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IMG Holiday Buying Guide - Part I
December 3, 2007 | Michael Phillips

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It's that time of year again, the holidays are upon us. It's a time of year when dogs and cats are forced to dress like Santa Claus, a time when Hanukkah candles accidentally set the dining-room table ablaze. It's a time for friends and family to get together and pray to God they can make it to the new year without killing each other. It's a time when I've had the personal pleasure of seeing my aunt get drunk and walk into an armoire. The holidays are also a time for presents, glorious presents. The hard part, of course, is buying the right gift for the right person. This is quite true of Mac games. You probably don't want to get your mom Battlefield: 2142 and The Sims: Pet Stories for your 17-year-old goth raver nephew. Buying Mac games for the holidays might seem daunting, but don't worry. I'm here to help.

In part 1 of this holiday buying guide, I break down some of today's hottest games and a few from days gone by so that you, the reader, will know exactly what to wrap with shiny paper and pretty bows.

Keeping it Casual
Not everyone is a "hardcore gamer." Some people like the classics, something that is easy to pick up and put down. They don't need magic spells, zombies and high-powered assault rifles to have a good time. These people are "casual gamers," and for them, we have plenty.

First up, we have the classic, Scrabble, "America's good-time game." It's a statement with which I agree, Scrabble is a very good time. Published by GameHouse with permission from the game's original creators, this edition of Scrabble features 4 gameplay modes: Classic, Blitz, Tournament and Custom Tournament. The game also features Merriam-Webster's official Scrabble dictionary.

Classic mode is just what one would expect, up to four players, computer-AI, or human, slamming down letter tiles to form words and rack up points using the official Scrabble ruleset.

In Blitz, speed is the name of the game. Get your words down fast and beat the clock before it beats you.

In Tournament mode, players battle it out against AI that increases in difficulty as the tournament continues. This is done under the guise of the official Scrabble tournament rules.
Custom Tournament is exactly what the name implies. Players can tweak the tournament rules to their tastes.

As mentioned earlier, human players can play against one another at the same computer hot-seat-style. The game also features slick graphics and a clean interface, making it well-worth a price-tag of $19.95. Potential buyers can check out a free demo here. Scrabble is a Universal Binary game and should run beautifully on any Mac running OS X 10.3.9 or later.

Tiki Magic Mini Golf
Who doesn't love a rousing game of miniature golf? Nobody, that's who! Published by Freeverse Software, Tiki Magic Mini Golf takes the world of miniature golf to epic status. Tiki Gods are often angry, very angry, but apparently they love miniature golf and are sated by a good round of tiny, tiny golf.

Tiki Magic Mini Golf boasts 54 holes rendered in lush 3D graphics, spread across three very unique courses: Lono's Lagoon, Lost Temple and Fire Mountain. Each course is easy on the eye and entirely unique. For example, Lono's Lagoon is set on a lush tropical island, whereas Fire Mountain takes place in the heart of an active volcano. Of course, golf is a game of physics, but worry not, Tiki Magic Mini Golf features an advanced physics engine to make sure every ball bounces just so. In terms of audio, the game offers rich sound effects and a striking original musical score. Up to six players can duke it out in hot-seat mode, making Tiki Magic Mini Golf an excellent holiday choice for the entire family. The game retails for $29.95 with a free demo available here.

Big Bang Brain Games
Big Big Brain Games, another title by Freeverse Software, suite of six games that challenge the mind and dazzle the eye. Included in the suite we have, Big Bang Echo, Big Bang Fallacy, Big Bang NovaSweeper, Big Bang Reaction, Big Bang Remembrance and Big Bang Sudoku, each game offering a new twist on a classic formula.

In Echo, four differently colored spheres are placed on four Roman style columns. The spheres light up and produce audio cues. After a sphere is activated, the player must click to match the pattern. For example, red-yellow-blue-yellow-red-red-green. Therefore, the if the player does not match the pattern, it's game over, man, game over! The patterns become more complex as the game goes on, so one's mind must be agile in order to keep pace.

Big Bang Fallacy is a game of verbal logic. For example, the player is presented with a scenario in which the correct conclusion is a logical fallacy.

When Julius found that he was specifically given the wrong flavored drink, he made a point to "accidentally" spill it on the barista's uniform.

The fallacy depicted above is... two wrongs make a right. There are dozens of quizes, each progressively more difficult. The more answers that one gives correctly, the higher their score. The game also has a built-in encyclopedia to help explain each Fallacy, such as the infamous "Post Hoc."

Next up, we have NovaSweeper (aka MineSweeper), a game in which the player is presented with a grid of square boxes. The size of the grid depends upon the selected level of difficulty, of which there are three; Satellite - 9x9 - 10 Novas, Moon - 14x14 - 35 Novas and Lunatic - 20x20 - 85 Novas. The object of the game is devilishly simple; click on every square not containing a nova to achieve victory.

In Reaction, the player is presented with an 8x8 grid containing atoms in varying degrees of stability, as well as assorted other objects. Atoms become increasingly unstable when clicked, growing large and exploding on the fourth click. Certain atoms start off unstable and explode within one click. When an atom explodes, particles explode in four directions, bouncing off of other atoms, causing them to become more unstable or explode. Each course is made up of 9 boards, the goal of which is to burst every atom on said board in the fewest number of clicks.

Remembrance (aka Memory) is all about one's short-term memory. Players are presented with a board of cards (4x4 or 6x6), each pair containing a matching picture. The cards are presented face-up for a few seconds and then are flipped face down. The player must then match each pair is quickly as possible.

Lastly, we have Sudoku. the rules of sudoku are fairly simple, but mastering the game is very difficult. The sudoku board consists of a 9x9 grid, where a number 1 through 9 can be placed in a square. The object of the game is to fill each square with a number -- but there are certain restrictions to where the numbers can be placed: For example, number cannot be repeated in the same row. Each Soduko puzzle has but one solution, so place those numbers carefully.

Freeverse's Big Bang Brain Games sells for $29.95, is a nifty Universal Binary and a free demo is available for download here.


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