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Rhythm Party may be squeezing into a busy February release schedule

Upcoming XBLA dance game Rhythm Party has been spotted on Xbox Live Marketplace with a due date of February 8. No official confirmation has been announced from Microsoft or publisher Konami however if the date is correct then it’s shaping up to be a busy month. So far February is expected to see XBLA releases of Gotham City Impostors, Awesomenauts, Shank 2 and Double Fine’s Kinect party game, Happy Action Theater. Joining those will also be the House Party promoted titles, I Am Alive, Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Warp and Nexuiz. It’s just as well February comes with an extra day this year. Best stock up on those MS points then!

Many thanks to @lifelower for the tip.

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Xbox Live hits 40 million users

In a recent Microsoft announced that Xbox Live has hit 40 million users, and has added 5 million users in the last 5 months alone. Microsoft also announced that their quarter-to-quarter earnings were up 15% last quarter (October 1 – December 31), and the total earnings last quarter were a whopping $4.24 billion. For the full press release, click here.

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What we are playing: January 22

What we are playing is a weekly column that appears each weekend. Various staff members let the world know what games had them hooked the past week and which ones they look forward to

Steve Melton – I’m about half way through Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. I like it so much I picked up the sequel, Edge of Time, for when I’m done. Other than that I recently finished Stacking, which I might play through again and had a great time playing Hydro Thunder Hurricane online over the past few days.

Perry Jackson – Most of the week has been mostly a couple of games. I’m still playing Mega Man 9 and on the last couple Wily stages, hoping to beat it finally. Other than that, I’m currently playing Scarygirl for review which should be up shortly, it’s an interesting game and going to have a lot to say about it. Oh and I saw Anamanaguchi over the weekend (artist that did the Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game soundtrack) and it was amazing!

Todd Pantier – I’ve been pumping a ton of time into Gears of War 3 with the Fenix Rising DLC coming out this week. I’m also loving the “Stay Frosty” playlist they have going and double XP is always a bonus too. I also downloaded Hero Academy for my iPhone and have been having a good time with it. I’m still trying to finish up Trine 2 with each class too.

Nick Santangelo – Although I’ve had Gears of War 3 since its release, the campaign has been largely ignored. That changed this week as three friends and I plowed through a few acts. Those Lambent Berserkers are quite the bullet sponges. The remainder of my gaming time was spent on Deus Ex: Human Revolution and a few rounds of Halo: Reach.

Todd Schlickbernd – I’m finally coming off my League of Legends streak and returning to other games. Recently I’ve been playing Magicka and wishing it was on XBLA like nobody’s business. Other than that I’ve been holding a copy of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for a friend. I think I’ll just buy all Capcom fighting games used from now on to not support their crappy re-release behavior.

Matt Liparota – Honestly, last week was so hectic for me in the real world I barely found any time to pick up a controller. My Xbox was pretty neglected, but Super Mario 3D Land and Tetris: Axis are still getting decent workouts in my 3DS.

Ryan Reynolds – Most of my gaming time this week was spent with Gears of War 3. I honestly think it was the best multiplayer game of 2011 so I play it consistently, but the new map pack this week gave me extra incentive. I’ve also been playing DeathSpank here and there but I can’t seem to get into it. The game’s humor just doesn’t do it for me.

John Drawdy – Hmmm…lets see, this week I played a little bit of Iron Brigade, loving that survival mode. Once again I am slowly suffering through AMY again, this time on hard (damn achievements) and finally got around to starting on Golf: Tee It Up!

Nathan Bowring – This week I got a lot of variety in my gaming. I got all of the multiplayer achievements in Assassin’s Creed Revelations, making progress in Orcs Must Die!, played a little bit of Halo: Reach, and on top of all that I controlled a giant robot monster in Bulletstorm. What a week!

Craig HartNFL Blitz has been my go to game this week. During a challenging week, it was great to be able to take out my frustrations on the gridiron. I also believe that the Elite League is hugely underrated. Even after getting a horrible starter pack, I had great enjoyment in building my team one key player at a time. I am officially addicted to Blitz.

Christine Mitchell – I didn’t get a lot of time for gaming this week but did manage to fit in a 2 hour Dance Central 2 session this weekend. Feel the burn!

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Klei Entertainment talking Shank 2 with fans

“Is it bad that I’m procrastinating right now by posting random stuff on facebook? Go on, ask me something.”

This was posted on the Shank Facebook page very recently. Jamie Cheng, founder of Klei Entertainment, developer team on Shank 2, has been answering fans questions on the Shank facebook page… because he can. While his session just ended, he has asked us to encourage fans to contact Klei on their Facebook page if they have questions or comments about all things Shank. As we’ve seen and heard straight from Klei, they take their fan comments very seriously.

We managed a few questions ourselves, here’s what they answered for us:

XBLA Fans: Are there story mode leaderboards or just for the survival? What stats are tracked?
Klei
: Yes, there are story mode leaderboards. We also keep track of a ton of stuff, but honestly I can’t remember them right now.

XBLA Fans: Will hard/insane mode be equally as hard/insane? Shank on the highest difficulty was quite the butt kicker. Are there difficulty modes for survival?
Klei: Hard is pretty darn hard, though we did add moderate checkpoints this time around. Survival has no difficulty modes because it’s already bloody hard in the later waves.

XBLA Fans: Have you guys ever considered a deathmatch multiplayer mode or other competitive brawler modes?
Klei
: We made a game called Sugar Rush that’s exactly that once. Alas the game was cancelled. I think in general that’s a pretty different game.

Stay tuned for more from Klei as Shank 2 readies for launch on February 8th as there will indeed be more.

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XBLA’s Most Wanted: Castlevania

Castlevania has been a major part of the gaming world for over 20 years, bringing us many a Dracula slaying tale. This story encompasses many families, crosses thousands of years, and tells stories of love, betrayal, power and revenge. Each game delivers a solid story, but some lack the gameplay it takes to keep non-enthusiasts interested. Through out the years Castlevania has appeared on almost every system since the NES, telling one piece or another of this amazing story.

Though this is a huge story encompassing many years and games, it all started with just one game. The basis was simple: every 100 years Dracula comes back from the dead unleashing his evil terror upon the world. You control Simon Belmont, a man who comes from a long line of Vampire hunters. With Dracula awake and doing his worst, Simon sets out to send him back to where he comes from, just like his family members before him have done.

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Weekend Rant: If I were a rich man. . .

Weekend Rant is a non-regularly occurring weekend mini-editorial. In layman’s terms that basically means that if a staff member has something they want to rant about they can do so on any given weekend.

I have a confession: I’m a dreamer. Amidst having a career, being a husband and a dad, and life in general I constantly have daydreams in my head. One of those has always been to help develop or fund a game. Last night I was up until the wee hours with friends playing Hydro Thunder Hurricane, and as I dozed off my dreams were that of being a rich man. Since I can’t indulge my fantasy in real life, I thought it might be fun to throw out some of my XBLA dreams and hear some of yours.

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Set phasers to stun: Star Trek: Who Wants to be a Millionaire not coming to America

Deep Silver, Doublesix Digital and CBS Consumer Products announced they would release Star Trek: Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Special Edition, combining the popular game show with the Star Trek universe. In it, fans can test their knowledge with over 600 questions from the classic series. The game, published by 2waytraffic International, will be made available for XBLA to “fans worldwide except North America, Canada and Mexico.”

I know what you’re thinking – “worldwide except North America”? That’s not logical. It’s not but sadly, it’s the reality. If you live outside North America however, you get to choose from one of four playable characters,  Lt. Uhura, a Vulcan officer, a human cadet, or an Orion slave girl, for the opportunity to play “fastest fingers” for your chance on stage to earn a virtual one million dollars. The game features local multiplayer mode and online leaderboards so you can test your reason and logic against other Vulcans. No word yet if friends outside North America can call in for their phone a friend.

For Trekkies and Millionaire fans in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico who want to play, you’ll have to ask someone outside North America to beam you to their place. Sadly that is their final answer…

Source: Press Release via Joystiq

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Shank 2 game preview shows off new multiplayer

Klei Entertainment’s sequel to their beat ‘em up, shoot ‘em up, shank ‘em up brawler Shank is more than just a return to character. While the core game remains untouched, it’s clear from this gameplay preview that many things have changed and been reworked. Ranged weapons can be aimed freely, pickups are now done via the right bumper, and there’s a revamped counter system. However, the multiplayer is the star of the show here.

The video shows off a character select screen with a selection of 16 characters, some of which were blacked out. While this could be for the sake of not spoiling things, many of them draw parallels to unlockable costumes from the first Shank. Each character seems to come with their own set of stats, including discounts on store items and other attribute changes. While the discussion in the video says otherwise, it would seem that each character has a different weapon selection. At the very least player 2 and player 1 have different stuff. Shank 2 will be releasing on February 8th of this year, and much like with the the original Shank, we here at XBLA Fans just might have some guiding to do.

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Rumor: Minecraft inspiring Microsoft to speed up XBLA patching process?

Paddy Burns, Chief Technology Officer at 4J Studios (the team handling the XBLA version of Mojang’s smash hit Minecraft) recently told Edge that big changes may be coming to Microsoft’s title update certification process on Xbox Live. As of now, the certification process takes weeks, forcing players to wait for an update or patch that has already been finished by developers. Burns states that;

“Microsoft knows that to do a similar thing that’s on PC where they constantly update it, that’s a very difficult thing to do on Xbox because you have to go through the full tests. But they are quite keen to move towards that – they do see it as the future, so I think we might be the first to do constant updates.”

Many believe that Microsoft’s certification process is one of the things holding titles on Xbox Live back. Any streamlining of the process would certainly be welcomed by both fans and the development community alike. Games like Minecraft, which are heavily reliant on constant updates would certainly benefit from a speedier update process. While Burns states that he doesn’t expect Minecraft on XBLA to be updated as much as the PC version of the game in the end, this is certainly a move in the right direction. We can only hope that we see these changes implemented in the very near future.

Source: Edge

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Konami’s Puddle gets a release date and screenshots

 
Konami has revealed that the XBLA puzzler Puddle will be releasing later this month on January 23. After beginning its life as a pet project by six students at France’s Enjmin video game school, Puddle was picked up for full-fledged development by Neko Entertainment.

Players will have to juggle guiding a virtual puddle of rocket fuel (thus the name) and a blob of radioactive goo through precarious environments full of heat beams and electric currents. Although gamers won’t be able to see any given level in its entirety when starting a new puzzle, Konami has offered up a glimpse of what will be seen in the new batch of images below.

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