a combination of pinball and The Price is Right’s Plinko. In Peggle, the player attempts to clear the level of bumpers by shooting balls at them, and racking up a high score before proceeding to the next level. As the game progresses, the player unlocks new characters, who have unique powers which aid the player in their conquest of bumpercide. Both Peggle and Peggle Nights currently sit on the Mac App Store at $9.99 each, which may seem a little high for more casual games, but Peggle is definitely fun, addictive, and provides more than just the single-player mode.

And Yet It Moves

An indie darling, And Yet It Moves sports physics-based platforming, blended with a healthy dose of puzzles, a mechanics that allows the player to rotate the world in which the character exists, and a beautiful ripped-paper graphical style. The game is extremely fun, though can be somewhat of a challenge for the more casual gamer that isn’t quite used to advanced platforming and physics-based puzzles. The game is very pretty, though–very, very pretty, and considering it’s actually fun and interesting, well, sure makes it worth the current $9.99 asking price.

Osmos

On the surface, everything about Osmos seems wrong. You play as a mote, a spherical entity that exists by absorbing smaller motes around it. You move by creating a stream of thrust with the mouse,  diminishing your size as you accelerate. This should be boring; this should be the kind of game you play on a cellphone circa 1998. But the beautiful, understated graphics, stress-melting soundtrack, and zen-like game play make for an engrossing and strangely addictive experience. And as different flavors of enemies appear, and other physics-related obstacles like orbits play larger roles, its easy to see why this game has received such praise. And there’s something more: the simplicity of the game and the ambiguous scale (are these galaxies?  Single cells?) keep you playing, hoping to discern something more about the nature of these strange creatures. At $10 it’s a little on the pricey side, but hours of transcendent happiness will surely follow.

Bejeweled 3

Bejeweled 3 is a sequel to the mother of all match-three annoyances, but here’s the funny thing: Bejeweled 3 is actually good enough to be considered its own game, rather than “yet another match-three.” Yeah, you match three, and yes, there’s generally a time limit, and again, you’re pretty much just trying to get higher scores. However, Bejeweled 3 adds so many new modes of gameplay, minigames, and an endless mode entitled “Zen” mode, Bejeweled 3 actually takes the regular (read: unlike Puzzle Quest that is extremely irregular for the match-three mechanic) match-three genre and makes it so its the only game players need for their match-three needs. However, the current asking price of $19.99 is kind of ridiculous, considering one can purchase both Penny Arcade games for that. Bejeweled 3 is worth a purchase if you’re into that sort of thing, but no one would fault you for waiting until it lowers to a more respectable price.

Along with the above titles, there are a few other launch games sitting on the store worth a gander, such as The IncidentBlush (for only $2.99!), and Zen Bound 2, which is certainly promising for the future of gaming on the Mac App Store.

(Osmos capsule review by Max Eddy.)

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