The Slacker's Guide - To the Point and Fun: Germs

by Chris Barylick
August 4th, 2006

First off, I haven't offered much in the way of simple games lately. DropTeam and VDrift, while fun, both require a moderate amount of time spent configuring controls and getting a feel for the title. And depending on how earnestly you follow my weekly recommendations, you may have found yourself cursing the game and thus me in the process. If you wanted to haul through a large manual that only sort of made sense to you, you'd pick up that copy of Finnegan's Wake that's become a trusty paperweight and go from there.

Germs by Mike Weyandt and Factor Software is the polar opposite of these kinds of games. Simple, fun shareware in the classic sense, this easily learned puzzle game stands toe to toe with any marquee/extravaganza title on the market.

Simplicity is the way to go and a tile-based puzzle game almost never fails to provide a good backdrop to work with. In Germs, players work to clear a board of pieces by selecting color-coded germs that fall into a Petri dish. Complete 2x2 squares of identically colored germs to clear them from the board and advance to the next level. Clear the pieces in time before the Petri dish becomes full and you move on. Fail to do this and the pace increases, the game eventually ending.

Finishing off a combination move in Factor Software's Germs.

As the levels progress, the challenge increases. Obstacles such as thumb tacks and erasers find their way onto the tile board, constricting space to work with while germs drop onto the Petri dish that much faster. Power-ups such as weapons that clone germs to a certain color or eliminate a given color help things along while variable germs increase the explosion created by matching like-colored germs to remove them.

Perhaps one of the cruelest surprises of the game but the thing that makes your play style advance where needed is the requirement for larger match patterns (a 2x2 configuration becomes 3x3, which demands additional planning and better forecasting). It's this kind of change that makes Germs simultaneously surprising and fun. The sole complaint to be made focuses on the selection code to choose the pieces and make a move. Oddly defined, this takes a combination of a deft mouse hand, patience and luck. Factor Software has made a terrific game otherwise and if they could pin this bug down, the player base would be that much happier.

A power-up helps amplify an explosion.

Germs isn't the most innovative title ever to grace the Mac, but it offers something extremely fun that can be picked up for a few minutes as well as longer play sessions. Cool, vibrant animations, outstanding sound good graphics and a casual style make the game worth its $19.95 shareware registration price. The title also hearkens back to Carbon compatibility and supports Mac OS 9.0 or later on the Mac OS 9 end and Mac OS X 10.1 or later on the OS X end. Germs is available as an 8.3 megabyte download and expands to 11.1 megabytes when expanded.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,