No one makes better kid and family friendly software than Software MacKiev. Starting with their flagship product, WorldBook 2007 just upgraded for 2007, to my favorite app, 3D Weather Globe and Atlas, their products look both gorgeous to the eye, yet allow for open ended use that kids need to really feel at home with software. You can’t make a mistake with properly designed kids software, and MacKiev knows this and gets the flow and feel just right, for kids or adults. The Printshop for Mac 2, is complete upgrade of this popular program, which is sophisticated enough for almost any page layout task, yet friendly enough that constant trips to the help manual aren’t required. The same holds true for KidPix 3X, our favorite kids graphic program. Easy to use, fun, great sounds, and priced right, KidPix 3X is a first rate update to a Mac classic. Have a wee little one in the house? Then check out their Dr. Seuss releases, with ABC, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in the Hat. Have an Intel Mac? No problem, all of these apps are fully Intel Compatible Universal Binary releases. Lots of companies have what they term “kid friendly” software, but few companies actually put the same effort into those titles as into games for older kids and adults. The folks at Software MacKiev make sure that their titles are fully finished in every detail, so it’s a pleasure to use, and we feel great to let our kids loose on their titles.
For more information visit: www.softwaremackiev.com
We love Pangea Software, not just because Brian Greenstone is a member of the Mac Edition Radio staff, but because he is just as OCD as we are, and as a result his titles are beautifully imagined, executed, and maintained. What other vendor can you think of would release free patches to allow not only Universal Binary compatibility, but also adding in 3D versions, so that with a set of those red and blue glasses, the games take on an amazing and immersive feel. Small, but important touches like original music commissioned for not only every game, but for every level as well. Take a game like Nanosour2 for a spin with 3D glasses, and you can feel every rock, tree, and raptor taking aim at you. Sort of like switching from mono to surround sound! In the spirit of journalistic integrity, I should note that Brian reviews non-game applications and products for Mac Edition Radio, and doesn’t review games to prevent any conflict of interest!
Pangea’s most recent release is Pangea Arcade, a loving retro-inspired look back at classic arcade games, but updated for the present. The three games are Nucleus, Warheads, and Firefall, and are loosely based on Asteroids (Nucleus), Missle Command (Warheads), and Centipede/Galaga (Firefall), and have the same spare feel of the originals, but with beautiful, fully rendered graphics and twists and turns tossed in for good measure. I love them, and so does our cadre of kid testers who are unflinchingly impolite if they don’t like a game, no matter how large or small the developer! And once again, these are Mac only titles! Universal Binary for Intel compatibility.
For more information visit: www.pangeasoft.net
Another one of our favorites has been Freeverse Software's Best of Original Mac Games Volume 1 which combines 5 games developed for the Mac platform. Airbust Extreme, Kill Monty, Deep Trouble 2, Starbase Defender, and Active Lancer. Ok, we have to admit that we love Kill Monty, whose entire mission goal consists of two words.. “Kill Everything!” and intensifies from there. Active Lancer is a blast, as you fly over and try to shoot, bomb, and nail everything in your way, before they get you first. Starbase Defender forces you be on the lookout for waves of evil aliens who want nothing more then to destroy your starbase. Good clean fun! Deep Trouble 2 is the submarine follow-up to Deep Trouble, but is the one disappointment in the pack. When we reviewed the first release, we loved it simple, yet challenging game play. It was a bit light on the sophistication of it’s graphics, but liked the music, feel, and game play. Deep Trouble 2 has the same underwater storyline, but from a simple sub, we now have a futuristic spacecraft looking sub, and it’s so difficult to play, that we just couldn’t get into it. While the new release has a lot of visual improvements, and additional weaponry, it’s morphed into a less classic feeling game, and we found ourselves playing their original release instead. Airbust Xtreme is probably the flagship of this collection, and adds first rate graphics an ultra cool soundtrack from Abdoujaparov, Freekstar and Jaffa Mountain, and ten characters to draw upon. Wonderful gameplay, and beautiful graphics fill out this great title. Overall, Best of Original Mac Games Volume 1 is a great gift to keep family members doing what they should do to keep the peace during the holidays, which is stay glued to a computer playing games written for the Mac! Don’t forget Freeverse’s Wingnuts 2: Raina’s Revenge, which is still one of the best games for the Mac. There is nothing quite like the bad jokes, bad puns, great gameplay, and evil accent of Governor Arnold’s Uncle Baron Von Schtopwatch, so checkout our review of Wingnuts 2: Raina’s Revenge, which comes highly recommended. Spend time checking out Freeverse's offerings, which include the best Solitaire games out there, their famed Burning Monkey Solitaire series, now in version 4, or their numerous other excellent yet affordable tools!
For more information visit: www.freeverse.com
One of my favorite movies, was the animated classic, Bambi Meets Godzilla celebrated for it’s stunning story line, beautiful full-colored graphics, and sensitive treatment of the subject matter. Following in that spirit comes Ambrosia’s Sketch Alpha Fighter 2000, which is very cool and probably the most original game we seen in a while. Presented in glorious black and white with bits of color when needed, on a gorgeous background of blue-lined graph paper, in this game you navigate through a maze, filled with little kid bugs, larger bugs, flying bugs, and you have to shoot them all to survive. Fun, original, and demonically addictive. We loved Sketch Alpha Fighter 2000, and once again don’t go looking for this on your Windows machine ... it’s Mac only! The same is true for their new Redline, a driving game that allows you to respect or disrespect the laws of physics. This game lets you drive cars from all over time such as a DeLorean (Thomas’ favorite), a Dodge Charger, and a Lamborghini Diablo. To get a car, you first have to complete challenges, which are pretty easy; it’s the races you like. The artificial intelligence is impressive. And it’s fun just driving through a canyon at incredibly dangerous speeds, crashing into rocks, and not getting a single scratch. And don’t forget Ambrosia’s classic Aperion X, still one of my favorite titles and now an Intel compatible Universal Binary. Spend time checking out Ambrosia's site, which includes some of the best games and utilities out there, including last year's hit, GooBall, or their numerous other excellent yet affordable offerings and tools!
For more information visit: www.ambrosiasw.com
Shoecake Games makes original, brain teasing titles, and Boxikon sets new records for addictive behavior. Maybe because it’s similar to that old favorite, Tetris. Maybe it’s because it appeals to one’s inner organizer. Or maybe because it’s just so much good, clean fun! Set in a square grid made of 91 small boxes, the object of Boxikon is to arrange the pre-fab colorful shapes the game gives you into 16-part larger squares, or into a complete line across the grid – a nice neat little imaginary world, with no gratuitous violence or complicated rules. Players work against the clock, and try to avoid the blockers that pop up when you’ve taken too long to place a puzzle piece. Occasionally, a piece will appear with a “bomb” planted inside, which players can strategically position to eliminate blockers and open up new territory for more shapes and lines. But then up pops another blocker, and you need another bomb, but you almost have enough blue shapes to make a bigger square, and you really needed a yellow four-piece, but all you got was a green t-shape, so … well, I have a game paused that I need to get back to! Shoecake's other games are great too, especially Tamigon, so check out their site.
For more information visit: www.shoecakegames.com
Next we have Aspyr Media, which is one of the largest game publishers, with many of the blockbuster titles. We’ll start with The Sims 2. The best selling computer game of all time’s sequel is just as good as the original, with a little extra things added. There have been 3 expansion packs so far for the Mac platform, University, Nightlife, Open for Business, and Pets. Thomas’ favorite was Nightlife, because you can own and drive cars! The next expansion pack, Pets, comes out soon. The premise of the Sims series is that you can control the lives of people, and create societies based on your wishes. Beautiful. And you control how they look, their age, and their personalities. The graphics are significantly improved with each release, much better than the original. Thomas orders you to buy this game. Now!
Have ever wanted to blast the hell out of the Nazis? Well now’s your chance, in Call of Duty Deluxe Edition and Call of Duty 2. Call of Duty is a First Person Shooter (FPS) that lets you fill the boots of an Allied soldier during WWII. You can play the game as Russian, British, and American. Thomas says that the Call of Duty titles are some of the greatest games he has ever played, particularly because of the despicable Nazis. The graphics engine is amazing in both, and the Artificial Intelligence is extremely clever. Call of Duty emphasizes teamwork since in WWII, soldiers traveled in large groups. However, these games were rated T for a reason. There is a lot of violence in both, but mostly in Call of Duty 2, however for those with weak stomachs, there is a blood toggle in the game options. Call of Duty 2 requires a G5 or Intel processor, and Call of Duty Deluxe requires a G4 so it’s perfect for an older system or PowerBook. They are both fantastic games and well ported from their PC brethren. Lastly, we are big fans of Aspyr’s Game Agent software, which not only tells you about upcoming releases, but also all the system specifications for each release, and how it will run on your system. Like Star Wars? Well, your prayers are answered with the news that Star Wars: Empire at War is currently in development, as is a new game based on the Doom engine, Prey. Look out for our review! Our kudos to Aspyr for releasing patches to most of their older titles upgrading them to Intel Compatible Universal Binary code at no additional cost to existing users.
For more information visit: www.aspyr.com
What’s an eight-letter word for “fun”? Scrabble, of course! GameHouse.com’s Scrabble game is the perfect way for wordsmiths and novices alike to test their wordbuilding skills. Just like in the old favorite board game, players are dealt seven tiles at a time to their rack with which to create a network of words. It’s just as fun as playing with the wooden tiles, only the cyber tiles don’t get knocked over, and you can shuffle the letters again and again with a simple keystroke. And you have two playing options – Classic and Tournament – depending on how much word muscle you have to flex! When you choose to play in “Classic” mode, you play untimed, against either a human opponent, or the computer, until all the tiles are used up. There are eight increasingly challenging skill levels to play against, from Beginner up to Genius, to keep you on your toes. As you place the tiles onto the board, color coding lets you know whether a word is acceptable or not, but there is also a Dictionary option, to verify a word’s eligibility. If you get stuck, ask for a hint or click on “Best Plays” for help. Hard-core competitors will love the challenge of “Tournament” style, racing against the pressure of a clock before timing out. It really can hone your competitive Scrabble edge. At only 11mb in size, it’s an easy download from the GameHouse site, and is Universal Binary for Mac Intel compatibility.
For more information visit: www.gamehouse.com
Air guitar only gets you so far, but learning guitar requires an expensive guitar and an attitude heavy teacher, right? Wrong, with iPlay Music you can learn guitar in easy to master steps, using either your computer, your DVD player, or with their books. But we think that the DVD is easiest, since you can sit and using your remote control learn and play in whatever room your TV is in. But the computer version allows you to learn on the road, has options for kids, podcasting, and more! They offer some great packages that include the guitar, software, and a choice of electric, acoustic, kids size, and a family pack with a kids guitar, and an full-size guitar. It’s truly a gift to bring the family together. We interviewed the founders of iPlay Music last year at MacWorld as they started their new venture, and felt like they had the details right. They understood that their products needed to be easy to master, yet contain the right depth of instruction, so they kept the video production to the minimal side to allow the teaching to be front and center, and then they made it affordable and friendly. The recent release of the computer based product, which is both Mac and PC compatible, is a quietly powerful upgrade that really does let you learn guitar at your own pace and lets you repeat lessons easily till you master the point. Great idea, great software, great execution, and great gift idea!
For more information visit: www.iplaymusic.com
Harris Fogel, Nancy Burlan, & Thomas Fogel contributed to this article. Posted 12/26/2006