Thank you all for your kind feedback in my last column. I guess I'll keep this sucker on rolling, then, and cancel my previous plan to start covering the illustrious history of ferret magazines instead. Sorry, Simon.

As I've discussed earlier, this isn't such a merry holiday for US print mags, most of which are peaking just a wee bit above 100 pages even though the number of games they're expected to cover continues to balloon. They're doing the best they can, though, and I'd like to take a look at the holiday editions I didn't get around to last week -- including Game Informer, which I continue to foster a love/hate relationship toward.

Game Informer November 2008


Cover: Dragon Age Origins

The postman kind of mangled my copy of GI this month, leading me to wonder if the magazine was suddenly using cheaper, flimsier paper. It isn't -- I compared it with early-'08 issues and it's the same. Just a perception, I guess. (GI is the winner in page count this month with 144, which beats EGM by a country mile.)

Never have the two directions GI pulls itself become more obvious than in this cover. GI's the only mag to actually put a picture of Jonathan Blow right on Page 1, for example, to say nothing of giving him two pages of interview text. It's arguably the best thing in the mag this month; Blow is a handsome lad and he speaks intelligently. There are one or two nitpicks I could bring up, but the fact is that I don't see any other print mag tackling the guy and his game with nearly as much gusto.

The cover feature, meanwhile, is GI's other face -- the face of game PR, page scans on forums, and instant obsolescence. The text is nothing IGN couldn't do -- it needs editing, is written awkwardly, and has passages that go on for several lines without actually stating anything, like some parody of a 19th-century lecturer. I'm know I'm far more critical of GI's x-clusive covers than those of any other magazine, but if you've got over triple the circ of your nearest competitor, you got higher standards to fulfill in my mind. Where's the thought and insight that I just saw in the Braid interview, not to mention the rest of the news section?

The Left 4 Dead piece, meanwhile, is far nicer -- despite what the cover suggests, it's much more Valve history piece than L4D preview, and it's nicely laid out and interesting to read even if you know all the players already. Very Edge-y.

Official Xbox Magazine December 2008 (Podcast)


Cover: Fallout 3

OXM does for Bungie what GI did for Valve this issue, and the result's even more impressive because they're covering a story -- Bungie going independent -- that I think not enough industry watchers realized the full impact of. It's got quotes from rival developers and everything. Brilliant! The Fallout 3 review gets more pages (and has a similarly lovely visual design -- I think I see why OXM gives its designers full bylines alongside the writer these days), but this was the highlight for me.

Play November 2008


Cover: Street Fighter IV -or- Bionic Commando

It's not mentioned on the cover, but Play seems to have a "girlzzz in gaming" theme going on this issue -- there's a profile of ladies around the industry that prominently features the Frag Dolls (most recently seen in mags on the cover of Future's PCXL one-off?), a review of a book called "Porn & Pong," and another piece on "Game Widow," a book written by the wife of SOCOM's lead designer.

The SFIV cover piece is pure passion and pure Play, in the good sense of the term -- in-depth and filled with neat trivia. The Bionic Commando counterpart is pure Halverson and pure Play in the other sense of the term -- filled with Dave talking about himself and writing one-liners like "100% pure, game and player. This is what it's all about" which sound straight out of 1994-era GameFan. They both have their charms, really.

If you want pure, refined Halverson, though, flip directly to his review of Golden Axe: Beast Rider. My favorite line comes right at the end: "If you love [the game], buy two for yourself and one for everyone you know as Christmas presents, whether they have a console or not, to assure we get another." If it's got boobs and/or a jump button, Dave loves it. And I love him.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine December 2008


Cover: Prince of Persia

Can I take the time to mention that Future is awesome for printing PTOM in such thick, heavy, fancy-feeling paper? This issue's 112 pages and is still way thicker and sturdier than GI at 144. It demonstrates that someone at Future cares about more than the bottom line when it comes to print.

The cover piece is incredibly text-dense, backed up by some neat visual aids, like the full spread devoted to the "anatomy" of the Prince. I usually hate vertically-oriented spreads, but this one was done right. It reminds me of me 'n Gary's old Newtype days, pieces like these. Besides that and a horror-game roundup, this mag is almost all reviews.

[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.]