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Thexder
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Reviews

They Bleed Pixels
They Bleed Pixels
They Bleed Pixels
Release date: 2012. August 29. (PC)
Genre: Action, Platformer
Developer: Spooky Squid Games
Brief review:2024. May 26.
On my 3rd level on Standard Difficulty, I figured this game was too hard for my old bones. But once I switched to Novice, I actually started to have fun; the game still requires some hard moves, but now there are so many checkpoints, you feel you are facing only one challenge at a time. I was still missing too many tricky double jumps, but a little persistence got me to "The End?". ________ Thing is, the game has directional controls, a "jump" button and an "action" button -- that's it. The action button may attack, or dash, or dash-attack, or kick to the side, or kick upwards, or kick-flip a switch, all depending on how long you hold the button AND what direction you are going. At first, I cursed this design, often trying to attack an enemy but instead dashing towards deadly spikes... But going into "Novice", I learned to appreciate its elegance -- once you get used to the controls, you barely move your fingers around, and the game gets into a nice flow of its own. I imagine that good players will be able to pull amazing sequences on Standard, thanks to this. ________ Also, the pixel art between levels is lovely, cute and creepy all at once. The cutscenes manage to tell the (simple) story with nearly no words. ________ Pity that the game seems to lock one whole chapter and some sort of true ending behind the Standard difficulty (on Novice, the last screen literally said "The End?")... but that's a reward for players more skilled than me. :D ________ Anyway, a fun platformer, even if quite hard. Score: 76/100.
Review:2024. May 26.
Overall:
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76%
Dishonored 2
Dishonored 2
Dishonored 2
Release date: 2016. November 11. (PC)
Genre: Action, Stealth, First-person
Developer: Arkane Studios
Brief review:2024. May 25.
Incredible game! I am amazed about how the level designs and mechanics let you play in so many different ways... I played as Emily the super stealthy no-kill assassin (wait, what?). That means I never got spotted and killed absolutely no one... and the game makes it quite possible.____________________ If I had to criticize something -- the levels are a bit small, which makes the city levels feel a bit artificial. That said, the levels that are restricted to one big building are free from this feeling and really shine -- the Clockwork Mansion and Aramis Stilton's Manor are amongst the most memorable levels designs I have ever seen. The way the game adapts when you knockdown a certain character in the game is one of these "WOW" moments that leave you speechless.______________ The only other flaw is.... well, me. Since I decided to play super stealthy and without killing anyone, I had to do lots of reloads, which broke the flow of the game. But that's entirely my fault, I would probably have a lot more fun dealing with the consequences of being seen and using more all my resources. I am weird like that, I know.______________ But, again, that was nitpicking. Many cool powers ("Domino" is awesome, whoever thought of that?), an interesting main character, a couple of memorable levels -- this is all in all a great game. Score: 88/100.
Review:2024. May 25.
Overall:
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88%
Soulstice
Soulstice
Soulstice
Release date: 2022. September 20. (PC)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Hack and Slash
Developer: Reply Game Studios
Brief review:2024. April 27.
I imagine many people will love this game for its multi-faceted combat scheme -- you have to turn on the correct colored field to be able to beat each enemy (if you do not, you break your combos and get in trouble), and you must conserve your health by countering attacks with precise timing. The system seems well implemented, though getting a perfect counter when there is a lot of action on the screen is pretty hard. Myself, I almost gave up on Chapter 2 -- even on "Normal" difficulty, the game was a bit too punishing for my old, tired reflexes. Later on, some levels are probably (see below) a nightmare, since one single wave might contain enemies of both colors, and they move around a lot, making it very hard to keep the correct field on at all times. But behold! The developers included an "Assist Mode" in the options menu. With that, you can turn on "auto-countering" and "auto-field" (with a little score penalty, if you care) and voila! The game became a lot of fun even for newbies like me! There was still a bit of challenge in combat, which was still quite hectic, but I was able to really enjoy the game, and its wonderful world building and story. And it is a good story indeed, with great storytelling as well (no spoilers, go see it yourself).
Review:2024. April 27.
Overall:
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85%
TOHU
TOHU
TOHU
Release date: 2021. January 28. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Point & click
Developer: Fireart Games
Brief review:2024. March 17.
Tohu is a 2021 point-and-click adventure game, clearly inspired by the Amanita school of adventure games (Samorost, Botanicula, Machinarium) – there is even an achievement for “clicking on amanitas two times”. If you do not know what that means: Tohu has little written text and only a few voice overs, great art, overwhelmingly cute characters with vibrant animations and sound, and puzzles which work your brain a little, but are not too hard. It is also a somewhat short game – it took me a little under 5 hours to finish it, no guides nor hints. The protagonist (The Girl) is incredibly cute, in huge part due to the sound design. She is not voiced at all, but she “oooohs” and “aaaaahs”, she giggles happily when she accomplished something, and shakes her head “Hn-hn” when you are using the wrong item in the wrong place. Same goes for her alter-ego Cubus, with a slightly metallic voice, but still a lot cuter than, say, Bender. Graphically, Tohu is gorgeous. Most screens are packed with lively details, and the animations are all delightful. The Girl leaps around with joy, and I love the way Cubus the robot joins his legs in a loop to roll down a set of stairs (!). There are whimsical creatures moving around (some of them are collectibles, if you care about such things), but a few clicks and you can tell what is usable and what is just decoration, no pixel hunting required. The puzzles aren’t all standard. You don’t just reason the solutions as soon as you see the environment – much of the game is exploratory, that is, you must first click random items to see what they might do (usually rewarded with cute animations). There was this one puzzle which required correct character positioning on the screen, but nothing that would make you scream at angry goats. You are usually limited to 2 or 3 screens of content anyway, and 2 or 3 items in your inventory, so a little curiosity will get you to the solution even when it’s not obvious at first. That said, a few of the later puzzles were trite (I played many hidden object games, I know trite when I see it). And there was one sort-of-whack-a-mole puzzle that required timing in your clicks… I imagine some classic adventure players might hate this, but I myself thought it was a nice change of pace, and not too hard at all. Last but not least, the music in Tohu is very very good. It is done by Cristopher Larkin, and, though it is not as memorable as what he has done in Hollow Knight, you can definitely hear his fingerprints. But Tohu is a lot lighter of course, so the soundtrack fits this mood. Score: 79/100.
Review:2024. March 17.
Overall:
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79%
Symphonic Rain
Symphonic Rain
Symphonic Rain
Release date: 2017. June 15. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Visual novel, Music
Developer: Kogado Studio
Brief review:2024. March 14.
Game could have used some heavy editing -- there are too many story days when almost nothing happens. Also, this being a VN, it is par for the course that there will be multiple routes and lots of repetition.                      My "first" main story was incredibly boring (your order might be different from mine), with a very unsatisfying conclusion. The other two stories (which seem to be "side stories" in a sense) are a lot more interesting and dramatic, with some surprisingly dark moments. After you finish 3 routes, you finally get access to a 4th route which repeats the story of the 1st route, but through a new perspective which makes it a lot more interesting. Once you finish that, it is possible to go through a 5th route, which was interesting and touching, but a bit contrived IMO.                          Graphics are so-so: characters are cute, but not very detailed, same with environments (though this seems to be a design choice, not an oversight). Voice acting is good. Music can be superb at times (let me praise the "incidental" music, which does not call attention to itself but it sets the mood well), but there were a few times where I thought the quality of the instruments could be a lot better (the church song, in particular, was a huge letdown, and did not correspond to the game description of "music being sung by a talented choir").                       Many sections include a rhythm game, with 3 difficulty levels. In principle, this is a great idea, to expand a bit on the gameplay, and these bits are fairly well designed and match the songs being played. Unhappily, some time calibration would be essential to make this work -- in my computer, there was a mismatch between the timing of the song and the timing the game expected you to press the correct keys. So I ended up skipping these games all together (kudos for the developers for adding this possibility with no penalties whatsoever).                 All that said, I must say I was really moved by some of the story beats, which is a testament to good character development. I just wished we got to such beats with a lot less downtime.
Review:2024. March 14.
Overall:
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73%
Risk of Rain
Risk of Rain
Risk of Rain
Release date: 2013. November 08. (PC)
Genre: Action, Platformer
Developer: Hopoo Games
Brief review:2024. January 25.
Graphics are pixelated, but still charming! Maps aren't too random, so the real RNG here are the items you get and the monsters that pop up. Risk of Rain is very hard. But I had fun anyway, because the runs are snappier, with little downtime. At the end, I must have died some 15-20 times, but I finally managed to beat the game with a Bandit during a very lucky run. The final boss is brutal! So I can see myself coming back to this one in a while, to try new characters and see what other items I missed. Oh: and the soundtrack is excellent!
Review:2024. January 25.
Overall:
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77%
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky
Release date: 2008. September 15. (PC)
Genre: Action, FPS, Survival horror
Developer: GSC Game World
Brief review:2024. January 24.
I could probably copy and paste much of my review of the first game in the series: what was good is even better this time around; but the bad things are also there. The good: atmosphere is fantastic! Though it is a bit less scary than the first one, the universe is even more lively, with factions fighting for dominance, asking for help, coordinating attacks... The AI is really remarkable at times! The bad: bugs, crashes.... sometimes the "friendly" AI was frustrating, pushing you out of cover, blocking a door... There were times where the developers put you into artificially hard spots for no good reason, as if they were screaming "in your face!" (for example, the first Cordon approach is ridiculous). And encumbrance is still very much NOT fun (and you do need lots of money to buy upgrades). An extra example: the last level added two heavy weapons to my inventory with no prompts, which made me over-encumbered and unable to walk, right before dropping me in the middle of a firefight... What the...? Solution: reload a previous save, get rid of some of your items **prior** to entering the last level. How odd. But all in all, I had fun with this. I just hope they polished more the next game in the series! Score: 79/100. Note: played with the ZRP patch, and reduced emissions.
Review:2024. January 24.
Overall:
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79%
MO: Astray
MO: Astray
MO: Astray
Release date: 2019. October 25. (PC)
Genre: Action, Platformer
Developer: Archpray
Brief review:2024. January 15.
A game which features innovative mechanics, good (though hard to piece together) story and nice music and sound. More importantly, a game which respects my time -- though some bosses are hard, nothing felt like filler. Good puzzles too!
Review:2024. January 15.
Overall:
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86%
RAD
RAD
RAD
Release date: 2019. August 20. (PC)
Genre: Action
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Brief review:2024. January 13.
1st run: used my baseball bat everywhere, died in 10 minutes. Ok, so melee combat is not the way to go. 2nd run: only ranged weapon was a peashooter turret that took ages to kill anything. Boring, long run. Died near the end. 3rd run: finally got some ranged weapons! Died near the end, but it was fun anyway! 4th run: got good ranged weapons from the beginning and some other good mutations. Game was again fun, killed the end boss. Woohoo! So, basically, the game can be fun depending on the mutations you get. I also imagine the game gets more fun as you finish more runs, since I seemed to unlock stuff as I went. But my backlog is too big, I am not sure if I want to replay a game which **might** be fun depending on my luck. Oh: I found the narrator very entertaining. :D Score: 68/100.
Review:2024. January 13.
Overall:
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68%
Okami HD
Okami HD
Okami HD
Release date: 2017. December 12. (PC)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developer: CAPCOM
Brief review:2023. November 13.
An epic, gorgeous Action-Adventure game. When on sale, you can get it for the price of a frappuccino. It is a classic, and you should play it. It is a tale of Amaterasu, the goddess of sun in Japanese mythology, who in the game reincarnates as a white wolf. 100 years before the start, she battled an evil eight-headed serpent named Orochi (who requires a sacrificial maiden every year) with the help of a Chosen human named Nagi. When the battle was done, Orochi was sealed away, the wolf died, and Nagi was a hero. But as you expect from “100 years” and “sealed away”, someone just removed the seal, Orochi is back, the land of Nippon is cursed again. So dormant Amaterasu gets revived and, accompanied by a talkative sprite named Issun, is in charge of restoring the land and defeating Orochi once again. (Random thought: how does a tiny hamlet provide an evil God with a maiden every year?) Art style: outstanding. The land is colorful (especially when restored) and character designs are simple but expressive. The cell-shaded style really survived the times, and everything in the presentation reinforces the idea that you are living an old folkloric Japanese tale, down to tiny nearly irrelevant details. Animations: the wolf you control moves graciously leaving a trail of flowers, leaps into the air in believable ways (for a wolf god, that is) and controls like a dream. When you beat your enemies, they don’t just die – they perform a fluid death dance, and then turn into a flowery blooming explosion of joy. Whenever you cure key trees, you are rewarded with a uplifting “wave of land restoration”, full of flowers, cherry tree leaves, confetti and other sparkling things just for the hell of it. It is very joyful, and gorgeously impressive, and it never gets old. Soundtrack: more Japanese than usual (I cannot recognize some of the instruments), but my western ears were impressed and very pleased anyway. Most of them scream grand adventure, but there are also some nice calmer tunes and a few very eery ones. Great stuff, very memorable and a perfect fit for the game. Gameplay: You run around, if you collide with a demon scroll (or pass through a special gate), you initiate a fight: you are surrounded by a “force field” and you have to fight a few enemies (usually 3 or 4). There are 3 kinds of weapons you can equip: Reflectors (roundish mirror-like that can attack as well as defend), Rosaries (whip-like and weaker, but can hit at a distance) and Glaives (strong swords), and each comes in a few different types for extra power. You can dash and parry, but that is only useful in the toughest battles. Enemies: varied and creative. There are many imps, dead fish, umbrella-wearing turkey-like monsters, wheels attached to ears... Some can just be bashed to death, some require the use of special magic-like techniques from your “Celestial Brush”. Celestial Brush: at any time during the game you can press a button which stops time, turns the screen sepia, and a painting brush appears. Depending on the shape you draw with the brush, you can strike an enemy, create cherry bombs, manipulate wind, fire, water, ice, and so on. Each stroke costs one or more ink bottles, but these do replenish in due time. It is an amazing mechanic that ties well with the characters, the story and the mood of the game. It feels godly (you can turn night into day, for example), it feels like painting a storybook, and it works surprisingly well with a joystick (only rarely the game wouldn’t detect my shapes, and usually because I suck at drawing). And it is not just about fighting – the brush also solves many of the environmental puzzles in the game. World building: rich. Many characters and enemies are rooted in Japanese mythology. Storytelling: the game is too chatty at times. But you can press “B” to speed up most of the dialogue. So, in summary, Okami is an epic journey, and a gorgeous looking and great sounding game that no one should…
Review:2023. November 13.
Graphics:
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95%
Sound:
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95%
Design, artistry:
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100%
Music:
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95%
Gameplay:
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90%
Innovations, ideas:
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90%
Overall:
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91%
Eidolon
Eidolon
Eidolon
Release date: 2014. August 01. (PC)
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Ice Water Games
Brief review:2023. November 01.
Interesting game, best if played "blind". On one hand, it is intriguing -- who, where and "when" am I? What am I doing here? Where should I go? Despite the mystery, the whole experience is very relaxing, and the music reinforces that. The document fragments are well written and evoke some nice stories, it is fun to piece together what happened. And this game has possibly the hugest map I have ever seen in a game. On the other hand, the game moves at a g - l - a - c - i - a - l pace. With very little direction, it is easy to walk randomly without anything "happening" at all for long stretches of time. And the walking is s - u - p - e - r . . . s - l - o - w. And, did I mention this was possibly the hugest map I have ever seen in a game? So, all in all, a relaxing game, that many will find super boring. As it is, I enjoyed it, and ended up 100% this in 20 hours or so. Score: 61/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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61%
Risen 2: Dark Waters
Risen 2: Dark Waters
Risen 2: Dark Waters
Release date: 2012. April 24. (PC)
Brief review:2023. November 01.
I played many "Gothic-like" games, so I knew what to expect: a powerless start, slow progression, somewhat clunky combat, factions to choose from... Check, check, check... The combat is enjoyable once you get your hands on tricks and good weapons, but still quite simplistic overall. The story is very simple (get these X items to defeat evil boss), but it is well told with a few local nice twists here and there. The RPG progression is good enough; you feel the difference when your stats increase, you learn new abilities and mechanics -- some of which are very helpful -- and you have to pick a playing style while doing so (you would need unfathomable amounts of grinding to level up everything). I chose to play the voodoo path, and the game surprised me with a few "Voodoo Doll" sequences which were a nice break from the usual game loops. Bonus points: menu and inventory system were organized and easy to use with a controller; parrots and monkeys which bring new mechanics to the game. Non-annoying picklock mini-games. And, most of all: NO ENCUMBRANCE! YES! Another positive: the care the developers put into conversation trees (specially considering all the good voice work involved). NPCs change (however slightly, even if just once) their responses when something happens which is relevant to them. Many lines are superfluous from the "stats and mechanics" point-of-view, but add flavor to the game. But for me, the real star here is the Geography; these developers really know how to design a word which feels a lot bigger than it is, but not too complex nor too dull, which invites exploring. It is a lot of simple tricks really -- break line of sight between locations, and they feel distant from each other, even if it takes just 30 second to walk from one to the other. Make paths cross over each other, but not bifurcate too much, and the cave systems feel a lot more interesting. Now, a few negatives: a few bugs here and there (nothing too serious); boss fights were a little underwhelming, especially the flat spaces around them. And the final fight was very very unremarkable -- maybe my voodoo was too strong? Anyway, I had a great time exploring these islands. Score: 81/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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81%
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl
Release date: 2007. March 20. (PC)
Genre: Action, FPS, Survival horror
Developer: GSC Game World
Brief review:2023. November 01.
This is a hard one to review. The game is very unforgiving and explains very little; allied with the fact that your first weapons are incredibly imprecise, and you get a frustrating start. But later, once you get nicer weapons and start to understand the game's systems, it becomes a lot of fun. Though your character does not "level up", the loot and quest systems make this feel a lot like a RPG. The game can still kill you quickly, but this is a minor drawback if you QuickSave/QuickLoad a lot. Moreover, the A.I. is quite varied (sometimes the enemies come looking for you, but often they patiently wait around a corner or behind cover; they often speak, but some of them are silent), which makes the fights exciting and tense. The story is... weird. It reminds me of Indigo Prophecy, in the sense that some things happen that just seem randomly "grafted" into the plot for no good reason -- some story bits felt like they belonged to another post-apocalyptic game, with cutscenes disjointed from the gameplay bits. This is one of the few games where the "bad" endings are more interesting than the "true" ones. Another technical complaint: someone has to tell developers (even the "Witcher 3" folks) that encumbrance in videogames is not fun! I get that it is unrealistic to lug around more than 60Kg while you are shooting, jumping and running, but walking miles just to stash your valuables is really boring. But anyway, the star of the game is atmosphere -- outdoor scenes change from a breezy day to stormy and back, and some of the interiors are quite scary (X18 and X16 are awesome in that regard). The ticking of Geiger counters and anomaly proximity alerts can keep you on your toes, and reinforce the idea of "invisible dangers" all around you. It is really impressive how other stalkers walk around, fight monsters whether you are near or not, factions fight each other with or without your interference... This makes this dead world very lively, and, for me, this was the best aspect of the game. Score: 81/100. Notes: I played the game in "Stalker" difficulty, and used only one mod/patch, the "Zone Reclamation Project", in order to get rid of the nastiest bugs.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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81%
Killer is Dead - Nightmare Edition
Killer is Dead - Nightmare Edition
Killer is Dead - Nightmare Edition
Release date: 2014. May 23. (PC)
Genre: Action, Hack and Slash
Developer: Grasshopper Manufacture, Kadokawa Games
Brief review:2023. November 01.
Knowing the SUDA51 was involved, I expected a very stylish game, and I got one. I also expected a convoluted story with more mood than plot -- and I got that too. :D Anyway, the gameplay mixed sword style hack-and-slash with combos with a bit of long range shooting, and it had a good flow. The gigolo missions, well, ok, they were a bit, huh, "gender-stilted", I guess, but somehow they distracted me less than the skimpy armor from some RPGs... and they are also nearly optional, so one could just ignore them anyway. And more than once I got a smile from the craziness of the plot. A few bothersome bugs and crashes (specially because I tried to raise the FPS to 60 through unsupported ways), but nothing I could not work around. At the end, while I did not feel like going for 100%, I had fun with this, a lot more than the reviews suggested. Score: 82/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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82%
Wandersong
Wandersong
Wandersong
Release date: 2018. September 27. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Platformer, Music
Developer: A Shell in the Pit, Greg Lobanov
Brief review:2023. November 01.
Wandersong is about spreading happiness and love and getting to see the best side of people (and animals, and monsters) whenever possible. The main character ("the bard") isn't a hero, but just someone who wants to make people's lives better mostly through the use of music -- and, hey, maybe saving the world, since this might make people happier too. Actually, the game makes a point that "heroes" aren't always the nicest people, or whom you should strive to be. The game is infused with cuteness and uplifting moments, but it is not a sugar fest -- there are negative events, there is war, there is decay and maybe the impending end of the world. The most important characters are full of self doubt and fear of not-fitting, so the game seems to imply that these are common and natural feelings, and what matters is what you make of them. But the bard reacts to all of it always expecting (naively?) the best of others, and it works. Gameplay has two "modes" -- walking around town, talking to tons of people and solving light quests; and a few more "platformy" sections, almost all based on some music mechanic, but all of them sharing the same control (right joystick to select 1 out of 8 possible notes). Though most of the music mechanics have to be figured out as the game goes, absolutely no music knowledge is necessary, everything can be solved by experimentation and observation of how the surroundings react to your moves. Death is never a problem -- when it happens, you restart almost instantly pretty much right before you died. I also loved how often the game twists videogame expectations -- you may or may not be "The Hero"; you cannot even handle a sword; you are not supposed to kill all bad monsters in sight; sometimes your actions do not produce the expected results; and a few other clichés (even achievements!) are subverted like this. All in all, if you spend your time to know the vast character ensemble, this is a 10-12h game which is sure to inject a hopeful smile into your heart. Score: 88/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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88%
Relicta
Relicta
Relicta
Release date: 2020. August 04. (PC)
Genre: First-person, Puzzle
Developer: Mighty Polygon
Brief review:2023. November 01.
This was a good puzzle game, very much like "Q.U.B.E." but with beautiful (and less oppressive) environments. The puzzle aspects are almost all based on manipulation of gravity and magnetism. The physics (at least for me) worked well and were very intuitive (remember that magnetism can go through surfaces!), and only a few times I had to fudge around my solution to get it to work in ways which seemed unintended.... oh, probably my fault for trying strange solutions. Besides, the graphics are absolutely gorgeous to look at, and I found the story and dialogue well written (mind you, characters use the F-words frequently, so, if that bothers you, you might want to stay away; and the main character has "plot blindness" for a while, but that is oh-so-common in all media). Some flaws: the game severely limits your ability to go explore the environment, using many artificial walls; but that might be a good thing -- the "space station" environments, which do allow some exploration, are graphically pretty but very empty and lifeless (nearly non-interactable), which comes across as very boring. I would rather have limited but interesting exploration than lots of freedom to do boring stuff (looking at you, collectibles). But all in all, an enjoyable puzzle game, not as creative as Portal or The Talos Principle (in part because there are very few different puzzle mechanics), but still a nice romp, with an interesting story. Score: 82/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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82%
Felix The Reaper
Felix The Reaper
Felix The Reaper
Release date: 2019. October 17. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Kong Orange
Brief review:2023. November 01.
This game has everything to be great -- a sardonic plot with an extremely likeable main character, a very twisted sense of humor, and puzzles which are quite hard and original in their design. Even Sir Patrick Stewart lends his voice to the narration. But somehow, it feels grindy. While the puzzles are somewhat original, you see almost all their mechanics in the first few levels. And then most of them consist in moving barrels step by step across the environments to create shadows, which isn't that much fun. And then if you really want to get all "stars", you have to redo the level but now without making mistakes, and very fast and efficiently. It does not help that the interface is quite fiddly and you often end up clicking in the wrong places (by the way, mouse was much better than a controller for me). But I am being too harsh -- on the other hand, the game has an in-game hint system which I did use for the last harder puzzles. And some of them are very clever -- many times I had the "this is impossible!" feeling, only to have that "a-ha!" moment later when figuring out what could be done. Anyway, it was an interesting game, it just should flow better (though honestly I do not know how this could be done with this game concept). Score: 62/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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62%
Portal Knights
Portal Knights
Portal Knights
Release date: 2017. May 18. (PC)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Role-playing game
Developer: Keen Games
Brief review:2023. November 01.
I am not that much into the "crafting" genre, but this was good. There is quite a bit of light combat (not that varied for one single run, but I found it fun anyway), tons of light side quests and many small worlds to explore. And you might want to dig to find some secrets. I did not get into the whole building aspect of the game, but if you do, you will probably have lots to do here. And I played solo -- this could be more fun with the right friends. A few annoyances: -- Inventory management should be a lot better (sorting options?) for a game with so many items you want to keep (hint: build chests!); -- Button placement was odd! In general, button placement should mirror the location they show up on screen... so, if there are two tab menus on the screen, I expect the top one to be LT and RT and the bottom one to be LB and RB, am I the only one whose brain is wired this way? Another example: a shop menu has me pressing "X" to sell, but the X button shows on the right side of the screen... why? -- The crafting interface could have been streamlined somehow; I accept this is a crafting game where you have to build items A and B to later combine them with C to finally get D, but I hate having to fight menus to get all of this done (especially when button placement is odd!). -- There should be an option to break down an item into components! There were a few times where I crafted the wrong items (button placement!), losing precious items, and I could not undo the operation... :( But these are all minor -- as I said before, the main game loop was fun, you can feel the character progression (especially when you get better items), and the whole thing was charming (think Lego aesthetics). Score: 78/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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78%
Fade to Silence
Fade to Silence
Fade to Silence
Release date: 2017. December 14. (PC)
Genre: Role-playing game, Survival
Developer: Black Forest Games
Brief review:2023. November 01.
Very recommended, but with **HUGE** caveats! The game is very atmospheric, with constant cold and snow, blizzards, need for food and firewood, creepy monsters. You can travel on a sled! On top of that, great music, and the few short "dream cutscenes" are suitably mystic and creepy. Some fantastic art direction there (and also in the general environment). Gameplay is mostly fun -- a lot of resource collecting, there is a bit of base building and companion management, a bit of crafting, lots of (decent-enough-for-me) combat. Combat isn't too varied, but it is tense -- it took me a while to figure out how to defeat monsters, but once I upgraded my weapons and learned the timings, it was quite ok, a lot easier then most metroidvanias I played. And conquering an enemy "base" was always a nice rush. So, all in all, if they polished the game a little more, this could be **STELLAR**. Problem is: there were quite a few bugs, most of them "workaroundable" (camera going nuts sometimes), but some a bit nastier (fell through the ground once; character stopped responding completely once; buttons go crazy when you fight next to your sled). Now, these bugs are very common in games these days, and they did not happen so often, so it should be ok, right? Well, no, because the game features semi-permadeath (you get to keep a few boons, but you do restart from the beginning, and it feels very repetitive), and you cannot reload from a previous save. The sensation of losing a life to a bug or a bad interface is... unforgivable. But anyway, at the end I had lots of fun during the 40hs or so I played this (scum saved a lot against the bugs), and I was quite impressed by the game despite its many flaws (jumping sections? really?). Strongly recommended, but only for the patient ones. Score: 81/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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81%
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs
Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters Daybreak: Special Gigs
Release date: 2017. March 17. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Role-playing game, Strategy
Developer: Arc System Works, TOYBOX
Brief review:2023. November 01.
A hard one to review: summarizing, I had fun with it, and it is different enough to deserve a run. But "different" also includes an obscure interface and an unbalanced progression which requires lots of "grinding". So let's start talking about the interface: I actually enjoy learning a game's mechanics, and there is tons to learn here -- even the board minigame within the game is not clearly explained, but it was actually fun to figure out what was going on. But a few things are just plain weird, like: -- The "senses" wheels are totally bonkers. You choose "friendly" and "mouth", that means you will talk nicely to someone, right? Well, suddenly you are trying to lick someone's face, deal with it. You try to "friendly look" at someone, and they accuse you of stalking... Sometimes you find these strange substances laying around... and the game expects you to lick them? This does not make a lick of sense! (Sorry, sorry....) -- It took me half the game to figure out that I could take side missions to level up my characters; problem is, you need to press a button combination to access them, and this combination was displayed with a cryptic description which led me to think it was something which would show up later in the game. -- I only found out I could speak with the characters between missions from the main office at the very end of the game -- another button needs to be pressed on the right screen, otherwise you will never see this! -- The game does not allow any saving until Chapter 2, and there is a lot of stuff until then. I fired up the game, watched a long cutscene, interacted with a few characters, had the first tactical fight, searched for the save button, could not find it, then figured it must be autosaving, quit the game.... Well, WRONG, had to replay this whole thing later. :( Now the balance: the first few fights are super easy, which is ok; then I found out about the board minigame, which was fun and let you level up your character, so I played TONS of it. My main character was level 3 or 4 before I did that, and I got to level 30+ after a long time. Of course, this made the fights even easier, but it felt right, since I "grinded" so much. Then, suddenly you get to chapter 11 where you get FLOORED by these super hard fights near the end of the game. Worse, some of these fights force your party choice on you, so, if you have not leveled up the right characters, you are screwed... So lots of MORE grinding was necessary to level up everybody to level 60 or so... The game was fun, but this spike felt very very wrong. Item acquisition is also very strange... I got TONS of money during the game, but there was nothing to do with it. There is a shop, but it does not seem to upgrade enough -- all items there were worse than whatever I got through other means. I can only wonder if the shop would level up had I bought more stuff there, but why buy stuff if nothing is worth it? There is also a bit of crafting, but is also very very limited and dependent on materials which were hard to come by. But, again, the game is different enough that I do think it deserves to be played. Yes, there is quite a bit of RNG in combat (you have to predict how the ghosts move, which does not always go the way you think), but you are supposed to manage that as well. And there are so many abilities you can acquire, the game is more of a Strategy RPG than just a Visual Novel. Score: 76/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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76%
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5
Release date: 2018. March 27. (PC)
Genre: Action, Adventure, FPS
Developer: Ubisoft Kiev, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Red Storm, Ubisoft Shanghai, Ubisoft Toronto
Brief review:2023. November 01.
This is more or less what you expect from a modern open world game -- while most of the game is just ok, once in a while you get these moments of chaotic emergent action which you want to tell other people about. My favorite moment was an attempt to clear a ro*** setup by cultists; while I was setting myself up to stealthily kill them one by one, a few resistance fighters showed up from nowhere and turned the whole thing into a chaotic firefight. More cultists arrived, and the fight became tense, when suddenly ***a runaway moose decided to flip a truck*** which then exploded near my enemies turning everything into a fiery nightmare. Anyway, the ro*** was gone... ok, it was replaced by a cemetery of charred vehicles which still blocked the road, but, hey, all the cultists were gone, mission accomplished! :D The game has tons of interesting systems: there are grappling mechanics, ziplines, cars, trucks, boats, planes, helicopters, pets... You can even go fishing, and the world is beautifully rendered with its forests, mountains, rivers and lakes. And your companions, your enemies, random passersby, animals, water, all these things interact in interesting ways. Cougars hunt for deer and are ran over by ATVs, independently from what you are doing, but you still have enough control of the action to find the whole thing pleasant. Well, with a few exceptions: there are a few instances where the game interrupts whatever you are doing to start a story mission even when you do not want it. These moments are very annoying (especially because the story missions which follow feel quite bland), but are very few and are not enough to turn this into a bad game. I also found the villains underwhelming; they have lots of lines, but they do not reveal much of their characters beyond "we are deranged cultists, each one of us defined by a single character trait which features in every single line we say". Even the main villain has long speeches that felt a bit repetitive and which weren't that interesting to me. Also, the game is slightly bloated with dull missions and collectibles. Well, at least you can buy maps which show the collectible's locations, and I must admit that the world is beautiful to explore... but I wish games did not have so many of these menial tasks which we players which are slightly OCD never manage to leave aside. Oh, and fishing with the mouse is way too cumbersome -- if you want to fish, use a controller (still boring, but at least doable). A final negative point is the fact that you MUST use Ubisoft Connect on top of Steam to run this. Isn't one piece of DRM enough? But, all in all, I had lots of fun with the 50hs I spent with this. Score: 84/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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84%
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Condemned: Criminal Origins
Release date: 2006. April 11. (PC)
Brief review:2023. November 01.
This game's first impression isn't too good. The levels are very drab; of course this is partially on purpose -- the game wants you to feel all the decay of its locations -- but some of the textures are so "illegible" that you can't even know what they represent, even for a 2005 game. And the geometry of such levels isn't inspiring either -- too many small rectangular rooms, especially in the first level, connected in strings which feel like a huge, twisted corridor. On the other hand, using small rooms with lots of sharp turns provide plenty of opportunities for enemies to scare the heck out of you in close combat. You see, most of the combat is melee, using pipes, axes and whatever you find around, and your walking speed is rather slow. When you find a firearm, usually with just a few rounds, you cherish it, and save those precious bullets for just the right occasion. This is actually a bit annoying -- you can only carry ONE weapon at a time, forcing you sometimes to go backwards to find a better weapon if your runs out -- but adds to the tension. Also, the AI of enemies is interesting -- they sometimes hold back and wait for you behind corners (sometimes pathetically, but it actually fits their rotted-brain profiles), which forces you to be even more careful. Talking about tension, the star of the game is the sound design -- it is always just noticeable, adding plenty of atmosphere and keeping you on your toes even if nothing is actually happening on screen. This is more of a horror game, with action and some investigation thrown in. Yes, the investigation bits: the gadgets are quite smart (a later level uses the UV flashlight to a nice effect), and submitting info to your lab companion provides a natural way to get a little exposition for the story. They were quite easy, but very enjoyable. Unhappily, the story is slightly muddled; there are some nice ideas, but many threads are left dangling, and the end feels a bit contrived. Also, the plot suffers from "why-the-heck-is-this-intelligent-character-doing-that?", which is very common in all media, to be honest. All in all, an enjoyable game, which deserved better level design and a more fleshed out story. Score: 75/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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75%
Blades of Time
Blades of Time
Blades of Time
Release date: 2012. April 21. (PC)
Brief review:2023. November 01.
Blades of Time is primarily a hack-and-slash game (attack, block, slide out of the way, jump for different attacks), but there are many interesting mechanics which add tons of variety to the game: * Once you get enough "rage" by hitting enemies, you can unleash a variety of spell-like abilities (fire spells, freezing spells, heavy strikes, sliding attacks); all of these are satisfying to unleash and the interface with the controller is well thought out and easy to remember. * There is a "Time Rewind" skill. This can be used to solve a few light puzzles, but, more importantly, it can be used in combat as well. This makes for some exciting fights, where multiples copies of you are casting, shooting and hacking at an enemy (and some enemies must be attacked from multiple angles at the same time); * Yes, shooting, because the game also has a few rifles, and their mechanics is surprisingly smooth and satisfying, meshing well with the other game systems, even with a controller. * And there is a little bit of other stuff which is better left to be discovered (use of light and shadows in a particularly interesting level, a few uses of an "order" spell, some other cool movement options). The plot is not groundbreaking, but it is interesting enough, and it adds to the gameplay -- in the second half of the game, there are rivaling factions, and you often see your enemies fighting each other, which adds more chaos and action to the scenes. The dialogues aren't Shakespearean, but are well written enough, and the voice acting is also good enough. Also, the graphics aren't exactly technically groundbreaking, even for a 2012 game -- models are blocky, textures aren't too sharp... But artistically, I found them very appealing; the surroundings evoke mysterious and alien architectures and are very pleasant to look at. The bigger spell effects feel particularly "punchy"; when many of your copies perform a big spell simultaneously, it is even hard to see what is going on... but it still looks super cool. And the animations are well done, the whole game feels very responsive and smooth as a consequence. Finally, there is this "Outbreak" mode, which is a very light MOBA mode (think "simplified League of Legends") but with the mechanics of the single player game (except Time Rewind). I played a few single-player rounds with it and had fun, but did not really dabble in any MP with it. All in all, this is an awesome underrated gem. Score: 86/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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86%
Blue Fire
Blue Fire
Blue Fire
Release date: 2021. February 04. (PC)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Developer: ROBI Studios
Brief review:2023. November 01.
3D precision platformers are hard to do... Blue Fire nearly nails it -- the controls are tight, the speed is palpable, and when the "jump / wall jump / dash / another wall jump / double jump / double dash / wall run" combos work, it is an incredible rush. But for each great set of moves you pull off, a stupid death follows, usually when the perspective (or the camera) fools you and you realize too late not to be quite on top of that last platform... :( At least the purest platform sections (the so called "voids") are semi-optional; they provide you with upgrade slots, but there are enough not-too-hard ones anyway. There are also a few dungeons with lots of platforming, and a couple of such challenges are timed, but I found the timing fairly relaxed if you planned out your path beforehand, and these designs are actually the smartest part of the game. There is also a bit of functional fighting, but it feels a bit underdeveloped -- after a while, I found more productive just to avoid enemies instead. Boss fights, in particular, are serviceable but uninspired, relying more or less on the same tactics for each one. The second half of the game feels a bit rushed, as if the developers ran out of resources to produce good dungeons. The whole world hints at something greater (the whole game has this Hollow Knight vibe, a sense of sadness that permeates a doomed world), but at the end there are too few characters and their stories feel incomplete. I am also pretty sure the music was inspired by Hollow Knight's moody soundtrack, and this is actually a high point -- the calmer tunes are very nice, if not as memorable. Graphics are nice enough, if you enjoy the stylized minimalistic style, and some of the architecture is impressively vertical (especially when you realize you will have to somehow climb that whole darn thing). At the end of the day, despite a few shortcomings, I had fun with the game, and I still remember those cool double dashes and wall jumps in 3D. Score: 77/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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77%
Legend of Grimrock 2
Legend of Grimrock 2
Legend of Grimrock 2
Release date: 2014. October 15. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Role-playing game, Puzzle
Developer: Almost Human Games
Brief review:2023. November 01.
This was a nearly perfect dungeon crawling experience (with tons of content outside dungeons)! The game oozes with style, and the environments are awesome in their square-paper format. Combat is hard but manageable with patience -- movement is essential in its (nearly) turn-based battles. Character progression is slow but perceptible, especially when you have the opportunity to fight again some opponents from the beginning of the game, and there is very little filler -- you are always fighting some monsters, trying to figure out the puzzles, or hunting for better equipment. There is tons of backtracking, but the game presents many shortcuts to accelerate your trips around the island. Exploration is nice, but the puzzles and riddles are the stars of the game. All of them are logic, though you might want to explore the world to find hints, and often a hint is quite far from the puzzle itself. I actually found myself stuck very often, but coming back to a puzzle on another day gave me new ideas; there was only one "main" puzzle that was too obscure for me (the combination to the cemetery door -- I found its hints and nearly solved it, but I would never guess the one extra bit at the end of the sequence). Moreover, you can actually finish the game skipping one (maybe two?) of the big areas; you would miss on a lot of content, but this means you do not have to solve everything, unless you want to get to the "true ending". There are also many optional riddles and secrets which just provide you with extra equipment and are entirely skippable, some of them very clever -- there were quite a few "a-ha!" moments for me. Now, do not expect too much story or lore -- though there are a few bits here and there, they are just an excuse for all the dungeon (and exterior) crawling. Score: 87/100.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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87%
Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition
Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition
Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition
Release date: 2017. April 11. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Role-playing game, Strategy
Developer: Beamdog
Brief review:2023. November 01.
One of the best RPGs ever written! I actually played this nearly 20 years ago, and it became my favorite RPG back then. Today, I might place it behind Mass Effect 2 and The Witcher 3, but I still find this to be an experience that no one should ever miss. There are two things that make this game really special: the setting and the writing. The setting is absolutely wonderful; Sigil (and its... "surroundings") are mysterious, alien, a bit creepy and feel dangerous, as if you could die (or *worse*) at any single step. Still, people make a "living" at this place, trading, drinking, cooking, pickpocketing, which is in sharp contrast with the general sense of unpredictability of the place. But you won't see this on the game screenshots, or even in the game's actions -- be prepared to feel all the flavors of the written words, because that's what provides the rich settings. The writing is imaginative, well crafted, and full of emotion; I did not replay this for 2 decades, but I still remembered some sections in detail (a very secondary character with strange teeth; a peculiarly seductive brothel; a revisited memory from another's point-of-view; and the personalities of the characters you travel with). Sometimes I even wonder if the game would work better as a visual novel, without the distraction of inventory management and stats which come with the Dungeons and Dragons rules. The soundtrack is also very good; it is mostly low-key, subtly supporting the game's somber mood or the battle scenes. But when it stands out, it is charged with emotion. Now, the combat is serviceable, but rarely exciting. The cutscenes and character models suffer: while they are artistically well done, they are terribly dated (low polygon count, low resolution). And inventory management... well, it isn't too bad, but was it ever fun in any games? Also, this Enhanced Edition crashed a lot on me (maybe some 20-30 times over the course of the long game); it was never a huge problem (I quick saved a lot, and the Auto-Saving is also fairly generous), but it took me out of the game a little, once in a while. Back in 2003, I gave this a 95/100 score. Despite the dated graphics at times, I still find this to be an essential game, so let us give it 93/100 this time around.
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
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93%
FINAL FANTASY VII
FINAL FANTASY VII
FINAL FANTASY VII
Release date: 1998. May 31. (PC)
Genre: Role-playing game, Japanese RPG
Developer: Square Enix
Brief review:2023. October 30.
Replayed it in 2023 with mods.
Review:2023. October 30.
Graphics:
██████████
80%
Sound:
██████████
80%
Design, artistry:
██████████
95%
Music:
██████████
95%
Gameplay:
█████████
85%
Innovations, ideas:
█████████
90%
Overall:
█████████
89%
Struggling
Struggling
Struggling
Release date: 2020. August 27. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Platformer
Developer: Chasing Rats Games
Brief review:2023. October 30.
Played co-op. Innovative, but too hard at times.
Review:2023. October 30.
Graphics:
██████████
70%
Sound:
██████████
75%
Design, artistry:
██████████
80%
Music:
██████████
75%
Gameplay:
██████████
65%
Innovations, ideas:
█████████
85%
Overall:
██████████
70%
Silent Hill Homecoming
Silent Hill Homecoming
Silent Hill Homecoming
Release date: 2008. November 06. (PC)
Genre: Adventure, Survival horror
Developer: Double Helix Games
Brief review:2023. October 30.
This is for the PC version, which is very buggy and cumbersome.
Review:2023. October 30.
Graphics:
██████████
80%
Sound:
██████████
75%
Design, artistry:
██████████
75%
Music:
██████████
75%
Gameplay:
██████████
40%
Innovations, ideas:
██████████
70%
Overall:
██████████
55%
no cover
no cover
Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone
Release date: 2004. November 22. (PC)
Review:2024. June 18.
Overall:
██████████
77%
Waveform
Waveform
Waveform
Release date: 2012. March 20. (PC)
Review:2024. May 28.
Overall:
██████████
56%
Battlestations: Midway
Battlestations: Midway
Battlestations: Midway
Release date: 2007. January 30. (PC)
Review:2024. March 23.
Overall:
██████████
76%
AquaNox
AquaNox
AquaNox
Release date: 2001. November 30. (PC)
Review:2024. March 08.
Overall:
██████████
76%
Assault Android Cactus
Assault Android Cactus
Assault Android Cactus
Release date: 2013. August 29. (PC)
Review:2024. March 05.
Overall:
██████████
82%
A Juggler's Tale
A Juggler's Tale
A Juggler's Tale
Release date: 2021. September 29. (PC)
Genre: Adventure
Developer: kaleidoscube
Review:2024. February 17.
Overall:
██████████
82%
Fly'N
Fly'N
Fly'N
Release date: 2012. November 09. (PC)
Review:2024. February 03.
Overall:
██████████
82%
BIOMUTANT
BIOMUTANT
BIOMUTANT
Release date: 2021. May 25. (PC)
Genre: Action, Role-playing game
Developer: Experiment 101
Review:2023. December 18.
Overall:
██████████
79%
Close to the Sun
Close to the Sun
Close to the Sun
Release date: 2019. May 02. (PC)
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Storm in a Teacup
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
██████████
76%
Void Bastards
Void Bastards
Void Bastards
Release date: 2019. May 29. (PC)
Genre: Action, Strategy, FPS
Developer: Blue Manchu
Review:2023. November 01.
Overall:
██████████
83%


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