We continue our list of the best games for Mac. The next category is:
I'm old enough to remember the thrill I got from early 3D games such as Knight Lore and Head Over Heels that were released on the ZX Spectrum back in the '80s. And so, it seems, is Gareth Noyce, the lead designer of indie games developer Triple Eh? In fact, the (at the time) 11-year-old Gareth was even brainy enough to design his own levels for Head Over Heels during his summer holidays.
A few years ago he found himself wondering what would happen if you could design one of those old-school 3D games with the full power of a modern graphics card behind it. The result is Lumo, a game that combines the puzzles and platform action of those old '80s games with modern 3D graphics and lighting effects.
The game's hero - complete with pointy wizard hat - looks like he's been lifted straight from an 80s video game as he runs and jumps through more than 400 rooms full of spikey traps, flame-throwers and platform puzzles. There are also nods towards other classic games, including a level that looks just like the classic Marble Madness, and a sequence where you jump over rolling barrels borrowed from Donkey Kong.
If you're too young to have enjoyed those old classics then you'll be pleased to discover that the game starts gently, with a few rooms that introduce the basics of movement and puzzle-solving to help you pick up the basics. You can also play the game in either Adventure mode, which gives you infinite lives, or stick with the tougher Old-School mode, which has a time limit and a set number of lives for us hardened old-timers. Cliff Joseph
Machinarium is an charming, old-fashioned point-and-click adventure full of puzzles. You are cast as an adorable little robot who must find his way back home, rescue his girlfriend and stop a gang of robot hoodlums setting off a bomb. The beautiful, well-realised setting is a steampunk robot world where the inhabitants speak in thought balloons and pantomime. It's an immersive experience and the haunting music and sound effects are wonderful. It may remind you of Pixar's animated film Wall-E, but Machinarium doesn't suffer from the comparison.
One Upon Light
One Upon Light looks like the sort of puzzle game that often works well on the iPad, but it was originally developed for the PS4 games console a couple of years ago - winning a number of awards in the process - and has now arrived on Macs and PCs as well (but don't confuse it with the iOS physics puzzler, Once Upon A Light).
Like all the best puzzle games it takes a simple idea and then develops it into a series of increasingly complex challenges. You play the role of an un-named scientist who wakes up in the Aurora Science Lab and discovers that he has suddenly become photophobic – so sensitive to light that it can kill you (or at least send you back to the last save-point). You need to explore the lab and to locate clues that would explain what has happened to you, but even simple objects like a swinging lightbulb suddenly become an obstacle that you need to get around.
You can use filing cabinets and other objects that you find in the lab to block rays of light, but the puzzles that you face become trickier as you progress into the game and often left me staring at the screen wondering how I was going to progress to the next level. The shaded black and white graphics add to the atmosphere of the game, recalling the old 'mad scientist' horror movies of the 1930s. It's odd that the developers haven't got round to releasing an iOS version, as the game's top-down 2D graphics would be ideal for the iPad, but if you enjoy puzzle games then One Upon Light is one of the best we've seen on the Mac for quite a while. Cliff Joseph
Almost unclassifiable in normal gaming terms - we've put it with the puzzlers, although it's really a bizarre take on the classic worker simulation - Papers, Please sees you taking up the post of border control in an authoritarian regime. Which is certainly a novel idea for a game.
People enter your booth and present their papers; it's your job to figure out if they can be allowed in. If you spot an irregularity in their paperwork, deny them entry. If their sob story touches your heartstrings, let them in. But if you let through too many dodgy types, or work too slowly, the money you earn will take a dip, and your family need to eat.
Papers, Please is a quirky, interesting game set in a truly novel (and utterly bleak) environment. And while the level of profundity is debatable, there's definitely more going on here than in your average worker sim.
Read the full Papers, Please for Mac review
Portal came out of nowhere to dazzle gamers with its mind-bendingly fiendish puzzles back in 2007, and this sequel is even more challenging. You return to the Aperture Science Labs and find yourself once again trapped in a maze of interconnected rooms controlled by the murderous GLaDOS computer system.
The basic formula remains the same, so you have to escape from the lab by using special weapons that create dimension-twisting portals - create a portal in the wall in front of you and you may find yourself stepping through into a room that's actually behind you. There are, however, a number of new elements that make this sequel even more intriguing, such as a co-op mode that allows you to work alongside a friend, and a more developed story line that starts to explain how this situation actually got started.
The full-blown virtual reality version of Superhot doesn't run on Macs - it's embarrassing, and Apple really needs to get to grips with VR sometime in the next decade or so - but, fortunately, there is a conventional 3D version available as well.
Superhot has a fairly basic story, apparently involving hacking and artificial intelligence, but that's really just a way of linking together a series of otherwise unrelated levels that provide with you an constant flow of bad guys to shoot and puzzles to solve. The puzzle-solving element is a really clever variation on the slow-motion 'bullet time' mechanic from the Matrix films. Bullet-time has been done to death in many games, of course, but Superhot adds another dimension to the time-shifting shooting action, as the speed at which time passes depends on how fast you're moving. If you stand still then time slows to a crawl, allowing you to easily dodge hails of incoming bullets. However, there will be times when you do need to move - to grab another weapon, or simply to escape to the next level - and as soon as you start to move your opponents (and their bullets) also start to pick up speed, forcing you to anticipate where they're going to be in a few seconds time.
It's a clever idea, and the way that each level is designed means that Superhot often has the feel of a logic-bending puzzle game like Portal, with the shoot 'em up action – and frequent, sudden death - adding an extra edge of urgency to the puzzles. Mind you, it does lean very heavily on that one slow-mo trick, and the slim storyline means that Superhot sometimes seems more like a technology demo rather than a fully developed game. Even so, it's one of the smartest shooters we've seen for a while, and who knows - maybe one day we'll be able to play the VR version on the Mac too. Cliff Joseph
World of Goo
The Mac version of World of Goo is more expensive than the iOS version, so it might be worth checking out that first if you've got an iPhone or iPad. But whatever you play it on, it's a charming and unique game.
You're presented with a series of puzzles that are solved by combining blobs of goo to create various structures such as bridges and towers. Sometimes it's not immediately clear what the puzzle is, so you have to figure that out first and then learn about the properties of different types of goo in order to work out the solution.