['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.]

Welcome to Mag Roundup. This update includes the last few mags of 2006, and luckily for me there aren't too many -- just GI, OXM, and a couple of specials.

Future Publishing recently released two more specials to newsstands, both cheat compilations (one for Xbox and the other for Sony systems) and both largely filled with recycled content. I'll be saving these for the next update -- I've got a kind man sending them to me in the mail, which is great for me because frankly, I'm sick of paying $10 a pop for Future's recycled-content "specials," and I'm the Magweasel for chrissakes. (Though I must admit, the cover design on their specials is consistently neat. That PS3 launch guide a couple months back really sticks out on the stands.)

Anyway, click below to find out about the four new mags released in the past two weeks.

Game Informer December 2006


Cover: Army dude

I have to admit: In my eyes, this is a pretty straightforward issue of GI, especially compared to the world-beating issues routinely coming out of Minnesota for the past few months. It's not really the editors' fault, though -- this being the holiday issue, they're obliged to fill up the pages with things like holiday guides and console launch info, which comes at the expense of much of the thought-provoking industry pieces of issues past. (One exception: Two separate pieces that debate how useful Microsoft's lead with the Xbox 360 will be to them in the long run, and indeed how long it may even exist.)

The cover feature: Is on GRAW 2, aka the sequel to the one thing that really dazzled for the 360's launch. You get 10 pages of coverage on this title, which (to an eye untrained as myself) seems like a pretty by-the-numbers sort of follow-up.

Reviews: GI's reviews section is a little special this month because, as seen on the cover, they got the rights to review -- or, at least, assign scores to -- seven PS3 titles, something other mags waited on. Lots of love is given to Resistance, lots of hate heaped upon Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire (so bad it didn't even earn a coverline), and Ridge Racer 7 earns surprisingly respectable scores.

GI Spy: The magazine business's silliest page features everything from Ludacris to Goichi Suda to Shaquille O'Neal next to king of all PR guys Rob Fleischer, who (if GI is to be believed) is now called "Bobz" Fleischer. Damn, I've been out of the business too long.

Official Xbox Magazine Holiday 2006 (Podcast)


Cover: Army dude

EGM got the big blowout preview feature for Gears of War a couple months back, and now OXM gets the first print review. And what a review it is! In classic Future style, it's eight pages, packed with sidebars (and a full-body shot of Cliffy looking longingly away from the camera), and takes a game which is darn boring in screenshots and makes you seriously excited for it.

Speaking of reviews: They occupy over half the magazine, this Xmas being a busy one for everyone's favorite American...er Mexican-made console. 14 games are scored this month, including Arcade stuff and the Burger King titles, and there's another exclusive review (Rainbow Six Vegas) lurking in there too.

The requisite holiday guide: Has an opening illustration by a guy whose signature I can't quite make out, but whose name might as well be "Not quite the Penny Arcade dudes, but pretty close!".

The disc: Is headlined by rasslin' and mostly goes downhill from there, although you've still got NFS Carbon, Sonic, and the world-beating Fuzion Frenzy 2. I think it's safe to say that original-Xbox content is well and truly done for by this point.

Videogame Buyers' Guide Holiday 2006


I was wondering whether it'd come out or not this year, but here it is -- EGM's yearly buyers guides have been a perennial of the newsstand ever since 1989 (before EGM technically even launched, in fact), and it's arguably the best of the lot, although this reward EGM wins pretty much by default since none of the content in their specials is recycled from other mags.

This year's buyers guide doesn't have any by-lines, but if I had to guess I'd say it was penned by the usual gang of Ziff freelancers, along with the folks at Modojo.com (which editor John Davison calls out by name in his welcome blurb).

This guide borrows most of its design from the new, streamlined EGM, and it's about what you'd expect inside, covering the Wii, PS3, 360, PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, DS, PSP, and mobile stuff and mostly giving straight capsule reviews, with the occasional "Games to Avoid" page to cover stuff like Barnyard and the aforementioned PS3 Gundam. Ziff has apparently realized that it's mostly clueless gift-buying parents who pick up these guides, so they've geared the game selection with an eye toward non-M-rated stuff.

Very straightforward, but as Davison puts it: "If you're a hardcore gamer, a holiday buyers' guide in print isn't going to tell you something you don't already know. However, we hope that those of you who don't know the difference between a Metal Gear and a Guilty Gear, or those of you that can't comprehend how there can possibly be 12 'Final' Fantasys, might appreciate some quick and easy lists of the best games to buy right now."

Code Vault Winter 2007


I'm not exactly sure how frequently Code Vault is released these days. The last issue I saw was marked Spring 2006, yet had a "Display Until Aug. 28, 2006" notice on the cover, so it can't be too often.

Anyway, like the last few CVs, this issue is wholly recycled content, either from Brady Games strategy guides or GamePro's archives of cheat codes. Saints Row, Okami, Destroy All Humans! 2, World of Warcraft, FFVII DOC, Valkyrie Profile 2, and Xenosaga 3 all have strategy features, but I'm really not sure what the point is of having these features if they only include a part of the guide. This is especially silly with the Xenosaga feature, which seems to just include five pages randomly from the middle of the book's walkthrough and doesn't even include any form of title or introductory passage. Is it that useful to print a strategy guide for Act 6, and only Act 6, of Okami either?

All told, Code Vault is hitting new levels of uselessness here and I'd write about how sad I am that the mag's monthly run failed four years ago, but you've heard all that before.

[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.]