It's been a busy past little while in mags, even though you'd think it wouldn't be what with all everyone in the August-issue doldrums. My collection is beginning to outgrow the room it's in, so I'm working on clearing out space and getting rid of stuff I'm not completely sure I need after all, such as that near-complete collection of 80 Micro (a magazine devoted to Tandy's TRS-80 computer line) that spans over 100 issues.

It also seems like all my mag subscriptions are coming up for renewal right at the same time. It's not such a bad thing, though, as the renewal process has been perfectly smooth for every mag I get...with one exception. I can't find any easy way to renew Game Informer -- there's nothing online, I'm not gonna write my credit card information on the renewal card they sent and put it through US Mail, and I tried to get through to a human being on their support line three times in two days and failed completely.

Odd how the nation's biggest game magazine has unequivocally the worst customer service, huh? Ah well...I suppose I could always hit the local GameStop to renew, but I wanted to avoid that if I could, because who wants to go to a GameStop really?

Anyway, read on to read all about the new US game magazines that hit shelves this past fortnight. Despite the low page counts, there's actually a lot of new and exciting stuff going on, from anniversaries to somewhat major internal redesigns.

Nintendo Power August 2008

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Cover: MadWorld

The polybag covering the newsstand edition of this month's NP is arguably a lot more exciting-looking than the real cover, boasting a huge starburst about how this is the best issue ever and so forth. I'm not completely sure on that, but it's certainly a good one. There isn't quite as much anniversary-type stuff in this particular book as you'd expect -- mainly, a feature covering the top 20 games on all of Nintendo's systems past and present (plus a very, very brief Virtual Boy shout out) and a 2-page comic that revisits the all-grown-up Nester as he plays Mario Kart Wii with his son. Awww. Kind of a funky art style, but the content is funny -- I particularly like how it's set up exactly like an old Howard & Nester comic (ie. with a hot game tip saving the day at the end) even as it parodius the concept.

There's a party September 13 at the Nintendo World in New York to celebrate 20 years of NP, but sadly this column isn't quite the blockbuster financial success it'd need to be for me to afford a plane ticket. Ah well. Until then, I can at least enjoy all the lovely interview-driven articles this month on games like MadWorld and Mega Man 9, which is so radical it hurts.

Electronic Gaming Monthly August 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Killzone 2

Now that EGM is Ziff's sole remaining foothold in the dead-tree industry, new EGM James Mielke is instituting a few tweaks to the mag effective this issue. First off, PC games are now getting at least a smidge of coverage -- in this case, a quick 2-pager on upcoming RTS and a column by Jeff Green. Second, the regular "Take This Job" series that profiled one game-biz career a month is replaced by "Sick Play," a regular bit that looks at "hardcore players who go above and beyond the call of gaming" -- speed runners in this issue.

Most interesting, though, is a retreatment of the Review Crew. From here on in, one-man reviews are the norm for games, although three-man pieces are "still here for the big games, where we have the space to really do them justice," as reviews editor Ryan Scott writes. In practice, this means that all reviews that're one page of smaller get only one writer and one score. In my opinion, this needed to happen a long time ago. As Scott himself notes, with the smaller reviews, no individual writer could say anything very intelligent in the space he/she was allotted -- a situation exacerbated by the fact that reviewers agreed far more often than disagreed with each other, giving very similar score and making me wonder what the inherent advantage to the whole system even was any longer. The Review Crew made sense when video games were targeted younger and more hardcore, but in today's industry (both game industry and print-mag industry, I mean), it's not so much worth it any longer.

As for the issue itself, it's the classic "August issue" -- too soon for E3, too late to review anything super-interesting. So you have long previews of obscure games like Away: Shuffle Dungeon, a cover-story update on Killzone 2 that doesn't say a heck of a lot new, and so forth. Not much that's a must-read here, but this issue's worth noting for the changes alone, I think.

GamePro August 2008

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Cover: Resistance 2

The large fold-out poster cover is quite nice, though I couldn't help but notice it comes at a trade-off -- this issue's only 96 pages long and there's all manner of in-house ads. There's a couple preview bits inside (Resistance 2, a roundup of games that'll "change 2008"), but the most amusing might be "Wii FAT," a piece that shows (complete with funny art) how to cheat at Wii Fit, even suggesting a few one-handed foods you can enjoy while navigating the menus with the wiimote. Great work.

Play July 2008

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Cover: Damnation

Things are changing a bit with this Play, too -- as promised earlier, they're doing away with review scores. In its place is a "Parting Shot," a 30-50 word paragraph where the author sums up his general impression of the title in question. It's got a garish graphic attached to it which I don't think is going to last long, but more to the point, I don't really get what this Parting Shot is accomplishing that, say, the last paragraph of the review itself isn't. I'm all for eliminating review scores in a mag like Play where the score is a very tiny part of the entire review, but why go for a half-baked compromise measure like this?

I really couldn't give a flip about Damnation and all the other 5 million AAA wannabes that look like it, but it seems like Brady Fiechter is tightening up Play's design and defining it more as a text-heavy "reader" for the modern game generation, a direction that I like a lot.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine August 2008

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Cover: LittleBigPlanet

LBP and a bit on fashionista-ing up your PSP are the main draws here, along with a piece about MK vs. DC which is more humorous than anything else. Otherwise, you know how this mag works by now -- and it's also a lot more full-featured nowadays. Hopefully the days of game-release checklists are well and gone by now.

PC Gamer August 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Crysis: Warhead

The Warhead piece is hell-bent to convince you that you don't need a massively expensive PC to run Crytek's latest, even offering a $650 homebuild suggestion in one sidebar that will purportedly run the new game all silky-smooth. I like it when a feature-writer is actually into the subject he's writing about.

Official Xbox Magazine August 2008 (Podcast)

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Cover: Call of Duty: World at War

Ditto, pretty much. No, my magazine is not dirty; that's just how rough 'n tough Call of Duty is, and the lovely design continues inside.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]