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INSIDE Review: For Love of the Game

INSIDE Review: For Love of the Game

Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor

INSIDE is the spiritual successor to Playdead’s previous game, LIMBO, and it wears that mantle well. INSIDE was released on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One in 2016 by Playdead. This game is a “trial and death” game much like what Playdead had labeled LIMBO. Thematically both games are dark, but most of LIMBO’s grit comes from the ambiance, whereas INSIDE’s melancholy is tied to the themes that it presents.

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At its’ base, INSIDE is a side-scrolling 2.5D puzzle game with the story being told through set pieces that you encounter on your journey through the remarkably detailed world. While it’s not as difficult as its’ predecessor, INSIDE has a few new mechanics that keep things fresh.

Much like the previous game LIMBO, INSIDE starts off with a small boy running through a forest. After a short trek through the bush, you burst out into a clearing, where you learn that your character is trying to evade some NPCs(Non-Player Characters) armed with flashlights and tranquilizer guns.

INSIDE Gets Dark

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As you venture further and further into the game, the NPCs get more aggressive. The world itself takes a dystopian twist, each death functioning as a checkpoint as you stumble blindly through Playdead’s wonderfully crafted and terrifying world. You’ll find yourself holding your breath as you attempt to evade NPCs, pulling your hair as you try to figure out the path you’re supposed to take and a surge of joy when you finally solve an especially difficult puzzle. Much like LIMBO, there’s also a modicum of macabre humor to be found within the venue that Playdead has granted us. The sad state of the protagonist’s world is told through both the extremely creative set pieces as well as the beautiful art style. You will die, a lot.

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INSIDE’s graphics are not as rudimentary as the previous game. LIMBO was a black silhouette on a black landscape, INSIDE’s world is one of color, still draped in an atmospheric shadow and somber grays. The oppressive landscape serving as a terrifying backdrop to the gameplay, the story of the wheres and whyfors playing out in the background and sometimes in the foreground as you attempt to surmount the plethora of nefarious puzzles that have been placed in your path.

INSIDE is great, but LIMBO is better

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While INSIDE is a great game, I think LIMBO is the much stronger title out of the two.

If we’re being totally honest, I feel like INSIDE would probably feel more original if I hadn’t touched LIMBO first.

In the end, I’d say that if you like platformers and Puzzle games: Pick up both LIMBO and INSIDE. If you have to choose between the two, I’d get LIMBO because the puzzles feel less labored than they do in INSIDE. I just did not get as much from INSIDE as I did LIMBO, it’s still a great game, it’s just not as fantastic as the previous outing by Playdead.

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Surviving Mars Review – For Love of the Game

Review by, William Griston, For Love of the Game – Gigamax Games Contributor

Surviving Mars was created by the Bulgarian Haemimont Games and published by Paradox Interactive from Sweden. It was released on Windows, OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on March 15, 2018. The game follows in the footsteps of Cities: Skylines (Another Paradox game) and SimCity (Maxis).

Not quite what I was expecting

After spending almost a hundred hours on the indie company Magruda Works’ Planetbase, another game that’s eerily similar to what Haemimont and Paradox have offered with Surviving Mars, to say I was excited for the game would be an understatement. I pre-ordered Surviving Mars, I never pre-order games anymore. I have been burned one too many times, this game was not any different. While Surviving Mars had originally piqued my interest because the game looked like it was Planetbase++, that is, Planetbase with more substance.

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What I got was a flashy game with very little substance. Which honestly should not have surprised me considering that it was published by Paradox, the kings of DLC. Paradox has a habit of releasing half-assed games and then making them better over time with DLC (See: Hearts of Iron IV, Crusader Kings II). Don’t get me wrong, I like Paradox games (I’ve played the shit out of both Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris, as well as dabbling with the extremely complicated Crusader Kings II), I just I don’t like their business model.

Various Shades of Boring, with a side of Ho-Hum

Gameplay wise, you will spend a few hours collecting materials and then building windmills and solar panels so you can generate air and water and drop your first dome. After that, you call in your first batch of colonists which aren’t enough to staff all of your structures. Later on, when the games design to allows you to recruit more colonists it will automatically assign people to the jobs, but they are not assigned correctly. It assigns Engineers to the Farms, and Botanists to the hospital, and so on. This leads to a lot of tedious micromanagement with you attempting to track down individual colonists and telling them what building to work on.

For some inexplicable reason, the colonists sometimes ignore those commands and go back to the job they were working before, even though you’ve eliminated that shift which leads to even more tedious micromanagement. There honestly isn’t a lot to Surviving Mars. It’s basically SimCity/Cities: Skylines on Mars with a stricter ruleset. Graphically, the game isn’t really all that spectacular, either. Granted, the setting is Mars, which means that the terrain is various shades of red and brown.

Hot Garbage

In the end, I would honestly pick up Planetbase instead it is half the price of Surviving Mars. Even with the wonky AI in Planetbase, I had more fun within the first 3 hours than I did with the eight I put into Surviving Marts. I hate to trash on a game, but, Surviving Mars was a disappointment.

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For Love of the Game: Superhot Review

Superhot is the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Review by, William Griston – Gigamax Games Contributor 

Designed by the Superhot Team from Poland, Superhot was initially created for 7DFPS in 2013 before being worked into a more fleshed out game by the aforementioned

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Superhot has you enter a matrix-like grey-scaled world where the only bits of color are the endless hordes of Red dudes. The gameplay is centered around controlling the passage of time with key presses (or the lack thereof), time still flows even if you are not pressing any buttons or looking around, albeit at a pace even a snail would find painfully slow. Essentially, you will feel like you are playing through a John Woo movie. This is a game where you can literally dodge bullets. You can even, if you so choose, play the game like a stock-standard FPS game by pressing your movement keys constantly keeping the flow of time active rather than relatively inert. Superhot is easily the most stylised shooter that I have ever played, every level is black and white, all the Bad Dudes are Red, and your Dude is Black. All of the various Dudes are made of a crystalline substance that chips, cracks, and eventually shatters when hit by various objects ranging from baseball bats to pool balls, monitors, bottles, to bullets.

An Interesting Start

The game starts you off staring at a reasonable facsimile of MS-DOS.

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There is a surprising array of options for a game like this (Or any game in recent memory, really), some of them quirky (my favorite is the Chat Room), and a couple “games within a game” one of which is very self-referential. There is also a few easter eggs that are only accessible once you have completed the main game. The tree chopping mini-game is pretty charming.

I could honestly see that Superhot was a labor of love for the Superhot Team, and I can really appreciate the effort that they have put into it.

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The campaign is roughly two hours long, without spoiling anything important (Is there a way to spoil a two-year-old game?). The campaign starts you off with a text conversation with a friend, who after extolling the virtues of the same, sends you a copy.

Memorable and Engaging

I found Superhot’s campaign to be pretty engaging as a whole, or at least engaging enough that I played through it in a single sitting, even if Superhot is somewhat predictable.

There are a few really memorable set pieces as you progress through the game, which I want to talk about, but I would rather not tarnish the experience for those of you who have yet to play through Superhot.

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The Endless Mode moniker is a case of “What’s on the tin, is what’s in the tin.”, and is unlocked after completing the main game. The Endless Mode gives you the ability to play through a selection of stages you played through on the main game, albeit with endless waves of Red Dudes coming at you from every angle until you are taken out and repeat the process. Killing a fixed number of Red Dudes on a given stage unlocks further permutations of that stage, such as Time Attack, or “Katana Only” challenges, the number is cumulative so you don’t have to worry about doing it in one go, as I had initially thought was required.  I think my only complaint is that there’s too much focus on the gunplay in the Endless mode as a whole, you’ll see ARs and Shotguns in the second and third waves rather than a gradual introduction of better-armed opponents. It’d be fun for it to be primarily melee with the occasional pistol wielding Red Dude for the first 5-10 waves. I bet there’s a mod out there that accomplishes just that.

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Simple Is Beautiful 

Although simplistic, the graphics are able to convey the world that they wanted to show you in a manner that fits the narrative of the game. There are reasonable facsimiles of real-world objects (Cars, Bar Counters, Pool Tables, Toilet Stalls). There are Red Dudes, and various items that you can pick up and throw, use to beat or shoot the Red Dudes until they shatter. The Katana is a personal favorite, cleaving Red Dudes in twain and the way that the Katana sticks into the ground after you throw it is oddly satisfying.

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If you want to try a shooter that is as unique as it is stylistic, give it a shot.

If you are leery about trying it, grab it on a Steam sale.

Now For a Joke

A joke made by one of the streamers I watch on the regular made is that there is a hidden challenge mode in trying to beat the game before you can return it on Steam. I enjoyed the game enough that I did not return it, and have sunk a few hours into the Endless Mode.

Really, if you enjoy shooters in any fashion you should give the game a shot. I feel like you will not be disappointed. I know I was not, I just wish I had played the game when it was new rather than waiting a couple of years due to unfounded misgivings. Superhot is one of those games that really makes me love indie game developers.

The Author has not played the VR version of Superhot, as such this review is not applicable to that version of the game. Find the Superhot VR review from Gigamax Games!

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For Love of the Game: Sea of Thieves Review

For Love of the Game: Sea of Thieves Review

Review by, William Griston – Gigamax Games Contributor 

Rare always managed to excite my imagination, starting with their entries in the Donkey Kong Franchise on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, and the Highly Underrated(amongst people who haven’t played it, that is) Conker’s Bad Fur Day on the Nintendo 64. When Microsoft acquired Rare from Nintendo in the early 2000s, I was pretty disheartened. I had expected the monolithic Microsoft to utterly destroy the Rare I knew. I am sure many of you have experienced the same palpable dread from time to time when it comes to this hobby.  With Bethesda’s acquisition of id Software, those fears were proven immature with the eventual release of Doom(2016). Easily one of the best shooters I’ve played in the last decade.

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After a faltering start on both the Original Xbox and the Xbox 360, those misgivings were finally assuaged with Sea of Thieves. Sea of Thieves is a return to form for the legendary Rare. the world is brimming with soul, passion, and character. Often criticised for its’ lack of content, the much-maligned Sea of Thieves quickly endeared itself to me. I wasn’t a “day one” player like much of the initial player base, but I did get into the game shortly after it was released(about a week), and was quite enamored with the world that Rare managed to craft.

From The Beginning

Sea of Thieves offers a rather large oceanic sandbox with a plethora of well designed and unique islands to explore by yourself or with a cadre of like-minded scoundrels of the sea.

The game opens up inside a fairly nondescript tavern with a bevy of pirates for you to choose as your avatar, you can lock specific models and generate more if you so choose. After choosing your pirate, you’re greeted with a screen giving you the option of playing on a Galleon(3-4 Player Vessel) or a Sloop(1-2 Player Vessel).

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The names of the various islands and outposts have a pirate-y feel to them(Keel Haul Fort, Shark Fin Camp, Skull Keep, Tri-Rock Isle). The dearth of Ocean to explore is both a blessing and a curse, with a tailwind you can cross the map in short order. With a headwind, you’re in for a slow trek across what seems to be an endless sea pocked with little bits of adventure. The RNG factor of the Wind led my crew and me to name our vessel “The Br(e)aking Wind” because you’re never too old for fart jokes.

The weakest part of the game is definitely the PVE(Player vs Environment) aspect of the game, as you’re limited to four different kinds of radiant quests given to you from one of three factions.

The Gold Hoarders, The Merchant Alliance, and finally The Order of Souls.

I am partial to the Gold Hoarders quest line, which has the stereotypical pirate’s map with an X marks the spot mechanic as well as cryptic poems of the riddle maps which start of with something like “Crescent has riches vast, from forgotten stories in the past.”

Next is the Merchant Alliance Quests, which are in essence timed fetch quests.

Go collect 300 chickens and go to this island before a fixed amount of time has passed. I found these quests to be pretty mundane if we’re being honest.

Finally, we have the Order of Souls quests, which give you a single quest or a series of quests to find and eliminate a crew of skeletons and claim the skull of the Captain.

The faction quests are akin to the quests that you are given in Skyrim, in that they generally target islands in fairly close proximity to each other, and if you pray to RNGesus, your vessel.

Where Sea of Thieves Shines

Where the game truly shines is the PVP(Player Versus Player) aspect, assuming you can find a crew of individuals with the few things required for success in Sea of Thieves: A working mic,  ears, and a couple thumbs. Sarcasm aside, with a properly crewed and run Galleon, you can rule the seas with nary a vessel to challenge your prowess. I have had the most fun trying to hit the other vessels with a Gunpowder Barrel, or simply firing myself over in a Cannon and attempting to wreak as much havoc as I can while my shipmates send a barrage of lead. The cacophony of cannons playing a boisterous dirge for the soon to be doomed ship. Something my crew and I try to do is start off our play with a Skull fort, after which we try not to visit an outpost until someone has to log off, we find that having a belly full of loot makes the PVP that much more exciting.

You play a bit harder when you have something to lose.

The meat and potatoes of the game is definitely the sailing aspect, and you are going to be doing a lot of it. Steering the vessel is done on the poop deck with the wheel, which will turn one or two full revolutions left or right depending on whether or not you’re on a Sloop or a Galleon

On each side of the ship, there are controls to raise, lower, and rotate the sails. Which controls operate which sail are pretty obvious even to a neophyte. The main key to traversing the seas is catching the wind as much as possible, otherwise, you are in for a long voyage.

Final Thoughts

Graphically, Sea of Thieves has the best looking and most realistic water effects I’ve ever seen in a video game. The character models are cartoony and have that stylised Rare feel to them, as do much of the Islands, vessels, and buildings themselves. Assuming you’re on a PC, even on the lowest graphical settings, you’ll have a gorgeous well-designed game to play.

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If you’re looking for a sandbox pirate game with enough content to keep you going for at least a week or two at a casual pace, and you enjoy PVP interactions, you’ll love Sea of Thieves.

If a set goal with a clear road of advancement is more your speed, I’d give Sea of Thieves a pass.

Regardless, I’ll be continuing my journey.

See you on the Seas, Y’arr. This article was based upon the PC/Microsoft Store version of Sea of Thieves, and may not be applicable to the Xbox One Version in any way shape or form.

Review by: William Griston, games way more than he should, but still not enough.

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Call of Duty: WW2 Marketing Materials Leak Details

Call of Duty: World War 2

Activision recently revealed Call of Duty: WW2 will be the next entry in the long running series. Following the announcement, more details about the popular FPS by Sledgehammer Games were leaked.

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Marketing materials for the game seemingly show a Friday, November 3rd release date. This is unsurprising considering the past entries in Call of Duty were all released on Fridays instead of Tuesdays. Also revealed was a vague story description.

“Land in Normandy on D-Day and battle across Europe through iconic locations in history’s most monumental war,” reads a line from the game description. It continues with “Experience classic Call of Duty combat, the bonds of camaraderie, and the unforgiving nature of war against a global power throwing the world into tyranny.” The leak also shows that the game will focus on the bond between soldiers that before the war, had never known each other.

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Classic CoD Multiplayer

Multiplayer will be handled much like the other Call of Duty games, with battles set across many iconic locations from World War II. The leak also mentions that players will feature a new way for players to communicate with each other but as of now there are no details on what that could be.

There will also be a co-op mode that features an original story that is separate from the standard campaign. Activision had tried this once before with their previous entry, Black Ops III.

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All of these details have yet to be confirmed by Activision, although a live stream of the game with more details is scheduled for this week. Make sure to keep checking back with Gigamax for more details on the game as they’re released!

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Yooka-Laylee by Playtonic Games: Review

Yooka-Laylee by Playtonic Games: Review

It is hard to express how much I love Yooka-Laylee but stand by while I give it a go. This platformer is an affordable foray into a beautiful universe with plenty of challenge and collectibles. The $40 price tag offers even more incentive to try it out. Each world provides players with a new experience, all while keeping players entertained with clever dialogue and interesting characters. To top off this nostalgic gut punch, Playtonic Games included a delightful soundtrack that will make Banjo-Kazooie veterans flashback to their N64 days.

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To address the elephant in the room, yes Yooka-Laylee does feel nearly identical to Banjo-Kazooie. This is mainly because the developers working at Playtonic Games are industry veterans that were the brains behind the bear and the bird most gamers remember. These similarities are not a bad thing though, in fact they add to the allure of the game. The controls are fluid, Yooka runs and jumps with grace just like Banjo. Jumping from platform to platform feels great and the only thing that ever got in the way was an occasional camera glitch.

Powers and Abilities

Fluidity is essential due to the pallet of skills at your heroes disposal. Throughout the adventure both Yooka and Laylee will learn tons of moves used for moving, flying and fighting their way to victory. From the start players are limited in terms of skills, only having access to run and jump. After a minor introduction, attack is unlocked and the game opens up. Players are then introduced to the move acquisition system. Instead of just being handed moves, a smooth talking snake will trade abilities for quills. Although the price seems steep, quills are in no short supply as they are one of the more prevalent collectables.

Yooka-Laylee is a collect-a-thon that just keeps giving. Players have a constant stream of various quills, pagies, ghost writers, tonics and various other objects necessary for reaching the end of the game. Not all of these items are easy to obtain as many are hidden behind various puzzles and fights which Yooka must take care of first. These puzzles aren’t always easy, some require quick reflexes and clever problem solving. One of the more challenging problems require players to answer a series of 10 questions that are necessary for progression. These questions seem easy at first, but as the list goes on very specific questions are asked, such as “how many hours have you been playing the game.” By the way, these were all asked by a talking duck in a rolling fish tank.

Environments and Characters

The delightful cast of characters is one of the many driving forces Yooka-Laylee uses to keep players attentions. A constant feeling of anticipation is felt when traveling into the many worlds, brought on by new faces and self aware dialogue. The antagonist of the game comes in the form of an arrogant bee known as Capital B. Puns, plays on words and destroying the 4th wall are what the game does best. The snarky dialogue between the two heroes is endearing and while Capital B’s dialogue will never match the wit of Gruntilda (the antagonist from Banjo-Kazooie) he still has some funny lines that take a jab at corporate culture. Characters also make the iconic goofy mumbling noises made famous by Playtonic Games previous franchise.

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These characters are spread throughout a variety of gorgeous environments accessed by jumping into magical story books that have been stolen by Capital B. Players start on a busted up pirate ship that Yooka and Laylee call a home and move onto the main hub world known as the Hivory Towers. This is where you’ll find the world bending books, starting with the jungle level, Tribalstack Tropics. Players will move onto various other whimsical areas such as a frozen tundra and a flashy casino. Although there are only 5 zones, they each have two versions that require players to expand the world in order to grab all the collectables. When expanded, the books contain new challenges to take on and introduce more characters to meet.

An arcade like multiplayer is included as well. It lets friends compete against each other in various mini game activities. These are fun diversions from the story but ultimately they feel a little forced but ultimately don’t detract from the excellence that is the campaign.

Overview

Yooka-Laylee is a truly wonderful experience that is a must buy for anyone who enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie or any retro platformer. This indie game is a Kickstarter success story that shows the true power of the platform and independent developers. Hopefully it inspires more small time game developers to go against the grain and develop outside industry norms.

Gigamax Games is dedicated to giving our fans a look at all the latest games and industry updates. Make sure to stay tuned for more early previews and reviews and if you’d like to see some gameplay of Yooka-Laylee make sure to check out our sneak peek let’s play below.

Yooka-Laylee – Early Preview with Gigamax Games

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T.A.B.S. (Total Accurate Battle Simulator) Is Totally Awesome

I had to write this, just in case anybody hasn’t heard about this game yet. Total Accurate Battle Simulator, or otherwise known as T.A.B.S is a… Well it’s exactly what it sounds like, but remove the accurate. I may not be an expert on old timey hand to hand combat, but accuracy definitely needs to be taken with a grain of salt. So taking that into account, let me explain this incredibly entertaining and addicting piece of beautiful software we call a video game.

Gigs and I were in the Gigamax office when I got the email for an ‘invite’ to the Alpha, so I pre-purchased the game they were trying to get me to buy (I have no shame) and downloaded T.A.B.S. immediately. The game begins with a standard home screen and once you pick play, you can either choose the campaign (level 1- 20 for the Alpha) or multiplayer (one screen). We played multi player and just to let you all know, I whooped his ass.

The multi-player opens up with two grids next to eachother (image below). There are different classes of soldiers: chariots, footman, peasants, even cannons, ballistas and a bunch of other unique units. Each unit costs an in game dollar, so Gigs and I put a max of $5000 and we built up our battle formations, starting with me on the left grid and Gigs went second on the right (So he even had an advantage and I still crushed him).

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When we clicked play, the first thing I noticed was two armies ‘Lagally’ fall from the sky and start charging towards each other at around 3 FPS. Granted I have a pretty dull and standard consumer level HP laptop but it was still a bit disappointing. Once the initial clash of armies ended, the lag eased up a bit and we were able to see the tail end of the battle. I, of course won but it wasn’t as satisfying as I was hoping for, so Gigs and I charged up for another battle but this time we set the cash limit at $3,500. The second battle was much more epic. I figured out the controls so we were able to keep a close eye on the action and it was exactly what I was hoping for. We saw both sides collide, Gigs using a bunch of shield guys as a phalanx and my team was set up with smaller squads of badass warriors. Gigs swept this battle, gotta say he learned from his weak ass performance in the first match and I underestimated my enemy (breaking rule 35 of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”).

Overall, I beat the campaign in two days. Multiplayer was fun because Gigs and I got to watch our carefully crafted army’s fight to the last soldier. But the campaign was something of a pleasantly challenging experience. Some of the levels really held me up for a bit. Trying formation after formation, starting with the heaviest of hitters like cannon squads or ballistas, then trying different formations with layers of shields and spears. Eventually I worked out each mission through trial and error, changing strategies and formations. I’m a bit of a military buff so having the chance to really test different unit formations and my own improvised military strategies (most failed) was an incredible experience.
This game really did it for me and even though the characters aren’t modeled, lone soldiers run away in random directions to inevitably fall off the map into oblivion, I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you are one that needs a finely polished and flawlessly running game, I would suggest you wait until the game releases. But if you really enjoy some strategy mixed with hilariously flailing whacky  character models, I really suggest you try it out.

-Mack

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