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Holiday Gift Suggestions

Jack Rosenzweig <[email protected]> writes:

The coolest game out there by far is Marathon by Bungie, the Pathways Into Darkness guys. Marathon is way better, has amazing graphics, and is very fast on a Power Mac and pretty fast on slower machines. Net play is amazing. Marathon has the best Mac net play game we’ve seen yet. And we’ve done Spectre, Hornet, etc. I’m sure others will second this idea, what with 1,500 downloads of the much-anticipated demo from America Online in only six days. And that takes 43 minutes at 14,000 bps. marathon0.0demo.cpt.hqx

Doc Kinne <[email protected]> enthuses:

All right, I’ll admit it; I’m a simulations geek. This Maxis title sets the standard for the rest of their work. Fondly known as SimCity 2K, SimCity 2000 allows the simulator in you to go nuts! You can zone areas to nearly any size and shape you want. You can now build your city on hilly, three dimensional terrain with highways, tunnels, schools, libraries, desalination plants and water pumps. Are you part mole? Now you can build your city’s subway and waterworks system underground as well! The user interface has been improved with tear-off menus and multi-function buttons. Best of all, SimCity 2K has just been released in a PowerPC-native mode. If you liked the original SimCity game, or any of Maxis’s other products, get this game! Excuse me, I have to go deal with an alien spacecraft turning my downtown into a forest.

Brad Andrews <[email protected]> comments:

I recently was involved with previewing SimTown (a town simulator) and SimTower (which simulates a skyscraper) for a game magazine and I would strongly recommend either of these if they make it out for Christmas. (I would guess that SimTown might, while SimTower is less likely.) Both games live up to the free-form "play" of SimCity and seem a lot better than the other sequels I have played. Even with an early version with quirks I found myself coming back to try something new and see what it did. That speaks well of the game system and I am certain the final versions will be well worth the cost.

Jim Niemann <[email protected]> seconds the motion (in one of only two duplicate suggestions we received):

SimTower is the latest electronic toy from Maxis (SimCity, SimCity 2000, SimEarth, SimAnt, SimLife, SimFarm, A-Train). This time, you are building a skyscraper starting from a bare piece of land. You need to balance your construction costs against the tenant’s needs. As you move up levels, disasters such as terrorists and fires start appearing. Overall, this is an addictive simulator both for adults and kids (8 and up).

Hewett Bill <[email protected]> suggests:

The only games I play on the Mac are flight simulators. Hands down the best of these is Graphic Simulation’s F/A-18 Hornet (see the review in the Jan-95 Macworld, in which it was awarded Best of ’94). The 20 frame-per-second, highly detailed graphics and realistic mission scenarios bring the computer pilot into the action. The networking feature (which supports ARA) adds an additional dimension. I broke a sweat the first time a human opponent launched a Sidewinder missile close in! The current GSC supported version is 1.1.2 but there are very stable betas available on America Online and the net, 1.1.3b1 and b2, which add a more realistic (but more difficult to control) roll rate. Version 2.0 (Power Mac-native) and the add-on Korean Crisis missions should be available by Christmas. Version 2.0 is a free upgrade; now that’s customer support! If you add a Thrustmaster Joystick/Throttle to your Mac there’s less concern over the repetitive stress of typing, since you literally never touch the keyboard!

SK Suh <[email protected]> suggests a shareware game:

My current Macintosh game affliction (or addiction) is Tetris Max 2.3.1, which is shareware (and has been, of course, duly registered). arc/tetris-max-231.hqx

Harvey Barnett <[email protected]> also recommends shareware:

My favorite gift this season is a piece of shareware called Solitaire Till Dawn, published by Semicolon Software (see TidBITS-246). I can spend hours playing it. crd/solitaire-till-dawn-201.hqx

Dan Bensky <[email protected]> suggests, for kids:

I have purchased a Sierra Online game called The Castle of Dr. Brain for more than one active and intelligent eleven-year old. The game is a series of puzzles. Some require pattern identification, some math, some word searches, some codes, some simple programming – you get the idea. It is fascinating and fun for the kids and gives their brains a workout. Since it has three levels of difficulty (same type of problems, just harder) it can be played for quite a while. On top of all that, it is under $20 (probably because the graphics, though serviceable, are nothing to rave about and the game is a couple of years old).

Sam and David Gasster <[email protected]> offer:

David, my three and a half year-old son, loves playing and learning on my Quadra 650. I have been running two of the Random House/Broderbund CD-ROM-based Living Books. They are Mercer Mayer’s Just Grandma and Me, featuring the Little Critter, and Marc Brown’s Arthur’s Teacher Trouble. David enjoys these stories and learned to use the mouse to point and click in a short time. Each story opens with a menu that enables the reader to choose between "read-only" mode, "play-in-the-story" mode, and to choose the language (some come in English, Spanish, and Japanese). My son loves the "play-in-the-story" mode, where each page is displayed with live action and a narrator reads the highlighted text. The game then pauses to allow the child to "play" using the mouse. This is the best part because the programmers who developed these games have a great sense of humor. For example, click on Grandma Critter’s mailbox and one of three things might happen: the door opens and a frog and water pour out, a monster hand reaches out and closes the box, or a cat shows up and meows. Part of the fun is searching each frame for these goodies. I sit and play it with him, but he can also occupy himself quite well without trashing my Mac. One of the things we do together is try to find specific words or items. If I ask him to find the word "Grandma" he looks at the text, finds the word and clicks it with the mouse and the computer responds by saying the word. Arthur’s Teacher Trouble is about a spelling bee, so at the end there is a spelling section that we also have fun with. All-in-all the sound, graphics, skill level, and humor make this one of our favorite father-son learning hacks, and I plan to ask Santa for more in the Living Books series (around $40).

Sumo, from MacSoft, attempts to take the sport of sumo wrestling and turn it into an abstract computer game. You control a ball and attempt to knock a similarly sized ball off a circular platform. As you progress through the rounds, you cycle through different opponents, each of which with different tactics and increasing skills. Two-player play is available, but one person must use the keyboard, which proved rather difficult in maneuvering a round ball around a circular platform.

Thermopad — For the latest in cool mousepads, check out the Thermopad. Between rubber padding and a textured lexan surface (like any other good mousepad) is a hidden pattern in heat-sensitive liquid crystal. On the right side, the heat of your hand reveals a Celtic pattern (it’s invisible when cold). The left side of the mousepad sports an embedded liquid crystal thermometer that tells the room temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius. It costs $16 and is only available from Creative Edges Toy Company, which is offering to pay USPS shipping costs for TidBITS readers (so mention where you heard about it to save a couple of bucks).

Creative Edges Toy Company — 408/622-9854 –<[email protected]>

Roger Weeks <[email protected]> recommends a more esoteric program:

For MIDI sequencing freaks and other musical types, I highly recommend Emagic’s Notator Logic Audio as the high end sequencing and notation program of choice. There’s so much this program can do I’m still scratching the surface a month later. Bear in mind this was purchased with a $3,000 Digidesign Session 8, which enables me to record eight tracks of digital audio to my hard disk. However, this is the end-all and be-all of MIDI sequencers without all the nifty digital features. An environment window allows you to design your own MIDI delays, arpeggiators, and other effects. You can synchronize digital audio with MIDI data. A must have for any serious MIDI musician.

Neil E. Mickelson <[email protected]> comments:

Let’s face it – Myst is the best game available for Mac adventurers right now, hands down. No violence (i.e. it meets parental approval), puzzles that make you use your head, and graphics and sound that draw you into the world like no other game I’ve ever played. This thing is a reason to buy a CD-ROM drive. I won’t describe it more than that, since it would defeat the purpose of the game. This one’s a keeper. Get it and lose yourself in the worlds of Myst today!!

Suman Chakrabarti <[email protected]> writes:

I have a few gift recommendations.

  • LabelOnce labels from APS. These puppies are fantastic, and I love the ability to use only one label per disk, and just erase it whenever I need to. I use them on my floppies, 270 MB SyQuest cartridges, and VHS videotapes.
  • Dragon’s Lair CD-ROM. This classic faithfully reproduces the old arcade game that was one of the first to cost 50 cents (instead of 25). It "only" goes to 8-bit color, but has good hints, and you can get the actual answers by calling ReadySoft at a 905-number and going through their menu. $39.95, I think, from Educorp.
  • Educorp is selling a CD-ROM bundle including Lunicus, Jump Raven, and Who Killed Sam Rupert for $79.95. I’ve only played Lunicus so far, and that’s highly cool. The other two have had good reviews in various spots. I think Jump Raven might even have made Macworld’s top games list this year.
  • No, I haven’t gotten Myst, yet. I’m saving the best for last.

David Johnson <[email protected]> offers a custom suggestion:

I recently found a great gift idea, made by Ultimate Software <[email protected]>. They make custom screensavers, and will scan your favorite photos into an After Dark module. I sent in pictures of my roommate’s cats, and they sent back a module that displayed her kitties with cool zoom and melt effects, and had a little mouse running around with them. They have special modules for cats, dogs, and people.

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