Ice and fire! Hot and cold! Marshmallows! Sheep! During the holidays it's important to shout random things from time to time, just to make sure you're in the festive spirit. For bonus points, shout while playing these games. If you annoy a neighbor/roommate, achievement unlocked!
Fireplace (Mac/Win, 7-11MB, free) - Cold where you live? Hot? Doesn't matter! Fires are always cozy, as they help keep predators from sneaking up and eating you. This full-screen fireplace "game" is only interactive in the most rudimentary way, filling your monitor with a pixellated image of a fire and your speakers with the crackling warmth of gently burning logs. You can type in a few commands to interact with the fire, as well as do a few things just for fun. Sit down with it and try roasting a hotdog, then crank up the volume and walk away, letting it be the hearth of your desk!
Frostbite (Windows, 9MB, free) - Cold where you live? Hot? Doesn't matter! Running around in the icy winter is always cozy— wait, what? No, the opposite of that! Frostbite is an adventure platform game that arms you with the barest essentials and sends you out across the frozen lands, searching for your missing wife. Strange thing is, ghosts and dead bodies are everywhere, but there are no clues as to why. While you figure out that mystery, duck into caves and the like to stay out of the cold, and always warm yourself at fires so you don't die of hypothermia. Keep yourself fed and rested, don't waste ammo, and you might just survive long enough to get to the bottom of all these mysteries!
Zetanoid (Windows, 5MB, free) - Here's a little arcade game to calm your soul. And it's got nothing to do with fire or ice or anything! If Breakout were a little more 3D-ish, featuring stacked blocks that tumble when the lowest bricks were cracked, it would be Zetanoid. The gameplay is pretty standard as far as the genre goes, but the power-ups are handled a bit differently, and the stacked nature of stages makes for a more organic, less grid-based experience.
Home Sheep Home 2: A Little Epic (Windows, 650MB, $10/€8) - If you've seen the Aardman-crafted browser games Home Sheep Home and Home Sheep Home 2, this download should perk your little sheep ears right up. Featuring Shaun, Shirley and Timmy, each a playable sheep with unique abilities you must use to work your way through each stage. Timmy can run through tiny spaces, for example, while Shaun is the acrobatic one of the bunch. Shirley is great at shoving heavy objects, but you'll have to help her move around the stage since she can barely leap. The downloadable version includes every level from the browser release, adding up to three episodes along with bonus levels, achievements, and developer commentary. The best part, though, are the high-definition visuals, which a game as gorgeous as this really deserves!
Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!