Halloween is our favorite holiday. It has all of the fun of Christmas and none of the pressure. You get to dress up in silly or scary costumes, eat candy without feeling guilty, and turn your home into a haunted house. What could be better than that? Well, playing Halloween games is pretty cool, too. Here are some of our favorites for the Mac, plus one for the iPad and iPhone.
Mishap: An Accidental Haunting is a Halloween-themed hidden object game with a ghoulish but tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, and an abundance of pesky poltergeists.
Soon after moving into their dream home, a young couple discovers that it's haunted. Just as they're about to flee into the night, an eccentric ghost hunter named Milton Hobblepop appears out of the blue, to offer advice and the use of his handy-dandy Ecto Detecto.
Mishap: An Accidental Haunting has eight chapters, with four rooms each to explore. The main room in each chapter requires side-to-side scrolling to peek into all of its corners; each of the main rooms also has three hidden rooms, and a smattering of mini-games. The rooms contain a mix of everyday objects and quirky ones, plus unexpected animations, such as shoes that move restlessly on closet shelves, furniture that blinks its eyes, and drawers that open and close on their own. The scenes are beautifully drawn and deceptively simple; it's not as easy to find the hidden objects as you might think at first glance. And if you click too many times at random, you'll get an unpleasant surprise.
Sequels are often disappointing, but in this case, the sequel is better than the original. Mishap: An Intentional Haunting, the follow-up to Mishap: An Accidental Haunting, retains the tongue-in-cheek humor and quirky charm of the original, but pumps up the quality and depth of the illustrations, and increases the challenges. It's also a tad more ghoulish than the first Mishap, although still with tongue firmly in cheek.
This time out, ghost hunter Milton Hobblepop and his wife are the focus of the story. Milton's rival, Avery Nailliv (that's villain spelled backwards) has kidnapped Emily, and it's up to you, with the help of Milton and friends (and the Ecto Detecto), to rescue her. The task isn't so difficult; you just have to search high and low among the clutter of Nailliv's estate on a remote island, and locate cleverly hidden objects, while finding and fending off unfriendly poltergeists. As before, there are eight chapters, each with a large, scrolling room and three hidden rooms, plus mini-games and a riddle to solve in every chapter.
The hidden object scenes are delightful, and chock-full of interesting and amusing things to look at. The objects are well hidden, and should prove to be quite a challenge, even if you're an old hand at hidden object games.
Plants vs. Zombies is the perfect game to play on a dark and stormy night. It's not bad on a sunny afternoon, either.
After optimistically planting a garden on your front lawn, one seed packet at a time, and then catching falling suns to nurture your plants, you find yourself facing a horde of zombies with designs on your plants. Fortunately, the peashooters are pretty smart plants, capable of firing projectiles at the zombies and knocking their blocks off. As your garden grows, so does the horde of zombies, until it's a wonder you have any time for gardening at all.
Each time you defeat the zombies and complete a level, you earn sunflowers and other plants, such as cherry bombs, hot tamales, melon-pults, and Venus zombie traps. The sunflowers produce more sun, which helps you grow more plants. And that's a good thing, because the sunflowers aren't as smart as the peashooters; they just sit there, smiling, while the zombies munch on them. You plant a new garden for each new level, which gives you a chance to correct any planting errors you made on the previous level. After reaching a certain level in adventure mode, you can unlock mini-games, puzzle mode, and survival mode.
Plants vs. Zombies seems like a pretty simple game at first, but don't shrug it off as being too easy. There are 48 different plants, each with its own particular capabilities, and 26 different zombies. The size of your garden is limited, so on each level, you have to figure out which combination of plants will prove best for ensuring the zombies' demise. There are other challenges as well; sometimes it's day time, sometimes it's night time, so you won't always have sunlight or certain plants available to you. The zombies are an amusing bunch of characters; it's worth playing Plants vs. Zombies just to see them.
You can download a free trial of Plants vs. Zombies or play an online version of the game.
There must be a zillion Match 3 games available, and to a large extent, if you've played one, you've played them all. Most of them try to add a little twist, to differentiate themselves from the herd; with Fishdom, it's a custom aquarium. As you complete levels in Fishdom, you earn points that you can use to populate an aquarium with fish, plants, decorative objects, and air filters and other comfort-related items. You can choose from a variety of tanks, although only two are available until you complete a certain number of levels. You can also take photos of your aquarium to save in a photo album, and use the aquarium as a screensaver.
The Match 3 playing field is large, with unusual shapes, which makes game play fairly challenging. The main differences between the original Fishdom and Fishdom Spooky Splash are the Halloween-themed icons in the game (pumpkins, ghosts, witches hats), and the Halloween-themed decorative items available for the fish tank. Unless you're a diehard fan, there's probably not enough difference between Fishdom and Fishdom Spooky Splash to be worth having two versions of what's essentially the same game. But if you're new to Fishdom, we highly recommend the Spooky Splash version. It's fun, inexpensive, and you get a colorful selection of Halloween-themed screensaver fish tanks as a bonus.
You can download a demo of Fishdom Spooky Splash or play it online (minus the screensaver).
On their own, scarecrows don't seem particularly scary. But when they gang up, particularly at night, it's a different matter. In Night of the Scarecrows, the scarecrows have come to life and are descending on your farming village, demanding retribution. Fortunately, they're an orderly bunch and march in rows, which makes it a little easier to deal with them.
Night of the Scarecrows is basically a variation on a Match 3 game. There are four types of scarecrows, identifiable by their pumpkin, pail, bag, or cow skeleton heads. To defend yourself, you can use a torch to burn three or more matching, contiguous scarecrows, to prevent the hordes from reaching the bottom of the screen and overtaking your village. The larger the group of scarecrows you destroy, the more points you earn. If there are seven or more scarecrows in the group, you earn a crow, who will help you defend the village. Click on a crow and it will fly down and carry off the lowest scarecrow on the screen, as well as all matching scarecrows in that row.
You also have goats on your team. Capture a goat when it runs across the screen and you can use it to head-butt and knock down a row of scarecrows.
The graphics and the beginning and ending movies are suitably creepy, but the game itself is fairly simple and won't appeal to everyone. You can download a demo version of Night of the Scarecrows or play it online.
Midnight Mysteries: Salem Witch Trials takes you back in time to solve the mystery of the (fictional) untimely death of Nathaniel Hawthorne. In this storyline, Hawthorne died during a freak spring snowstorm, and his ghost is asking for your help to determine whether any sinister forces were involved in his death. Hawthorne will help you when he can, providing tips and answering preset questions, but he's weak and finds it difficult to speak.
Midnight Mysteries: Salem Witch Trials combines hidden object scenes with puzzles to solve, although the emphasis is more on puzzles than hidden objects. You'll also spend some time interviewing other ghosts. Most of the action takes place outdoors, at night, which lends the game a mysterious and spooky atmosphere that's perfect for Halloween.
Madame Fate is a fortune teller whose crystal ball has foretold her death at midnight. Convinced that one of her shifty carnival workers is the would-be murderer, she needs your help to figure out where each of them will be at midnight, to identify the culprit and reverse her tragic fate.
Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate is a delightful mix of hidden object scenes, puzzles, and quirky characters. Each scene is a colorful and detailed recreation of a carnival atmosphere, although there's never been a carnival quite like this.
One by one, you'll meet and investigate the carnival workers, from the Amazing Larry, a hack magician, to Bianca, the Daredevil Diva. The hidden object scenes are difficult, which is a refreshing change from some games, and the puzzles are varied and challenging. Some scenes contain one or more mysterious items that change between two different forms. If you spot these items, you'll unlock additional locations to explore. Some scenes also have a hotspot that leads to another location where you can search for additional objects or solve more puzzles. There are two modes of play, Detective Mode and Relaxed Mode. Relaxed Mode offers additional time, but either way, you're racing against the clock to try to save Madame Fate's life.
You can download a demo of Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate or play the online version.