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Holiday Gift Guide: 20 Unforgettable Games

Macworld's Game Hall of Fame Presents

By Cameron Crotty

Our national obsession with the latest fads at the expense of golden oldies has gotten on the nerves of the Macworld Game Hall of Fame's executive committee. "I love new games as much as the next person," opined a Hall curator as she gestured at the iMac running Tomb Raider II over in the corner. "But if we ignore the classics, what's the point of having a Hall of Fame?"

So this year when the editors of Macworld came knocking at the Hall's front door in sleepy Pittsfield, Massachusetts, we decided to do more than simply induct six worthy new games into the Hall. Instead, we compiled a list of 20 great Mac games, both new inductees and all-time classics. Because regardless of whether it was released this year or five years ago, a classic is still a classic.


Tomb Raider II

It's easy to get lost in Tomb Raider's hype. We've been inundated by stories about how its star, the well-endowed and completely computer-generated Lara Croft, is either the death knell of the feminist movement or a strong female role model in the male-dominated world of games–or maybe both. What's lost in this storm of publicity and debate is that Tomb Raider is simply a great game. In Tomb Raider–a huge seller for Windows and the Sony PlayStation, and now finally available for the Mac–you guide Lara Croft through an Indiana Jones-esque three-dimensional world of temples and caverns in search of priceless artifacts. The interface is similar to that of a first-person shooter game such as Unreal, Doom, or Marathon, but your perspective is actually slightly above and behind Lara herself, staring at her polygonal posterior. Lara's adventures involve a lot of gunplay, but exploration and problem solving are the real keys. You find hidden places to explore by swimming, climbing, and jumping, not to mention avoiding diabolical traps such as giant rolling boulders and pits of spikes. The graphics are impressive, especially if you've got a 3-D-accelerator card installed, and the images in the Mac version are clearly superior to those in the PlayStation version.

Tomb Raider II is the first of the Tomb Raider games to come to the Mac, and it's a definite improvement over the original game. In addition to walking and running, Lara gets to ride a motorcycle and a powerboat, and she fights villains that are much wilier and harder to kill than those in the original Tomb Raider. And there's more Tomb Raider on the way–Aspyr Media will release Tomb Raider Gold, featuring the original Tomb Raider with four additional levels in early 1999.

But back to our original dilemma: does Lara Croft belong in the pantheon of women heroes right alongside Wonder Woman and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or is she just a pumped-up Spice Girl? The cooler heads at the Game Hall of Fame will leave that up to you. We're just happy that Mac users finally have a chance to play this great action-adventure game.

WHY IT'S COOL: Impressive graphics and game play lead to hours of arcade-style action. WHO IT'S FOR: Women tired of male-character-only adventure games and men secure enough to admit that Indiana Jones has met his match. FROM: Aspyr Media; 512/708-8100,; $50.


Myth: The Fallen Lords

Real-time strategy games cater to the armchair general, but some people prefer the life of an armchair lieutenant. For them, there's Myth: The Fallen Lords, a war game of staggering realism that focuses on individual soldiers fighting individual, mano a mano battles.

Want to live with the hellish uncertainty of the battlefield–to be concerned with the advantages (and dangers) of terrain, the threat of ambushes, and the limitations of an army on patrol? If so, then Myth is your game.

Like an officer in the field, you're given a number of troops to command and objectives to accomplish. After that, you're on your own. Myth teaches the importance of reconnaissance, flanking maneuvers, and seizing the high ground–and does it all with a hellishly real 3-D interface that puts you smack in the middle of the battlefield. Although Myth was the highlight of last year's holiday season, it arrived too late to meet the Hall's strict eligibility requirements for 1997. But we heartily give it the nod this time around as we anxiously await this winter's sequel, Myth II: Soulblighter (see the sidebar "Next Year's Hall Hopefuls").

WHY IT'S COOL: Amazing 3-D landscapes and challenging, realistic battle strategy. WHO IT'S FOR: Bravehearts-in-training who want complete control over their soldiers. FROM: Bungie Software; 312/397-0500,; $40.


Shanghai: Dynasty

War games and adventures come and go, but a well-designed puzzle game, seasoned with just a touch of random chance, can hold one's attention for years.

Classic Shanghai adds spatial manipulation and strategy to the simple pattern-matching of traditional solitaire. Tiles are randomly piled in a five-layered pyramid, and the object is to remove them by pairing them off. You need a bit of luck to clear the board, but it's your wits that make the difference in Shanghai. Once you've learned the basic game, the challenge of solving a puzzle where you can see almost all the pieces is nearly irresistible. For Shanghai: Dynasty, Activision has added four other games. There's a child's version of Shanghai and three multiplayer games, including Mah-Jongg. Sadly, the company has not included network play with the Macintosh version this time.

WHY IT'S COOL: Beautiful graphics and lots of options, plus a classic puzzle that can't be improved on. WHO IT'S FOR: Those who prefer quieter pursuits to gunning and running. FROM: Activision; 310/255-2000,; $40.



The Game Hall of Fame receives many visitors, generally avid gamers and history buffs. But occasionally, a passerby will poke a curious nose into the Hall's virtual lobby and inquire about the nature of the establishment. Is it truly devoted completely to Macintosh games, and is there a section for someone who likes the idea of computer games but isn't interested in all that shooting, shouting, and general hullabaloo? That's when our doorman smiles warmly and ushers the visitor into the newly completed Rand and Robyn Miller Atrium, to view the Miller brothers' two masterworks: Myst and Riven. Less like computer games than like wonderfully illustrated novels, both Myst and Riven transport you to a world where deciphering where you are–and why you're there–is all part of the fun. While both games lead you toward a final goal, the true point of Myst and Riven is to explore the gorgeously rendered worlds and the characters that live in them. We heartily recommend both Myst and Riven to gamers and nongamers alike.

WHY THEY'RE COOL: A stunning combination of story line, graphics, and sound pulls you into an amazing fictional world. WHO THEY'RE FOR: People who enjoy beautiful graphics, brain-teasing puzzles, and games that don't induce too much stress. FROM: Red Orb Entertainment; 415/382-4777,; Myst, $30; Riven, $40.


SimCity 2000 Special Edition

The Tamagotchi craze seems to have come and gone, thankfully, but we've all still got that urge to nurture a living thing without the attendant mess. In SimCity 2000, your city itself is a living, breathing organism with intricacies that put the Tamagotchi to shame. From the initial groundbreaking through labor strikes, earthquakes, political upheaval, and traffic jams, SimCity 2000 puts you in the hot seat as mayor, city council, and dictator-for-life all rolled into one. Your job is simple: keep your citizens happy. You can build the perfect Smallville, USA, or strive for a metropolis to rival New York. SimCity 2000 takes the vision of the original SimCity and adds significant complexity.

Sure, SimCity 2000's been around for years. But it still keeps us coming back for more. Don't be surprised if you find yourself leaving your Mac on at night and waking up early just to see how your city grew.

WHY IT'S COOL: Endless possibilities make it truly addictive. WHO IT'S FOR: Mayoral hopefuls –and would-be Godzillas. FROM: Maxis; 650/513-7555,; $40.


Civilization II

People don't use the term global conquest anymore unless referring to Microsoft. But if you do, Civilization II will provide the scope you need. Civilization is one of the few turn-based strategy games (in which each participant–human or computer–takes turns) that we recommend. But in this case, you'll be thankful for the extra time to contemplate your moves. Civilization II is immense, offering you the chance to build an entire civilization up from almost nothing. You begin with some settlers and fertile land, and start to build cities. If you're skillful, you can "win" at Civilization II without even firing a shot. But after thousands of years of pacifying your citizens and bluffing aggressive competing civilizations, you'll still feel as if you've been through a war.

WHY IT'S COOL: Complexity that will keep even the hardest-core strategy gamers engrossed. WHO IT'S FOR: Closet Napoleons who like the idea of taking over theworld. FROM: MacSoft; 612/509-7600,; $50.



The curators at the Game Hall of Fame have grown a little tired of stalking through corridors, weapon bobbing, firing at beasties of questionable origin for little more purpose than to watch them explode. Run, shoot...yawn.

At least, that's what we thought before we launched Unreal. Mind you, this is one of several games this year that absolutely require 3-D-acceleration hardware. That said, Unreal took our breath away with fluid moves and scary monsters.

We don't induct new games into the Hall if they're simply eye candy. Unreal leaves room for atmosphere, exploration, and plot. Instead of facing hordes of easy-to-kill monsters, you're up against enemies that are smaller in number but incredibly ferocious and devious, and the story line stays strong throughout the game.

WHY IT'S COOL: Brains are as important in this game as brawn. WHO IT'S FOR: Gamers with 3-D-acceleration hardware who want strategy with their action. FROM: MacSoft; 612/509-7600,; $50.


Marathon Trilogy Box Set

Maybe it's the fluid, alien artwork. Perhaps it's the planet-hopping, psychological thriller of a story line or the high-explosive fun of network death matches. Whatever it is, in today's go-go, true-3-D world of first-person gunplay, the Marathon games collected in this omnibus edition remain a great value. Enamored as the Hall's staff is with the latest and greatest, Marathon has retained a firm place in our roster of regular network-based multiplayer grudge matches. The sheer scope of the Marathon box set staggers even the most voracious gamer's imagination. Inside, Bungie has packed the three complete adventures that make up the Marathon Trilogy, the pre-Marathon adventure Pathways into Darkness, and level and environment editors that open Marathon's doors to anyone with a creative itch. This is a gift that smiles on those without the latest Mac hardware. You can play the Marathon games on a modestly equipped Power Mac 7100 without feeling as if you're watching a slide show.

WHY THEY'RE COOL: Great network multiplayer games and an endless assortment of levels. WHO THEY'RE FOR: Offices that need to blow off steam; gamers with slower Power Macs. FROM: Bungie Software; 312/397-0500,; $40.

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December 1998 page: 72

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