['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]


Boy, I wish it was cooler outside so I could take my ferrets out, but no, it has to rain all day and be all smelly like a rainforest. So instead, I'm going to walk you through all fourteen game magazines that have hit stores in the past two weeks. One per day! The autumn one-off rush is most definitely upon us...

[Click through for the full column.]

Electronic Gaming Monthly October 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Guitar Hero II

The cover for this month's EGM (as touted in the September issue) was meant to be a big, boffo exclusive on Spider-Man 3 for all next-gen systems, but apparently it fell through -- as EIC Dan Hsu puts it in the editorial, "you'll have to ask movie director Sam Raimi why he's such a jerk and pulled our story at the last minute." Ouch!

Still, the eight pages that Raimi snatched from EGM are now devoted to the most intense coverage RedOctane's little game that could has gotten in a game mag yet, and it's a neat bit of visual design, too -- done up like a headbanger's high-school notebook, all filled up in the margins with heavy-metal doodles. An extremely well-written article, too, as all the producers and developers come off like real nice guys who made it big doing what they love. The only real "exclusive" tie-in here is the unveiling of 12 new tracks in the game, from "Heart-shaped Box" and "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight" to my personal favorite, The Police's "Message in a Bottle".

Bigger previews: Include Phantasy Star Universe, Resistance: Fall of Man, Kevin Gifford favorite Rayman: Raving Rabbids, and a Marvel vs. DC showdown of comic-book games.

Much more exciting: Are developer postmorterms on Dead Rising and Okami, as well as spreads on "the world's most dangerous gamers" (ie. cyberathletes) and the top 10 queerest characters in games. I'm glad Raphael Sorel made it on there, but Zangief? Come on! Since when is being 100% man such a sin?

Computer Gaming World October 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Space marine :(

Forget about that cover for a moment. The real draw of this issue of CGW is two consecutive articles that cover politics in games in two different lights -- one's about peacenik griefing in America's Army, and the other is about the gaming scene, such as it exists, in the Middle East. Both are quite awesome and merit reading even if you don't care two ways about PC games. In fact, the two pieces exemplify why I like CGW more than any other computer mag right now -- it's doing everything a magazine needs in order to be unique in modern times, and I think it's doing a great job of it.

Five new inductees: Are welcomed into CGW's Hall of Fame in this issue: Star Control II, Ultima Online, Sierra's The Incredible Machine, Freedom Force, and Mr. Warren Spector himself. StarCon2 and TIM's inductions prove that 1992 was the best year ever for PC gaming.

Cover tit for tat: In the Crysis feature that most of the midsection is devoted to, Crytek artist Michael Khaimzon laments CGW's first Crysis cover in March '06, calling it "Charlie Sheen with a leaf blower" and saying "I'm going going to kill this artist if I find him". I dunno about that. To me, the only difference between that cover and this one is that the space marine looks less like Dolph Lundgren and more like The Guyver.

Official PlayStation Magazine October 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Burnout 5 (pictured) or Army of Two (not pictured because of too many space marines)

Again, the cover subject is secondary to the real theme of this month's OPM -- to paraphrase everyone's favorite pudgy CEO, developers, developers, developers, developers. The top selling point is the spread on page 38 where EIC Tom Byron rounds up two vice presidents at EA and makes them respond to six common EA complaints culled from his weblog and the mag's message boards -- you know, they rush games, they're afraid to take risks, they made Catwoman, etc. Top response from one of them: "The games get better every year. And that's why people keep buying them every year." I know three Madden-hating reviewers over on EGM who'd disagree with that...

The feature moves on to the two coverboy games, with a focus on their respective dev houses, then continues with the usual sort of game-mag previews before concluding with a piece on the future of indies.

The disc: Has a new demo of Okami and a repeat of Lego Star Wars II, just in case you missed it last month.

Cutest page: The "OPM Kids Roundup", a collection of four reviews (Monster House, The Barnyard, Over the Hedge and One Piece: Pirates' Carnival) decorated with the most darling, Lisa Frank-ish art of a bunny holding his/her bunnylings. Kudos to Karen Chu, the artist -- and also to Chris Kohler for landing the Lois Lane-caliber assignment of reviewing every single game on the page.

PSM October 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Final Fantasy XII

This month's PSM doesn't just have FFXII on the cover -- the issue practically is FFXII, since it's dominated by a fourteen-page review of Square's top game of the year. It's the first US (and presumably English-language) review of the game, and while it's early as hell (coming a good two months before the game hits stores), there's no denying that it covers the game in all sorts of depth. It's practically IGN-like, in fact, except with the benefit of nicer-looking page design. The final verdict: 9.5, which is coincidentally the same score Okami gets in its own two-page review.

The review: Also sets up Square Enix Circle, a new subsection of the News space that covers everything you'd care to know about the RPG makers. This month, Kaiser Hwang spends three pages talking to Kakuko Obinata (the game's "public relations manager") about FFXIII.

Official Xbox Magazine October 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Tony Hawk looking somewhat "board" (kah hah hah, that killed 'em in the Borscht Belt) in his new game, Project 8

Dan Amrich oughta be right at home writing the cover feature this month on Tony Hawk's Project 8 -- if I recall, he wrote every Tony Hawk cover feature that GamePro did, too, and I think they did all of them until Game Informer scored the Underground scoop. The game looks great in the screenshots, and series nuts are bound to enjoy the well-learned depth Dan gets into in the text. Newsstand issues also come with a page of Project 8 stickers, suitable for slapping on your board or dog.

The disc: Definitely beats OPM's for fanboy excitement -- this time around you get F.E.A.R., Prey, and Lego Star Wars II. A demo of Japanese 360 roboshooter Zegapain XOR is unlockable, and you also get an on-screen index of every OXM review score ever. A superb package overall.

In other news: Microsoft is still purchasing two-page ad spreads for Perfect Dark Zero. Sony wasn't even that persistent with the Jak games.

GamePro October 2006


Cover: Call of Duty 3 (regular), World of Warcraft :( (Level-2 edition)

I get the Level-2 edition of GamePro super-early, so unfortunately I can't give you the Call of Duty 3 cover right now. Sorry. (The L2 cover is especially lame because Beckett Massive Online Gamer (remember them?) used the exact same art for their cover a couple of months ago. I really wish there was some sort of new editorial content in the L2 mag besides a worse cover. It was especially bad last month, when hapless Best Buy customers got a football dude on their GamePros instead of a bunch of bikini babes.)

Getting back to the subject: The CoD3 story is long and does a great job of pushing the game, especially the Wii version's subtleties. The other exclusives are a preview of Justice League Heroes and a review of Naruto: Clash of Ninja 2, which I'm playing right now for Newtype USA, actually.

There's also: A quick preview feature on 17 Xbox 360 games titled "17 Reasons The Xbox 360 Plays The Winning Hand." With Halo 3, sure, but with Gundam Mobile Ops and yet more WWE games?

A perfect 5.0: Is given to Okami and the 360 version of Madden. I think GamePro's gotten a lot stingier on the 5.0s in the past year or so...although the result of this seems to be a lot of games getting 4.5 or 4.75 instead.

Nintendo Power October 2006


Cover: Final Fantasy III

I don't know what it is (maybe it's that I don't slavishly read Matt Casamassina online), but every issue of Nintendo Power seems to bring me a new surprise. For this one it's: Hey, Pit's model in Super Smash Bros. Brawl looks pretty awesome. And: Hey, so does Lunar Knights (which is the centerfold-poster subject this month).

And: Wow, two pages on hairstyles in Animal Crossing DS (complete with strategic conversation flowchart) has never been more excitingly written.

Interviews this month: Hiromichi Tanaka and Nobuo Uematsu (FF3), Marcus Iremonger (CoD3, now that's a Teutonic last name if I ever heard one), Katsura Hashino and Daisuke Kanada (Trauma Center: Second Opinion), and Kensuke Yoshitomi (Lunar Knights). Extra bonus: John Schappert, another EA VP, for a feature on the company's Wii support.

Tips & Tricks October 2006


Cover: LEGO Star Wars II

T&T has the newest editorial column in game mags (just debuted around half a year ago, if I recall), but it may also have one of the most honest. This month, the editors discuss the Reader Art Gallery that used to grace the bottom of the tips pages. This gallery printed pretty much anything readers sent in, and since T&T's most ardent letter-writers are often on the lower end of the age scale, this resulted in (as the editorial puts it) "a lot of crazy bad art, some of it by little kids who could barely hold a crayon and had their parents write our address on the envelopes they sent in".

You couldn't deny this was true, and neither could the members of a focus group who felt embarrassed to read a magazine that seemed to cater to the kiddies with this section. So T&T dropped it entirely...but with mounds of readers asking for it back, it's been reinstated inside the letters section. And, as you guessed, most of it is from kids, with a couple drawn on lined paper and one which I'm totally unable to recognize what it's supposed to be.

"If it seems like the majority of our letters and artwork come from kids," the editors continue, "it's only because younger readers will always be more excited about corresponding with video-game magazines than adults who play Madden once a week with their buddies." True enough -- my own magazine gets a lot of fan art, after all, from young'uns presumably looking for someone who will appreciate their traced Magic Marker drawing of Kirara for what it is.

Hardcore folks: Will enjoy this month's Collector's Closet, the neatest in a while. One page is devoted to the spaceship on the box of 2600 game Star Voyager, a model kept by the programmer in his attic. The other: A massive collage of game T-shirts, including some I really wish I had (Zoop, Gex, "Sony PlayStation Launch Team"? Sign me up).

Beckett Spotlight: Cheat Codes October/November 2006


Cover: LEGO Star Wars II (some more)

Well, dog my cats! It looks like Cheat Codes has ramped up to a full bimonthly schedule, and I can even subscribe to it now. Massive Online Gamer is getting the same treatment starting with Issue 2, so I guess I gotta shell out for a subscription to both now. My postman hates me already, but for GameSetWatch, anything...

Breaking the monotony of codes in this issue are interviews with LEGO II producer David Perkinson (where he jokingly lets the cat out of the bag on his next big project, LEGO Willow) and the four lead producers on the Madden games (current gen, next gen, DS and PSP respectively).

Overall the mag is beginning to look like GamePro from a time gone by -- really text heavy and packed with lots and lots of random tips.

Two complaints: One, they reprinted the "Diary of a Sports Gamer" feature from last month's Beckett Sports Gamer one-off to fill space. Two, they accidentally used the same subhead and infobox for both LEGO II and Madden 07. Did you know Madden is now developed by Traveller's Tales and LucasArts apparently took over the NFL license? Smooth business deal there, George!

Unofficial PS3 Launch Handbook


Future, I curse thy name this month, for you literally have seven or eight one-off specials on the racks and my wallet canna take much more of this.

This first one: From the editors of PSM, arrives at a bit of an odd time -- a lot about the PS3 and its launch remains up in the air, something you can surmise from the fact that there's only one game ad in this issue (for NBA 2K7). As a result, there's very little concrete on the system itself to be found here -- in fact, if you subscribe to PSM, you'd be a right fool to buy this, 'cos nearly 100 percent of the content (including the interview with FFXIII's PR lady I mentioned above) is borrowed wholesale from its pages.

Wot a rip! Worst $10 I ever spent (after Patriotic Pinball)!

Interesting thought: Do you think Future will be distributing more of these than Sony will have PS3s in America during the launch window?

Ultimate Xbox Buyer's Guide 2006


OXM's one-off of the moment does a better job of hiding its content recycling, setting off with a top-20 for Christmas buyers and continuing with large (and, I think, original) features on 360 accessories, video gear and Live Arcade titles.

Funniest bit: The full-page preview of Grand Theft Auto 4 that consists of about 100 words of text and the GTA4 logo splashed over 75% of the page.

PC Gamer Proudly Presents Ultimate How-Tos For Gamers!


For the most part, this appears to be a compilation of the hardware section of the past year's worth of PC Gamers, with a few quick game previews and bits from Maximum PC thrown on top. This isn't as bad as PSM's PS3 one-off effort, though -- at least this is useful info that can be used as a reference and won't go immediately out of date once the PS3 launches.

Code Vault Powered by BradyGames Fall 2006


Cover: World of Warcraft (again?!)

I'm throwing the "Powered by BradyGames" into the title here because over half the mag now is reprints from Brady strategy guides. In fact, the whole mag is little more than an ad for Brady nowadays, and I can't help but feel a little sad for it, because I was a member of the team that tried to revitalize Code Vault when it went monthly in 2003. There was some neat original stuff in those monthly issues (strategies straight from the devs, wacky sidebars all over the tips page, a monthly spread on budget crap that I think features some of my most inspired writing), but it didn't help the sales, and CV went back to a quarterly in around 18 months.

Darn that Tips & Tricks! It was just too powerful for us. Ah well. Sorry to get derailed.

Ultimate Videogame Codebook (aka CHEATS!) Volume 10


You've probably seen these shrinkwrapped books in the stands before. Well, I actually bought it this time around, and I have to admit, they weren't lying on the cover. This book is nothin' but cheats...320 pages of them, in fact, from cover to cover.

The book may not get a whole lot of use in this house, but if anyone were willing to drop the other nine in my lap to complete the collection, well, I wouldn't refuse...

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]