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Waahh! It's getting warm outside in Houston already, but not warm enough for the damn cockroaches to leave me alone! What part of "I set off a bug bomb" don't you guys understand, you spiny bastards?!!

Things are busy as always in magazine land, and so click on for all the new mags that hit shelves in the past two weeks... with some exceptions. (The new EGM's on shelves but I've been receiving it very late in the mail lately. There's also a new issue of Beckett Massive Online Gamer but I can't be bothered to go out to the car to fetch it.)

Game Informer March 2008

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Cover: Aliens: Colonial Marines

The cover is exclusive this and exclusive that, and it's pretty hot names, all of it, especially for a March 2008 issue of a video-game magazine. But the Aliens feature inside is about two spreads' worth of content stretched out over five; it reads like the author copied the PR guy's presentation verbatim, and there isn't even much commentary from the developers, save a few quotes here and there from creative director Brian Martel and design lead Kevin Schuler. The pictures are nice, of course, but the text is purely "IGN exclusive preview". The same deal with the Champions Online and Red Faction pieces, both of which has an enormous, boring text deck on their opening spreads that all but tells you to flip fo the next article.

Overall I wonder if the middle of the magazine could've been better off with the GTA4 piece headlining the Previews section getting bumped up to feature status. It describes a bunch of neat little pieces of minutiae I haven't read anywhere else, which maybe coulda made for a neat EGM or GamePro-style change of pace.

Connect is wonderful as always, the highlight for me being the interview with Eidos US head Bill Gardner (who looks a dead ringer for my father). EIC Andy McNamara's editorial also touches on the topic of review scores, since Shoe is hardly the only editor accused of payola in this business:

"People always seem to assume that we are somehow being paid for our reviews or that we simply don't play the games. The idea that these things are even brought up at all blows my mind... In my 17 years of being here at Game Informer we have never been banned from a company for a poor review, and there is a simple reason why. Companies may not always agree with what we say, but we back up our reviews with research and insight that explains our position and why we like or dislike a game... Sometimes you agree with us and sometimes you don't, but don't ever accuse us of not being honest or passionate about video games, because at the end of the day that's our job."

I have the impression this is a little easier for Andy to say than Shoe since just about the only controversially poor reviews I've seen from GI are for certain Nintendo series, and Nintendo is famously hands-off about this sort of thing. But an EIC's job is nothing if not stressful -- you can never satisfy everybody, or even most people.

Nintendo Power March 2008

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Cover: Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World

Hey, when did Casey Loe start working for Nintendo Power? He wrote the cover piece this month and it's not bad, although the game's still early and the non-interview text falls into "I'm writing for IGN" mode pretty quickly itself. Other features on Speed Racer, Bully and baseball games are all-right reading in and of themselves, and this issue is also the one when NP finally gets around to its 2007 awards.

Magazine dorks unaware of NP's yearlong "20 Years of Nintendo Power" series are totally missing out, by the way. This month Scott talks about the best and worst covers in NP's history, where he mentions Zelda: OOT's cover as "one of the best" and the "Wi-Fi Connection" cover from January 2006 as "quite possibly our worst cover ever." It's great stuff because not only is he listing up this stuff, he's also explaining his choices from a publishing-industry perspective -- it's like a crash course in game magazine design, if you're sick of reading my crap.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine February 2008

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Cover: Far Cry 2

This issue seems enormous, but it's 100 pages as always -- the thickness is thanks to Cellplay, a heavier page stock than Future's other mags (is this on purpose?), and a few advertisements and inserts printed on even heavier stuff. A piece on LittleBigPlanet promised last month didn't work out in the end, so instead we have a preview on Far Cry 2 which is pretty good readin' and a "2008 PS3 Game Planner" which is pretty obvious filler. (Yeah, I know, there are only two full-time editors and one full-time art guy who also writes, it's a drag, but...)

Most interesting are the front and back ends of the mag, where you get some more interactive content going -- and interview with the PSP marketing guy at SCEA, a look at the guy who did a remake of a GTA4 trailer in the GTASA engine, and so on. But still, get some more content going, gentlemen!

Official Xbox Magazine March 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Left 4 Dead

A giant preview-feature issue! Noooo! :-O This is the first time a Left 4 Dead piece has looked interesting enough to read, but man, when a mag preview is under 100 words and there's like 20 of 'em, woss the use? This, plus 2007 awards, plus Cellplay, make this OXM an issue without any real features to speak of, the first one in a long time. I hope next month's better!

Games for Windows: The Official Magazine March 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Battlefield Heroes

This is my fave mag of the past two weeks. Again GFW is demonstrating a fervent, unflagging desire to make a magazine that does something nobody else does in print. So you've got a cover feature that goes beyond the PR bullet points and explores the trends behind DICE's design choices; you have a 2007 awards feature that sums up the previous year in important advances and moments rather than game titles (Play's roundup did this too and I apologize for not mentioning it earlier); you have a handful of small features about topics like MMOs for little kids and covering Middle Eastern conflicts in games.

I think this single issue represents many of the ways I'd like print mags to go, and I think all of you should pick it up for that reason alone.

Video Game Collector #9

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It's been just about a year since Shawn Paul Jones and Chris Cavanaugh released an issue of this US-based classic game mag, one that got distribution in Blockbuster stores for a while (I don't know about now, though). This issue is being distributed to subscribers as more-or-less free by way of apology, and the editors promise a new and bigger issue very soon.

In terms of design VGC is undoubtedly a fanzine; in terms of content it's very text-heavy and the pictures are obviously all taken from Google searches; and half the magazine is still useless checklists. Retro Gamer out of the UK is better than it in literally every way imaginable. Grr, grr, grr.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also Executive Editor of PiQ, a new magazine hitting stands in March.]