5 Mac Game Gems Under $5

Reversing gravity and throwing bombs has never been cheaper. 

Let’s face it, the terms “Mac” and “gaming” haven’t always been the closest of friends.  Hardcore gamers scoff at Mac users, boasting that their PCs support much more extensive libraries, and who am I to argue the validity of such a bulletproof claim?  But the fact remains that Macs are no longer hobby computers; they are in use by a substantial segment of the population, members of which may want to game.

In recent years, it has become more acceptable for gamers to use a Mac and game developers have sought to address this new market by releasing big titles for both major operating systems.  Mac gamers won a huge victory when Steam was released to the Apple community, yet while iMacs and MacBooks are humming away, running even the most recent titles, there’s still a stigma attached to Mac gaming.

In an effort to chip away at the stigma and share some hidden gems that may not be all-too-widely known, here are five games, each for under five bucks on the App Store.

Evac – $1.99 

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Evac is unmistakably a Pac-Man clone, but under the surface it’s so much more.  From the get-go, the pink square protagonist is escaping from a cell in a maze of colors.  Guided by a yellow square with a pessimistic attitude named Cratos, “the pink one” must collect all of the pellets to open the door to an exit. Meanwhile, the imprisoner, Shadowbox, sends his red square minions out to recapture the pink square. Using a combination of power-ups, weapons, hiding places, and puzzle tactics, you must evade and defeat the enemies through 32 neon-colored mazes.  The commentary from Cratos and Shadowbox add elements of humor into the game and the puzzles within keep Evac from being a monotonous clone.  At times, the abundance of power-ups steal a sense of difficulty that Pac-Man boasted, but the variety of puzzles keeps the player engaged.

Blot – Free

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Who knew that playing as an exuberant ink blot could be so much fun?  Blot is an incredibly straightforward helicopter-style game: simply press the space bar to propel the blot higher–doing so emits a fart noise and a rainbow trail of awesomeness–and avoid obstacles.  Collect coins and power-ups and see how far you can get on the side scrolling page, which itself is littered with interesting illustrations.  Running into other bits of ink will increase the size of your blot, upping the chances of both collecting more coins and perishing by the point of a pencil.  Use the coins to buy upgrades after reach run.  By nature, Blot is addictive, and although there are a number of in-app purchases available, none need to be made to enjoy this little time-waster.

BombSquad – $4.99

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Think Bomberman meets Super Smash Bros., but in a 3D setting, and you’re probably imagining something close to what BombSquad accomplishes, namely multiplayer mayhem.  Bombsquad supports keyboards, Xbox 360 controllers, Wii remotes, Playstation 3 controllers, and mobile devices, so players don’t necessarily need to crowd around a screen, although it certainly adds to the mood.  Up to eight players can join in on the fun in team battles or free-for-all matches, or up to four players can progress through the missions in campaign mode.  There are tons of weapons and collectables, some reminiscent of Bomberman power-ups, to shake the games up.  Although the campaign is playable alone, the experience is undeniably more fun with friends.

VVVVVV – $4.99

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In this indie retro platformer, Captain Viridian must save his V-named crew from a teleportation disruption.  Using the arrows to move, the player commands the captain through a space station in search for his crew.  The only maneuver at Viridian’s disposal is gravity reversal, achieved by pressing the space bar.  Each room has its own title and color scheme, as well as a unique puzzle.  VVVVVV is fast-paced, has excellent arcade music, and is filled with infuriating puzzles that require precise timing and patience.

Pinball HD – $4.99

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Mac users may have missed out on Space Cadet, one of the best pre-installed games to grace Windows machines, but luckily there are plenty of other pinball games out there.  Few, however, are as well put-together as Pinball HD.  The game includes three different tables (Wild West, the Deep, and Jungle Style), each with their own theme, layout, and set of missions.  The physics of the game are smooth and realistic and while each table is feature-rich, none are overwhelming.  It’s easy to adjust the viewing angle of the tables, and the controls couldn’t be simpler.  There are no significant flaws to Pinball HD, which will more than suffice to scratch that lingering flipper flickin’ itch.  It’s easy to pause and resume games at will, so save some quarters and come and go as you please.  Game Center is also incorporated, if you are one of the few who utilizes the service, to compare scores with friends.

The fact that there are thousands of games available for Mac today is a double-edged sword: Apple users are finally availed the extensive library that used to ostracize them, but hidden gems are much more likely to get buried beneath more popular titles.  These are just a few of my favorite games that I’ve stumbled across, and all are available on the App Store for less than a footlong at Subway.  Game on!

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