Strong games in May
Looking for a brand-new Mac game to get absorbed in? Look no further, because May brought us another fine bounty of fresh games to consider, and it’s another diverse array of options. We’ve got a deep space exploration and strategy game (Stellaris), for example, but also a bonkers indie game about driving a school bus in wondrously wild situations (OmniBus).
Other highlights include multiplayer racer Super Impossible Road, an enhanced port of iOS role-playing favorite Oceanhorn, and games like Kathy Rain and Youtubers Life. Surely something here will grab your interest, but if you’re seeking other recent options, be sure to loop back on our list of April’s most intriguing Mac games.
Space is vast, and so too should be strategy games that hope to share in its scale, right? Luckily, Stellaris ($40) is up to the task: Paradox’s space exploration strategy game lets you jet off into the cosmos to find new alien life forms, interact with them, and soak in the emergent stories that follow. You can battle enemies or embrace diplomacy; it’s your choice to make, and there’s so much out there to experience.
Reviews have been a bit mixed—so much so that Paradox had to defend one critical reviewer from rabid fans. But there’s been a lot of praise for the immense scope of the game and the flexibility of the systems, and Paradox is known for improving its games over the long haul. This could be one universe that’s well worth getting lost in, as PCWorld suggests in its review.
Super Impossible Road
Impossible Road remains one of the absolute best endless challenge games on iOS, but Super Impossible Road is much more than a big-screen version of the game: it’s a transformation. Whereas the original is a single-player attempt to keep your ball on a twisting track at high speeds, Super Impossible Road turns that experience into a raucous multiplayer racer.
Right now, it’s available only via Steam Early Access ($10), where you’ll get a still-in-development version along with all updates to come. Local four-player split-screen play is included now, while eight-player online battles and a single-player campaign mode will eventually come in the full release. It looks fabulous, and the frantic action gives it a delightful new energy.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
Apple fans already have a number of ways to experience Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, with the iPhone and iPad version drawing raves for years plus a recent Apple TV edition, but now there’s one more right on your Mac for $15. The role-playing adventure has been remastered for its Mac release, with support for an Ultra graphics setting that looks pretty superb.
Granted, the core game hasn’t changed, but that’s not a bad thing: it’s a loving tribute to Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series, complete with plenty of dungeon exploring, enemy swatting, and even some sailing on the open seas. Even if the inspiration is obvious, Oceanhorn has earned praise on other platforms and should be just as sweet on Mac, if not sweeter.
OmniBus ($10) is weird—super weird, really—but in a totally endearing way. The just-released game has a “game of the year edition” available on Steam, plus the system requirements say you need a “government-issued license to drive an out-of-control bus.” Also, watch this trailer.
It’s over-the-top silly, but that’s part of what makes OnmiBus so appealing. It’s designed like an old-school PlayStation game, and puts you behind the wheel in an array of missions in which you’ll complete curious tasks. Sometimes you’ll need to drive astronauts to a wedding, while other times you might be smashing through giant walls of money. Whatever the task, OnmiBus is ready to entertain, plus it has a four-player derby mode.
If you like your point-and-click adventure games as gloriously old-school as possible—not remastered or modernized—then be sure to put Kathy Rain ($15) on your radar. It’s an homage to ’80s and early ’90s classics that absolutely looks the part, thanks to its 320x240 (4:3) resolution, and even the game itself is set during the ’90s.
The titular heroine is a journalism student who returns to her hometown following the death of her grandfather, and finds herself embroiled in a mystery about her family’s past. It’s a hard-edged tale featuring a strong female lead, and although the game hasn’t been an immediate sales success, the user and critic reviews are all pretty positive on the whole.
Having trouble making it as an internet celebrity? Now there’s a simulation for that: Youtubers Life ($15) lets you fill the shoes of a streaming star, as you pick a hobby, broadcast your interests to the world, build a community, and even edit the videos to drive viewership. It’s all the fun of being a vlogger without all the fandom or video revenue.
Truth be told, Youtubers Life looks like The Sims for the connected generation. You’ll create your own star, live your daily life with friends, record the fun stuff, and try to generate the fans that’ll make you a vlogging legend. It’s in Early Access right now, but even so, Youtubers Life has quickly become a web sensation and is currently ranking high on Steam’s user charts.
Love retro games, but crave something more action-oriented than Kathy Rain? Then point your eyes towards The Way, a gorgeous-looking tribute to early ’90s platform classics like Out of This World and Flashback. The immensely detailed pixel graphics definitely recall that era, but The Way has its own unique hooks beyond the familiar look.
It’s about a space explorer who struggles with the death of his beloved, but then looks for answers in the stars after discovering ancient texts along the way. And clearly he finds much more than that, as we see frantic blasting and chases, as well as environmental puzzles to solve. The Way looks like a blast from the past, but should be plenty engrossing today.
Keeping that retro-futuristic theme alive… you might think Neon Drive ($10) is a racing game, given the car and everything, but it’s actually a rhythm-action affair. As your glowing, boldly ’80s-inspired car zips ahead, you’ll have to shift lanes to the beat to dodge hazards in the road, lasers blasting down from the sky, and other obstacles that appear.
Plus, you’re not even on the road all the time. Occasionally, you’ll shift into a fighter jet or a sci-fi flying car for a level, or swap to a Galaga-like top-down space shooter. You’ll even inhabit a Transformers-like robot and run through side-scrolling areas. Whatever the scenario, Neon Drive looks spectacular and Steam reviewers are eating up its over-the-top era tribute.
Lumo ($20) is another game that attempts to resurrect a very specific, out-of-vogue style of play: in this case, the isometric platformer. From the angled viewpoint, you’ll tackle more than 400 different rooms, which include tense jumping challenges, mini-games, puzzles, and all kinds of secrets buried deep within.
The cartoonish fantasy aesthetic is bright and delightful, putting a sleek modern spin on this classic genre, while the game promises to be ultra-difficult: you’ll probably die often, but the charming aesthetic and promise of hidden goodies might keep you pushing further ahead. There really hasn’t been much quite like this in a very long time, but old-school fans should delight at this tribute.
Last year’s Trine 3: Artifacts of Power was widely seen as a misfire for Frozenbyte after the excellent predecessors, as it felt unfinished and unpolished—and the studio’s latest game, Shadwen ($17), is again drawing very mixed reactions. It’s a totally new universe, this time delivering a shadowy stealth-action experience where staying out of sight is absolutely mandatory.
It’s a curious divide here: Steam user reviews are “Very Positive” so far, often praising the stealth mechanics. By contrast, critics are largely unimpressed, with some deeming the game wonky, repetitive, and in need of refinement. Who should you believe? Well, luckily, you can try it out yourself: there’s a free demo on Steam that offers a taste of the action ahead.