['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.]

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The first issue of Rocket is available on newsstands right now. There's barely any video-game coverage in it, but I thought I would give it a mention anyway because it's a product of Fusion Publishing, edited by Play boss Dave Halverson and featuring the usual gang of Play and GameFan standbys (Casey Loe, Nick Des Barres, Greg Orlando) on its masthead.

In terms of content, the bimonthly Rocket is an extension of the non-video-game stuff in the back of Play each month -- namely, in-depth coverage of hardcore fanbase-oriented movies, TV shows, anime, DVDs, and a little music. It's all done in the classic Play design, so it should be familiar to fans of Halverson's game mags. (As should the occasionally lazy copy editing -- at one point, "inaugural" gets misspelled "innagural.")

Rocket is interesting not just because it's an expansion to Halverson's publishing enterprise, which also includes the plainly successful Girls of Gaming/Girls of Anime one-shots. It's significant because it's the second time in recent years that a game-mag publisher has tried to branch out into the entertainment-publication business. Computer Games tried it first by introducing Now Playing, a "magazine within a magazine" that launched as a 16-page insert within CGM in 2004, much to the consternation of its readers (who were presumably too busy playing WoW 16 hours a day to watch movies). The title spun off into its own seasonal magazine in 2005, but Strategy Plus (publishers of CGM) decided to sell the title the following year, and two more issues were published independently by an outfit called Now Playing Entertainment LLC.

Despite covering largely the same turf as Rocket, Now Playing wasn't a great success, perhaps because of its traditional Computer Games-like text-heavy art design. It was nothing new in that field, in other words -- but Rocket, with its highly visual look 'n feel, might just be. (That, and it's already got a great deal more advertising support than Now Playing ever received.)

Getting back to games, click on for a look at all the US video-game mags of the past two weeks. We're getting close to February now, so it's back to the wafer-thin issues until next Thanksgiving...

Electronic Gaming Monthly February 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: 2007 previews

I'm beginning to see a pattern in the redesigned EGM's covers. As seen last month, EGM's going for a very sparse cover design, with some central piece of art smack-dab in the center of the page and small packs of coverlines on the top-right and bottom-left. It's a very unique look that seems to run afoul of many mag-design conventions. With game mags, the idea up to now has traditionally been that the more ostentatious the cover is, the better. Loud and flashy this obviously ain't, but I like the style regardless -- hopefully the people upstairs at Ziff don't see it as too demure to get noticed on newsstands.

Inside: The big-arse 2007 preview feature is about what you'd figure -- a whole bunch of mini-looks at all the hottest games of the next year, bla bla bla, you've seen this before. If anything, the main selling point for this ish is that it's got four "Afterthoughts" interviews -- Cliffy B for Gears of War, IGA for Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Hiromichi Tanaka for Final Fantasy III, and Bill "We couldn't get Miyamoto or Aonuma, but I'm more interesting to talk to anyway" Trinen for Zelda. Hell, EGM's giving Game Developer a run for its money at this rate.

Game Informer February 2007


Cover: Blue Dragon

I was kinda wondering what happened to this game -- it didn't seem Microsoft was pushing it much in the US up to now. This month, GI has 10 pages on it -- and what's more, the art designer went with a Cooper Black-heavy look for the feature that I can't decide whether it's the best thing I've ever seen or the most eye-stressing.

There's also a four-page feature on Command & Conquer 3, which you have to wonder if GI was angling for that cover until PC Gamer got an exclusive on it first.

As usual: The real highlight in GI is the "Connect" news section, which kicks off with an interview with new SCEA head Jack Tretton, who's a wonderfully frank and fun-to-read guy. It continues with a look at all three next-gen consoles' designs (as critiqued as the head of a large-scale design studio); a guide to making good licensed games by some dude from Vivendi Games (who should know a thing or two about them); a bunch of man-on-the-street interviews about the PS3/Wii launch; and (most memorable of all) a full-page photo of Gabe Newell holding a chaingun-like object in a setup that could be titled "Nerd's Revenge".

Also worth noting: This month's GI is 124 pages versus EGM's 114. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's the first time GI's been bigger than EGM in a given month. Ooh, burrn.

Official Xbox Magazine February 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion: Shivering Isles

In a move that reminds me of Super Play and other British console mags that reviewed mounds of grey-market imports each month, OXM has decided to one-up Game Informer's extensive Blue Dragon coverage by simply giving a full-on review to the Japanese retail version. It's the lead review, and at four pages it's quite an extensive one -- largely positive, too.

The review's a fair bit more interesting (IMO) than the coverage of the new 360 Oblivion expansion, which is mostly design sketches and posed screenshots. A better highlight is "How to Get Kicked Off Xbox Live," a hilarious look at Microsoft's anti-dumbass team that features Dan Amrich trying to be as much of a prick on Live as is possible to report in a family magazine. Remarkably, he fails to get banned after 11 days of crotch-grabbing and a 94% negative Rep, which leads Dan to wonder what the heck the "thousands of thousands" (to quote MS) of people banned from Live had to do to earn it.

Also worth looking at is OXM's Game of the Year awards, which features an enormous variety of silly categories from "Best Game You've Already Forgotten About" to "Best Graphics If They Were on a PlayStation 1". There's also a piece on game engines co-written by our very own Simon Carless that I'd be remiss not to mention.

The disc: Is probably the top attraction for gamers this month, however. It includes the Wizard's Tower and Thieves Den extensions to Oblivion -- both pay-to-play downloads over on Xbox Live and both, unlike the infamous Horse Armor, actually worth fooling around with.

Hardcore Gamer February 2007


Cover: Burgertime, Pac-Man, Bomberman, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter II, Kirby, Sonic, Yoshi, Kaboom!, Popful Mail, Bonk, Earthworm Jim, Dig Dug, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Bros., Bubsy, Blaster Master, ToeJam & Earl, the guy from Rocket Knight Adventures

I guess the HCG gang figured that obscure PSP action RPG Gurumin (despite being the lead preview) wasn't quite cover material, so instead we have a retro explosion the way only Terry Wolfinger can draw it -- and I do mean that literally. The feature inside is pretty loosely themed, including a hall of fame, a long feature on MAME sticks and cabinets, and 11 pages of retro-game recommendations from the entire staff. It's quite nice, if not exactly the the tightest of features.

By the way: Wolfinger has also drawn the box art for Agetec's Raw Danger, due out in February, and you can tell from a mile away. I bet Tom Cruise will be surprised to see an airbrushed likeness of himself on the cover next month!

Beckett Spotlight: Cheat Codes Issue #15


Cover: The next generation, I suppose

More of the usual from the Beckett folks, including some really old reviews (they just now get around to reviewing Guitar Hero 2 and Red Steel) and a big mess of codes. For mag-brats, the main draw might be their "exclusive" look at Pokemon Battle Revolution, a Wii import.

It would also seem that 3.6 out of 5 is about as low as BCC's rating system goes, since that's what Superman Returns gets despite some pretty harsh review text.

I know I'm down on Beckett a lot: But there's no external advertising from any company in this issue, so I guess I'm not the only one.

[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.]