Macworld's 2004 Game Hall of Fame

Winter’s chill came early to the Game Hall of Fame this year; snow first fell in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, well before Thanksgiving. Whenever we see frost—or in this case, several inches of powder—on the pumpkin, we know it’s time to start pondering this year’s inductees to the Game Hall of Fame.

2004 stood out for Mac gamers for one reason above all others: The release of Halo. (Actually, it arrived in time for Christmas, 2003, but 2004 was the first chance we got to review it.) That may have set the tone for the year, though 2004 proved to be every bit as varied and interesting as years past. The brass is polished; the fingerprints have been cleaned from the glass. Without further ado, let’s pull back the curtains and get the drum rolling to introduce 2004’s inductees into the Macworld Game Hall of Fame.

Most Worth the Wait

Halo: Combat Evolved:   , MacSoft, $50 (see Best Current Price )

What It Is: A first person shooter that was already legendary before its release.

Who It’s For: Bungie fans and first-person shooter enthusiasts.

Why It’s a Hall of Famer: It may have taken four years to finally make it to the Mac, but Halo finally came—a few months after it was released for the PC and more than two years after it came out as an exclusive console title for Xbox. Halo easily ranked as one of the most-hyped games in Mac history, partly because of its pedigree: the product of Bungie Studios, the same company (now a Microsoft game studio) that created the legendary Marathon and Myth series.

Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo is, without question, chock-full of the Bungie goodness we’ve come to expect, from the in-depth single-player story line to challenging multiplayer action, from gorgeous, jaw-dropping graphics and visual effects to Hollywood-quality sound effects and a terrific soundtrack. All the components are here for what amounts to a near-perfect action gaming experience, and one that sets the bar for all games to come.

Best Way to Get Silly

ToySight:   , Freeverse Software, $35 (see Best Current Price )

What It Is: A collection of mini-games designed to work with Apple’s iSight (and other webcams too).

Who It’s For: Anyone who wants to get off their butt and hop around in front of their Mac.

Why It’s a Hall of Famer: Mac software developers have figured out plenty of cool ways to use Apple’s iSight webcam, but none of them is as much fun at parties as ToySight. This clever collection of mini-games puts you in the action, quite literally. By injecting your image into the game, you become the game controller, whether it’s trying to balance marbles on an unsteady plank, plummeting to Earth as a skydiver, waging war with submarines or one of a total of nine different games, you find yourself waving your arms around in the air in front of your Mac like a complete lunatic.

ToySight

A collection of software “toys” that puts you in the midst of swimming visual effects further enhances ToySight’s use at parties. We challenge you to find a better way to use a Mac to make people smile and get into the action at your next shindig.

Best Use of the Force

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic:   , Aspyr Media, $50

What It Is: A single player role playing game set in the Star Wars universe, millennia before the events in the movies.

Who It’s For: Star Wars enthusiasts looking for a comprehensive role-playing challenge.

Why It’s a Hall of Famer: What happens when you take one of the most beloved sagas in science fiction history and combine it with one of the best role playing game engines around? It doesn’t take Jedi powers to recognize that it’s a powerful combination.

Just like a lot of RPGs, you can create a custom character of the gender and class you prefer. But what makes Knights of the Old Republic so much fun is that you can play as good or evil. Say and do the right things and you’ll eventually become a Jedi initiate. Act like a cad and look out only for yourself, and eventually you’ll be heading down the path of the dreaded Sith.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

There’s no multiplayer mode here, but dozens of hours of gameplay will keep even the most hardened RPG fan playing to the end. And Knights of the Old Republic looks and sounds great, too—every bit the first-class treatment you’d expect from an A-list Star Wars game.

Best Stealth Learning Tool

Didi & Ditto Kindergarten:   , Kutoka Interactive, $20

What It Is: An early learning title that teaches the educational basics.

Who It’s For: Kids, ages four to six.

Why It’s a Hall of Famer: Sometimes kids learn the most when they don’t know they’re learning. Nowhere is that more true than in educational software, where titles either hit kids over the head with curriculum or have such little educational value they might as well be video games. Kutoka Interactive strikes a great balance with Didi & Ditto Kindergarten, one of the first entirely new properties for kids in this age and learning range we’ve seen in several years.

Didi & Ditto are a pair of beavers, and one of them ends up getting nabbed by Zolt, the vegetarian wolf. (With beavers as this game’s main characters, it kinda figures that Kutoka is Canadian; the developers told Macworld —presumably in jest—that they’re saving moose for their next game.) Zolt is quite hungry for some fruits and veggies, thanks to HipHop the mischievous rabbit’s machinations, and he wants you to track down some fresh produce to silence his grumbling tummy.

Didi & Ditto

To do so, youngsters need to complete activities that will have them practicing counting, letter and word recognition skills, identifying shapes and colors and more. It’s all cleverly wrapped in a 3-D computer animated world that will appeal to the jaded palettes of kids who have been weaned on Dreamworks’ and Pixar’s latest fare.

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