Winter\u2019s chill came early to the Game Hall of Fame this year; snow first fell in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, well before Thanksgiving. Whenever we see frost\u2014or in this case, several inches of powder\u2014on the pumpkin, we know it\u2019s time to start pondering this year\u2019s inductees to the Game Hall of Fame.\n\n\n2004 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\u2019s pull back the curtains and get the drum rolling to introduce 2004\u2019s inductees into the Macworld Game Hall of Fame.\n\nMost Worth the Wait\n\nHalo: Combat Evolved:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tMacSoft, $50 (see\n\tBest Current Price\n\t)\n\n\nWhat It Is: A first person shooter that was already legendary before its release.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Bungie fans and first-person shooter enthusiasts.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: It may have taken four years to finally make it to the Mac, but\n\tHalo\n\tfinally came\u2014a 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.\n\n\n\n\n\nHalo is, without question, chock-full of the Bungie goodness we\u2019ve 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.\n\nBest Way to Get Silly\n\nToySight:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tFreeverse Software, $35 (see\n\tBest Current Price\n\t)\n\n\nWhat It Is: A collection of mini-games designed to work with Apple\u2019s iSight (and other webcams too).\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Anyone who wants to get off their butt and hop around in front of their Mac.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Mac software developers have figured out plenty of cool ways to use Apple\u2019s 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\u2019s 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.\n\n\n\n\n\nA collection of software \u201ctoys\u201d that puts you in the midst of swimming visual effects further enhances ToySight\u2019s 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.\n\nBest Use of the Force\n\nStar Wars: Knights of the Old Republic:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tAspyr Media, $50\n\n\nWhat It Is: A single player role playing game set in the Star Wars universe, millennia before the events in the movies.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Star Wars enthusiasts looking for a comprehensive role-playing challenge.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s 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\u2019t take Jedi powers to recognize that it\u2019s a powerful combination.\n\n\nJust 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\u2019ll eventually become a Jedi initiate. Act like a cad and look out only for yourself, and eventually you\u2019ll be heading down the path of the dreaded Sith.\n\n\n\n\n\nThere\u2019s 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\u2014every bit the first-class treatment you\u2019d expect from an A-list Star Wars game.\n\nBest Stealth Learning Tool\n\nDidi & Ditto Kindergarten:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tKutoka Interactive, $20\n\n\nWhat It Is: An early learning title that teaches the educational basics.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Kids, ages four to six.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Sometimes kids learn the most when they don\u2019t know they\u2019re 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\u2019ve seen in several years.\n\n\nDidi & Ditto are a pair of beavers, and one of them ends up getting nabbed by Zolt, the vegetarian wolf. (With beavers as this game\u2019s main characters, it kinda figures that Kutoka is Canadian; the developers told\n\tMacworld\n\t\u2014presumably in jest\u2014that they\u2019re saving moose for their next game.) Zolt is quite hungry for some fruits and veggies, thanks to HipHop the mischievous rabbit\u2019s machinations, and he wants you to track down some fresh produce to silence his grumbling tummy.\n\n\n\n\n\nTo 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\u2019s 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\u2019 and Pixar\u2019s latest fare.\n\n\n \t\t\n\t\n\n \t\n \t\tBest Invocation of Ancient Gods\n\nAge of Mythology:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tMacSoft, $50\n\n\nWhat It Is: A real time strategy game set in ancient times.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Anyone who\u2019s ever wanted to open up a can of Minotaur whupass on their enemies.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Empire-building strategy games are part and parcel of the strategy game genre, and MacSoft has made it their mission to bring their best to the Macintosh over the years. Age of Mythology continues this fine tradition, and it comes from the same developers who created the beloved Age of Empires series.\n\n\n\n\n\nAge of Mythology differs from the Age of Empires games because it narrows the number of unique civilizations you can choose from: the Greeks, the Egyptians and the Norse, and makes the differences between each one more than mere window dressing. Each civilization features unique ways to gather and use resources, build structures and wage war. The mythologies of each civilization plays a crucial role too, because your patron gods can bestow upgrades in armor and weapons and the ability to tame mythological beasts, which you can then send into battle to help defeat your foes. A map editor also helps extend the challenge.\n\nMost Attractive Game\n\nHomeworld 2:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tAspyr Media, $50\n\n\nWhat It Is: A real-time strategy game set in outer space.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For:Strategy gamers looking for a 3-D challenge.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: How many times have you watched really great visual effects in a sci-fi movie and said to yourself, \u201cI can\u2019t wait until games look that good?\u201d Well, your wait is over, because Homeworld 2 is on the Mac. This is without question one of the prettiest-looking games that popped up on the Mac this year, with graphics that some people mistook for pre-rendered cinematics when screenshots of the game first circulated. They look like they\u2019re straight from the cover of sci-fi pulp fiction novels, with richly colored nebulae and bejeweled planetary surfaces serving as the backdrop for massive fleet battles that look like swarms of angry insects.\n\n\nHomeworld 2 is the sprawling saga of the Hiigarans, a spacefaring race of humans far in the future who return home from an interstellar exile only to find themselves hunted by the Vaygr, a warrior clan with a penchant for the total subjugation of their foes.\n\n\n\n\n\nNow, plenty of strategy games use sophisticated 3-D engines, but the vast majority of them play out on two-dimensional maps: You may need to climb mountains or ford rivers, and you may have fleets, armies and squadrons of ships, but essentially you\u2019re thinking in X and Y dimensions: You\u2019re not expecting your opponents to burrow underneath the earth and attack you from below. That\u2019s what makes Homeworld 2 so appealing\u2014in space, there are three dimensions and six degrees of motion you need to consider when it comes to mining resources, deploying your fleets and defending yourself from the enemy. This adds a new twist that makes Homeworld 2 one of the best games of the year.\n\nBest New Twist on an Old Favorite\n\nStarbase Defender,\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tBigger Planet, $20\n\n\nWhat It Is: Old school gaming with some new tricks up its sleeve.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Anyone who thinks Missile Command and Rip-Off are classics worth preserving.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Sometimes going back to basics is important. The dawn of the video game era, back in the ice age of the late \u201970s and early \u201980s, gave rise to some of the most addictive and thoroughly satisfying games in history\u2014ones that still rank among true gaming enthusiasts\u2019 favorites, despite their primitive graphics and repetitive gameplay. To that end, Bigger Planet culled ideas from two of the era\u2019s titles\u2014a somewhat obscure vector-based game called Rip-Off and the more widely remembered Missile Command\u2014and combined them together to create a thoroughly modern little shareware gem.\n\n\nYou\u2019re cast in the eponymous role as you defend your starbase from an alien invasion bent on stealing your base\u2019s power cores, towing them away with tractor beams. Expect hostiles to fly in from all sides as you use your base\u2019s cannon and other defense to repel the attack. The quicker you are with the trigger and the more accurate you are with your targeting reticle, the more likely you are to win the favor of starship captains who will help you quell the onslaught.\n\n\n\n\n\nTimes and tastes change, so Bigger Planet has enveloped this old school gaming goodness in a thoroughly modern package that uses 3-D graphics and great-looking particle effects, as well as an electroclash soundtrack, to help evoke that feeling of 1980\u2019s nostalgia that will take hold as soon as the missiles start flying.\n\nBest Use of a Steering Wheel\n\nTotal Immersion Racing:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tFeral Interactive, $45\n\n\nWhat It Is: An auto racing game with uncanny AI.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Auto racing enthusiasts who want to bring their Macs in on the action.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: First of all, there just aren\u2019t enough auto racing games on the Mac, so it\u2019s always great to get them, and this has become a niche for Feral, with titles like F1 Championship Season 2000 and Ford Racing 2. Auto racing games are always better with a steering wheel, but Total Immersion Racing is fun even without it.\n\n\n\n\n\nWhat makes TIR unique and particularly noteworthy is an artificial intelligence (AI) system where the computer controlled players remember who you are from race to race. If you bump them off the road or cut them off on hairpin turns, they\u2019ll keep that grudge\u2014which makes for some interesting races after you have a few wins under your belt.\n\n\nAdditionally, TIR features real-world cars and tracks. So if you\u2019ve ever wanted to race a BMW at Monza or an Audi at Sebring, here\u2019s your chance. You can even go head-to-head with someone sitting at the same Mac right next to you (no network play here\u2014latency is a killer for racing games).\n\n\n \t\t\n\t\n\n \t\n \t\tBest Role Reversal\n\nGhost Master:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tFeral Interactive, $45\n\n\nWhat It Is: A strategy game in which you scare people.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Anyone who roots for the bad guy in horror movies.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Being the hero all the time can get so boring. It\u2019s nice to turn the tables and become the bad guy, and Ghost Master does exactly that. It turns out that bureaucracy is alive and well in the afterlife, and as an undead civil servant, it\u2019s your job to scare the mortals who live and work in Gravenville. To do so, you employ a workforce of ghouls who scare the \u201cplasm\u201d out of living people, and plasm is the coin of the ghostly realm\u2014the more you have, the more successful you are.\n\n\n\n\n\nThere are some tricks involved in scaring people, however. Some ghosts only work in certain locations, and some humans respond to specific kinds of hauntings differently. Also, each mission in this game features one or more objectives you have to reach to be successful, such as uncovering evidence of a murder or freeing a ghost from a trap.\n\nBest Tension Reliever\n\nUnreal Tournament 2004,\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tMacSoft, $40\n\n\nWhat It Is: A fast-paced first person shooter.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Shooter fans who just can\u2019t get enough.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Halo may have been the first person shooter that everyone wanted at the start of the year. If, heaven forfend, Halo wasn\u2019t enough, Unreal Tournament 2004 kept them busy straight through the summer. Unreal Tournament 2003 was one of last year\u2019s top picks, and with some new twists, UT 2K4 is on this year\u2019s list too.\n\n\nAnother MacSoft creation, this game shipped almost at the same time as its PC counterpart, which has put\u2014and kept, thanks to regular updates\u2014Mac users on a level playing field with their Windows-using friends.\n\n\n\n\n\nThe basic formula\u2019s the same: This is a gladiatorial combat game set in giant arenas, some outside, some inside. But for the first time, UT players can man vehicles - everything from hovering ships capable of raining death from above, to muscular 4x4s that make it just as easy to mow down your opponents as to shoot them. A new game mode called Onslaught tests out your team-building skills by making you capture and hold strategic points, and the Assault mode\u2014missing from last year\u2019s version\u2014is back with a vengeance.\n\n\nVoice communication, massive new maps, \u201cUnreal TV,\u201d which lets hundreds of players watch other players go at it, tons of mods, and a very active online gaming community all add up to an awesome first person shooter experience.\n\nBest Use of Biofeedback\n\nThe Journey to Wild Divine:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tThe Wild Divine Project, $160\n\n\nWhat It Is: A Myst-style adventure game that uses a custom game controller.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: People who are interested in mastering their body and mind.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: It may seem strange that The Journey to Wild Divine is in the Game Hall of Fame, as the game itself left us with something to be desired, but this unusual and unique title left quite an impression, and it was without question one of the most memorable games of the year. The Journey to Wild Divine game is a Myst-style graphical adventure romp that\u2019s full of beautiful scenery and puzzles to solve. But it\u2019s how you solve those puzzles that makes this game so special.\n\n\n\n\n\nThe game comes bundled with a special USB controller that attaches to your fingertips. By measuring your skin\u2019s galvanic response and your pulse, The Journey to Wild Divine steps you through exercises and games that teach you the principles of biofeedback and how to better manage your body\u2019s own responses.\n\n\nIt sounds like hokum, but it really works: you may feel silly laughing out loud or singing while you\u2019re playing, but the first time you see what\u2019s happening on the screen actually change as you alter your breathing patterns or just start to think differently, you\u2019ll be hooked. And you\u2019ll realize just how important a positive frame of mind is to your body\u2019s well-being.\n\nBest Use of History\n\nRailroad Tycoon 3:\n\t\u00a0\n\t,\n\tMacSoft, $50\n\n\nWhat It Is: A real-time strategy game with railroads.\n\n\nWho It\u2019s For: Anyone who likes to play with choo-choos.\n\n\nWhy It\u2019s a Hall of Famer: Poptop Software\u2019s Railroad Tycoon series puts you in the role of a captain of industry: An entrepreneur who\u2019s starting a railroad line. The nation will grow and so will your fortunes if you lay track right, service your stations effectively, and manage the flow of goods and passengers throughout your transportation network. Fail, and you\u2019ll go broke and lose the game. You\u2019ll get to play as Industrial Age robber barons and relive great periods of rail expansion throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and you\u2019ll even get a taste of what rail transportation might be like in the future.\n\n\nThis is the same formula that we\u2019ve seen in previous installments of Railroad Tycoon. The franchise got a major overhaul with this year\u2019s release of Railroad Tycoon 3, thanks to a new 3-D gaming engine and changes to the underlying economic engine that powers the game.\n\n\n\n\n\nThough there\u2019s a \u201csandbox\u201d mode that lets you just lay track and operate locomotives around to your heart\u2019s content, the real meat of this game is in understanding how goods and passengers move around the country and how you can help that endeavor\u2014and how to play the market not only to increase your own personal fortunes and the stock value of your company, but how to drive your competitors into the ground or take them over with mergers and acquisitions. It\u2019s a powerful combination that will keep you coming back for more.