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Free N+ level pack now available on XBLM

It's a testament to the excellent platforming of N+ that we haven't gotten sick of playing it yet. And by that, we mean we haven't grown tired of plummeting to our dooms and watching our lithe ninja bodies succumb to gravity in the worst of bone-crunching, limb-mangling ways.
Though developer Metanet suggests it has "tried to tone down the difficulty" in the free level pack hitting Xbox Live Arcade today, we're certain millions of gruesome fates await us in the 150 new single-player levels, 50 new race levels and 50 new co-op levels. That's a lot of new for nothing, no?
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Arcade Driving and Kegs: A Natural Combo

This, my friends, is what you call asking for trouble: the new arcade driving cabinet Octane 120, from Dream Arcades, comes with a built-in keg-o-rator, with the beer tap placed conveniently on the dash next to the steering wheel. You know, so you can accurately practice your drunk driving in a safe environment before busting out your sloppy skills on Saturday night.
Really though, there's nothing wrong with this. I mean, if drinking and playing video games was illegal, I'd be on death row. This thing has two taps — one in the back and one on the dash. This allows a party to be going on around you while you tear it up in Gran Turismo, and you never even have to get up to refill your beer.
The setup includes a 120-inch projection screen, a home theater PC with 12 racing games pre-loaded, a PS3-compatible steering wheel if you want to hook one up, and a 5.1 surround system. It's available now for $7,000.
I'd personally like to see keg-o-rators involved in more video game accessories. Here's a freebie, third party accessory manufacturers: a foam dome with a built-in Xbox Live headset. Let's make it happen.

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Crazy Mouse: China's First XBLA Game

Crazy Mouse isn't just one of this week's new Xbox Live Arcade releases, it also has the istinction of being the very first Xbox Live Arcade game produced by a Chinese studio.
The action/puzzle title was developed by Shanghai-based Ultizen Games as part of the Chengdu Incubation Center, a collaborative initiative involving Microsoft and local enterprises in order to produce Xbox projects.
The game itself puts in control of a mouse -- fitting since according to the Chinese zodiac it's the year of the mouse -- as you run through mazes grabbing food and dodging opponents. It includes a single-player story mode with 32 levels, and multiplayer for up to four players, both locally and through Xbox Live.
Crazy Mouse comes out today, priced at 400 Microsoft Points ($5).

Microsoft offers Memory Upgrade Program for new Xbox Live Experience

Do you own an Xbox 360 without a hard drive? Well on November 19, the new Xbox Live Experience will require you to have at least 128MB of memory available so that the update can properly install. If you find yourself in this position, you most likely purchased the since-discontinued Xbox 360 Core system.

In an effort to allow everyone who owns an Xbox 360 to enjoy the New Xbox Experience, Microsoft has announced the Xbox 360 Memory Upgrade Program. It will offer those who don't have the means to install the update two options. Customers can either enter their console's serial number on a special Web site and receive a free 512MB memory card or pay $20 for a 20GB Xbox 360 hard-disk drive.

We should note that the while the 512MB memory card will allow you to enjoy the new Xbox Live, you still won't be able to participate in Xbox Live Primetime (game shows and other entertainment) or enjoy video downloads. Because of this, we'd recommend going with the $20 offer for the 20GB hard drive. Not only is it a great deal, but you'll be able to fully enjoy everything the new Xbox Live Experience has to offer.

Microsoft Backtracks On Xbox Live Arcade Delisting

The delisting of lower-selling Xbox Live Arcade titles will be deferred or even canceled as a result of the forthcoming New Xbox Experience dashboard, says Microsoft corporate vice president John Schappert.

In May of this year, Microsoft indicated that any title scoring below a 65 percent score average on Metacrtitic, and with a 6 percent or lower trial conversion rate, would be delisted after a three-month grace period.

Talking to consumer website IGN, Schappert claims that these original details were taken out of context and that the company had “set parameters by which we can delist games” – but had no actual plans to do so.

According to IGN, Schappert also suggests the new Xbox Live dashboard update that goes live on November 19th may make delisting titles unnecessary thanks to new sorting options that make navigation of available titles easier.

Is Facebook The Next Big Game Console?

Why the social-networking site is a terrific platform for multiplayer games
The most unexpectedly rewarding game-related thing I did in 2007 was also the simplest: I finally gave in and joined Facebook. Within a month, I was throwing sheep at people via SuperPoke, comparing film tastes using the Movie Compatibility Test and playing the Scrabble knockoff known as Scrabulous. Those games made me wonder whether the next great console would be not the Xbox 1080 or the Nintendo Frii, but rather a well-populated social network like Facebook.
The social experience has been an important aspect of videogames, but for much of the history of this young medium, these social experiences have been isolated islands of play, whether taking place on a single couch or within a single game. That changed when Microsoft launched its Xbox Live online service in 2002 (Sony and Nintendo have since followed suit), creating an overarching social experience centered on gaming—as long as all parties own the same console and the same game. But with Facebook, these distinctions disappear. You're on a Mac and I'm on a PC? No problem—we just both need an Internet connection and a Web browser. When I send you an invitation to play, you'll be asked to download the required app if you don't already have it. I've already got more "friends" there (382) than on Xbox Live (31). That's because Xbox Live and its rivals are gaming networks first, predicated on users playing against either good friends or complete strangers. Social networks, by contrast, are often at their most interesting when they operate as a social lubricant among people who are only casually acquainted. I've played Rock Paper Scissors and Scrabulous with acquaintances and friends alike, and it doesn't require a $279 console. Even better, games on Facebook are generally asynchronous: you play your turn when it's convenient for you, and I play mine when it's convenient for me.
Sure, Facebook doesn't support the lavish games of a modern console. But its rising ubiquity—it's the sixth most-trafficked site in the United States, with 58 million users—and its accessibility could make it a force to be reckoned with in gaming. Microsoft, now a Facebook investor, seems to understand this; it recently gave Xbox Live users the ability to browse their buddies' Friends Lists. We'll see in 2008 if Sony and Nintendo catch on.
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