The Best Mac Games for April 2017

Credit: Playtonic Games via Facebook.

While in previous years, the term Mac and video game system weren’t exactly synonymous, Apple’s move away from its PowerPC architecture to Intel-based computing, coupled with the rise of the App Store, has meant more Mac users than ever are using their computers to play video games. And although Macs are unlikely to be used as dedicated gaming machines any time soon, there’s a wealth of exceptional titles that can be played in MacOS.

In addition to Apple’s aforementioned Mac App Store, which spawned off from iOS’s hugely popular digital storefront and distribution service, the launch of Valve’s Steam for Mac back in May 2010 has undoubtedly led to a renaissance of Mac video gaming. According to stats released from Valve, Mac users accounted for 3.11% of Steam’s total players in March 2017 – well ahead of Linux’s 0.77%. While that figure may seem relatively insignificant, when you consider that the digital distribution service has over 125 million active users, it actually equates to millions of Mac users playing games on the platform.

With that in mind, today we are taking a look at two of the best MacOS games released this month.

One of the most exciting releases for retro gaming fans this year is Yooka-Laylee, the spiritual successor to the N64 platform Banjo-Kazooie. Developed by Playtonic Games, a British studio made up of veterans of the original Rare-created title, Yooka-Laylee combines modern gameplay mechanics with the innocence and vibrancy of mid-to-late 1990s 3D platformers. Most exciting, it’s also available for MacOS via Steam.

Yooka-Laylee is an open-world platforming game focused on the titular duo, a cutesy chameleon and a wise-cracking purple bat. Featuring the “collect-a-thon” gameplay many players will associate with their youth, and an aesthetic that resembles a high-quality animated movie, Yooka-Laylee is a refreshing change of pace in a gaming landscape that has been reshaped by futuristic themes, high-intensity action, violent combat and Hollywood-esque narratives in recent years.

Playtonic’s title is part of an increasingly concerted effort on the part of developers to revive and refresh old video game franchises, in the process presenting them to a brand-new audience. For example, Nintendo relaunched its original home console late last year in the form of the NES Classic Edition, which contained 30 built-in retro titles, such as Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Galaga, along with a HDMI output. Similarly, the iGaming industry has looked to retro gaming franchises for inspiration, with the Sun Bingo-hosted Space Invaders slot title presenting a new take on Taito’s arcade classic. The 5-reel, 10-payline game features sound effects taken directly from the original, with the pixel-art-style aliens also featuring as symbols in the game.

The Witness

Indie open-world adventure title The Witness originally released for PC and consoles last year, receiving widespread critical acclaim and multiple game-of-the-year nominations for its unique premise and engaging gameplay. This month, Thekla Studios’ first-person puzzler is finally available for MacOS, via both Steam and the Mac App Store.

Heavily inspired by seminal graphic adventure game Myst, The Witness allows players to explore the title’s massive island location at their own pace, charging them with uncovering the open world setting’s mystery and intrigue, solving over 500 puzzles in the process. According to lead developer Jonathan Blow, who also created Braid, The Witness was designed in such a way as to allow players to learn through non-verbal communication, and thus their own observation.

The Witness’s aesthetic is quite simplified but clear, with high-quality textures players are accustomed to instead giving way to heavily stylized and non-detailed shapes (although not so rudimentary that they are unrecognizable). According to Luis Antonio, the game’s art director, the title’s island was designed to give players visual clues on where and how to further progress.

Also of significance is the fact that the game contains very little in the way of background music or dialogue; instead, the ambiance of the island itself is all players have for company – no wildlife or other human characters are present. This results in players having a greater sense of loneliness, and thus a greater immersion in the uninhabited nature of The Witness’s world.

With a great variety of diverse and engaging titles now available to Mac players, such as the two we’ve explored today, the days of waiting several years for sub-par ports of games, outsourced to smaller studios, is surely coming to an end.