Deux-deux-deuxs and Cuban cigars are joined by the 1 vs. 100 closed beta on the list of semi-forbidden indulgences Americans are sneaking from across the great northern border. Virtually of course.
Update: The Canadian Beta closed tonight, rendering some of this moot. Sorry about that.
Kotaku reader Tai Youkai Sama figured out how to do it rather simply. He found nothing prevented him from creating a Canada-based Xbox Live account, then using it to send his U.S.-based account reminder notices the next time 1 vs. 100 went live. Bingo, when he accepted the notice, it allowed him to download the beta. And from there, he was able to invite plenty of Yanks - myself among them - to also download the game and peek in on the fun. Here's what I saw and what you might see, unless and until Microsoft tightens the IP filtering and kicks us out.
• In terms of news, or at least new-ish things, once the live show's over, you quit out of the game by exiting to the mythical Primetime channel (above). This was announced at E3 last year, then delayed from its original Nov. 19 launch. Primetime is where you'll find 1 vs. 100 and, presumably, other shows as Xbox Live builds out its content offerings. It allows you to schedule notices of upcoming events, but for now it appears to be region-locked, as it's inaccessible from Xbox Live once you exit the channel. Right now, the only show is 1 vs. 100, and the next broadcast, for U.S. players is listed as Dec. 31 at 3 am.
• U.S. users for now have to access the beta through their download history in the account management tab. It will not show up in the games library. (Nor will Primetime show up for you in your browser). The few times I've tried going back into 1 vs. 100 when an episode was not scheduled, it gave me an error message and dumped me back into Primetime or the main menu. Although U.S. users can invite friends, they'll have to do it within 1 vs. 100's lobby, and they'll only get there when a show's on. There's some extended freeplay scheduled for tonight around 4 pm MDT (2 hours from now).
• The game itself is very enjoyable, even moreso when you're with a party of friends, barking out answers, laughing at the inane answer choices, or boasting about (sigh ... aboat) getting it right when all else failed. Stephen Totilo's written up the game mechanics already. Refer over to that for a primer on how it works. But you can go in cold and, if you focus just on answering questions correctly, and listen to the choices the host gives to "The One," you'll have a good time and get the hang of the show after one session.
• As of now, all prizes are bogus - that goes for the Xbox Live Arcade games The Mob wins when The One craps out, as well as any Microsoft Points accumulated by The One, who is given the option of cashing out early or trying to outlast all 100 in the Mob. Since the cash doesn't exist, there's no reason to take the money and run, although some players yesterday didn't know that.
• Stephen's observations about questions being too easy also is right on the mark. Unfortunately, this can cause the bored to outsmart themselves, thinking that the obvious answer is a red herring. (There will always be at least one blatantly obvious incorrect answer.) I incorrectly answered that South America, not Australia, was home to the most marsupials, simply because I figured there might be a ton of possum down there or something. Don't make it complicated, because it's not.
• Two people were able to beat the entire mob of 100 last night. I'm sure this is partly because they had nothing to lose, so everyone kept playing, but I doubt Microsoft wants that to happen so frequently.
• The more dated questions proved to be the most difficult. A question about Dolly Parton singing the title song in "9 to 5," a 1980 movie, booted a bunch of people from the Mob. On the other hand, a question about "Mr. Dressup," a Canadian children's show, weeded out all the Americans.
• The host did live phone interviews with previous winners from the evening. (One, from Prince Edward Island, won playing on her brother's XBL account. I'm sure this will be an issue going forward.) None of The Ones, nor did it appear that anyone featured from the Mob, was from the U.S. I'm not sure if they're region-locking your ability to get into The Mob. (I didn't, and none of my friends did.) It's still fun to play along.
• The advertising is also inoffensive and largely organic. Really, it's a gameshow, so you have to expect the sponsor breaks. Plus it allows you to get up and pee or grab a beer, or check your stats. I saw spots for Sprint and a Naruto DVD during breaks. However, one question about a Burger King ad from 2006 led me to believe that some of the questions themselves could be sponsored. I hope not.
• The avatars' reactions are delightful. Especially when The One is sweating out (sigh ... oat) a question or calling in for help. My avatar didn't seem to be doing much of anything up in the audience though, even though my other three party members were dancing, roof-raising and doing all sorts of things. I was wondering if I was doing, or not doing, something to cause that, or if I was inert on my screen but going crazy on everyone else's.
So, there you have it - a look inside the closed beta for all the non-Canadians, and a way to possibly get in on the action. 1 vs. 100 is a very innovative, very memorable experience the first time you do it. I'm looking forward to tonight's play. I'm not sure how long the replay value will last - this is for now a cool thing to do with my long weekend. But once Microsoft adds real prizes, that should boost interest, and fun, considerably.