January's Mac games
With so many exhausting, frustrating, and intensely serious things happening in the world of late, we all could use some fresh distractions to provide some light moments here and there, right? We’re just a month removed from our big list of 2016’s must-play Mac games, but if you’re ready to move onto 2017’s most interesting new releases, we can help you there.
Here’s a look at 10 of the most exciting games released in the first month of the year, and the biggest releases so far are mostly smaller: indie games dominated January, but that’s no complaint. Between Owlboy, She Remembered Caterpillars, Yuri, and the other games on this list, you have plenty of really intriguing options available. But if you don’t see anything, maybe our December 2016 list will provide more appealing recent picks.
If you give a hoot about side-scrolling adventure games, then you’ll surely want to give Owlboy ($25) some attention. It looks like a lost quest from a mid-90s console system, but this long-in-development indie is definitely new and undoubtedly charming. You’ll take flight as Otus, a mute owl who is trying—and quite often failing—to battle back attacking sky pirates.
The 2D graphics are totally mesmerizing, and the combination of action, flight, and puzzle-solving gives it a slightly unique hook from other platform-style games. Thankfully, this charming adventure didn’t take long to hit Mac, arriving only a couple months after its PC debut, upon which it received strongly positive critical reviews.
Releasing on both Mac and PC a whopping 10-plus years after its original PlayStation 2 release, Disgaea 2 ($20) finally puts one of the top tactical RPG series on laptops and desktops. While the absence of the original game on Mac is curious (it hit PC last year), this is still a very worthwhile game to check out for fans of titles like Final Fantasy Tactics or The Banner Saga.
However, while it too is a game built around turn-based battles upon grid-covered maps, Disgaea 2 has a very different tone: it’s filled with very silly characters (including a group of Power Rangers-inspired warriors), plenty of humor, and some risqué artwork to boot. It’s like an absurd, comedic anime series turned into a massive role-playing quest, so… better late than never, right?
She Remembered Caterpillars
She Remembered Caterpillars ($12) is a hauntingly beautiful game about sending little creatures climbing around caterpillars and other terrain, all in an effort to solve each environmental puzzle. It’s also, according to the Steam description, a “tale as the bond between parent and child,” and a “fungipunk fantasy.” In short, there’s probably nothing else out there quite like it.
With each puzzle, you’ll need to control the two differently-colored characters separately, or perhaps combined together, or deal with other new colors and play mechanics that pop up along the way. The hand-drawn look and vivid coloring are really marvelous, and there’s clearly something deeper happening beyond the increasingly perplexing challenges within.
Available from the Mac App Store—and also just released for iOS and Apple TV at the same price—Yuri ($3) stars a tiny explorer who wakes up in a strange land on his bed, and then uses it to roll from side to side to explore the fantastical terrain. In practice, it looks like a small astronaut with a bed for a skateboard, doing kickflips on his comforter as he whisks through the environment.
The whimsical look is just one appealing part of this side-scrolling platform game, which challenges you to make precise maneuvers as you encounter large creatures and other curious obstacles along the way. Unlike a lot of the intense, in-your-face games on this list, it looks very quiet and splendidly original; a dreamy little game to curl up with on your MacBook.
Milkmaid of the Milky Way
Love old-school adventure games? Also love rhyming poetry? Well, Milkmaid of the Milky Way ($8) might be the first game to marry the two things so splendidly, as this charming indie quest is told entirely through rhyming dialogue. It’s a game about a solitary Norwegian farmer in the 1920s who one day sees a massive, glimmering gold spaceship right above her land.
The journey that follows is short (roughly three hours), but has been praised by players for its surprising sense of melancholy and relatable emotions despite the fantastic scenario at hand. It has the old-school look of an early-90s point-and-click game and plays much the same way as well, with the rhyming dialogue just adding another clever hook to the experience.
HoPiKo ($7) was one of our favorite iOS games of 2015, and now it’s also available on Mac if you’d rather play on a much larger screen. The core experience hasn’t changed: it’s a super-intense and utterly frantic action game that has you flinging a little hero around obstacles and hazards and ultimately to a goal. The catch? Well, you can’t stay on a platform for more than a second or two, otherwise it’s game over.
The constant need to keep moving makes HoPiKo a serious challenge, along with a progression structure that requires you to clear five levels in a stretch without failure. The Mac version is 3.5 times more expensive than the iOS game (which is $2), and from the Steam reviews, it sounds like some control quirks are still being worked out. Wherever you play, though, it’s a super cool game.
Gunman Taco Truck
Gunman Taco Truck ($12) is, as the title suggests, a very strange little game. And that makes sense, as it was first designed by a nine-year-old. But it’s not just any nine-year-old: it’s Donovan Brathwaite-Romero, son of legendary game designers John (Doom) and Brenda (Wizardry) Romero.
In the game, you’ll drive your food truck across a post-apocalyptic United States in an attempt to reach the beautiful, nuke-free, taco-truck-less wonderland that is Winnipeg, Canada. And between shooting mutants on the highways, you’ll stop to prepare delicious tacos for survivors… and maybe don’t tell them the origin of those roadkill toppings. Even if you don’t care about the family heritage here, Gunman Taco Truck has fully positive reviews on Steam as of this writing and looks like light, goofy fun.
Here’s another game that is an absolute delight on iOS and is also now available on Mac. Pako ($8), which we spotlighted as a You Should Play pick way back in 2014, is an endless getaway game: rather than stick to a path as you dodge obstacles or pursuers, you’ll zip freely around a crowded environment as you attempt to evade capture from police and other authorities.
It’s the simplicity that makes Pako shine: you don’t have weapons or complex techniques at hand, just a speedy little car that you’ll wind around parked cars, houses, and trees in an effort to stay free for as long as possible. One hit will drop you, but luckily, you can pop right back into the mall parking lot or a suburban neighborhood and try over and over and over again.
Inspired by several short stories of famed author Haruki Murakami, Memoranda ($15) is a classic point-and-click adventure with what sounds like a very perplexing twist: your character, who suffers from intense insomnia, has “lost” her name. And so she’ll roam this world full of other sad, damaged people in search of it.
Memoranda is beautifully brought to life with a sharp, hand-drawn look, and even if you don’t know Murakami’s work, the dazzling aesthetic and surreal interactions should be pretty appealing. One note, though: Steam reviewers say that the character’s delusions extend into the puzzle design, so you may find that the conundrums don’t make a lot of logical sense. That is intentional, apparently, even though it could frustrate.
Here’s another slick new game that launched on both Mac and iOS this month. Red’s Kingdom ($9) is a puzzle-solving adventure that stars a roly-poly squirrel in search of his stolen nuts… and really, rolling is all he can do. Once he starts rolling, he’ll go until he hits a wall or an obstacle, and then you can roll him in another direction.
Learning how to navigate each stage, from stop to stop and ultimately to the goal, is the real challenge here, although the isometric viewpoint has something of a Legend of Zelda-like appeal to it. Red’s Kingdom also promises enemies to defeat along the way, as well as various secrets—although given the normal $4 iOS price tag for the same game, you might want to grab it there and save a few bucks.