Stock Report: Submarines, Spartans, ‘Sam & Max’

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 Dante and Captain Olimar.

The Stock Report:

Number of games at MTV HQ: 293

Last three games to arrive: "Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific" (PC); "Pocket Pool" (PSP); "Sam & Max: Season One" (PC)

Last system to arrive: Xbox 360 Elite

Last gaming-related item to arrive: Photojournalist Robbie Cooper's coffee-table book "Alter Ego: Avatars and Their Creators." It showcases photos of massively multiplayer gamers and their avatars. (Cooper's work was profiled here.)

Last swag to arrive: Same as two weeks ago — a 10.5-ounce bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows ("a fat-free food") and a plastic marshmallow-shooting toy gun, a 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 games we received this week:

"Ancient Wars: Sparta" (PC - *SISW)

» It's rare for a game that I've never heard of to arrive in the office. This is one of them. Published by Eidos, it's an M-rated real-time strategy computer game that lets players fight battles as the Spartans, Persians or Egyptians circa 500-450 B.C.

» Among the six bullet points on the back of the box: "Use powerful heroes with different roles and abilities."

"Silent Hunter: Wolves of the Pacific" (PC)

» The box advertises this Ubisoft title as part of "the best-selling submarine game series ever."

» The half-inch-deep game case is stuffed with "Silent Hunter" documents — including a 100-page manual, a foldout guide to how 73 different keyboard keys trigger different sub commands, a reference poster of the 48 ships a sub hunter might encounter in the game, a map of the Pacific circa 1941-45 — and a $5 coupon for the DVD set for season one of the TV show "SeaQuest DSV."

» This undoubtedly serious simulator of World War II submarine conflict entices players to "hunt, hide and kill across the icy waters of the Pacific."

» Like "Ancient Wars: Sparta," this game was not promoted to us here at MTV News prior to its release. Do Multiplayer readers not want submarine simulators?

"Pocket Pool" (PSP - *SISW)

» Eidos may not have promoted "Ancient Wars" to MTV, but the company did showcase "Pocket Pool" during a recent multi-game press meeting in New York. The M-rated game rewards pool players with photos and videos of scantily clad women.

» Among the game's back-of-box features: "Hustle pros like Margot in dive bars, honky-tonks, mansions and even yachts." Even yachts.

"Sam & Max: Season One" (PC)

» Telltale Games' "Sam & Max" episodic-adventure series about a dog and rabbit-like pair of private investigators has just completed its first season — six episodes of a few hours' length each. This disc compilation is for press only.

» Episodes are downloadable from Telltale's site (TelltaleGames.com) but premiere first on Turner's GameTap service. The season finale premiered on GameTap in late April and remains exclusive to that service until next week.

» A little over a year ago, developers from several game studios told MTV News that they were determined to produce and popularize episodic TV-season-style gaming (see "Love Video Games But Miss TV? This Could Be The Answer ... "). Since then, only one studio referenced in the piece, Telltale Games, has been able to follow through with multiple episodes. Episode one of "Sam & Max" premiered in October.

» The first season centered around Sam and Max's attempts to unravel diabolical plots that kept leaving people — former child stars, for example — hypnotized. The games are played for laughs, aiming not just to break ground by being episodic but also by being some of the few games that are genuinely comedic. You can visit Bosco's "inconvenience mart" to see for yourself.

*SISW = still in shrink-wrap (we'll get to them later!)