February's Mac games
February was a blazing hot month for new Mac game releases, as Firewatch, Superhot, and The Flame in the Flood suggest in their rather appropriate titles—but it’s about more than just fiery branding. Despite the shortened month, February delivered an awesome array of titles beyond those mentioned above.
XCOM 2 leads our list this month, offering up another massive strategy gem to savor, while the mysterious Firewatch and innovative Superhot are both well worth a look. And if you love Telltale’s episodic adventures, there’s a brand new Walking Dead game series to start digging into. You’re sure to find something to enjoy in this bunch, but if you need more recent options, be sure to scope out our picks from January.
After nearly two decades away, 2012’s XCOM: Enemy Unknown made the classic sci-fi strategy franchise even bigger—and to some players, better—than ever, and now Firaxis has fired back with a proper, full-fledged sequel. And for Mac players, XCOM 2 ($60) is the rare AAA-style game that’s actually available at the same time as the PC release.
The turn-based, tactical experience finds the humans fighting back against their alien occupiers, using an array of new gameplay elements to dominate in combat. And as before, you’ll spend a lot of time away from the battlefield, digging into research and upgrades to give you a better shot against the invaders. Expect another meaty, thrilling, and endlessly replayable strategic time-sink from this one.
Taking the role of a national park fire lookout might not sound like a terribly interesting video game simulation, but you might be surprised. In fact, quite a bit about Firewatch ($20) surprises, from the dazzling natural environments to the quality of the voice acting, with the majority of your human connection coming from the other side of a walkie talkie.
After an emotional gut-punch of an opening, Firewatch drops you into the Wyoming wilderness as you learn your surroundings, engage with events that occur, and develop a relationship with the voice on the portable radio. It’s not a survival game, and there’s no real threat to your safety—it’s mostly calm and quiet, although there is a mystery that drives things along.
Surely one of the coolest games to ever emerge from a game jam, Superhot’s original demo ($25) blew minds with its dazzling look and totally innovative spin on first-person shooting. Essentially, time only moves in the game when you do—so if you stand in place, you can survey the scene and see bullets hanging in the air with red motion trails behind them. Start moving again, fast or slow, and everything else begins moving at your pace.
That demo has now been expanded into a full game, and it’s still pretty amazing. Our sister site PCWorld noted some drawbacks—the short length (about two hours) and gimmicky core—but strongly praised the game, saying it “[does] its damnedest to make you feel like the consummate badass” and delivers “all sorts of ‘That was amazing’ moments.”
The Walking Dead: Michonne
If you’ve played Telltale’s previous episodic Walking Dead games, take note: A totally new series just started, but it’s not directly tied into the earlier seasons. The Walking Dead: Michonne ($15) is a three-part miniseries starring the titular heroine from the comics and TV show, and for fans of the comic in particular, it aims to answer questions as to why she left the group during a later narrative arc.
While it’s a different story, Telltale’s eye for authentic-feeling licensed games continues unabated here, letting you experience the story while making difficult choices that reverberate until the ultimate conclusion. Just the first episode is out now, with the later entries coming in March and April respectively, and your $15 upfront purchase snags the whole set.
Layers of Fear
What, zombies aren’t enough? Looking for something to potentially scare the bejesus out of you? Layers of Fear ($20) might do the trick, as the title suggests. This horror experience casts you as a troubled artist in a strange mansion, wherein each room you enter is totally different than it was before—the environments are constantly changing in very eerie and unsettling ways.
Layers of Fear was seemingly built for the YouTube reaction community, as it’s filled with jump-scares—too many, suggests PCWorld’s review. But despite that sometimes numbing pace, they were pleased by how the game shakes up horror game conventions and truly terrifies at times with its psychological freak-outs. How many layers can you tolerate?
The Flame in the Flood
Craft-and-survive games are becoming more and more common, and the best of them—games like Don’t Starve and Crashlands—have a heap of style and personality beyond the challenging core grind. The Flame in the Flood ($20) is the latest example, setting you loose in a crumbled rural setting as you try to keep heroine Scout alive amidst consistent threat and peril.
Scout and her pup must navigate a customizable raft down the procedurally-generated river to new terrain, ever in search of resources, tools, and other means to avoid starvation, exhaustion, and much more brutal demises. It’s a gorgeous game with a rich Americana soundtrack, both of which might make the difficulty and constant tension easier to stomach.
Steve Jackson's Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2
Inkle’s 80 Days was one of the standout Mac games of last year (and iOS before that), and as promised, the studio has now brought its other iOS game to Mac. Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! ($10) is an adaptation of the classic ‘80s adventure gamebooks, delivering a fantasy narrative that lets you make hundreds and hundreds of small, but meaningful choices along the way.
Just the first two episodes are available now, with the third to be added soon and the fourth and final entry due later this year, but there’s already a rich storyline with intriguing combat mechanics to explore. As PCWorld said in its review, Sorcery! “[manages] to wring some truly compelling ideas from the game’s thin sword-and-board pretenses.”
American Truck Simulator
As the staggeringly popular Farming Simulator series proves, there’s a surprising market for well-executed recreations of seemingly mundane tasks. And American Truck Simulator ($20) is the latest game to follow that approach, as it’s racking up strongly positive reviews from thousands and thousands of Steam users.
It’s very similar in approach to developer SCS Software’s own Euro Truck Simulator 2, albeit now with fresh terrain, putting you behind the wheel of a big rig as you haul cargo across the nation. Business elements add some meat around the actual driving, and players seem to love the realistic design and calm experience of customizing a truck and cruising around.
Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders
Agatha Christie penned some of the best known murder mysteries of all time, and one of the The Queen of Crime’s top works has been freshly translated into a point-and-click adventure game. The ABC Murders ($30) puts a colorful and cartoonish spin on the classic tale of a killer on the loose, with famed protagonist Hercule Poirot on the case.
While a lot of it looks like pretty standard adventure fare, delivering a mix of scene examination with puzzle solving, there are some intriguing elements—reading moods and making mental deductions look like really interesting mechanics. Steam reviewers say it’s pretty approachable and easy to understand, so it’s not aimed solely at hardened genre die-hards.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc ($30) is another murder mystery game, believe it or not, but it’s much, much different in tone and narrative. In this port of a much-loved PlayStation Vita game, you play as a student in a top Japanese high school—only it has been taken over by a maniacal bear and turned into a prison. And the only way out is to murder a classmate without being caught.
Crazy, right? Danganronpa has an intense anime-like aesthetic for the proceedings, but you’ll still spend your time trying to solve each classmate murder via investigations and interviews, along with mock trials run by the murderous bear, Monokuma. And it sounds like the desktop version is just as compelling as the handheld original.