Out Of The Apple Cart
My Mac Magazine #34, Feb. ’98

I have a new policy. If a game is not made for the Mac as well as the Microsoft crowd, I don’t buy. Admittedly, this fervent campaign has not exactly brought the game world to its knees. Mostly it has meant that I searched the Christmas shelves for Mac versions of family friendly games such as Clue and StarWars Monopoly with nothing but sore feet to show for it.

Hey, Hasbro, you just missed a couple of hot sales. Don’t come crying to the Mac millions if the holiday season didn’t sizzle. And Sierra! What happened to the Hoyles? How hard would it have been to add some Mac stuff to those board games that sprung up for Christmas. We’ve all been good Sierra customers for years. Who do you think you are, treating your faithful customers this way… Apple?

True, there are some excellent Mac games around. RIVEN, of course, though it has pretty heavy requirements for the average machine, Mac or otherwise. And there seem to be a fair number of blood and thunder sorts about as well. But those have been well documented. I wanted gentle timewasters. Solitary companions for long nights in dull motels. I especially wanted something that could be run on a PowerBook 1400 sans CD. And so I persevered.

“Told ya that Mac was obsolete,” ventured a 486sx33 friend ill-met at Best Buy. Fighting words for sure, but what were my options? I could either leave a trail of gore down the Macintosh aisle or count to ten. I counted to 10. Ten or so games, that is, wearing the Windows label that refuse to run on anything but Windows 95 and, very often, insist on a late model Pentium, too. So much for just who is obsolete. Mr. Windows 3.1 left the store empty-handed.

But there was a bright side to my foray into the world of games. I’m not much of a game player myself, always having been captured, devoured or blown to smithereens within the first minutes of play. It was days before I could get poor Putt Putt to the moon and I never did get Fatty Bear to the birthday party. Even with MYST, I mostly let the kids save worlds for me to explore without the humiliation of being stuck in that dentist’s chair for life.

But, what about the bright side? Finding Mac games, especially my kind of games, became a quest. And, by golly, there they were! Games I would never have known if game makers like Hasbro and Sierra hadn’t let us down. In fact, this column almost didn’t make it to print as I found myself enmeshed in the Shanghais from ACTIVISION, the Solitaires from ERIC and MASQUE. And, oh, that FREEVERSE with their marvelous, family-friendly shareware assortment!

It all started with a demo version of Triazzle. My daughter and I really wanted that animated rain forest. We surfed the Web, the stores and the catalogs. Even left a message on Berkley’s Website. “All I want for Christmas is my own Triazzle!” I pleaded. No luck, though Meg did eventually find some copies with a surplus dealer – and now, after Christmas, I find that Edutainment is carrying Triazzle in their Winter catalog. So, we got our frogs. Now we wanted more.

The Quest began in earnest when I fortuitously picked up the last local copy of ‘Shanghai, Double Pack’, by ActiVision. I was hooked. A quick call to Meg in Minnesota. “You gotta hear this!” I said, holding the phone up to the computer so she could enjoy the sound effects from ‘Great Moments’ while I described the actions as the tiles morphed into history, art, romance and old “Outer Limits”. Okay, so we are a little weird. But it was fun. Another one of those great mother-daughter bonding experiences. So great, in fact, that we finally hung up so she could go scour Minneapolis for a copy of her own before the stores closed.

But it was Dragon’s Eye, a small stand-alone game on that same CD that nearly did me in. Not only did I become a passionate Dragon Slayer; there was a template so that I could, with the help of HyperStudio, Color It, PhotoShop and, of course, the Mac, make more tile sets. Talk about addictive! I made three sets from ‘Color It’ fills. Beautiful. I made a couple more from children’s programs such as ‘Flying Colors’ and ‘Kid Pix Studio’. Delightful. And all of them easier to see on the smaller PowerBook screen. And then, just when I thought I could get on with my life, Shanghai Dynasty arrived.

Shanghai Dynasty is full of great graphics, great games for both children and adults, includes a Mah Jongg game and even starts with a world class Dragon (made, my son tells me using LightWave, the same program that helps make Babylon 5 possible). But a minimum install is 25 MB, a maximum is 90 and, even with the whole 150 downloaded, it still demands the CD. Not exactly what I had in mind for the PowerBook, but highly recommended if you have the space, the kids and a Power PC. Give ActiVision credit, they still remember Macs exist. And if you are addicted to to making tiles… well there are even more patterns included. Another eight, in fact, including Astrology, Egyptian, Space and even Dinosaurs. I may never get a life.

Note: As the tiles are in BMP, open them in something that translates to PICT (Adobe’s Photo Deluxe was determined to open mine), cut and paste them onto the Dragon’s Eye templates (I used HyperStudio, partly because of its better lasso), make some prettier Master tiles if you like (I used Color It’s patterns as fills) and paste the lot into something like Photoshop to make a perfect fit. Yes, I know that it could probably all be done in Photoshop, but not by me!

Our Quest was coming along nicely. But Meg was still hoping for a better Solitaire than Eric’s demo. When the CD version came, it was just what we wanted. Twenty-three games with options, backgrounds and music.The mini-CD version, which does everything the full version does except for the smaller choice of backgrounds, weighs in at about 6MB, including a nice selection of music. And hurrah! We can even cheat! In addition to the ‘always winnable’ option – and don’t I feel dumb when I still haven’t won on the third replay – it is now possible to turn up one card at a time, peek to see what is underneath, and, as always, have unlimited redoes. You can even darken the possible plays so that thinking is scarcely required – not bad about 2:30 AM or in the middle of a dull lecture.

Meg’s favorite so far is Solitaire Antics from Masque, a mere 3 MB, with twenty-some games, several nice decks, some optional backgrounds (or better yet, make your own 4.44 x 3.33 patterns and save them as PICTs), three skill levels and some silly animations to perk things up. No redo, though. I really like redo. BTW: I don’t recommend the animations during that dull lecture unless you skip the sounds. Those ant antics might wake the class.

But, if you prefer to do all your own thinking and can live without flying cards and redoes, I have to admit that Hoyle’s Classic Games (Okay, Sierra hasn’t abandoned us altogether) are very good, especially as they come with a 12 MB floppy-based version that includes Backgammon, Checkers, Bridge, Cribbage, Gin, Poker, Crazy Eights, Hearts and Solitaire all with a choice of partners and skill levels. And, surprisingly, Hoyle’s Solitaire does allow an option of moving one or three cards per flip. For the grownups among us, this may well be the best choice.

But some of us don’t plan to grow up. Some of us just want to have fun. And here is the company that understands. FreeVerse’s top notch shareware can be downloaded or ordered on a CD that includes their current six games. You can find all six at http://www.freeverse.com
. Below are some of my FreeVerse favorites. They encourage us to share the games, but not the registration numbers. Not cricket. And it makes them sad. By the way, you don’t need to be in a solitary mood for some of these games. Internet play, with real opponents, is available.

Burning Monkey Solitaire may not be for the truly mature, but it’s lots of fun and, oh, that Gorilla. He can sing to me anytime. There’s only the one game and not a lot of options, but that’s not why we play. Maybe it’s the marvelous animated gorilla that welcomes us in a droll Scottish accent. Maybe it’s his musical cousin, complete with a siren song. Maybe it’s the monkey jokes that clue us in on how to cheat. I don’t know, but it is pure FreeVerse and so we play.

Reversi.The Eclipse. I can hardly put this one away, at least when the skill level is set on ‘easy’ and I add ‘show legal moves’. (How else am I going to beat a Greek God?) Eclipse is Othello with beautiful graphics and a sense of humor. Anyone who has played Reversi with Fatty Bear – and lost – will understand the pull of this delightful version with its snappy sun and moon tiles. So, build toward those corners. Just don’t check Apollo’s toga, you cheeky mortal.

CrossCards and X-Words Deluxe are similar to Scrabble. They both allow the players to choose from several game variations, set up levels of play with new opponents (0 being ‘novice’, 9 being ‘expert’) and custom design the gameboards. If I’m lazy, I prefer CrossCards as it’s easier to compete with a computer in arranging Poker hands than to outwit a computer in a word game, even when I’ve got it glued to Zero. After all, that X-Words guy has a permanent hotline to the dictionary in his head. Hardly fair. But I have the last word. I cheet.

Hearts Deluxe is the true heart and soul of the FreeVerse line. My husband was so intrigued with the goofy setup that I almost couldn’t get my Mac back. As Gene rarely plays games, and even more rarely touches the Mac, we considered it prudent to download the Windows version for Dad for Christmas. He really enjoys taking on Ross Perot, Bill Clinton and Kansas’s own Bob Dole in a rousing game of Hearts. As his version is not yet registered, they all come across as ‘dumb as a stump’ or ‘not fit for office’. Sure helps Dad’s ego to pummel those boys. He rather enjoys Elvis and Churchill, too. In fact, with everything from Dogs to Dinos as partners, it would be hard for a Hearts fan to be bored.

Our Quest has turned up a variety of riches for the solitary player, most of which run on smaller, less powerful machines and all of which celebrate the Mac. I want you to know, though, we moved Heaven and Earth, quite literally, to complete this quest. Really.

Until December, the only game my daughters and I all enjoyed was ‘Heaven & Earth’ by Buena Vista. But the sounds are sometimes earsplitting on a PowerPC. And Amy, our IBM abductee, discovered that Windows 95 would not even allow her to install her copy into DOS. Talk about built-in obsolescence! And that after Amy had become one of the few souls to prove that the H&E Pendulum game was for real. She moused that pendulum to a standoff every time, even on her IBM. Now it looks like she will have to be satisfied with ‘Riven’.

And speaking of Riven: Congratulations to Riven winner, Don Mclellan of Calgary AB, the first to respond to our December contest in ‘Fractal Fish’ as to the nonsense on poor Alice’s computer. He correctly guessed that ‘After Dark’ was running in Random mode with MultiModule playing Boris and Mowin’ Man.

BTW: Can of Worms was the ‘virus’ eating away the screen. Fish! and Mountains were fairly obvious, as was Down the Drain for a finale. There was a lot of latitude in the other choices, though I thought of Rain, Tunnel, and Zot as among the most likely to fit the story. Vertigo, Satori and Rainstorm were also excellent contenders.The actual selections weren’t as important as having some good ideas and keeping to the earlier, non-CD versions of After Dark.

Congratulations also to our three runners up: Terry Higgins, John Culp and John Nash. Each will receive a copy of Triazzle, an animated puzzle which contains After Dark’s ‘Triazzle'(Rainforest) module, as thanks for entering our contest and supporting My Mac.

And thanks again to Jack of ‘As the Apple Turns‘ fame for helping us out with a Flash on his multi-award winning site. Like Riven, ‘As the Apple Turns‘, http://www.infoxczar.com/atat
, just keeps raking in those awards.

Susan Howerter (susan@mymac.com)

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