['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

Something's been bothering me lately. Not the economy, or my job, or my car's transmission, or how I'm gonna find the money to keep my weasels feasting on their diet of chicken necks and pre-frozen mice. No, lately I've been concerned that I've been too harsh on Tips & Tricks Video Game Codebook.

As erstwhile readers may know, the bimonthly Tips & Tricks of today is exactly what the title suggests: lots of tips and even more tricks, along with a couple of multipage strategy guides, some previews, and four game-themed pencil puzzles in the non-glossy middle pages for those long car rides in the station wagon.

It was something different before the summer of 2007, however. Strategy was still the main draw before, but alongside it were all kinds of regular columns, covering topics from classic game collecting and merchandise to WoW and game soundtrack CDs.

This structure, bizarrely enough, made T&T sort of like a miniature US version of Weekly Famitsu magazine, a title that's largely composed of...well, strategy and regular weekly columns devoted to general topics like Nintendo or merchandise. (Cross Reviews, after all, are usually just a few spreads out of the 200 or so pages in an average Famitsu issue.)

It was totally unique, fun, interesting to read...and largely ignored by game enthusiasts, because who buys a game strategy/tips magazine to read about things that aren't strategy or tips?

Larry Flynt Publishing pulled the plug on the monthly T&T in 2007, but the Codebooks, which are presumably simpler and cheaper to put together, continued biweekly publication. Since then, I've largely been repeating myself whenever a new issue comes out.

The March/April '09 edition on stands now is pretty typical: a cover story/strategy for a game that's been out for three months; another one for a title (Guitar Hero World Tour) that's been out for even longer; very standard screenshots-on-grids previews; and dozens of tip-listing pages. All this for $6.99. (That, and there's no paid advertising, and the website hasn't been updated since last fall-ish.)

The sort of game fan who's reading this column would never have a reason to buy this title. So why do I keep on purchasing it? Well, Chris Bieniek still EICs it after all these years, and I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. And, really, maybe I'm just being too mean, you know? Being bimonthly means much longer lead times, which explains why the games they cover are old.

What's more, things have improved in their own way in the past two years. There are more pencil puzzles, longer strategies (The MK vs. DCU guide is better than anything available on GameFAQs), the preview section has progressively grown in size, and the writing is far from terrible. It ain't Edge, but it ain't Beckett Massive Online Gamer, either.

So I suppose what I'm saying is: Tips & Tricks Codebook, I'm sorry I've been so rough on you. I know you're doing the best you can with the resources you have available. If I was tasked with running a print mag devoted to game strategies when I'd never even think of using such a mag in this day and age, I would undoubtedly do much worse than Bieniek, if only because I'd spend all day playing Peggle and reading late-70s Hustler instead of working on the mag.

[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.]