Once a week I've provided a Stock Report to give you a sense of which games are streaming into the office and how companies are trying to grab our attention. The games arrive at my desk throughout the day, throughout the week, hand-delivered by our men in the mailroom. What I receive and am tallying below are the final store-ready copies of games. If I got it, your local gaming store probably got it this week too. I just don't think the game stores get the swag. That's fair. I don't get the giant cardboard stand-ups of Q*bert and the guy from "Strider."
The Stock Report:
Number of games at MTV HQ: 290 (a drop from last week; we gave some games away)
Last three games to arrive: "Pokémon Pearl" (Nintendo DS); "Halo 2" (PC); "Cube" (PSP)
Last system to arrive: Xbox 360 Elite
Last swag to arrive: Same as last time — a 10.5-ounce bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows ("a fat free food") and a plastic marshmallow-shooting toy gun, a somewhat ill-timed pair of promotional items sent to hype the upcoming Xbox 360 game "Monster Madness." This box of swag did not include the game.
Notes on the system we received this week:
Xbox 360 Elite
» The big addition to the library here is an Xbox 360 Elite, the $479 upgraded version of Microsoft's one-and-a-half-year-old console. The Elite launches in stores this Sunday. (For details on what's different about it see "Xbox 360 Is Back In Black With Roomier Elite Console").
» The shipping box we got containing the Elite also included a letter of greeting to the press and a loose copy of the Xbox 360 Migration kit. The kit includes a program disc, a couple of sheets of instructions and a wire for the migration. What's it for? It enables a one-time-only transfer of data — game saves, Xbox Live Arcade games, videos, music, but not movie rentals — from one of the old 20GB Xbox 360 hard drives to the Elite's new 120GB one. The document makes clear that the data will be erased from the outgoing drive and that a second transfer won't be allowed. Who would care about this? People who already own an Xbox 360 with a hard drive who want to know if they'll be able to jockey saved data back and forth between hard drives. They won't be able to, and Microsoft claims not to want them to, because ...
» The Xbox 360 consumer documentation that comes with the Migration Kit says, "Please be aware that the Xbox 360 Elite is intended for new console owners. Users who desire expanded storage for their existing Xbox 360 are advised to purchase the 120 GB hard-drive accessory [sold as a standalone product] rather than Xbox 360 Elite." In other words, Microsoft is actually telling owners of the original white Xbox 360 to not buy a second, black machine.
» The Elite is not supposed to play games any differently than the cheaper, original models of the 360. We'll keep an eye — and an ear — on that.
Notes on the game we received this week:
"Cube" (PSP - *SISW)
» "Cube" is a puzzle game from publisher D3 of America. Like "Halo 2" before it, it saved the MTV News office from being bereft of new games this week.
» The game box promises "Pure Puzzle-Fueled Pandemonium." D3 demoed the game to MTV News several weeks ago during a press event in midtown New York. The publisher's bombastic "Earth Defense Force" and the surprisingly intriguing "Bejeweled"-meets-"Final-Fantasy" game "Puzzle Quest" stole that show.
» "Cube" asks the player to strategically roll a cube across three-dimensional grids, using power-ups to clear obstacles and avoid or conquer enemies.
» While the setup of "Cube" is simple, the question — once it's out of shrink-wrap — will be whether it works well in three dimensions. Even though 3-D is the norm for many other styles of games — from platformers like the console "Mario" games to fighting and adventure titles — 2-D is still the dominant mode of puzzle games. "Tetris" and modern successors such as "Lumines" and "Meteos" get the buzz, and flat puzzle games such as "Bejeweled" and "Sudoku" are the genre's top sellers. Puzzle games in 3-D have yet to have their breakout hit, despite some well-received work such as the mid-'90s "Tetrisphere" and the run of "Super Monkey Ball" games. "Cube" and the forthcoming Sega PSP game "Crush," which challenges players to morph a puzzle field back and forth from 2-D to 3-D, are the latest attempts at a 3-D puzzle breakthrough.
*SISW = still in shrink-wrap (we'll get to them later!)