All work and no play... hey, wait a minute, that sounds suspiciously close to home. At least TidBITS readers are a bit better about switching away from the productivity applications. Even more so than with other software, we encourage you to check out recommendations from previous years, since many of those games remain extremely enjoyable for those who weren't exposed to them originally.
Is That a Tank in Your Pocket, Or... Jamie Kahn Genet wrote, "I recommend Pocket Tanks. Anyone who ever loved Scorched Earth will find this $16 Mac OS X artillery game fantastic fun. It's dead easy to learn with numerous outlandish weapons, each with its own blast pattern. Two player mode is highly addictive and appeals to young and old alike.
"Oh, and for any gamer wanting to be taken seriously by the old school who missed them the first time round, or lost their copy, I recommend the Marathon Trilogy Box Set (but good luck finding a copy) and/or Bungie Action Sack (a lot easier to locate on eBay, plus it has every other pre-Myth Bungie game), Myth: the Total Codex ($25, with new fan-created updates you can play under Mac OS X!) or get Myth:TFL and Myth 2 separately, and System Shock (an amazing FPS/RPG for its time that disappointingly fell under the radar of most Doom-obsessed gamers). There are a wealth of treats to be had from old Mac games if you are so inclined."
Airburst Extreme -- Nik Friedman recommended Freeverse's Airburst Extreme. "Fun for the whole family. Cheap ($30), non-violent (well, pretty much), and it has great multi-player options. It's a fast-paced arcade game in which you play an alien of some sort sitting on a ring of balloons. You attempt to pop your opponents' balloons with a bouncing spiked ball. Kind of like a fighting game version of Breakout. Bizarre power ups, a variety of variations on the basic game theme (including racing, grenades, a story mode, soccer, and a seemingly infinite number of other options), and a funky techno soundtrack make for an extremely addictive mix!"
Gish -- Jeff Porten wrote, "I don't recall where I found it, but I've been extremely impressed with Gish ($20). You see, you're this ball of tar, and you're fighting robots and snarly round creatures and... oh, just go download the demo. What makes this game for me is that the physics of the tarball seem accurate. If you try to stick to a ceiling but you're moving too fast, you rebound off at an angle. Your avatar is a thick fluid, and reacts accordingly. Takes a while to learn all of the things the guy can do (especially throwing rocks at high velocity), but it's a lot of fun in the process."
Solitaire Till Dawn... Again -- Andy J. W. Affleck commented, "As usual, here's my annual plug for my favorite game: Semicolon Software's Solitaire Till Dawn, which is available in separate versions for the classic Mac OS and Mac OS X ($25). I rarely have time to play games any more, but this 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."
A Mixed Bag -- Kevin van Haaren concurred with Andy's recommendation of Solitaire Till Dawn and managed to change the subject several times in almost the same breath. "It's one of my favorites too, for the same reason. I'd love to have a Palm version as all the Palm solitaires I've found aren't nearly as nice. Speaking of Palm games, I like the quick little games, like some of the solitaires in Solitaire Till Dawn. Bejeweled is probably the most well-known of these types of games. I picked up the Pop Cap Games Pack ($30) that has five of these types of games (Bejeweled and Atomica! are my favorites.)
"I also see Bejeweled 2 is available ($20), although the version for Mac OS X doesn't appear to be available yet. And the Web version doesn't want to work for me in Safari or Camino.
"Another great game for Mac OS X is the free Bubble Pop from Lobotomo Software."
Neverwinter Nights -- Andy also expanded his game playing beyond cards. He continued, "Even though I plug Solitaire Till Dawn every year, I do try other games. This year I played another game so much that I have to recommend it as well: Neverwinter Nights."
Set in the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy realm, Neverwinter Nights is a role-playing game that provides the visuals and action you may remember from days of rolling 12-sided dice.
"I downloaded the demo (240 MB) on a whim and fully expected to play it for a minute and then toss it. I ended up buying the game ($50), completing it over a few months, buying expansion packs and downloading modules, and getting my buddy to buy the game so he and I could play online. It's that good. Certainly get the demo and see for yourself. Note that you need some hefty graphics processing power to get the most out of it, but it is well worth it."
Battlefield 1942 -- You'd think that putting out a TidBITS issue every week and working on other projects would be enough computer exposure, but Managing Editor Jeff Carlson likes to relieve stress occasionally by playing the first-person World War II shooter Battlefield 1942: Deluxe Edition ($50).
He wrote, "Although it doesn't have the best graphics on the market, Battlefield 1942 features some of the best online play: liberate Stalingrad or defend Britain with dozens of other players, using airplanes, submarines, tanks, and other equipment. I like to jump into a game for small chunks of time and not worry about having to spend hours completing a mission - though you can play an entire campaign as a single player against the computer."