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2003 Gaming Gift Ideas

Project deadlines, financial pressures, trouble erupting in all corners of the world - sometimes you just want to escape it all for a few minutes. That's where games come in. This year's gaming ideas touch on both standard fantasy and adventure fare, as well as on novel entrants such as a title that's controlled by your body movements in front of a camera.

Although the game market itself moves forward at a frenetic pace, don't discount the games of yesteryear for those people who don't need the latest and greatest. Graphics and sound capabilities may have improved over time, but plenty of older games still provide great game play. Check out the suggestions from previous years for these blasts from the past and do some hunting around on eBay or discount software sites if the publisher no longer sells the game you want.

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For Those Cold Neverwinter Nights -- LuKreme wrote, "Probably the best new Macintosh game this year is the BioWare computer role-playing game Neverwinter Nights. One thing that makes the game so appealing, beyond the great look, well-designed interface, and multi-player support, is that there are thousands of modules and expansions that can change the scope of the game radically. If you're not a fan of the 'hack and slash' mentality of most role-playing games, there are modules or servers that emphasize story, role playing, social interactions, and more."


Get Unreal -- Karl Kornel offered another role-playing game of the first-person, shoot-everything-in-sight variety: Unreal Tournament 2003 from MacSoft. He notes, "The graphics in Unreal Tournament are amazing, the sound is theater-like (on my little two-speaker-plus-sub system), and it has enough modes of play to give you a fun game even if you only have 30 minutes. There's also a recent update that fixes many problems that Unreal Tournament 2003 had with Panther and claims a performance increase of 25 percent or more."

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Games for the Solitary -- Andy Affleck sticks with a perennial suggestion: Semicolon Software's Solitaire Till Dawn, which is available in separate versions for the classic Mac OS and Mac OS X. "I rarely have time to play games any more but this one is the one I keep finding time for. Or rather, I tend to play games which take very little time so I can squeeze them in whenever I need to. I've tried many of the solitaire games for the Mac and this is the one I like best. The interface is simple, elegant, and it just works. It doesn't have overly fancy graphics, but they're fine (I use a deck of cards with a picture of my son as the back) and it eschews fluff like an over-the-top splash screen, winning graphics, and so on. You just play cards, and that's precisely what I want to do."


Nik Friedman provides an alternative suggestion: Burning Monkey Solitaire (or Burning Monkey Mahjong Solitaire) from Freeverse. "It offers great card games, great time wasters, and is appealing to folks who aren't big gamers but want something fun on their computer."


Let's Get Physical! Les Carter offered a unique idea for anyone with a FireWire video camera and some extra energy. "I've been beta testing a great new game that would be the perfect gift for all the family this Christmas. If your recipient has a Mac and an iSight (or any other FireWire webcam, or DV camcorder) then have a look at ToySight, which is a cool little pack of games for the Mac that are totally controlled by the player's motion in front of the camera. I can honestly say that I haven't had as much fun with a game for ages, and I also got a bit of a workout into the bargain!"


Breaking out of the Data Center -- Chuck Goolsbee of digital.forest agreed with Andy's comment earlier about not having much time to play games. So when he's not watching the digital.forest network that keeps the TidBITS servers accessible to the world, Chuck grabs a quick game of DX-Ball. "My little time waster is DX-Ball, a shareware Breakout-style game, that is very well done. You can play quick little sessions, or all night, if you are good enough, and it's cheap at $10."


Breakout-style games are enjoying a renaissance, since one is built into the iPod now and LuKreme recommended another. "The $16 shareware Colibricks, which was the first game I played under Mac OS X is still a winner. It's a game in the style of Breakout, or more correctly, Arkanoid (if anyone remembers that arcade version of Breakout). I really like the physics model in Colibricks, and the insanely difficult levels you can play by using 'random level' option, which lets you get a taste for the impossible higher levels without having to play for six hours. It also allows you to save your game, so you can save when you are doing well and go back when you stupidly lose 3 balls in 30 seconds."


The Game of Kings (and Queens) -- Kirk McElhearn is tending toward the more cerebral games. "I'm just getting serious about playing chess again, and the best bargain out there is Sigma Chess, which comes in two versions: a free basic version, which will beat the pants off me for a long time, and a $15 pro version, which offers extra features for serious players. The program is fast, attractive and strong."


It's Just Enigmatic -- Christopher Ungeheier and Nik Friedman both recommended the 3-D puzzle game Enigmo, from Pangea. Nik found it relaxing, fun, challenging but not too challenging, and overall just a great game. Chris agreed, adding "You can also download more levels from Pangea's Web site, and for those who find it too challenging, there's a level editor so you can create your own fun."


Pull Some Virtual Gs -- Now here's an unusual idea. Tomoharu Nishino turned us on to NoLimitsSimulator from Mad-Data. "It's a quite realistic roller coaster simulator - nothing beats feeling the G-forces of the real thing, but NoLimitsSimulator comes pretty close. It comes with 50 or so pre-built tracks featuring the world's most famous roller coasters. It also allows you to build and simulate your own rides; the build environment is robust but complex, making it more like a CAD program than a game. Obviously as with any simulation application of this type, NoLimitsSimulator benefits from a fast computer with a fast graphics card; it's absolutely gorgeous on a new Power Mac G5 but is still quite good even on an aging 800 MHz PowerBook G4. At $25, NoLimitsSimulator is perfect for the roller coaster junkie or an engineering type."



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