Mac App Store gives gamers plenty of options

Thursday's launch of the Mac App Store not only opens a new avenue for getting software onto your computer. It also marks a big step forward for Mac gaming.

With the Mac App Store now open for business, gamers can download ports of iOS games, games previously only appearing on the Steam online gaming service, and ports to the Mac platform that had received little fanfare up until now. And that's one of the Mac App Store's greatest advantages—in one place, you can find and download almost 200 games.

The Mac App Store is still in its early stages, but we've gathered a guide to what you'll see in this initial selection of games.

Traditional Mac developers

In recent years, the best resource for current games was through ports by gaming developers TransGaming, Aspyr, and Feral Interactive. Though no longer the only show in town, these long-time friends of the Mac gaming community still have made their presence known by releasing ports of some high-end games from the Windows PC and console worlds to the Mac App Store.

TransGaming's releases include Garage, Inc, a prohibition-era time management game; The Path, a dark adventure game retelling the story of Red Riding Hood; and Puzzle Quest, a unique hybrid of puzzle mechanics and role-playing game elements. Ranging from $10 to $15, TransGaming's offerings represent the higher range of pricing on the current store—with one exception.

That would be Feral Interactive's Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4. Arguably the most recognizable title on the Mac App Store, this high-end game also has a high-end price tag of $50. Still, fans of the Harry Potter and Lego franchises will appreciate that this game offers arguably the most content and highest-quality graphics of any title on the Mac App Store.

iOS ports

By far, the most prominent game category in the Mac App Store is comprised of iOS games making the jump to the Mac. These games, which up until now have relied heavily on the touchscreen interface of the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, must now be made to work with a keyboard and mouse. Some, such as platformer The Incident, will likely have easy transitions to the Mac OS. Though The Incident loses its accelerometer-based controls in its Mac App Store form, the ability to move should be easily substituted by directional buttons or "WASD" controls.

For that matter, it's easy to assume that almost any iOS game that relies on virtual buttons and tapping will make an easier transition to the Mac platform than games that rely on gestures. Games like Angry Birds and Flight Control HD, for example, may take some getting used to for old fans of the series. Flight Control HD, which sparked a new sub-genre of puzzle "path-making" games on the iOS, met with mixed reviews in our office when it was made available on Steam. Will Angry Birds for the Mac have a smoother landing? Will players quickly adapt to dragging their mice and launching birds? Or will the viral success of Angry Birds finally show some signs of waning?

Independent titles

Other games available on the Mac App Store have been previously released on the Mac, either through Steam's service or via a native release. PopCap Games, which specializes in addictive puzzle games, has released Bejeweled 3, Peggle, and Peggle Nights on the Mac App Store after previously bringing the titles toSteam. But Plants Vs. Zombies, a popular tower defense game that has been released on the Mac and iOS previously, is curiously absent from the initial releases on the Mac App Store.

Other independent games that appear in the store include Hothead Games' Precipice of Darkness episodic role-playing-game series, which is based on the Penny Arcade web comic. Initially released in 2008 and ported to the Mac in 2009, each title is selling at a reduced price of $4. Precipice of Darkness, like popular puzzle game Zen Bound 2, paper-platformer And Yet It Moves, and dreamlike physics-based Osmos all make the jump from Steam to the Mac App Store.

Her Interactive's Nancy Drew and Anuman's Dracula series also make appearances on the Mac App Store, helping to round out the selection of games with entries from the adventure genre. The Nancy Drew games have been appearing on the Mac for years, but Dracula 3: Path of the Dragon, currently on the Mac App Store, was previously on the iOS for several months and was ported to the Mac last October. The adventure genre is well represented on the Mac App Store, with Women's Murder Club, The Mystery of the Crystal Portal, and Midnight Mysteries—Salem Witch Trials all appearing among the initial releases.

PlayFirst's iconic restaurant-themed time-management Diner Dash series makes an appearance on the Mac App Store in the form of Diner Dash 5. The visually impressive steampunk adventure/first-person shooter/time-management game Guns of Icarus also makes it way on the Mac App Store, as does the equally intriguingly-named Gratuitous Space Battles—a sci-fi tower-defense/strategy title with some impressive visuals married to a unique approach to gameplay.

First impressions

The day-one releases on the Mac App Store mainly target the casual games market. The first-person shooter, action-adventure, and strategy genres are all fairly absent at this stage. Similarly, high-end titles—save for Harry Potter—haven't arrived yet, but that doesn't mean we won't see other marquee games on the store at a later day.

For the Mac App Store's debut, it makes sense for Apple to stay close to the formula that's made the iOS version of the App Store such a success. Once gamers start to download games from the Mac App Store, developers could recognize the retail outlet's potential. That means not only including games in the Mac App Store, but developing offerings with the Mac platform specifically in mind.

This story, "Mac App Store gives gamers plenty of options" was originally published by Macworld.

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