six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Six Colors Staff

Our favorites: iOS/Mac Games

All work and no play make all of us more than a little bit dull. Great games abound on Apple’s platforms, and you shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty about indulging in them. After all, sometimes the brain does its best work when it’s distracted. At least, that’s totally what we keep telling ourselves.

Super Stickman Golf 3

The third installment in the venerable franchise is no less fun than its predecessors. While most of Noodlecake’s free Super Stickman Golf 3 will be instantly familiar to long time players—you pick the direction and power of your shot while playing your way through a variety of obstacle-laden courses—this version introduces an entirely new concept in the form of spin (back or top) that you can put on your shot. There are, of course, the requisite new power-ups—like an anti-gravity ball or a zig-zag shot—new hats, and new golfer outfits as well. You can rack up virtual cash in both single player and multiplayer to buy power-up cards.—DM

Blackbox

This year’s most frustrating game is also its most intriguing. I love puzzle games, and the free Blackbox from Ryan McLeod is definitely a head-scratcher, though you might quickly shift to wanting to pull your hair out. The trick here is that none of the challenges in Blackbox require—or indeed, even allow—you to use the iPhone’s touchscreen. Instead, they rely on all the other features of the device, from the physical buttons to the built-in sensors. Calling the puzzles “clever” would be an understatement. Blackbox has the distinction of being one of the hardest games I’ve played on iOS, and yet one of the most rewarding—there’s nothing quite like the feeling of satisfaction when you finally manage to defeat some of the game’s more pernicious challenges.—DM

Deus Ex Go

An entirely different kind of puzzle game, the $2 Deus Ex GO is cut from the same mold as Hitman GO and previous favorite Lara Craft GO. Like them, it’s a turn-based strategy game: in this case, you move protagonist Adam Jensen, the cybernetic hero of the Deus Ex games, through a variety of boards, evading sentry robots, armored guards, and turrets. The twist, though, is you can (and often must) use your enhancements to reprogram some of the automated defenses, forcing them to do your bidding. New mechanics roll out gradually over time, and like the other games in the series, Deus Ex GO is refreshing in that it doesn’t nickel and dime you with in-game upgrades. There’s also a vast collection of user-created boards, and you can try your hand at making one yourself with the built-in Puzzle Maker.—DM

Psych!

Next time you’re sitting around with some friends and looking for a fun but low-key game, consider Psych!, from the same folks that brought you the entertaining Heads Up!. It’s a bit like Balderdash: you and your friends are all given a word or trivia question, and it’s up to you to concoct fake answers. Then, you try to guess the real one: find it and you’ll earn some points, but you’ll also get points for everybody who guesses your answer. By default, the game comes with a few free decks of questions; you can buy more on different topics if you want.—DM

NYTimes Crossword

While I don’t do the New York Times crossword every single day, I definitely do it more often than not. And that’s in large part because of the NYTimes Crossword app, which delivers the fresh, steaming hot puzzle to my phone every single day. At $40 for a year’s subscription, it’s a steal: that’s just $0.11 per puzzle (even less, if you count the daily mini puzzles too)! For cruciverbalists, there’s just no substitute. If you don’t want to pony up for the year, you can still play a week’s worth of puzzles for free or buy a month’s subscription for $7. Need even more? Your subscription gives you access to a huge archive of historical puzzles, and if that doesn’t quench your thirst, you can also buy additional packs of puzzles right through the app. My favorite feature? Tracking my streak of ongoing puzzle solves with no hints and keeping an eye on my solve stats to try and beat my personal best.—DM

Really Bad Chess

Did you learn how to play chess but then found it kind of boring? I know, I’m a philistine for suggesting that the great game could be dull, but I was so bad at it that I gave it up after a couple of years. Zach Gage’s Really Bad Chess, which I reviewed earlier this year won me back, with its clever approach of giving you an assortment of powerful chess pieces—and altering the balance of power as you improve. It’s a lot of fun playing chess with three queens, is what I’m saying.—JS

Mini Metro

Who knew the subway could be so soothing? Not riding it, but building it, courtesy of the $5 Mini Metro app, which arrived on iOS earlier this year. Mini Metro is a game inspired by the classic style of Harry Beck, creator of the famous London Underground map. Your job is to connect stations on a map, add trains and transfer points, and generally deal with the growth of your city by routing (and re-routing) your public transportation system.

I loved building subways and trains in SimCity back in the day, and Mini Metro feels a lot like that. It’s quick to pick up, but the more you play it, the more you’ll learn about subtle ways to improve your gameplay.—JS

Gunpoint

I don’t end up recommending a lot of games for my Mac—in part because it’s never been as much of a gaming platform as iOS or consoles—but the $5 Gunpoint won me over with its clever stealth and puzzle mechanics, clever writing, and noir-steeped atmosphere. Each level sees you breaking into a different building as a twist-within-twist plot of murder and betrayal plays out. It’s a quick and charming play that will appeal to anybody who likes a bit of head-scratching mixed a non-traditional platformer. Personally, I’m in it for the smart-mouthed and in-slightly-over-his-head private detective/spy who has a pair of trousers that let him make ridiculously high jumps. Everything else is icing.—DM

Endless Sky

In my early teens, one of my favorite Mac games was Ambrosia Software’s Escape Velocity series. While there are workarounds to keep those old titles running, I also came across a spiritual successor: Michael Zahniser’s open source Endless Sky. Available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, the 2D space game features all the classic elements of commodity trading, space battles, and intriguing plots. Explore the galaxy, upgrade your ship, meet alien races, and make a tidy profit while doing so. If you were a fan of space trading games, then Endless Sky should bring a nostalgia-filled tear to your eye. Best of all, it’s free, so all you have to spend is your countless hours.—DM

Jackbox Party Pack 3

Hey, it’s an AppleTV game! I had to add one. The Jackbox Party Pack, which has been available on Mac and PC and consoles for a while, came to Apple TV with volume 3. It’s a collection of party games that are a huge amount of fun. I’ve played the Jackbox games with friends and family alike, and everyone always has a great time.

The secret to the game design is that your TV is the referee and scoreboard, but everyone uses their own phones (or pretty much any device with a web browser) as their controller. Whether you’re drawing something silly or inventing a fictional definition for a ridiculously real word, Jackbox Party Pack Vol. 3 made me laugh so hard that tears were streaming down my face.-JS

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