Casual games abound

With all the A-list games available for the Macintosh that dominate news headlines, it's really easy to overlook all the great casual games that are available for the platform. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they deserve as much attention as their news and resource-hogging big brothers. Here's a rundown of some of my recent favorites that I think are worthy of note.

One company whose games I've been spending a fair amount of time with lately is Skunk Studios. They've got word games like the game show-style Spelvin, an addictive musical puzzler called Sveerz, a new Frogger-style arcade game called Varmintz, and other games that are definitely worth checking out. You can download demo versions of most of their games and by them online if any of them suit you.

PopCap Games and GameHouse are two other casual game developers whose wares you can play and buy online. If you're looking for DVD case versions to buy as gifts for friends or relatives, MacPlay has struck publishing deals with both of them. You can find those on store shelves for around $20.

Speaking of MacPlay, its sister company MumboJumbo has also gotten into the development game with titles like Power Chips and High Roller, Snowball Run, Chainz and Equilibria. They'll each set you back about $20 as well, and they're just the thing if you're looking for a few minutes of gaming diversion over lunch at your desk or between meetings.

Another company worth keeping an eye on is GarageGames, an independent software publisher that also creates a game engine that many of its developers use to create titles like Marble Blast, Orbz and ThinkTanks. The company has recently gotten into the hardcore gaming market with the release of Dark Horizons: Lore, a giant robot battle game that pits players against each other in online arenas.

Freeverse Software is a mainstay of the Mac game market, with a rich library of card and board games to suit any player's taste. They've also got some fun arcade-style action games like WingNuts (popular enough to spawn a sequel that should be out sometime this year) and Active Lancer. They've also got a really clever game called ToySight that puts you in the action if you've got an iSight or other FireWire-based Webcam attached to your Mac.

This list is by no means complete -- there's a cottage industry of small, independent Mac game developers that cater to just about every taste imaginable from fans of old-school shoot 'em ups to strategy games to action titles, to more sedate pastimes like cards or board games.

What's your favorite casual game? Have questions about this list? Let me know.

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