In between furniture shopping and wedding planning I've been playing a pair of games that I heard about on various blogs I read. These two games aren't topping any best selling games charts, but I'm having as much fun with them as I've had with any games this year (certainly more consistent fun than Resident Evil 4).
First up is a game for strategy gaming types. Before you ask, yes, there is a Mac version. This should pretty much go without saying since I own a Mac (the exception to this rule is the incomparable Dwarf Fortress, which remains the sole reason I still have an XP partition). I first saw the game on the excellent blog Dubious Quality.
The game is Armageddon Empires, and it reminds me of some delicious hybrid of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, Risk, and Magic the Gathering. The game is made by small outfit Cryptic Comic and they offer a free demo as well.
One word of advice if you give it a spin: READ THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL. This is not a game you can just pick up and expect immediately to know what to do. It doesn't come with an in-game tutorial, so reading the manual is absolutely essential. Dubious Quality also has a Six Part Play Guide which is extremely helpful as well.
Another word of advice: once you get the hang of this game, prepare for some late nights. The level of detail and the various options available to you are insane: with 4 different factions, 75+ unique faction heroes, and 200+ unique units, there are a TON of permutations for replayability.
The second game I've really been having a blast with is MLB Power Pros. This is, hands down, the most fun I've had playing a baseball game since Hardball 3 on the old PC. MLB Power Pros is a port of a venerable Japanese game series called Jikkyō Powerful Pro Yakyū, which has been around since 1994. This is the first time the series has appeared in US.
And what a shame that is, because this game is an absolute dream come true for baseball fans. It has several different modes of play to appeal to any type of baseball gamer you may be. If you like to get in there and play the games, you've got Exhibition and League mode. If you like to handle GM style duties (player management, trades, salaries, etc.) you've got Season mode. If you like to do both, Season mode can be tweaked so that you play the games or interrupt them in the middle if your team is losing and you want to take control. If you want to create an expansion team, you can do that in Season mode complete with expansion draft.
That's only the tip of the iceberg. There is "Success" mode, in which you control a college player through his 3 year college baseball career. You're not just playing baseball though, you have to balance studying, dating, earning money at a part-time job, practicing, upgrading equipment... it's absolutely mind blowing. If you can get your created player through to the majors, he becomes available in other modes if you want. You can put him on the free agent list in Season mode or make him available in the next draft. OR you can create a whole team of players that you've taken through Success mode and make them into an expansion team. OR you can create an entire league of made up characters.
Get the point here? The game has absolutely everything you can think of if you are a video game baseball fan. I have a bad feeling though that the US audience is going to be put off by the weird, childish graphics of the players. The players are very cartoony, but they exhibit all the mannerisms of the MLB players they represent. The cartoony Ryan Howard points his bat at the pitcher before squatting into his stance. Cartoony Dice-K has his funky delivery. Cartoony Gary Sheffield jerks his bat around wildly and flings accusations of cartoony racism.
Seriously, if you have even a passing interest in baseball you have to get this game.
Both of these games I've mentioned are available for $30. That's a darn sight cheaper than the average game. Armageddon Empires is available for PC or Mac, while MLB Power Pros is available for your trusty old PS2 or your shiny new Wii (Wii version $40).