VGB’s SUPER Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Yes, this WAS supposed to go up a while ago, but thanks to a bit of health & family stuff, I’ve been spending a lot of time out of the usual happy holiday mode. Amusingly enough, I also haven’t done any holiday shopping, so this column will actually help me pick out a few last-minute gifts. Of course, it’s not ALL just about the games, folks. While we’re pretty much tied down to our consoles here at VGB, a couple of other cool products occasionally cross our desks that would make great holiday gifts for gamers and non-gamers alike. This guide focuses on a couple of accessories, peripherals, toys and cool gear for all types of budgets, so pull up a chair, grab a hot (or cold) beverage and prepare to get your last-minute shopping on!

Note: prices listed are generally MSRP’s, so current holiday pricing is NOT reflected – hell, with deals changing by the hour in some locations, you’ll actually be spending up to 30% or more less than some listed prices here!

eneloop_set.JPGSanyo Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries ($7.99 & up) – While many of today’s tech toys come with their own custom rechargeables, plenty of devices from game controllers to digital cameras still require you to buy additional batteries to keep them powered. With plenty of different brands to choose from, Sanyo’s Eneloop AA and AAA batteries come in on top thanks to a number of neat innovations. For starters, they come pre-charged, so you can use them right out of the specially designed package. What’s even more incredible is the batteries can be charged up to 1000 times, are recyclable and will store 85% of their initial charge for a year once topped up and tossed in a drawer, something other rechargeable cells (as well as alkaline batteries) certainly can’t touch. I’ve been using the set I got for a while now in my Xbox 360 wireless controllers and am nothing but elated at how well they’re holding up. Batteries come packaged in 2 or 4 packs ($7.99 and $14.99 respectively) while Charger kits range from $ around 24.99 (with 2 AAA cells) to $29.99 (with 4 AA cells). Online retailers such as Costo. Skymall and Amazon have less than MSRP deals on Eneloop battery sets as well as Power, Travel and USB Chargers, so definitely give these a look – you’ll never have to worry about batteries again.

Super Mario Bros. Hoody by Torell ($105) – The best looking licensed gear I’ve eversuper_mario_bros_hoody.JPG seen, the Torell collection’s 20 jackets, T-shirts and hoodies are not only inspired by classic NES games and gear, they’re priced to target a specific market: urban youth with disposable income. Each piece is a limited edition (with a nicely placed label numbered 1 to 1000) and prices range from $50 for the T’s up to $200 for varsity jackets (yup, they’re worth every dime, folks). The combination of screen-printed oversize images, heavily embroidered letters and amazing detail (Nintendo neck label tape!) makes each piece a wearable work of art and definitely worth the price tag for any gamer on your gift list. Click it on over to the Torrel site and pick up a few of these for yourself. Hell, I’d wear any of these just to go pick up an extra controller at Gamestop just to get the tongues wagging as I walked in the door.

prinny_fleece.JPGDisgaea Prinny Fleece Cap ($19.99) – You gotta love the always exciting stock at the Rosenqueen Store, the online shop supreme of all things NIS America plus other cool JRPG goodness. Where else can you track down one of these wacky fleece Prinny caps which will make you look like either a stylish gamer who’s not afraid to show his or her Disgaea addiction… or a supporter of penguin terrorist activities that needs to be searched everywhere you set foot. Twenty bucks gets you the cap, which despite the photos to the left, won’t leave your head frozen. Wear this with the Super Mario jacket above and I’ll give you a dollar just for having the guts to dare mix consoles, genres and gaming eras.

Turtle Beach Ear Force W3 Wireless Headphonesear_force_W3_headphones.JPG ($59.95) – You know Turtle Beach had to come up with something cool for Wii owners and the W3’s are pretty amazing overall. Packing some powerful sound, these headphones will definitely be appreciated more by the hardcore gamer looking to dive deeper into his or her games than casual gamers looking for some sort of gimmick. An AC-powered transmitter connects to the Wii’s audio output, while the included splitter cable lets you keep the speaker sound coming from your TV if you like. The W3’s comfy ear cups and behind the neck band allow for hours of usage while not disturbing others in the general vicinity. You’ll also find the ‘phones won’t go flying across the room thanks to that band design, an excellent thing during those wilder play sessions.

nyko_wii_charge_station.JPGNyko Wii Charge Station ($29.99) – If you’re one of the lucky millions of Wii owners and happen to have a few extra controllers, Nyko’s neat charger should do you up just right. In addition to dual rechargeable battery packs with rubberized covers for extra grip, the unit’s stylish white and silver trim matches the Wii in its cradle perfectly. Simple to set up and simpler to use (you don’t even need to remove the wrist straps!), this is a solid deal for anyone with a Wii who’s got all the games they need. This holiday season, with Wii’s so hard to get, you can at least be prepared for that NOA rain check with the right accessories, no?

Simpsons Wii Remote Grip ($14.99) – If you play a lot of download NES and SNES homer_wii_grip.JPG classics from the Wii Channel and don’t like the sometimes slippery feel you get from holding that Wiimote sideways or are more used to a PlayStation type of game pad, here’s a fun peripheral from Solutions 2Go. Adorned with a stylized Homer J. Simpson graphic (Lisa and Bart are also available), the Remote Grip turns that plain vanilla game controller into a colorfully sleeved instrument of doom for any on screen enemies. This unit’s familiar shape might be better suited to large-handed gamers than the kids, however, it’ll also turn a few heads when at first glance your friends think you’re playing Metroid or Metal Slug Anthology with a Sony brand controller.

ear_force_DS_phones.JPGTurtle Beach Ear Force D2 Headphones ($19.95) – Available in Black, White or Pink, these nicely priced phones not only feature Turtle Beach’s usual quality construction and great sound, they also come with a great microphone that makes interacting with DS games less embarrassing. Yelling or blowing into a DS while in public looks strange enough, but with the D2’s on your head, it at least looks as if you’re doing a mike check or venting at someone on the opposite end of a cell phone… at least for a few seconds. Then, someone notices that DS you’re holding and asks where you got thosee cool headphones. Just tell them to go to the Turtle Beach website if Amazon is out of stock and get back to your gaming, of course.

Nyko DS Lite Pro Point Pack ($9.99) – Tired of getting cramped hands from hours ofnyko_pro_point_DS_stylus.JPG Puzzle Quest action on your DS? Keep losing that stylus and having to use everything from a toothpick to a pen cap as a sad alternative? Well, Nyko has a solution for you for a mere ten bucks. You get two different thick textured stylus holders that are a lot more comfortable to hold and an additional stylus that slides into each holder. That soft glow you’ll be seeing is from the LED lights inside each grip, while the handy wrist strap makes sure you don’t lose anything. Also great for Brain Training-addicted seniors or anyone who’s going to buy Majesco’s awesome NY Times Crosswords for themselves or a DS-owning friend or relative.

intec_ds_case_dura_pink.JPGIntec Dura DS Lite Case ($9.99) – In the market for a simple, no-frills DS Lite case? Intec has a cool, inexpensive model here that’s a charmer. Available in while, black or pink, the Dura Case holds your Lite plus six games and an extra stylus snugly, allowing you that extra assurance while traveling. Even better, Intec has slapped a lifetime warranty on this thing, so go ahead and travel with ease. Um, just don’t go swimming with that Dura in your pockets – It may look watertight, but it most likely isn’t… unless Intec goes on ahead and puts gaskets and a valve on the next model. Sticklers might notice that pink isn’t quite the same as the DS’s pink, but that’s the way it is with third-party products, as first party companies usually have a lock down on specific hues.

Simpsons DS Lite Kit ($19.99) – Solutions 2 Go has a great set of accessories for thatds_lite_bundles.JPG DS Lite owner on your list with these two kits in Bart of Lisa Simpson designs. Both contain a durable hard case with a matte finish , three game sleeves that hold two DS games each, a battery operated charger, ear buds, 2 extra styluses and a wrist strap. That’s a lot of stuff and it’s all good quality for the money. While everything is well constructed, the game cases don’t hold Game Boy Advance carts, so you’ll have to stick ’em in the DS case.

DS_Lite_cases.JPGIf you just need a durable case for your DS, grab the Bart or Lisa DS Lite Console Case ($14.99), which is at first glance, the exact same thing found in the kit. However, there’s a rubberized handle on the top and a look inside reveals netting in one cover that’s great for transporting extra games and such.

simpsons_mini_backpacks.JPGBart/Lisa/Homer Simpson Console Carry Case ($19.99 ) While this trio of tiny, cool mini-backpacks are made for the DS or DS Lite, they can hold just about any other portable system you can think of (well, except the Atari Lynx). Then again, you just might find yourself using one of these cases as a neat everyday carry-all or small necessities bag should you do a lot of flying. Each bag has a padded strap with a pouch on the end for a cell phone or other small device, lots of pockets on the inside for extra games or gear and heck, if you’re not a gamer, you can probably stuff a paperback book inside and go reading on your commute if that’s your thing.

Gametech Complete Bag DS Lite ($19.99) – OK, I’m in looove with the Rosenqueencomplete_bag_DS_lite.JPG Store, so sue me. Hell, this sweet import DS Lite bag is compact and cute (if you get the powder blue one) or macho (in black) and holds (deep breath, please) your DS/DS Lite, AC adaptor, ear buds, game instruction manuals, an extra stylus, touch pen, and up to 12 DS games! Whip this out on the subway or bus and watch the jealous kids give you the fish-eye all the way to your stop. Maybe if one of them is nice to you, you can tell them where to snap one up, hmmmm?

360_wireless_pads.JPGMicrosoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controllers ($44.99) – Sometimes, there’s no substitute for first-party gear, so you may as well pony up a premium on occasion. Hitting stores about the same time as the 360 Arcade system, Microsoft’s new stylish blue and pink wireless controllers make great his ‘n hers gifts for those gaming couples in the know. Then again, as you’ll need to replace that old controller at some point, you may as well try a new color to spice things up, no? You can also get these in ever so awesome black and the standard issue white if that’s your bag. Stick a couple of Eneloops in them and you’re all good to go for days of gaming action whether you’re replaying Mass Effect or blowing through the latest Live Arcade release.

Eternal Sonata Faceplates (approx. $15 – $30 each) – Of all the 360 faceplateseternal_sonata_faceplates.JPG released this year, the five very limited edition plates Namco Bandai had made for their gorgeous RPG were among the best. Featuring lovely character art of that practically popped off the plates, these were initially pre-order bonuses at select retailers (or sent out to game journalist types as freebies). You’ll probably need to hit eBay for the full set, as it’s a bit tricky to hunt these down at your favorite game store. There are also a set of Ace Combat 6 faceplates out there, but they’re a bit harder to track down.

simpsons_faceplates.JPGThe Simpsons Xbox 360 Face Plates ($19.99) – Of course, for a lot less money you can get the Solutions 2 Go clear faceplate with six interchangeable Simpsons character images. I’m surprised EA didn’t seek these guys out to do something official for The Simpsons Game, given the heavy lineup of related licensed goods the Toronto-based company has introduced. Anyway, 360 faceplate collectors will definitely want to snap these up while they’re available.

Splitfish Frag FX controller ($59.99) – What is it with Canada and great game gear?frag_fx__Small_.JPG Split Fish has done it again with one of the best third-party controllers to date. This unique motion enabled joystick/mouse combo turns first-person shooters such as Resistance: Fall of Man, Call of Duty 4 and The Orange Box into new gaming experiences on par with PC shooters while other games benefit as well. Once you spend a few minutes setting up (download the latest firmware update, please!) and adjusting to the fact that it’s a wired controller (*gasp*), you’ll rarely touch that Sixaxis again except for specific games that don’t require a keyboard/mouse-like setup. Granted, it’ll take a bit of getting used to if you’re a die-hard controller user, but it’s definitely worth the price if you’re a quick study who wants to improve his or her game.

Homer_USB_Charge_Cable.JPGHomer Simpson PS3 USB Charger Cable ($14.99) – The worst thing about the stock PS3 USB charger cable is that it’s a bit too short if you’ve a setup that requires you to be more than six feet away from your TV when that Sixaxis needs recharging. Solutions 2 Go’s Homer or Bart Simpson USB cables are a good 10 feet long each, making them better alternatives. Of course, that Homer or Bart head peeping Kilroy-like on the end of the cable is a funny touch, so grab one of these and use that Sony cable for downloading pics from your digital camera instead.

The Simpsons PS2 Controllers ($ 19.99) – Looking for a decent replacement pad forsimpsons_PS2_controllers.JPG that PS2 owner on your gift list? The stylish trio of Homer, Bart and Lisa Simpson controllers from Solutions 2Go should make nice gifts for fans of the show and video game. The Homer and Bart pads have turbo fire, while the smaller, pinker Lisa controller gets turbo and slow-motion buttons. That might be a little bit sexist to some of the gal gamers out there, but it’s a safe bet that this particular pad will be gifted to someone around age 7-10, so it’s a forgivable (and minor) issue. Performance wise, both controllers work fine with a wide variety of PS One and PS2 titles, so feel free to hunt these down at a retailer near you.

logic_3_psp_kit.JPGLogic 3 PSP Travel Case ($19.99) – If you’re on the road a lot, this travel kit (which looks amusingly like a men’s shaving case) makes for a nice set of must-haves. You get a car charger, USB charger, headphones and data splitter cables (all in retractable holders) packed in a nice case that has space for your PSP, extra UMDs and more. Everything works as it should with no hassles and for the money, this is one of the better deals out there, as you’re not stuck with a ton of junk you’ll never use (ever see some of those PSP kits that toss in way too many items?). Pick one of these up at the Logic 3 website.

Sony PSP 2000 Component AV Cable ($19.99) – If you’ve bought yourself one ofpsp_component_cable.JPG those newly slimmed down PSP’s and you’re also the owner of a HDTV, pick up a set of these cables and thank me later. Component AV means UMD movies look sharper than with the standard cables and if you still have a standard def TV around the house (a must if you still play PS2 games), PSP games won’t suffer as much from being blown up to the larger screen size. Some less thoughtful types (or those who’ve never used a Super Game Boy or Game Boy Player) complain that PSP games should be extended to full screen on their HD setups rather than understand that the games were made to be seen on a handheld, so overlook those gripes in online product reviews. If you’re still using a standard-def TV, stick with the basic AV cables the new PSP comes with or hell, buy a set of these cables and make that your starting point for saving up for a new HD set.

invisibleshield_psp.JPGShieldZone Invisible Shield PSP Shield ($19.99 ) – Still the best protector on the market in my book, this product perfectly protects nearly the entire face section of your PSP from scratches, fingerprints and dust. Naturally, it works best on a brand-new unit rather than one that’s already been through the wringer and yes, the application process can be slow work for first timers. Nevertheless, once you get your shield up that PSP will survive pretty much anything you can think of and then some. ShieldZone also makes a screen-only PSP protector ($12.99) as well as shields for what looks like hundreds of other electronic devices on the market. Click it on over to the InvisibleShield site and snap up a few of their fine items for all the tech goodies you’re giving as gifts this season.

Hori PSP Protective Filter ($4.99) – Another must if you’re just looking for a solidhori_PSP_filter.JPG screen protector, Hori’s less expensive counterpart is applied in about the same way as the Invisible Shield, yet it only covers the unit’s screen. Anti-glare protection makes this a welcome gift for the outdoor types on your list and while the package says the filter is reusable (and it is), it’s best to put it on once and leave it so you don’t have to go through the whole dust-proofing scenario necessary with any stick-on screen protector.

Bart_PSP_Bundle.JPGBart Simpson PSP Bundle ($24.99) – Like their DS Bundles, Solutions 2 Go has packed a few cool necessities in one easy to wrap package. You get a carrying case with interior storage, screen visor, four UMD cases, three extra analog nubs and a USB charger/data splitter cable. Combine this with either of the shielding solutions and (should you be buying or already own a 2000 series PSP) that Component AV cable and you’re golden as far as a well-kept handheld goes. Interestingly enough, there’s no Lisa PSP bundle, probably because most of the units in circulation belong to guys. Nevertheless, the Bart design could be considered unisex, although I know Bart would most likely crack up at hearing that word.

Xyber Technologies Gaming PC ($3935.94) – If you’ve got the money and wantxyber_tech_gaming_pc.JPG what’s possibly the best gaming PC you’ll ever buy, Xyber Tech’s HUSH MKIII should fit the bill nicely. A truly revolutionary design and all aluminum construction means the PC is basically one giant heat sink. In other words folks, it’s quiet as a bag of feathers floating in space. The “basic” off the shelf model packs a 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Processor, XFX GeForce 8600GTS 256MB 128-bit GDR3, 2 Gigs of Corsair XMS2 DDR2 at 800Mhz, a Samsung 22″ wide-screen display and a lot more for that price above, but you can configure a rig for more or less loot from a drop down menu. That silver or black exterior finish might look plain, but underneath the hood, you’ll be shocked at how compact it all, running all high-end components with no cooling fans or sacrifice in power. In other words, if you want a rig that can run Crysis at full settings without keeling over or blowing up, Xyber has one waiting for you. The company also makes desktop PC, Workstation and Home Theater units that all have the same aluminum construction and streamlined looks, so you know where to point that browser, Bowser.

iZ3D_monitor.JPGNeurok Optics iZ3D 22″ Monitor ($999.00) – For the past two years, the team behind Neurok Optics’ iZ3D monitor has been using their patented technology along with passive polarized glasses to create the first true 3D monitor for home usage. Their first model was a 17″ beauty that was well-received, but that’s last year’s news. This year, they’ve improved the product significantly, offering a 22″ upgrade that’s been restyled into a sleeker model that takes up less of a footprint while pulling off its incredible 3D flawlessly. If you’re rockin’ an Nvidia 3D card, you’re good to go in about 15 or 20 minutes out of the box. Games such as Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Elder Scrolls IV, and Crysis literally POP off the screen, throwing you even more fully into their gorgeously deadly environments. When you’re not gaming, a tap of a key sets the monitor to standard 2D usage for web surfing or other activities. Super hardcore PC purists that build their own rigs will probably turn up their noses since the unit doesn’t support stuff like Crossfire/SLI, 64-bit OS, dual monitor configurations or Open GL apps, but adding these functions now would drive the price far beyond what it is now. Nevertheless, for the consumer looking for a glimpse into one future of how we’ll see and play games, iZ3D will always be the first place to look as the company continues its grand work. By the way, the eight styles of polarized shades are pretty awesome, too.

Ideazon Zboard Fang Gamepad ($49.99) – One of the best-designed PC gamefang_02.JPG controllers you can buy, period. The Fang takes about two minutes or so to set up via USB port and driver CD and can turn even novice players into well-trained assassins who will never look at a regular keyboard for gaming again. The 41 keys are set in a ergonomically designed shell that’s easy for left OR right-handed games to use and over 125 presets that insure many of today’s most popular games are supported. In addition, the Fang is programmable through a stellar drag & drop macro system making it a supremely versatile choice for solo or competitive play. As the tagline goes on the Ideazon website: Keep your keyboard for typing, but unleash the beast for combat…” For once, they hype is totally correct, folks.

fly_fusion_pen.JPGFly Fusion Pentop Computer ($79.99, With Homework kit expansion, $119.99) – Yikes, I wish I’d had one of these when I got hit with a bout of interesting viral gastroenteritis not too long ago. In between coughing up various colored fluids, i could have been jotting accessory notes down in my Fly Fusion Notebook and having my scribbles saved as a text document. Hell, I could have used the Music Studio to create a tune or three while I was laid up or even learned a bit of Spanish, grrrr. Anyway, the kids will absolutely love the Fly Fusion – not only does it train them to take notes, their handwriting won’t suffer like many other kids that rely solely on computer usage for pretty much everything. Tons of applications are available from about 7.99 to around $35 and while the pen could use a larger memory storage for heavy users, it’s perfect for anyone that needs a great combo of classic and current tech.

Hasbro Power Tour Guitar ($69.99) – While games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band letPower_tour_Guiltar___white_CURRENT__Small_.jpg you live out those rock ‘n roll fantasies, the difficulty curve on both games may be daunting to younger kids. Another thing to consider is you’re not actually learning how to play guitar in either game, something that Hasbro took into consideration when they created the Power Tour Guitar. Not only did they team up with Gibson Guitars for the unit’s body (in glossy black or white) and that trademark sound, the appeal of the product immediately goes from kids to adults thanks to the light-up fretboard that actually teaches you real chords and real songs. The guitar comes loaded with a bunch of licensed tunes to learn and even better, you can also jam away at your leisure any time you like without having to hook up to a TV or game console.

Power_Tour_Guitar_Amp.JPGThanks to its built-in speaker, the guitar works fine as a stand-alone gift, but since you’re buying the darn thing, you may as well go all out and grab the Power Tour Amp ($49.99), which beefs up the sound considerably (yes, it goes to 11!). Even though both pieces are kid-sized, you just might want to pick up one of these for yourself and stick those games on the shelf once you hear how awesome it sounds.

Disgaea 2: Chaos at the Coliseum Figure Set (39.99) – Yet another completely disgaea_2_figures_set.JPG sweet Rosenqueen Store gem, this set of 2.5″ figures should make any JRPG fan squeal with delight…. um, if they haven’t bought it already. If they already happen to have this set (you DID scope out their place beforehand, RIGHT?), feel free to select from some of the other amazingly cool goodies Rosenqueen stocks, including some really awesome preorder figures you’ll have to see for yourself.

kratos_meets_altair.JPGAssassin’s Creed Altair + God of War II Kratos Action Figures ($14.95 each)- So, fanboys… who’d REALLY win in a fight, huh, huh? Eh, who the heck cares, but hell, if you’re into collecting figures like these, these two six-inch beauties will look great on your shelf, in a display case or wherever you stick your cooler toys. Head on over to online toy retailer cmdstore to see their other awesome video game figures for sale and let them know who sent you… Of course, if you go broke from buying way too much stuff while you’re there, it’s not my fault at all…

Halo Action Clix Figures Series One ($9.99) – The latest iteration of the popularhalo_action_clix.JPG ActionClix collectable figures features about 90 different figures and a handful of vehicles from Bungie’s uber-popular game franchise. Each package has four hand-painted figures, tiny dice, a map portion and rules so you can hop in and get playing right away. The unique thing about ActionClix is each figure comes on a special base that helps you track stuff like movement range and damage, so these are beyond your grandpa’s lead Civil War soldiers, that’s for damn sure. As cool as the figures look, it’s the bigger vehicles from the series that fetch the most on the collector’s market, so keep an eye peeled for those if you end up winning the lottery.

star_wars_pocketmodels.JPG Star Wars PocketModels Ground Assault TCG ($5.99) – Another unique take on the trading card game, each Pocketmodels pack is a self-contained game with anywhere from 4-8 vehicles, a set of game cards and a tiny pair of dice. Punch out the styrene ship shapes, piece ’em together and in less than two or three minutes, you’re gaming! Great for fans of board games, card games or strategy games, there are a ton of other Star Wars Pocketmodels that cover the entire six films in the franchise. That low price point means that anyone can get into this game without committing a ton of money… on the other hand, once you’re hooked, you’ll want to collect every set.

MapleStory Trading Card Game
($19.99) – Like the free online MMO on which thismaplestory_tcg.JPG card game is based, MapleStory TCG is cute deluxe with a side of sugar and a shake. Of course, that Wizards of the Coast pedigree helps out a great deal when it comes to gameplay and yes, the free online item code in each booster pack is a shameless way for you to play both games. But hell, it works quite well indeed, particularly if you’re one of those who hasn’t been hit over the head and turned to a big sheep by the World of Warcraft juggernaut. 20 bucks gets you the basic starter set that comes with 32 cards, 2 character cards, a 9-card booster pack, rules and a MapleStory online client game CD. 9-card booster packs are $3.95 each.

nexon_game_card_10.JPGNexon Online Game Cards ($10 & $25) – Speaking of MapleStory, if you happen to live near a Target, CVS, Rite Aid, Duane Reade or Hawaii 7-Eleven, pop your head in and see if they have any of the Nexon Game cards (Canadian readers, hit up Future Shop and Shoppers Drug Mart). The $10 or $25 cards are redeemable or in-game items in MapleStory, Audition, KartRider (and more likely than not, the upcoming Mabinogi). All we need now is for MapleStory to start showing up on consoles (yeah, a DS version is allegedly in the works for a 2008 release) and those little SD characters will end up taking over the world faster than you’d think…

Steam Gifting (Pricing varies) – Got STEAM? Well, if you’re smart enough to use thesteam.JPG long-running premiere game download service from Valve, don’t be stingy this season – give someone a game! Choose from a wide variety of content that includes current and classic PC releases form Valve, id, Introversion (yay!), Sega, Majesco, Strategy First and many mor, add a special message to the recipient, pay for your gift and send away. That lucky guy or gal gets to download and keep their game on their own Steam account, a great way to spread the service to broadband users who haven’t yet made the move to digital downloads yet. Need a quick gift suggestion or three? Well, little Orange Box goes a loooooooong way, Jagged Alliance 2 has always been a great challenge and you certainly can’t go wrong with Introversion Classics at all!

gametap_logo.JPGGameTap Gold Subscription ($83.40) – Yeah, I’ll bet you were among the skeptics who nose-thumbed Turner when they introduced this broadband-only game download service for the PC (and later, Mac). However, with a steadily increasing variety of classic and current PC and console game titles, tons of exclusive gaming content and even game reviews (a recent and welcome development), it’s looking as if ol’ Ted is having the last laugh. From the big free games section available to all who drop by, to the recommended Gold Membership that unlocks everything (guaranteeing you’ll not come up for air at all), there’s plenty of stuff here to keep anyone busy. URU: Ages of Myst is the quietly addictive MMO adventure that’ll probably draw you in first, but let’s not forget Telltale’s absolutely hilarious Sam & Max episodes that show up first as GT exclusives before hitting retail. For those two games alone, you’re getting your money’s worth, I say…

Gleemax (free for now!) – Wizards of the Coast’s in-progress gaming domain for hobby gamers, strategy stalwartsgleemax_logo.JPG and Dungeons & Dragons fans is a great “gift” subscription for you real cheapsters out there, but not because it’s free to sign up and recommend friends to do so. The real draw here are the upcoming game content such as Uncivilized (also called The Goblin Game), a browser-based strategic MMO that just might be one of those insanely addictive sleeper hits when it finally goes live (maybe) sometime next year. The game is meant to be played in one turn or so per day increments, but things won’t be slow at all thanks to the humorous theme and interesting economy system being cooked up by the team. I can’t say much more than that because a goblin with a pickaxe and shovel WILL come visit me when I’m sleeping, but just sign up for an account, check in from time to time and keep an eye peeled for more info… you can thank me later.

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