Reviewing the Reviewers: Video Game Magazines

The internet isn't the only place to get gaming info. Plenty of magazines line the racks in the grocery stores. Which ones are worthy of your cash, or better yet, a subscription? In no particular order, here you go:

1. Play: This is, without a doubt, the best gaming mag in the US. It's elegantly put together on high-grade paper, the writers are almost all well known in this segment, and the design is simplistic and beautiful. It's the closest thing to the best gaming mag ever printed, Next Generation, to come along in some time. They do waste a bit of space with anime (not all gamers enjoy it, it's a bad stereotype) and DVD's, but most of the 'zine is packed with information and well written. It takes a LONG time to get through an issue as text overtakes any pictures. That's a good thing. It's run by Dave Halverson who produced the beloved Game Fan back in the 90's and Gamers Republic afterwards. Both died but not without a fight. Here's hoping Play sticks around. Grade: Subscribe

2. EGM: They've been around for decades now. It's a scary thought, but a true one. There has been a serious decline in quality since the mid-90's. The writing is mostly amateurish, aimed at times to young kids. Reviews are highly critical, and that's a good thing. They bow to nothing or no one. Features like letting younger kids playing classic games and claiming they make insane statements well beyond their years damages credibility. Still, it's a quick and easy read, laid out with solid graphics. It's a decent enough to be mainstream. Grade: Buy it off the shelf

3. Game Pro: This one has been around for nearly as long as EGM. Their style has never changed. It's aimed squarely at kids. The writing style seems stuck in the early 90's with cheap puns and occasional foul language that seems way out of place. The recent re-design is a good one, printing everything against white backgrounds as to not obscure any of the text. They have done an admirable job to move ahead. They simply need to quit focusing so young. Grade: Leave it

4. Game Informer: Definitely a contender for most improved, this Gamestop exclusive is a solid one. There's a great retro section in the back along with accurate trivia that certainly earns a point or two. The odd and obnoxious size makes it difficult to handle and hard to store. Writing is a bit above average, though a recent review of "Tiger Woods DS" was simple excruciating. The reviewer was too lazy to open the instruction book to learn how to perform a simple function (or maybe he didn't even play it that long). Ouch. Even still, it's a lot better then the junk they produced before the millennium. Grade: Buy it off the shelf

5. Nintendo Power: If you read this for your gaming information, it's time to move on. Seriously. This is almost without a doubt the most useless printed gaming journalism available, blatantly advertising all Nintendo made products and giving them ridiculously high praise. It offers little in the way of useful information. Grade: Leave it

6. PSM: If Game Informer is most improved, PSM takes home the award for biggest decline. Now stuffed with ridiculous graphics that make everything hard to read, it's obvious more time is spent is spent with the overloaded look than with anything resembling a game magazine. Immaturity reeks on every page, something that ironically, Game Informer could have been panned for all those years ago. This was a decent read back when their first issue launched with "Final Fantasy 7" on the cover. It's a shame they don't look back to those days. Grade: Leave it

7. Official Xbox Magazine: Ok, so the scores are bloated. Ignoring that, this is a solid 'zine with nice trivia or odd fact running along the bottom of each page. They have a decent crew with a solid sense of humor, but never get out of line when reporting the facts. Previews are well laid out and attractive. The demo disk is the obvious selling point. Even without it, it's still a solid mag, just one with a high cover price (again, the demo disk). Grade: Subscribe (only if the disc is worth it to you)

8. Official Playstation Magazine: Another oversized magazine and another official one. Things have gotten better for OPM over the years. Their layout is a bit more standard and not all over the place like it used to be. Yes, it's one that sells for the demos alone. Don't sell it short. Much like OXM, the reviews are skewed (duh), but well written and informative. Ignoring the opinions and you can still learn what you need to know about a title. They also get a ton of exclusives so they remain as timely as possible in this era of the internet. Grade: Buy it off the shelf

9. Games TM: This is the best gaming magazine in the world today, at least out of the ones written in English. Those of us living in the US need to track it down at specialty bookstores, but even with the insane cover price after import, it's worth every penny. Each issue clocks in with an incredible page count and not a single section is wasted. They fit a TON of information on one page. Their reviews are concise, well done, and look great. Their covers are made paper that almost feels like plastic. They give a large section in the back to the classics that could become a magazine in and of itself. Grade: Subscribe

10. Tips & Tricks: It seems sort of useless to offer strategy and codes in a magazine. That information can be found within days of a games release on the internet. Stuffing an entire magazine full of it doesn't make much sense. The guides are good and it makes for decent reference material if you need something quick. Otherwise, the only useful sections are in the back including Joe Santulli's Collectors Corner and the Japanese view. This was born out of a failed EGM spin-off, EGM 2. They went through a few name changes and ended up here, radically changing their focus a few times. Grade: Leave it on the shelf

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