June's Mac games
We’re in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale, so if you’re looking for dirt-cheap bargains on classic and essential Mac games, now is the time to pounce. But if you’re in the market for something that’s totally fresh, regardless of markdown, we’ve got you covered with our look at June’s most intriguing new Mac games.
Emotional episodic adventure Life is Strange leads the list, and it’s flanked by World War II strategy game Hearts of Iron IV, indie curio VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action, and other picks like SteamWorld Heist and Eon Altar. Give these a look and see if anything grabs your interest, otherwise be sure to loop back on May’s top Mac games for other recent options.
Life is Strange
Although it got off to an uneven start, Life is Strange ($21) became widely loved and acclaimed by the time its fifth and final episode released on consoles and PC last fall—and now it’s all available on Mac. Dontnod’s game is a graphic adventure about a teenage girl who discovers she has the power to turn back time, and uses it to try and fix dramatic events.
Expectedly, these aren’t consequence-free tweaks, as her decisions always tend to have lasting effects… and things get super intense by the end of the series. Like Telltale’s adventure games, your choices accumulate and shape the story ahead, but Life is Strange has been especially praised for its characters and atypical plot points for games, including bullying and suicide.
Life is Strange is a Mac App Store exclusive, with the first episode sold for $5 and the rest available bundled for $16 (thus the $21 total price), or for $5 apiece.
Hearts of Iron IV
Life is Strange is a small, personal tale, but maybe you’re in the mood for something bigger and brasher. How about fighting World War II as the force of your choice? Hearts of Iron IV ($40) is the latest entry in Paradox’s grand strategy series, and it puts you in command of any nation in the conflict—large or small—and lets you guide the battle from land, sea, and air.
It’s a heavily menu-driven affair, so it might not be the ideal pick if you’re hunting for, say, Call of Duty’s first-person thrill-ride. But Hearts of Iron IV lets you dig deep into tactics as you experience the entire conflict with realistic maps featuring accurate terrain and weather, as well as options to tap into diplomacy and political efforts. It also has 32-player online action, so you don’t have to fight this battle alone.
VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action
Cyberpunk bartending? Now we’ve seen it all. Truly, VA-11 Hall-A: Cyberpunk Bartending Action ($15) is something unexpected in gaming: It has the cool, dystopian future vibe, but it never dips into a grand conflict or drops you into futuristic combat. As the title suggests, you’re the bartender of the joint, serving up stiff drinks for curious people of all sorts.
It’s a narrative-driven, menu-based adventure that has earned glowing player reviews for its sharp dialogue, intriguing characters, and great pixel art and chiptune music pairing. In some ways, it seems like an ideal fit for anyone who dug last year’s Read Only Memories, which has a similar look and tone about it. VA-11 Hall-A might not be the most thrilling game you play this year, but it could be a distinctly memorable one.
SteamWorld Heist ($20) claims a classic XCOM influence, offering up turn-based battles in which you’ll command a group of steam-powered robot pirates blasting through various conflicts, but here you’re fully in command of your firearms. Rather than rely on a roll of a dice for an attack, you’ll aim your weapons freely and use the angular levels to devise brilliant trick shots with your bullets.
If you played the well-received SteamWorld Dig, you should have a sense of the vibe here, although the prior game was a Metroid-esque platform adventure. And the steampunk-meets-Western aesthetic has been amplified here with improved graphics and plenty of personality. Also, with 200 positive player reviews on Steam against just one negative take (as of this writing), you might say it’s a people-pleaser.
True Pac-fans have probably already logged a bunch of hours in the great Pac-Man 256 on iPhone or iPad since last year, but if you wanted it on a larger screen (and don’t have an Apple TV) or hated the free-to-play design, you’re in luck. Now it’s on Mac, and better yet, it’s a fully premium game that doesn’t have the same in-app purchase prompts within.
Otherwise, Pac-Man 256 ($5) keeps its unique twist on the classic design: It’s an endless chomper that combines the arcade classic with a hint of Crossy Road, courtesy of shared developer Hipster Whale. The Mac version gets another upgrade with the addition of a local four-player co-op mode, as well, so you can share the love with some nearby pals.
This War of Mine – The Little Ones
Playing This War of Mine isn’t an upbeat experience: It’s a game about the rigors and horrors of living in a warzone, as you take control of a group of ordinary people trying to survive in a city with minimal food and little order. Add children to that mix and it’s clear that the new Little Ones ($10) expansion isn’t going to make you any happier than the main game did.
It’s an unfathomably stressful situation: You’re thrust into wartime scenarios with children in the mix, as you scavenge and steal to keep your family fed, healthy, and warm while also trying to keep the kids reasonably happy and shielded from the madness. It’s sure to be heartbreaking, but in a hopefully meaningful and worthwhile manner.
Eon Altar ($7) is the rare Mac game that you don’t play with a keyboard or mouse, or even a gamepad: It’s solely enjoyed with a free iOS or Android companion app. This episodic indie game—only the first entry is available so far—lets you take control of a fantasy fighter in a turn-based, role-playing quest, and using your phone’s touchscreen allowed the developers to build an interface uniquely suited to the experience.
Better yet, since everyone you know (or would want to play games with) probably has a smartphone, you can easily loop in up to three more local players for cooperative play. Sounds like a fun twist on the action-RPG genre, and there are two more episodes due over the next several months.
Ever get the urge to make a big mess? Brigador ($20) might fit the bill, as your goal is simply to destroy everything in sight using a big, customizable mech suit. Unleashed upon a large, nighttime city following the fall of a great leader, you’ll blast every last building, monument, and fleeing citizen before escaping the city with your payment.
Opposing factions are also in the mix, so it won’t simply be a case of easy target practice—although you’ll still surely cause a heap of damage in the fully destructible city as you battle. The isometric view is a nice throwback to old-school PC games, while the intense action, pulsing soundtrack, and neon-heavy look give Brigador a lot of appeal.
You wake up from a cryogenic sleep on a crumbled planet absent of the people and cities that once thrived there—and you have only eight days’ worth of oxygen left to sustain you. What do you do? Well, you try to fix up your shelter so that eight days potentially becomes many more.
Breached ($7) alternates between a couple of different gameplay approaches: At times, you’re navigating menus as you read through your journal for clues and generate fuel. In other moments, you’re piloting a drone soaring through slick 3D environments in search of further hints or useful pieces of scrap. The setting and premise are super interesting, although critical reviews are mixed, with some saying the experience is disjointed and limited. It certainly looks interesting, though, and it’s cheap too.
Mighty No. 9
You might have heard of Mighty No. 9 ($20): It was one of the most-funded Kickstarter game projects of all time before being delayed… multiple times, actually. But now it’s released! However, the initial reaction to this Mega Man-inspired action game—which hails from Mega Man’s original creator—has been extremely mixed, whether it’s from critics, backers, or other players.
Some of that collective disappointment might come from exaggerated expectations from the crowdfunding and frustration over delays. Then again, the technical complaints are hard to argue with, and there are plenty of them out there. Still, some fans think it’s a decent homage to the classic Mega Man template, and since Capcom isn’t making them anymore (or releasing them on Mac), you might be more forgiving.