Thanks to the advent of Steam for Mac, the dedication and ingenuity of indie developers and the App Store’s raising of awareness of Apple and its products, 2010 was the best year for Apple gaming since, well, the Big Bang.
We can’t even pretend to have played all the games that came out this year, or even a tenth of them. There were a lot of great games that escaped our radar, or we just didn’t get the time to play. Heck, we don’t even have editorial consensus amongst ourselves.
After the jump, though, you can find at least my list of 2010’s iOS and Mac games that siphoned away most of my time, causing me to miss deadlines, emotionally neglect my girlfriend, and extend my index fingers by three inches through callus mass alone. What were the games that extended yours? Let us know in the comments
2010 Mac Games:
Torchlight by Runic Games: 2011 should see the release of Blizzard’s highly-anticipated crawler, Diablo III for both Windows and OS X, but Mac gamers enamored of hack-and-slash RPGs ound a lot to love in this lovingly crafted dungeon crawler, in which the player — choosing between three separate classes, each with branching skill trees — plunges the chthonic depths beneath the town of Torchlight to confront an ancient evil, all the while collecting enchanted loot and gold and wielding swords, magic, guns… and even the occasional transformative fish.
Portal by Valve Software: The hilarious masterpiece that launched Steam for Mac, the player is put in the shoes of Chell, a cybernetically-enhanced test subject awakened in the Aperture Science laboratories to conduct experiments involving teleportation by command of GLaDOS, a schizophrenic A.I. whose relationship with the player is more akin to that of a jilted ex-girlfriend with the lover who spurned her… and she now intends to taxidermically stuffed. This was a triumph. Just remember the tired old meme: the cake is a lie.
Minecraft by Mojang Studios: The Java-based world building sim that took Mac, Windows and Linux by storm, the player finds himself corporealized in a land made entirely of blocks, which can be hewn out of the earth and recombined to create everything from mile long underground caverns to castles floating in the sky. For more of my thoughts on what was the biggest surprise of the year, check out my column on Minecraft here.
Team Fortress 2 by Valve Software: Another game that helped launch Steam for Mac, Team Fortress 2 is a Cold War inspired team-based multiplayer game, realized with all the quirk, humor, skill and production values of a Pixar film. Although the game is years old, debuting on Windows in late 2007, the last three years have expanded the basic game so much with new maps, gameplay modes, achievements and in-game items that Team Fortress 2 is still one of the best games and best values on any platform.
Bejeweled 3 by Pop Cap: Everyone’s played some iteration of Pop Cap’s gem swap game at this point, but Bejeweled 3 is the best incarnation yet, effortlessly proving that even the simplest game mechanic can be expanded in new and exciting ways by introducing exciting new game modes, powerful new gems and even a Bejeweled take on poker which is far more addictive than it has any right to be.
Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup by The Dungeon Crawl Team (Honorable Mention): An impressive fork of a thirteen year old ASCII based gamee, Stone Soup replaced Nethack as my rogue-like of choice in 2010, thanks to its incredible interface, fantastic tile-based graphics and rare focus on fairness instead of sadism. All of these qualities are infinitely rare in a rogue-like, so while Stone Soup isn’t for everyone, anyone who has ever enjoyed plunging an at symbol through infinite levels of a randomly generated dungeons teeming with monsters and treasures will find this free download to be the finest permutation yet of a game genre as old as Unix terminals.
2010 iOS Games:
Game Dev Story by Kairosoft Co, Ltd.: The most surprising and quirky time waster of the year. An iOS port of a virtually unknown, decade-old Asian game, your job is to build your own game company up from a basement office to an international console maker by fine-tuning your own unique games and intelligent utilizing a pool of employees as eccentric as a monkey, a resurrected Egyptian pharaoh and a robot.
Infinity Blade by Chair Entertainment: We’ve already written several thousand words gushing about Infinity Blade, declaring it in our own review to be an elegiac, infinitely replayable masterpiece of the platform. All you really need to know, though, is that Infinity Blade is the future of iOS as a gaming platform capable of not only challenging the dominance of handheld consoles like the Nintendo DS, but even chipping away at the perceived graphical advantages of even the most technically advanced consoles like the PlayStation 3o or Xbox 360.
Plants vs. Zombies by PopCap: Horticulture meets the zombie apocalypse in Pop Cap’s brilliantly realized tower defense game. Prevent hordes of zombies from eating your brains by mounting a defense on your front lawn with dozens of powerful anthropomorphic plants. Although the game is also available for Mac, it really shines on iOS, being perfectly suited for multitouch. If you’re on an iPad, though, you’re best playing it there, since it includes the incredible Endless Survival mode from the PC version… the only true way to play Plants vs. Zombies.
Sword and Poker 2 by Gaia Co, Ltd.: You wouldn’t think that poker could be successfully married to a light RPG, but the Sword and Poker series proves it without breaking a sweat. Explore a dungeon and defeat enemies by creating viable poker hands on a 5×5 grid, all the while expanding your arsenal of equipment to increase the murderous potency of your Full Houses and Royal Flushes. Although Sword and Poker is similarly excellent, the second time was the charm for Gaia, adding a new overworld and numerous, differently themed dungeons to a formula that was already nearly perfect in its devious simplicity.
Sword of Fargoal by Fargoal, LLC: Readers of CoM (and even this list) probably have already figured out that I’ve got a deep, abiding love for rogue-likes. Unfortunately, rogue-likes tend to be fairly complicated games, requiring a lot of contextual text input: they need physical keyboards, in other words. Sword of Fargoal sidesteps this problem by bringing one of the simplest rogue-likes to the iPhone, re-envisioning a 28 year old dungeon crawler for the Commodore VIC-20 as the first rogue-like to be perfectly suited for multitouch devices. The constant stream of updates and incredible new tile-based graphics (which somehow manage to both be technically impressive and faithful to the game’s Commodore origins) are just gravy.
Geospark by Critical Thoughts (Honorable Mention): Geospark is one of those deceptively simple little five-minute time wasters that can easily turn into multi-hour gaming vortexes. In Geospark, the goal is to destroy colorful geometrical shapes that nebularly drift onto the playing field, without ever allowing them to touch a different shape, which ends the game immediately. The player can do this in one of two ways: you can either tap the shape with your finger, or you can drag one shape into an identical shape to destroy both. The most points are allotted for stringing together long chains of identical shapes, but you have to be careful: the longer the chain, the stronger the force of gravity becomes around your finger. What this means is that the more shapes your chain together, the faster other shapes get sucked towards your finger: if any of those shapes collide with one another, it’s game over. There are a lot of casual pick-up-and-play color and gem matching games on iOS, but for my money, Geospark is the only one you need.