Review: GameTap

Recapture some of your youth in GameTap. (January 3rd, 2008)

Electronista Rating:

ratingratingratingratingrating

Product Manufacturer: Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Price: $9.95/month; $59.95/yr 500+ IntelMac games

The Good

  • GameTap application works well in Leopard. Many old console games for DOS, DreamCast, SEGA Saturn, and others. An excellent value for a PC user only.

The Bad

  • All the Windows-based games unavailable to the Mac. Guestimate that less than 20% of games work on the Mac. Site interface is absurd. Intel-Mac only .

When offered a review login to GameTap, I was excited that I might be able to find some of my old gaming haunts for relaxation and pleasure. Thanks to their multiple account system, I invited two other current online gamers to join me in my adventure. This review is a compilation of our first impressions with GameTap.

Matt Tobin adds, I think the days of going out and buying a game for $50 only to have it sit on the shelf and collect dust after you've beaten the giant deadly two-headed slime beast, saved the princess, and won the day are coming to an end. The Internet has made the availability and sharing of data second nature to many aspects of our lives and gaming is no exception. Certain products lend themselves naturally to a subscription-based service and gaming is a perfect example. For these reasons I was very excited to try out the GameTap subscription service. I was happy to see that the pricing structure for GameTap is also nominal. For the cost of one console game, you can have an entire year's access to over 900 different games, and not the "some guy who wants to moonlight as a game developer made this" but the professionally developed and tested games that you might otherwise buy.

GameTap is a large online gaming site, excuse me, entertainment network, from Turner Broadcasting that boasts a huge number of games. Most of them are venerable console games in which you wasted your youth, such as Space Invaders, Galaga, Bubble Bobble, and Pac-Man. Their latest press release boasts Mac features, such as "new faster and lighter GameTap player, games launch more quickly and it is even easier to search for and discover games. The player has updated community features, such as the Buddy Hub, which makes it easier to find, talk to and play games with your friends online."

First you download the 50 MB gametap_setup program. The Installer requires an Intel Mac running Mac OS X 10.4.8 or better, including the Mac Mini and MacBook, which are normally not compatible with the Cider engine used to run the games. You also need a fast Internet connection, because you play the games online. The GameTap installer includes a Customize button, but I could not unclick either of the two programs, GameTap and BrowserTool. The install proceeded without a hitch. GameTap installed into my Application folder with a link to the GameTap Utilities, which is inside the GameTap package.

GameTap application


GameTap Application

Not HErE, You Don't

I chose to play as a guest at first and rooted around the web site to find games I wanted to play. A click on the a Play Now link revealed that the desired game is not available on the Mac. Next, I clicked the Free Games link and found a few choice games I've wanted to check out for months, most were unavailable to Mac users. It would be nice if they could include a button that just listed all the games that are Mac compatible -- oops they do.

I finally discovered a small checkbox that let me see Macintosh-playable games buried in the sorted-by-type list, which is helpful. Of course, I used the site for hours before discovering this option. Out of 87 family-oriented games, only two old Atari games were available for the Mac.

GameTap screen


Galaga Web Site Link


I'm a nonviolent person and found hardly anything that looked less than mildly violent in the free game list, until I realized that you can sort the games by rating. It might help if there was some key as to what are the ratings though. Unless you pay, you must watch poorly put together ads before you can play any of the free games, and good luck getting back to the free game list. The ads are not age appropriate to the games and I was offended to see violent and over the top sexual references in the games advertised. These ads come up in the paid version also, which I found plain rude.

I always find it curious how you can tell the focus of a site just by its design. The front pages are very busy, links are scattered around, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind the user interface, and I use that term loosely. It's almost as if different people are tossing in content willy-nilly and expect the user to trip over what they want. The page was just a mess in comparison to most Apple-oriented web sites. I did most of my rooting around on the web site, but the others focused on the GameTap application, which didn't work very well for me in Tiger, but worked much better in Leopard. The site includes US military ads that I found offensive, and lots of links to the best and most popular games, none of which worked on the Mac.

GameTap screen


GameTap Home Page

Disappointment

Matt's impressions mirrored my own and he states, I will say that as a Macintosh user I was extremely disappointed in this service. I downloaded the player application and installed it with no problems. The player application ran fine and changing settings and surfing through the available games was a breeze. Ten words that Macintosh users are all too used to hearing: This Game Is Not Available for the Mac Operating System. Game after game was listed as such and after my fifth search, I gave up. This was rather upsetting because there are lots of games that were made for the Macintosh that are no longer in circulation and could have very easily been added, such as the original Quake.

I was even more disappointed because many games that were first developed on the Macintosh were not available to play, such as Oregon Trail, Amazon Trail, Where in the U.S.A. is Carmen Sandiego?, and one of the first interactive HyperCard games, The Manhole.

Cole chose to use only the GameTap application and never go near the web site again after the initial download. He seemed a bit happier with the offerings because the application never even shows you games unavailable on the Mac. He felt less cheated than Matt and I did. Both of us have talked over the years about never finishing various version of King's Quest, and to our delight, the DOS versions are available for Mac users.

So, while Matt is bitterly disappointed at the offerings, Cole and I were pleased to find a few games we had not seen in 20 years. The rating we selected is based on GameTap today, but may be changed later, because I'd like to see what other modifications they make for Mac users in the upcoming months. Our first impressions are not very good though, and we certainly wouldn't recommend a Mac user spend $10 a month for access, just yet. They add new games and features every month, so we'll take another look in March.

by ilene hoffman, with Matt Turbin and Cole Mann


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