Mac Gaming Nostalgia: The Way We Were

A friend of mine and I were at a local pub the other day, and we were talking about how much we liked OS X over OS 9.

"My Mac never crashes," Jeff said, "everything just works great!"

"Yep," I said. Iim a man of few words, especially after I get a good beer in me, but Jeff knew that my "Yep" meant that I agreed with his assessment, and that I thought my Cube, running OS X, is as solid as a block of granite, and that I donit miss having to reboot when some application goes nuts or some extension misbehaves. He knew that when I said "yep" I meant that Jaguar, for me at least, is the realization of almost everything I wanted in an OS, and that Iive never been happier to claim that Iim a Mac user.

"But you know what I miss, Vern?" Jeff asked me. "I miss Avara. That was a cool game."

I looked at Jeff, smiled and said, "Yep!"

My singular affirmation told Jeff that I also missed playing Avara, and that it was the only game that Iive come across thus far on any platform that offers a level of game play that is nearly indescribable, but is oh-so-satisfying. Jeff took my agreement to mean that, if there was one reason at all why I would even consider using OS 9 over Jaguar, it would be to play Avara. The game was that good.

Avara was the brainchild of Juri Munki, a Mac programmer extraordinaire, and it was distributed as shareware by Ambrosia Software. In fact, you can still find the game in Ambrosiais stables. In Avara, you manned a H.E.C.T.O.R.., a nimble, two legged walking mechanoid with an articulated turret equipped with rockets, grenades and laser canons. The battlefields were bestrewn with all manner of geometric shapes over, on, and under which your Hector could climb or jump, run, or crawl.

The basic object of the game was to blast your opponentis H.E.C.T.O.R.. to bits before he blasted yours, but even that basic objective could vary from level to level, game to game. Ambrosia used to host a server for Internet play. No more, probably because there were just too few players left to justify maintaining the server, and thatis the real shame because it was the Internet play that elevated Avara above other Net-based games at the time. Up to six players could battle at a time and games usually lasted about 3 to 5 minutes, but, boy oh man, the intensity of that 3 to 5 minutes! You really had to play it to truly understand how much fun it was.

Jeff and I sat back, took refreshing draws from our beers, and smiled at the memories of so many virtual battles won and lost. A far away look settled over Jeffis face and he was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "Man, I miss playing Marathon too."

I paused mid-pull, the beer sloshed coolly against my upper lip. For a moment images of virtual dark hallways and blind corners surfaced in my mind. I finished my pull and swallowed the bitter-sweet brew then I said, "Yep!"

Do you remember Marathon, created by the once Mac-only game-makers, Bungie? Back in the day when PC users were all hot and bothered about Doom, Mac users had the Marathon series. What set Marathon apart from being just another if-it-moves-blast-it clone was the atmosphere and game play. Marathon was spooky. You never really knew what you would run in to as you trounced down some forbidding hallway. Yeah, you blasted stuff, making digital messes of the hordes of attacking alien baddies, but you were also trying to figure out just what was happening on the Marathon. Good stuff, that Marathon.

Neither game plays well in the Classic mode of OS X so you have to boot in OS 9 if you want to stroll down memory lane, or, in the case of Avara, jump and dodge while lobbing a few well placed grenades down memory lane.

OS X has itis fair share of games now, with more on the way. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was fun, Alien vs Predator is downright spooky, and the game play in Oni and Diablo II are enough to keep most folks mouse-clicking when they should be sleeping. Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena can get the adrenaline pumping, and the weirdly beautiful Tranquility is just plain funky. Still thereis nothing that quite matches what Marathon and Avara gave us, they were games that were exclusively for the Mac and they were far better than anything offered on any platform. Period.

"Yeah," said Jeff as he finished off his beer, "those were some cool games. I hope someone makes something like them for OS X." He sat there for a moment, then asked, "You wanna boot in OS 9 and give Avara one last run through?"

I smiled, wiped the beer mustache from my upper lip, and said, "Yep!"

Vern Seward is an old school gamer who isnit afraid to kick some new school gamer butt. He currently lives in Orlando, FL. Heis been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.