A relaxing time spent watering and pruning. Ah, the life! For many, spending time in a garden pruning, watering, and planting can be a serene and pleasing experience. But if you’re stuck inside or you just lack a green thumb, there’s Plant Tycoon. This game from Last Day of Work does a nice job of capturing the essence of gardening, without dirtying your hands. Watch Grass Grow! (it's fun, we promise.)
Yahtzee is another childhood favorite being reintroduced to today’s gadget-laden iPod generation. We grew up huddling together on cold winter floors, rolling dice for the chance at five-of-a-kind. (This was before iPods and global warming, mind you.) Now iPod owners can experience the same thrill on a bus (or in class) without a dice-ready surface.
Drive for show, putt for dough. Mark Twain once said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” We can only guess what Twain would think of video golf, but the sentiment would probably be the same. Video golf, like real golf, isn’t for everyone. But Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is fun for both real-world golfers and just about anyone with a Twain-like disdain for golf. Golfers can embrace the fantasy of competing against pros and playing on famous courses. And for anyone who associates a driver with a chauffeur and a putter as something you do around the house, Tiger Woods is a well-designed game that helps you understand golf concepts, without all of the allergens shed by fairway landscaping. Tiger Woods sinks both types of players with many game types alongside a compulsively deep simulation of the sport.
We outgrew Battleship in the fourth grade, so we were surprised that Naval Battle kept us at attention. This iPod take on the board game (and older ancestors) follows those boredom-inducing rules in a classic, almost-never-ending game mode. But additional play options embellish with super weapons, winner’s-outs for consecutive shots, and creative maps. These updates plug the holes in standard Battleship.
A title like “Chess & Backgammon Classics” gives a good idea of what you’re going to get, and this iPod two-fer gives even a little more than anticipated. Yes, it’s backgammon and chess. But Gameloft crafted two thought-out versions of these ubiquitous games. Both include several play modes and board themes. Built-in opponents offer a challenge, or both games allow pass-the-iPod two-player matches. Chess’s default 3D view looks surprisingly good, but we kept better track of the pieces in the 2D, overhead perspective. AI opponents range from inept to intense, but the game’s extras round out the package: single-move puzzles, a moderate database of opening moves, and turn-by-turn replays of famous games. Backgammon can’t match all of these modes, but it includes a tutorial and tournament play. Still, it has everything we’d expect in a Backgammon game, with clear graphics and responsive controls.
In a word, Spore is overwhelming. This ultimate simulation is coming to Macs and PCs simultaneously on September 7, 2008. But somehow, this simulation of early life, evolution, tribal interactions, rise of civilizations, and interplanetary colonization makes “overwhelming” a good thing. On top of that, players create their own automatically animated creatures, vehicles, buildings, and more. (Check out our exclusive screenshots and deeper impressions in the April issue of Mac|Life magazine.) We recently stopped by EA’s Maxis office to try the game and speak with its developers. Spore Chief Designer Will Wright created SimCity, The Sims, and founded the original Maxis. Spore Executive Producer Lucy Bradshaw previously helped develop several The Sims games, most recently as Executive Producer. Both spoke with us about planetary phases, potential expansion packs, iPod and iPhone plans, and your personal Brian Eno.
That’s about the only thing that’s flying high for the Jets this season. When the autumn wind blows on a Sunday, you know what that means—it’s time for some gridiron glory, some pigskin pillaging—it’s time for some football. Thankfully, with Madden NFL 08 you don’t have to wait until Sunday to get your football fix. Madden has all the action you want from a football video game and more. Other than slightly disappointing graphics, this game includes everything short of the tailgate party.
EVE Online has more than 5,000 star systems to explore.
EVE Online ($19.95 to start, then $14.95 per month to play, www.eve-online.com) is a complex, ever-evolving, futuristic MMORPG where you pilot one ship in a harsh universe with about 200,000 other players. You can attack or be attacked anywhere, at any time—and you can’t depend on the local authorities to help. By forging corporations (guilds) with other players and sticking to these hints, you won’t just survive EVE, you’ll be a parsec closer to true universal domination
A good old-fashioned snowball fight might be all you need to improve your mood in winter. Spring showers, summer heat, autumn winds, and winter snowstorms become a part of your Sims’ lives in Seasons, an expansion pack for The Sims 2. The challenge—to adapt to the changing climates—may not sound all that exciting, but Seasons is full of fun seasonal activities. Various weather effects accompany each season—in autumn, leaves fall from the trees, so you need to rake them. In winter, you have to bundle up in outerwear to deal with blustery winds and heavy snowstorms. But along with the required chores and adaptation, there’s fun to be had. For example, in the winter, you can build snowmen and have snowball fights, which also helps your social relationships. At the community center, you can ice skate on the outdoor rink or go fishing at the pond (and even cook and eat, or mount, your fish).Each season lasts for five days and affects your Sims’ moods differently. You can choose which season to play—skip summer and have two winters if you want.
With this many troops firing on the enemy, we’ll soon have all the sweet Tiberium we can harvest. Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars hits the sweet spot in real-time strategy games, somehow making it fun to micromanage your resources, buildings, and troops. As in other RTS titles, players need to keep harvesting the land—in this case, gathering mysterious Tiberium crystals—to fund the production of buildings. Those buildings then create vehicles, fighters, and other units you can use to attack your opponent on the battlefield. Additional twists, such as maintaining enough power plants to give your growing encampments electricity, keep the game interesting. Command & Conquer 3 does nearly everything right, including providing extensive single-player options to play as the good or bad side, and online multiplayer match-ups. Even the things it gets wrong—goofy video sequences—are somehow so bad they’re good.