Once a week I provide 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 Ken and Ryu Hayabusa.
The Stock Report:
Number of games at MTV HQ: 298
Last three games to arrive: "Sam & Max: Season One" (PC); "Rayman Raving Rabbids" (Xbox 360); "Spider-Man 3" (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS)
Last system to arrive: Xbox 360 Elite
Last gaming-related item to arrive: "Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators," photojournalist Robbie Cooper's coffee-table book showcasing photos of players of massively multiplayer games and their avatars (see "Role-Playing Gamers Let Photographer Behind Their Online Mask").
Last swag to arrive: A pen, a pad and a brown "Rayman Raving Rabbids" T-shirt that furthers the impression that game publishers think game reporters are all quite large. The shirt is XXL. I wear a medium.
Notes on the games we received this week:
"Rayman Raving Rabbids" (Xbox 360)
» "Rayman Raving Rabbids" originally was a launch game for Nintendo's Wii in November and a warmly reviewed showcase for that system's motion-sensitive controller. It is essentially a compilation of more than 70 mini-games that you, as Rayman, participate in at the behest of a society of lunatic rabbits.
» Since the Wii version came out, Ubisoft has ported the game to systems that don't have motion-control, like Microsoft's Xbox 360.
» But wait! The back of the box for the new 360 version of the game reads, "Supports gesture control using Xbox Live Vision." That's the 360's USB camera. According to the instruction manual, players can stand in front of the camera and wave their hands to control some of the mini-games. That method has been employed for several PS2 games using Sony's camera, the EyeToy.
» The front of the 360 version's box promises an exclusive art book inside. The 24-page, floppy instruction-manual-shaped booklet features sketches and paintings of the Rabbids in homages to "Titanic," "Jaws" and other movies.
» The game is supposed to be funny. So is the instruction manual. A Hints and Tips section offers two tips: "Tip #1: Check out the Hints and Tips page in your manual! Tip #2: Carefully reread Tip #1 in the Hints and Tips section of your manual."
"Spider-Man 3" (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Nintendo DS - *SISW)
» Released in conjunction with the big movie, Activision's "Spider-Man 3" console games follow the formula of recent Peter Parker adventures. Players are set loose to swing through an open "Grand Theft Auto"-style city, fighting small-time crooks and supervillains in main story line missions and side tasks.
» Reviews have been middling (6's and 7's mostly) for the console versions of "Spider-Man 3."
» The boxes for the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions boast nearly identical feature sets, including the option for gamers to "choose one of 10 storylines to play, including the movie's plot." The boxes also sport identical screenshots, meaning these games either look exactly alike or that one of them is being advertised with the other's graphics.
» The box for the Wii version shows different, less-impressive screenshots and offers the opportunity to "play one of the five storylines including the movie's plot." The Wii version promises two bonus villains (Morbius and Shriek) as well as gesture-based controls — web swing and fight using the Wii remote and nunchuck.
» One unusual aspect of the PS3 game is that, according to fine print on the box, it requires at least 2.6 free gigabytes of hard-drive space on the Sony system. All PS3s in the U.S. are currently sold with a 60GB hard drive (a model with a smaller drive was recently phased out). So PS3 owners won't be short of space right now, but it won't take many more games the scope of "Spider-Man 3" to fill those drives up.
» The font Sony uses for the "PlayStation 3" logo is the same font Sony's movie studio used for the "Spider-Man 3" logo. If there was ever any doubt, look at the front of the PS3 version's box, which includes both logos.
» The Nintendo DS version of the game is a side-scroller with 3-D graphics. According to GameRankings.com, it's currently the best-reviewed game based on the movie.
*SISW = still in shrink-wrap (we'll get to them later!)