|The Slackerís Guide to Shareware - Part 4|
July 25, 2002 | Chris Barylick
Somewhere amid the post-expo chaos of MacWorld, the Slacker finally found the final shareware selection. And, snuggling it to his heart and letting it devour his brain on the Acela ride home, the quintet of games is complete. Several new titles have found their way into the Slackerís heart for the remainder of the summer, and even if Steve Jobs didnít change the world this time around with yet another long-winded keynote, we the Mac users will still mutually cuddle, light a cigarette and gently lie that it was good for us too.
Commercial gaming is as alive as it ever was in the hallowed halls of the Javits Center, Mac gaming still serving as the best example of a market that takes the best of what the PC has to offer and giving it back to its own rabid fan base. Refined and beautiful, titles like Jedi Knight II, Max Payne and WarCraft III prove that there will always be a good game to shell out for on your Mac. The shareware end, expo or otherwise, still proves no different, some games rising to the top and becoming worth of every positive word that can be said about them as well as their shareware fees.
With MacWorld memories in his mind and a searing combination of love and primordial hate for whoever invented the sliding puzzle stirring the Slackerís Shakespearean humors, we beginÖ
BattleCocoaYou may not be able to get away from the classics, but you can sure improve on them. When the Slacker first laid his youthful peepers on the mighty Tetris, Johnny Depp seemed to be the only thing that could keep the forces of evil at bay on ď21 Jump StreetĒand Winona Ryder had become the Goth actress of choice not too many years before. Little did anyone know just how important this Russian classic would be or how many games would follow in its thematic foot steps.
BattleCocoa has taken the essential principles of Tetris and added some interesting new features to it. Keep in mind that this is the classic game we all know and love, similar to its old 8-bit Nintendo counterpart even down to the controls. BattleCocoaís programmers have gone a few steps further and added Internet protocols to the game, enabling players to act both as clients and servers as well as chat with each other. The end result is something that appeals to anyone who loved the original Tetris, but wants a bit of a multiplayer challenge along with it, the game hosting and connecting easily.
BattleCocoa is available for free and runs on Mac OS X 10.0 or later. Unfortunately, no one has yet to take credit for the game, which lists osxdev.org as the only contact point. The game is currently in late beta, the only major feature needing improvement being a complete lack of a sound track, preferably something similar to the frenetic quasi-techno that used to emanate from Tetris whenever the Slacker was close to losing. Free to all and worth the download, BattleCocoa has its work cut out for it to be a great adaptation of a classic.
BurstThe Amish havenít taken over the earth (or made a heartfelt attempt to do so), but for some reason, simple is in and it makes for an addictive game. Burst by Dracosoft proves that a game doesnít need graphics that push the limits of OpenGL or an instruction manual that borders on the length of various religious tomes to be fun. Like a kinetic version of Connect Four, players are presented with a grid of floating balloons to move around, shifting positions to form groups of three identically colored balloons in a row. Once this is done, the balloons pop and make room for additional balloons to slide onto the board, new formations being created that might or might not be their own groups of three in a row, complete with the potential for additional bonus points.
Power-ups like lighting (which destroys a vertical role of balloons), flying saucers (space ships which randomly fly around the board, slicing through anything in their path) and special balloons (which turn a radius of balloons into the same color, thereby eliminating them from play) make the game interesting. Although exclusively designed around single player mode, the game can be customized for timed and untimed play modes, the presence of a timer making things fun while also causing your brain to want to chuck itself out your ear as a convenient means of suicide if things arenít quite going your way.
Affordably priced at $9.99, Burst is cheap, even as far as shareware is concerned. The 60 minute demo time on the unregistered copy seems too short to really enjoy it, but this turns out to be the perfect game to hack around with for 10 or 15 minutes as well as being perfect for a young family that might want to teach their kids something about colors and order. Sadly, Burst is OS X-only, a feature which might hurt sales a bit. Be that as it may, this is worth the download, your attention and its registration fee.
KhufuThe wheel has been reinvented and Zachary Black and Zach Morris might as well line up and take credit. The wheel in this case is the Tetris theme, the idea of falling blocks that need to be rearranged in a coherent order as a means of clearing said blocks and scoring points. While Tetris has spawned an unholy number of games which have taken its core principle and redesigned it for their own ends, this is one of the most original the Slacker has seen to date.
Simple, elegant and challenging, Khufu asks the question of what a player would have to do if Tetris were designed around a pyramid structure. The answer is an extremely challenging, intricate and fun game. A combination of Tetris and Connect Four with falling triangles, players must group the pieces by color in order to remove them from the screen. Compounding the difficulty for each level is a large triangle of pieces in the middle of the board that grows higher with each passing level, players needing to clear the board of all pieces to advance.
Itís the little things that make a game enjoyable and Zsculpt hasnít forgotten this. Khufuís original, challenging game play is made even better by a great music scheme that might best be described as ďArabic technoĒ, the pace and rhythm keeping with the feel of the game. Khufu allows players to choose between puzzle and survival modes, survival mode using the same rules as puzzle mode but haphazardly dropping random pieces onto the board to make life harder. Although only in beta at this point in time, the game shows incredible potential, the 2-player versus mode allowing for simultaneous competitive play. The only major section that has yet to be implemented seems to be network play and itís unknown as to what protocols will be supported, whether players can act as or join Khufu servers or whether GameRanger will be supported.
After walking through the hallowed halls of MacWorld New York with an amigaís oversized Hello Kitty clutched to his chest, the Slacker has learned that people tend to like to be put at ease if at all possible. The hardware specs for Khufu are extremely easily met, any PowerPC Macintosh with a 640 x 480 screen resolution, thousands of colors, Mac OS 8.6 (or higher) and CarbonLib 1.5 can run Khufu, thereby making it accessible to anyone whoís bought a new Mac within the last several years, including your incredibly dorky parents who seem to think their Performa 6400 will last forever since the case is the size of a mid-sized Labrador retriever. $14.95 buys an incredibly fun, addictive game that has all the room in the world to grow into a truly terrific shareware title. ZSculpt has done well and you owe it to yourselves to at the very least check out the fruits of their labors. The groupies come later.