Are you game?
IntroductionThe idea of stepping onto a skateboard after all these years sets mental klaxons blaring – warning me that I’d permanently damage some part of my body. Fortunately, people like me can experience some of the thrills and spills of pro skateboarding vicariously, through Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, the popular extreme-sports game. There’s nothing like it for the Mac – it’s a 3D action game that puts you in control of a skateboarder who must navigate treacherous ramps, rails, and other obstacles. Hangar time
You can use a keyboard or a game pad to skate through environments ranging from a school-yard, to a shopping mall, to an aircraft hangar. Grind rails and get major air-time as you hop over obstacles. As you improve your skills, you can string together combination moves to grab huge points. I’ve seen experts use combos to rack up hundreds of thousands of points in just a few seconds. If you perform specific feats of daring, you’ll be rewarded with money. You can also find cash lying around if you know where to look. The more money you earn, the more parks you can visit, the more equipment you can buy, and the more tricks you can learn. The game features a soundtrack of punk-pop and ska tunes from recognizable bands, which loops from track to track as you play. I got tired of it and opted for my own soundtrack. Thanks to the game’s multiplayer mode and its support for GameRanger – a free Mac-only multiplayer service – I’ve discovered that I’m every bit as clumsy and unco-ordinated on a virtual skateboard as I would be on a real one. I’ve had my hindquarters handed to me in each of the various multiplayer modes, including trick attack, graffiti, and horse. The game is also chock-full of customization features. Although it boasts a pre-existing cast of some of pro skating’s top stars, you can customize your own skater’s height, build, basic physical features, and capabilities. And it comes with a built-in skate-park editor that enables you to come up with park designs as wild or mild as desired. And yes, this game supports OS X (a Carbonized version is on the game’s CD). However, some features, such as game-controller support, were missing in that version as Macworld went to press. D&D drama
Summoner is unique and deep. What makes it special, is that it doesn’t attempt to duplicate the pen-and-paper role-playing game (RPG) experience of Dungeons & Dragons. Instead, it melds a solid rules-based system with console-game-like 3D action. Summoner is a fantasy game set in a medieval land. You play the role of Joseph, a young man endowed with mystical powers that enable him to summon creatures, demons, and other nightmarish monsters. While eluding an evil emperor’s henchmen, Joseph must find five hidden rings that will help him control and master his abilities. You also control other folks with special abilities and attributes whom Joseph befriends along the way. Summoner is beautiful to watch – like Pro Skater 2, it’s a 3D game that uses OpenGL and makes fairly high demands on system resources. Its roots as a console game are occasionally revealed in the form of some blocky texture maps, scenery that suddenly pops up out of the fog, and other graphical curiosities, but these problems aren’t serious enough to detract from the game. Summoner isn’t an action game – at least not in the conventional sense. You’re responsible for controlling characters individually or as a group, manipulating inventory, solving quests, engaging in combat with opponents, and interacting with non-player characters. I hope I’m not being dumber than a box of hammers, but I found combat awkward and difficult to master. Although your party is composed of several characters, you can control only one at a time, which can make melee combat with several other opponents overly complicated. Neither is access to inventory, spells, attributes, and some elements of combat intuitive enough. Also, the game sometimes changes camera angles at inopportune moments, interfering with combat or other activities that require split-second timing. You can play online, and, impressively, the game allows Mac and PC users to play together – something of a rarity in Mac game conversions. Summoner makes use of the online gaming company THQ’s free multiplayer service, aptly called thqmultiplay.net.