We continue our list of the best games for Mac. The next category is:
Abraca is the sort of game that you might expect to find on the family-oriented Wii console, rather than on a Mac or PC. It's also very much a 'marmite' game - you'll either love its daft, multiplayer take on old fairytale characters, or find the whole thing so horribly twee that you want to throw your gamepad at the screen.
The first thing to mention is that Abraca is a game for playing at home with friends - preferably fuelled by considerable quantities of alcohol. It needs two, three or four people to play it, and each person will need a proper gamepad controller. There are two main parts to the game, with you and your friends taking it in turns to play the role of a handsome prince in a platform game where you have to run and jump past a series of obstacles and monsters. But, as each player takes their turn to be the prince, their friends get to play as monsters and fight against them to stop them from reaching their goal. And, along the way, other fairytale characters such as Hansel and Gretel pop up, along with an assortment of dragons, evil witches and other monsters.
The other part of the game features princess-on-princess action in a kind of multiplayer arena brawl, and the whole thing plays out with the sort of annoying synthesizer soundtrack that accompanied all those old '80s arcade games.
The first time you play Braid, you might be forgiven for thinking you've just bought a late 90s puzzle platformer. You jump and run like Mario, kill monsters by jumping on their heads and collect puzzle pieces. And then you're introduced to Braid's killer feature: you can turn back time.
As you progress, you realise that this is a crucial part of the game's mechanics. There are sections you can't complete without winding back the action. Add in some fiendishly designed levels, a lot of old-school gaming and a genuinely great soundtrack, and you realise why Braid won all those awards.
Crazy Dreamz - MagiCats Edition
Crazy Dreamz was originally released as an iOS app a couple of months ago, but this Mac version is now available as an 'early access' game on Steam. In many ways, it looks like a fairly conventional retro platform game, with cute animated graphics that will appeal to younger players. However, this MagiCats Edition of the game also includes some simple coding tools that can be used to teach young children the basics of programming.
The game's tutorial starts by introducing the basic controls for running, jumping and shooting - but then gives you a problem to solve, by putting you you in front of a tall cliff that is too high to simply jump over. So you then learn how to 'program' a solution by selecting tools, such as wooden boxes to build steps, from the menu at the top of the screen.
Once you've finished the tutorial you can just play the game in 'adventure' mode or delve deeper into the coding tools, learning how to design your own levels by making platforms and other objects move around the screen, and even controlling the behaviour of the enemy monsters that stand in your way.
The results have been so successful that the developers are also releasing a Crazy Dreamz - Best Of edition that brings together 100 of the best levels designed by children as young as three years old. The company is also sharing 50% of the profits with their young coders, which is a great incentive to get your kids interested in coding and to see the results in a professional game that everyone can play.
But, as this MagiCats Edition is free-to-play, it does include a number of in-game purchases - some of which are pretty expensive - so you'll need to keep an eye on your kids to make sure they don't go crazy with the credit card.
The recent fad for retro games has given the old-fashioned sideways-scrolling platform game a new lease of life, and one of the most authentically retro titles we've seen recently is Dinocide from Atomic Torch.
Dinocide is clearly inspired by the NES arcade games of the 80s, and puts you in control of a cute little pixellated caveman who fights his way through a variety of landscapes and levels in order to rescue his cave lady friend. The format is very straightforward, as you run and jump past various obstacles and chuck rocks at the monsters and other enemies that get in your way.
The landscape varies from level to level, ranging across deserts, oceans and underground caves, which allows the game to throw a good mix of obstacles and enemies at you. And, instead of committing dinocide, you can actually team up with many of the dinosaurs you encounter, perhaps riding on their back to escape other monsters, or using a fire-breathing T-Rex to blast your way past an obstacle.
Bear in mind that, like those old NES games, Dinocide can also be enormously frustrating at times. You need to feed your caveman on a regular basis by picking up various bits of food that are scattered around each level. If you don't eat often enough he will simply keel over, forcing you to start the level again. This feed-me mechanic is meant to add a sense of urgency to the game, but it can also be really annoying at times, so Dinocide will mainly appeal to purists who enjoy old-school gaming, rather than casual gamers looking to pass some time on a rainy afternoon.
Where to buy: Mac App Store
System requirements: Macs produced in 2009 or onward; Mac OS X version Snow Leopard 10.6.3 or later; Intel Mac processor; 1GB RAM; 150MB of hard disk space; OpenGL 2.0 compatible video card with 256MB shared or dedicated RAM (ATI or nVidia)
Few games are quite as creepy to play as Limbo, a 2D puzzle platformer in which you play as a young boy lost in the forest. Its exquisitely drawn levels, ambient soundtrack and visceral surprises make sure of that.
Dying becomes a fact of life - dying in ever more gruesome ways. Sometimes it will be the result of terrible accidents, other times you'll fall into the clutches of giant monsters. (You can turn the gore off if you're of a sensitive disposition.)
Beautiful and mournfully cruel, Limbo is a game that will haunt you long after you've switched off your Mac.
[Related: Limbo for iPad review]
One Dog Story
Where to buy: Steam
System requirements: macOS 10.8, Intel Core Duo processor, nVidia GeForce 320M
The retro games resurgence continues with One Dog Story, an old-fashioned 2D platform game that manages to add a little bit of variety to the standard running-and-jumping formula.
As the game starts you find yourself waking up in an underground laboratory with no memory of who you are or how you got there. That's a bit of an old gaming cliché, but One Dog Story throws in a twist of its own as it turns out that you're a dog - and somehow have the intelligence to speak and use tools and weapons. Clues that you find lying around the lab hint at some sort of genetic experiment, and as you start to explore you'll meet other characters, as well as the occasional computer terminal, that can provide more information about the mysterious goings-on in the lab.
One Dog Story works well as a straightforward platform game, with plenty of obstacles and enemy monsters that you have to get past. There are underwater zones where you can only hold your breath for a short time, so you have to escape before you drown. Sometimes your escape route may also branch off in different directions - one level may contain doors that lead to two separate levels that you have to explore in order to find a weapon or tool that will allow you to go back and solve a puzzle in an earlier level. A key feature of the game is the ability to collect 'mutagens' - items dropped by the monsters that you defeat, which allow you to heal yourself, save the game at certain points, and also upgrade the weapons that you use.
All those features mean that you'll have to use your brain, as well as your trigger finger, to succeed, helping to bring the old-school platform format a bit more up to date. It's good value too, at just £6.99, and the 2D graphics don't need a super-fast Mac to run smoothly.
Two-dimensional platform games have been around for donkey's years - even longer than the Mac itself, in fact - but Poncho manages to put a new twist on the traditional platform-jumping action.
Poncho is described as a 'parallax platformer', which means that as well as running and jumping in two dimensions - left and right, or up and down - it uses parallax perspective effects to create additional 'foreground' and 'background' zones on the screen. This creates a kind of pseudo-3D effect that allows you to jump into the foreground or background in order to dodge obstacles and solve puzzles that wouldn't be possible in a conventional 2D platform game.
In other respects, Poncho is a fairly conventional platform game, putting you in control of a little robot who is named after the red poncho that is his only possession. Poncho wakes up in a desolate post-apocalypse world with no sign of human life, so he sets off in search of his maker in an attempt to find out what has happened to the world. The traditional left/right movements of the platform game are so ingrained that it can take a little while to get used to the idea of jumping 'in' and 'out' of the screen, but the effect is well used and allows the game's designers to create some tricky puzzles as you progress through the game.
The resurgence of retro platform games continues with the release of Putty Squad, although this particular game has a bizarre history. Originally developed in the early 90s, the game actually lingered unpublished until just a few years ago, when an updated version with enhanced graphics was finally released for the PC and various games consoles. Now it's been brought to the Mac and Linux by Virtual Programming.
The platform game format is fairly familiar, of course, but Putty Squad manages to come up with a fun twist. As well as the usual running and jumping that you'd expect from a platform game, you control a character simply called Putty who, as the name suggests, can stretch and change shape just like putty.
Putty can squish down flat to squeeze through tight spaces, or inflate in order to float above them. You can stretch Putty up and down in order to climb past obstacles, or stretch out a putty arm to punch enemies. Putty can also wrap around weapons, such as a nitro bomb or rocket-launcher, and carry them around until you need to use them.
Some of the puzzles are actually quite tricky, as you need to figure out which tactic - jumping, floating, punching or stretching - will work best, and we sometimes found it hard to remember all the different control buttons. However, there's a handy tutorial that introduces the game's main features, and we like the ability to press 'M' to zoom out and view the entire level in Map Mode, which helps you to figure out the best route through each level.
It's a shame that the iOS version has also struggled to find a publisher, as Putty Squad seems ideal for the iPhone or iPad, but if you're a fan of old-school platform games then Putty Squad is a real treat. Cliff Joseph
Old-school platform games and arcade shooters have been making a comeback of late - often courtesy of nostalgic gamers funding them on Kickstarter - and Rive is perhaps the purest example of that old-school approach that we've seen so far.
The format of the game is pretty straightforward. You play a tough old space jockey called Roughshot who finds himself adrift in outer space and simply has to blast his way past all the obstacles and enemies that stand in his way. In that respect Rive is no different from a zillion other arcade games. However, the game's relentless, non-stop action has been honed to perfection - it's agonisingly hard, and sometimes leaves you wondering how on earth you're going to finish a single level, let alone complete the entire game.
You'll die over and over, yet the presentation of the game is so slick and attractive that it draws you back in time and time again. Sometimes you're floating around in outer space, dodging asteroids and enemy weapons, while other levels are more like a like a platform game where you have to find your way past a series of obstacles. The controls feel smooth and responsive, and the neon-hued graphics and syntho-soundtrack are like an arcade sugar-rush that just keeps drawing you back in, no matter how many times you die. Rive is most definitely not a game for casual players, but if you're a fan of retro games and like a real challenge then Rive is pure, intravenous arcade action from start to finish.
Games like Yooka-Laylee don't appear on the Mac very often, as it very much harks back to the kind of candy-coloured sugar-rush platform games that thrived on Nintendo consoles back in the 90s. The set up is relatively simple, although it plays out against the sort of brightly coloured neon cartoon world that makes the Super Mario games look drab and dull.
The game starts when evil businessman Capital B - who looks rather like Gru, from the Despicable Me films - and his henchman Dr Quack (who seems to be a duck in a bottle), steal every book in the world so that they can corner the market and make fortune.
To defend the books of the world you step in and take control of two characters - the chameleon Yooka, and his bat buddy Laylee. This dynamic duo has to explore a series of levels called Grand Tomes, which are full of weird and wonderful platforms, puzzles and other obstacles, as well as boss monsters, and endless collectibles that give you health boosts and new powers. As you explore each Grand Tome you will also discover magical book pages (called Pagies) that open up new areas to explore.
As well as playing on your own, the game also includes a co-op mode that lets a friend take control of a third character alongside Yooka and Laylee, and there's a local multiplayer mode that lets four people play together at home. The game is a little pricey, at £34.99, but it's great fun, and it's inventive and funny enough to keep both adults and younger players entertained for hours on end.