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IMG's Top Ten Casual Games for the Mac
July 27, 2006 | Marcus Albers

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Casual gaming, and the casual gamer, are relatively new concepts in the world of video games. As the industry slowly realizes that not everyone has the time, skill, or desire to go on massive missions with other avatars from around the world, or take days and weeks to conquer the Roman Empire, or walk the dark corridors of an abandoned space station and blow up anything that moves, we are seeing a new type of game evolve. And its popularity is gaining in leaps and bounds.

A casual game can be loosely classified as a game, generally a puzzle game of some sort, that takes very little time to learn and get into, generally requires a limited skill set, and can be very addicting.

Arguably the earliest example of the casual game is the venerable Microsoft Windows classic Solitaire. Next in the lineage would be the grand-daddy of all puzzle games, Tetris. These games exemplify the best aspects of a casual game, and are some of the mileposts that other casual games are continually measured by.

The Mac is a comparatively new player in the casual gaming scene, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some real bang-up games available. Let's take a casual stroll through the land of gaming for the non-hard core gamer.

Number 10: Tetris Elements
This title is one of the only officially licensed Tetris games available for the Macintosh, which is the main reason this title makes it on the list. Although it isn't the best of the Tetris games released, it is a kick to play, and still quite addictive after all these years.

Building on the classic Tetris formula, Elements throws in different gameplay variations based on the elements of nature. Earthquake Tetris brings the fun of Tetris Cascade to the Mac, while throwing in the added element of tremors that will drastically change the game board when they strike. Tempest is one of the harder variations, forcing you to play two separate Tetris boards. The raging storm switches the player between the boards, and it is up to the player to hold key pieces to get the maximum points from each board. Stratosphere, Fire, and Ice round out the game modes, each bringing an interesting twist to the classic game.

Unfortunately, as fun as Tetris Elements is, it suffers from a common malady found in early casual games on the Macintosh. In order to keep it cross-platform, the developers ignore the advanced graphics available on the Mac, and instead seem satisfied with simple Flash graphics and play mechanics. Luckily, game developers soon learned their lesson.

Number 9: Super GameHouse Solitaire
GameHouse was one of the first developers to start supporting the Macintosh with their casual games. Not only are the play experiences identical from the Macintosh to the PC, but the graphics are of high quality and no longer look like an old online Flash demo. This attention to quality with Super GameHouse Solitaire lands the game in the number nine spot on our list.

Super GameHouse Solitaire includes ten variations of the classic solo time-waster. The games chosen for this volume are fairly popular, including variants such as Klondike, Pyramid, Tri-Peaks, Golf, and all-time favorite Free Cell. The selection certainly isn't as large as some solitaire games available for the Macintosh, but I think that is what helps to qualify this as a true casual game. By selecting a smaller number of popular, easy-to-grasp variants, you can attract a much larger audience. And if the large number of solitaire games following this one from GameHouse is any indication, they have been able to attract a large audience.

Super GameHouse Solitaire is available from Macgamestore here.

Number 8: Bejeweled
If you haven't heard of Bejeweled, then you have chosen to completely ignore the casual gaming genre. Much like any popular original game, Bejeweled has been cloned and referenced more than nearly any other game in the genre. This is due not only to the popularity of the original, but to the simplicity of the concept: swap jewels on the board to create lines of at least three like-colored gems. Once created, the matches disappear, allowing more gems to flow in from the top of the screen.

This was one of the first games that I played that made me completely lose track of the time as I was playing. Before I knew it, I was 20 rounds in and out an hour of my life. To this day, I find it hard to put the game down once I start. This alone is enough of a reason for the game to take the number eight spot in the list. As a genre-defining game, this one will go down in the history books, as well.

Bejeweled is available from Macgamestore here.


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