April's Mac games
What always impresses me each month as I put together our picks for new Mac game releases is how diverse of a selection we have each and every few weeks. For example, April’s selections are headlined by a strategic role-playing game set against the end of the world, a frantic co-op shooting game with fantastical weapons, and a tough-as-nails puzzler about cooking sausages.
And that’s not all: We’ve also got a game about the Iranian Revolution from 1979, a wild four-player side-scrolling runner in which anything goes, and a soothing game about swinging through ancient ruins on a grappling hook. For these and other new highlights, keep reading ahead—and if you need other recent options, here’s what caught our eye in March, as well.
The Banner Saga 2
“More of the same” might seem like an unconvincing recommendation, but it’s tough to be disappointed in this case. The Banner Saga 2 ($20) doesn’t make many dramatic changes to the formula of the acclaimed original from a couple years back, but the small enhancements to the sharp tactical strategy formula are meaningful.
With the end of the world seemingly near, you’ll continue to command a caravan of survivors as they trudge across the landscape, entering turn-based battles against daunting warriors and making decisions that can ripple throughout the entire adventure. It’s once more gorgeously drawn and beautifully scored, now with added gameplay variety and two storylines to follow.
Enter the Gungeon
Enter the Gungeon ($15) finds the sweet spot between the a dungeon-crawling action game and a bullet hell shooter, challenging you to fight your way through dangerous terrain as enemies and attacks fill the screen. And the best part is that you don’t have to do it alone: Gungeon is a four-player cooperative game, and things only get crazier and more fun with added players.
You’ll encounter a huge array of distinctive firearms along the way, and the end goal is to collect the wildest one of all: a gun that can “kill the past,” apparently. It looks a bit like the excellent Nuclear Throne from last year, and both critics and players are loving it. Even people who don’t love it can’t seem to stop playing, as seen by this negative Steam review after 68 hours logged.
Stephen's Sausage Roll
If you came across Stephen’s Sausage Roll ($30) on Steam without knowing about it, chances are you’d keep moving along. Not only is the name off-putting, but the entire description is, “A simple 3d puzzle game”—and at $30, it’s pricier than the average indie game. But look around a bit and you’ll notice that this oddball game is getting some seriously stunning praise.
It’s a puzzle game about grilling up sausages of precise size and doneness, as you’ll flip the links in environments while trying to ensure that both sides are perfectly cooked. That might sound silly—and it totally is—but Stephen’s Sausage Roll is apparently an impeccably designed puzzle experience that’ll continually prod and punish you, yet ultimately leave you plenty satisfied.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday
Many historical games just drop you onto a battlefield, whether you’re holding a gun or commanding an army, but 1979 Revolution: Black Friday ($12) does something very different. It puts you right in the middle of a real-life uprising—the Iranian Revolution—and lets you try to make smart decisions as a photojournalist trying to chronicle the rapidly-accelerating movement.
It begins in 1978 in Tehran as the revolution begins bubbling under the surface, and the highly cinematic game comes off like a Telltale adventure, as the choices you make influence the rest of the storyline. 1979 Revolution is short but very stirring and unique, and feels like an important game: It’s so rare to have a chance to relive this kind of an event in a video game.
We’ve all played an endless runner (or 20) on the iPhone, but SpeedRunners ($15) takes the side-scrolling sprinting premise in a fresh direction: It’s a raucous multiplayer experience in which four players continually battle it out while running. You’ll swing from grappling hooks to keep moving above and around obstacles, but also use them to grab and pull opponents, along with launching an array of disruptive weapons.
SpeedRunners looks absolutely bonkers in action, and it’s playable both online and off, so you’re sure to have competition wherever you seek it. And thanks to an extended Early Access period during development, it’s already a smash hit: The game has more than 13,000 reviews on Steam, and is sitting pretty with a glowing “Very Positive” consensus.
Sure, SpeedRunners has grappling hooks, but they’re used for rapid action and even attacks. If you’re looking for a swinging experience that’s a lot more ethereal and serene, Windlands ($20) might be right up your alley. It’s surely more immersive (albeit possibly stomach-churning) on a PC with an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive headset on, but it looks like great fun on Mac, as well.
Windlands is a first-person experience in which you’ll swing from trees and structures as you explore ancient ruins, and it looks like a beautiful and pleasurable jaunt—and crucially, the developers say it’s very calm and pressure-free, so you can just enjoy the experience. However, if you’re looking for more structure, there are optional speed runs and time trials to take on.
Offworld Trading Company
After more than a year in Early Access on Steam, the full version of Offworld Trading Company ($40) has been properly released. It’s the latest strategy game from designer Soren Johnson, best known for his work on the classic Civilization IV, and it finds you attempting to help colonize Mars as Earth’s best days wind down—and try to rule the red planet’s new industries.
As one of multiple Martian CEOs with varying traits, you’ll establish your empire on the fresh terrain and try to profit from the new explorers, all while running your competitors out of business. It has single-player and online multiplayer elements, and you’ll secure victory via buying and selling rather than blasting and bashing.
The Huntsman: Winter's Curse
The Huntsman: Winter’s War, prequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, was punted by critics and fell flat at the box office—but at least the tie-in game seems worth a look. The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse (free) is primarily a visual novel, letting you navigate the narrative of this film universe while occasionally making decisions that help dictate the rest of the quest. And occasionally, you’ll also dip into turn-based battles with a card-centric combat system.
You get the first “book” of the game free with the initial download, which looks to provide an hour or two of play, and then four more books are available for $5 a pop—or $18 for the bundle. If you dug the first movie (or especially the second), it’s probably worth a look at the first chunk to see if it grabs you.
March of the Living
Claiming inspiration from the legendary FTL: Faster Than Light sets up tough expectations, but it seems to be working out well for March of the Living ($15). Launched late in the month, the game makes no bones about its admiration for that sci-fi classic—but as you might surmise from the name and screenshot, this one’s all about staying alive amidst the zombie apocalypse.
You’ll guide a group of survivors through increasingly rough terrain, battling back procedurally-generated threats and making choices along the way that could either save or doom your crew. With a nice lo-fi pixel look and the promise of plenty of randomized challenges to endure, it’s rocking a “Very Positive” rating from Steam users after just over a week of release.
We’ll close out the picks this month with something truly and bafflingly weird, and intentionally so at that. NO THING ($4) is a first-person runner in a neon world of pinks and greens, and you’re an office clerk sent to deliver a message to the Queen of Ice within a totalitarian regime of the future (in 1994). To do so, you’ll need to turn right and left at an increasingly rapid pace to stay on the walking path.
All the while, strange messages are uttered (“Your shoes are shining, but I know who you are”) as the minimal graphics change colors and glitch out. It’s all very surreal and bizarre, yet oddly appealing—and the iOS version is just $2, so that might be a better starting point for this experimental curio.