Typoman
Video Review
23-11-15
Posted by Ben at 15:50

We posted our Typoman review yesterday, and here's the accompanying video.

I feel a bit bad for the score I game Typoman, it's not without merit, but reading the review back, a 6 looked comical. I do think some people will find something to like about the game though

The video mainly focuses on the end of Chapter 1 and a chunk of Chapter 2. There's spoilers, solutions to puzzles, which depending on if you're stuck or not will either be a good thing or a bad thing, but don't say you weren't warned Show/hide video

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Typoman

22-11-15
Posted by Ben at 09:16

A few weeks back we posted a feature called 'How Good Does Typoman Look'. The game had been featured as an upcoming indie game on the WiiU eShop, I'd missed it there, but after seeing the trailer I was won over. I thought the game looked fantastic, the concept at least, and was expecting good things. Unfortunately, the horrendous mess of Batman Arkham Knight on the pc aside, Typoman might just be the most disappointed I've been with a game all year.

The premise is wonderful. Typoman is a puzzle-platformer, where you must use and rearrange words to progress. Simple things like 'NO' being switched to turn a switch 'ON', 'remove'-ing things, draining the rain. It's cool, and when it's being that, the simple execution of a good idea, it's a good game. The problem is it feels like the developers decided that wouldn't be enough, and maybe they're right, maybe they do need to push on the way they do, focusing more on the puzzles and difficulty, maybe it's just that the balance isn't right.

Typoman is oddly ruthless. The platforming is needlessly precise, considering it's not the focus, final pixel jumps are not uncommon. There'll be sections where one nanosecond pause will guarantee failure, the final boss is a prime example of this. The boss itself wouldn't be too bad, but if you aren't moving the second you respawn after a death you're dead... again. One of the other issues that the final boss flags up that's an issue throughout is how little time you get to think. It's not constant, other times you'll have all the time in the world to not know how to solve a puzzle, but on occasion you'll be faced with imminent death and no respite to even look at the solution, let alone try it out. For the last boss I took to grabbing my phone and taking a picture of the letters available to me, then pausing the game and giving myself the time to think. Typoman really is peculiar in its ruthless streak.

When you do get stuck there's a hint system. Hit the '?' on the WiiU Gamepad, and you'll get a bit of prose, a poem of sorts that points you to the answer. Press the '?' again and the particular word you need to make will light up. It's good that the hint system is there, I certainly made use of it, but it comes with a few problems. The hints, even before you light the word up, can be a little on the nose, essentially giving you the answer when you just want a poke in the right direction. Conversely, you can have the answer, even the word revealed, and still be left staring at the screen with no idea what you need to do.

There's a balance problem with Typoman, it too often leaves you completely bewildered. You'll have everything you need but have no idea where to start. Take the puzzles that involve letter machines, a production line that lets you print letters to build words. You'll have more letters available than you need, it clouds things, especially when the word needed to provoke the action seems unintuitive. You can usually see the logic once you've solved it, but wonder if you'd ever have reached it without using a hint. It's the double-edged sword of the hint system, it's too easy to go to it, it takes away the 'game' a bit, it's too all or nothing. I wish they'd made the hints a bit more like those of a crossword puzzle, something to solve before just handing you the word you need.

Typoman suffers from too many technical issues. The initial load time is long, once you're in the levels there's no loading, but getting there takes surprisingly long. Initially I thought this might be because I was running the game from a harddrive, but too many other people have mentioned it. Similarly the hitching, presumably it's caused by the engine streaming in a new area, but it's off-putting and can occasionally happen at key times. I've had a couple of moments where Typoman has got stuck, where spawned words have glitched through an object causing me to die. There's also an issue where leaving the game paused for a long period will make the pause menu freeze up, but that's a bit of an edge case.

Really the technical issues are the kind of thing that need to be mentioned in the review, but not necessarily the sort of thing that will ruin a game. Typoman's problems are all with its puzzle design and platforming. Difficulty is fine, leaving the player frustrated isn't, especially in the moments where the puzzle has been solved but the application let's you down. It's a shame too, there's moments where I really liked Typoman. There's some good ideas, some cool set pieces, and the concept is great, but once I got through the early sections I'm not sure how often I had fun. It's a game that's almost there, but as it is Typoman is too frustrating for its own good, it leaves you cursing it too often, and it left me feeling like it was a huge missed opportunity.
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Gunman Clive
HD Collection
18-09-15
Posted by Mark at 03:16

The Gunman Clive HD Collection, as its name suggests, collects together the Gunman Clive games- two enjoyable whistle-stop tours through platform game tropes released on 3DS and mobile in 2012 and 2015 and bumps them into Glorious High Definition.

We've visited these games before, scoring them seven and nine out of ten respectively, so I'll not waste too long covering the games on their own merits- we have already come to the conclusion that they're both well worth buying- it just comes down to whether you'd be wanting to do so in the HD collection, or just stick to the originals. Or double-dip, if you're so inclined.

As a straight port, there's not a lot to complain about- the Space Harrier level in GC2 feels like it loses something in no longer having 3D, but not so much that it affects gameplay. The levels, designed for handheld, do feel too short for console play, but it's not fair to criticize the original game design for that, especially not when it shares a platform with over sixty other handheld games on Virtual Console.

The higher resolution also improves the art style- the scratchy, sketchy outlines of the characters and platforms look much sharper and more like the hand-drawn linework they're meant to emulate, and as an analogy for a larger page, makes the fuzzy, inkwash colours make much more sense and look less like a conveniently-placed smear.

Less well-served by the four-and-a-half-times magnification are the designs of the platforms and the levels they make up- what had a chunky charm is now just sparse, and the floaty-feeling jump can often make falling short of a platform feel like a trick of the higher resolution rather than a misjudged button press. This is made much worse by the many times that you'll find yourself being shot in mid-air by an enemy which has only come on-screen half way, as Ben pointed out in his original reviews.

Gunman Clive HD Collection brings together two good games at a good price. However, it's very difficult to recommend this version over the 3DS originals. If you're able to get the 3DS games instead, get those. But if you're the one person who has a Wii U but no 3DS, then you're not going to go wrong getting this.
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Affordable Space
Adventures
02-04-15
Posted by James at 06:00

It's rare to see a game built solely around a specialised, left-field piece of hardware like the Wii U, with its unique second-screen setup and versatile controller. Given the risks involved with developing a game around a single platform with a comparatively small install base, it's easy to see why Nintendo's little white box has mostly attracted ports of games made for the traditional controller.

But there's no stopping some people. In setting out to capture the excitement and tension that comes with navigating a spaceship through an alien world, Knapnok Games and Nicklas 'Nifflas' Nygren picked Wii U as the platform that will bring their ideas to life.

Here's the deal: You've signed up to Uexplore's cheap space travel programme, and they've handed you the keys to your own spaceship, the Small Craft. Off their mothership takes you and onwards to the planet Spectaculon, a beautiful world ripe for exploration and discovery...

...Except you just got the short end of the stick, because the Uexplore mothership dispensed you smack bang in the middle of an 150 year old crash site. Even worse, none of your surroundings resemble the lush and organic environs shown in Uexplore's commercial -- perhaps that "99% Uncharted" statistic should have been taken as a warning sign. Better start up your ship's engine and search for some way to get back home, then.

Despite all the incompetence, Uexplore have at least done something right by ensuring the Small Craft is fit for purpose. It's kitted out with all manner of gadgets and flight mechanisms which alter its behaviour under your thumb, where it can go and what it can do. So while movement is handled by those trusty analogue sticks, everything else isn't -- you've got a fully-featured flight control system at your fingertips on the GamePad screen.

This makes for an expressive game, as the feel of navigating your Small Craft becomes an accurate reflection of how it's been configured on your Heads-Down-Display. Start up the fuel engine and you're suddenly piloting a rickety croc of a flying car. In contrast, the electric engine offers a smoother ride, but at the expense of having to adjust a stabiliser and antigravity system.

Those flight controls on the GamePad lend a sense of individuality to how the Small Craft *feels* to pilot. There's something deeply satisfying about mastering controls which fundamentally do the job, while also including all these little intricacies and nuances for the player to uncover and smile at.

At its core, Affordable Space Adventures is a 2D environmental puzzler, its alien world of Spectaculon playing host to all kinds of weird (and later, wonderful) hazards. You see, that 150 year old crash site serves as a habitat for artefacts that destroy on sight if the heat, sound and electricity produced by your ship happens to disrupt their steady slumber.

This immediately makes traversing the various environments trickier than you might think, as you're forced into being creative with how you configure the Small Craft to deal with the current situation. Having an interactive touch-based interface to manage your ship's systems is a real boon, as you can assess the direct impact each one has on heat, sound and electricity output. Just when you think you've nailed it you probably haven't, as moving with your thrusters tends to throw the balance off kilter.

Being inventive is a must, and the game gives you enough leeway to try different things. You might find yourself playing with antigravity boosters as a means of getting around because they are more energy efficient. Or you might find a reason to rapidly switch between your fuel and electric engines. The game encourages both a methodological and a hands-on approach to problem solving, and this carries through to its environmental hazards, which shift the tone from stealth and navigation to physics- and nature-based puzzles.

Like that Nintendo promise of a new idea every level, your Small Craft repairs its damaged flight controls over time, opening up new puzzle possibilities. It's something the game successfully pulls off throughout its eight hour running time, keeping things fresh and ensuring no idea ever outstays its welcome.

Eight hours may sound short, but it's enough for the game to accomplish everything it sets out to do, right down to successfully setting a low-key atmosphere of isolation and suspense. From the moment you land on Spectaculon, there's a feeling that everything has gone horribly wrong, which continues to persist the more you explore. Without spoiling anything, this is masterfully balanced by the game's quieter, safer moments, the times where you feel a sense of hope and security.

That being said, there are a few bumps in what is otherwise a smooth ride. A couple of obtuse puzzles stem from the game not giving you enough to play around with, with success here feeling like the result of discovering a pre-determined solution by trial and error. At a push, there's also a lack of entertainment value once you've played through everything both on your own and with others.

Indeed, you'll certainly want to visit the game with a partner or two. Splitting up your ship's duties into distinct roles inspires the healthy back-and-forth that comes with good teamwork, with solid communication between your team serving as more than a fair trade-off for the stress that sometimes comes from multitasking between two screens in single player.

Better still, the laughter which accompanies acts of incompetence among your space team becomes yet another unique experience which Affordable Space Adventures thrives on. Piloting a spaceship has rarely felt this engaging.
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Kuru Kuru
Kururin
02-01-15
Posted by James at 19:20

The Game Boy Advance launch title which nearly everyone ignored thirteen years ago returns on Wii U's virtual console service. A more momentous release than others, then, and this is every bit as good as it was back in the day.

You're in the driving seat of Kururin's helicopter Helirin (don't ask why a Bird needs to fly a helicopter), off to find your friends who also have cute names that end in -rin. Naturally this gives you an excuse to fly and navigate themed worlds, and it all makes great use of the various tricks the humble GBA brought to the table, like parallax scrolling and sprite rotation.

Navigate is an important word here. Kuru Kuru Kururin's stages offer a bunch of obstacles and walls to guide your helicopter around in search of the goal, and it's played entirely from a top-down perspective. The helicopter you're piloting becomes an ever spinning stick, and you can probably see where this is going...

This simple idea paves way to some devious stages to pilot across, each one more of a joy to tackle than the last. At first you're encouraged to get your head around moving your constantly spinning helicopter through tight environments. The level furniture enables this well -- you'll make use of these little coves to wait for your helicopter's 'blade' to swivel around a half rotation.

Elsewhere, curved segments of course are pleasingly chiselled off to match the rotation of your helicopter, and there are things like springs to bounce the thing off into a different direction of rotation altogether.

Sound judgement and good piloting are the order of the day. Reach a particularly tough looking section of map and you'll soon start mapping out the next steps in your head, your brain already picturing various routes for your helicopter to take.

This makes for a game which never feels unfair. Success is always down to your own skill, the ability to quickly switch between three movement speeds also provides a much needed safeguard for when you've misjudged your timing. It's thrilling to speed up and *just* miss a collision with the level scenery or a, erm, rolling spiky ball thing.

Kuru Kuru Kururin is a game in the purest sense, then, reminiscent of the excellent Super Monkey Ball. But it spreads itself too thinly.

While it does introduce a few new tricks along the way, it often repeats the same ones, and this sticks out even more given the shift in theme across every new world. Seeing the factory machines of Machine Land in later worlds felt a bit cheap, to mention just one example.

Despite what are thin helpings of content, the game's time trial challenges inspire near OCD-levels of replayability. An unlockable hidden world and helicopter design goodies -- placed in cursingly devious locations -- also encourage mastery of the game's stages.

If you're looking for something straightforward, you really can't go wrong with this. Here's hoping Nintendo release the Japan-only sequel as well - it injects plenty of new ideas to the mix.
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03-10-14
Posted by Ben at 01:55

Hyrule Warriors is a game that carries a lot of 'if' with it. If you've played a Dynasty Warriors game before then you'll know what to expect. It's a novel take on the Zelda formula if you haven't played a Musou game before. If you like both franchises then you may well love Hyrule Warriors. And there's an enormous amount of content in the game, if you don't mind doing the same thing over and over.

The core gameplay of Hyrule Warriors doesn't really change. You start on a map with a small army behind you, and a huge number of enemies ahead of you. To increase your presence on the battlefield you can take over keeps, these are represented by square rooms on the mini map. Defeat enough enemies in the keep and the keep boss appears, defeat him and the keep is yours, producing soldiers for your army rather than the enemy. Sometimes this is core to beating the mission, other times its just for your own sake.

The keep bosses may not be up to much but there's plenty of enemies that require quite a bit more of you. These enemies play more like you and your compatriots, and in fact are either playable or soon will be with dlc. That means they can do a bit of damage to you, and while you can just mash away at them in an endless grind, the 'proper' way is to wait for them to leave themselves vulnerable, then whittle down their counter meter, launching a powerful combo attack.

Similarly there's enormous bosses for which you must use some of Link's iconic sub-weapons. Just got the bomb in the same area as a huge fire breathing boss? Well if this was a Zelda game that might be a hint. It's indicative that there has actually been some thought put in to Hyrule Warriors, dismissing it as simply a reskin is unfair.

Another nice touch is the alternative playable characters. Granted a couple of them are lost on me, but I had favourites to play as. The way the missions are structured means pretty much all of them get their chance in the spotlight, a smart move as they play just differently enough to bring some variety, as chances are left to your own devices youíd always play as Link. The changing of characters allows them to bring in more aspects to the story, develop a few key personalities and storylines, meaning the story isnít just rescuing the princess. In fact the story continues past the point youíd expect, feeling more like an epilogue by the end.

If thereís one thing you can say about Hyrule Warriors, and the Dynasty Warriors/Musou games in general, is that you get a lot of game for your money. Thereís the lengthy story mode, Free mode, plus an adventure mode where you must conquer tiles on a retro map by fulfilling conditions in mini levels. Itís a nice addition, but itís one that relies on one key factor; you wanting to keep playing the same Musou gameplay.

Hyrule Warriors doesnít ever look amazing, and thereís plenty of slowdown, more than youíd expect given the graphics (although there certainly is a lot on screen), but its biggest problem is always itself. The core gameplay is fine, but itís not much better than that, stages can last 20 minutes or more, and then thereís another one right after it thatís virtually the same. I quickly found doing more than one level a session a chore, despite quite liking the game, thereís just too much of the same thing.

Thereís something to be said for having a regard for the source material, I enjoyed Fist of the North Star: Kenís Rage more than it probably deserved simply because Fist of the North Star is one of mankindís greatest creations. While Iíve no animosity towards the Zelda franchise, I donít have the kind of reverence that some do. However, Hyrule Warriors will be too easily dismissed by some, thereís more to the game than simple button mashing, even if it never requires too much dexterity or thought.
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12-12-13
Posted by Ben at 15:02

You know when something just doesnít click? You know it should, it ticks all the boxes and looks good on paper, it might even be Ďright up your streetí to continue the clichťs, but for whatever reason itís just not happening. Thatís how I feel about Super Mario 3D World.

Galaxy might be my favourite game of the exiting generation, Super Mario 3D Land was the best game on 3DS until Fire Emblem came out, I was very much looking forward to Super Mario 3D World. On a critical level I can tell itís a very good game, if thereís one thing these mainline Mario games seem to have nailed itís throwing ideas at you. Stage 3-1 is completely different from 3-2, in fact just because youíre in the ice world donít expect every level to be ice themed. The new powers help too, be it the not often talked about torch hat, or the star of the show cat suit. The cat suit adds a verticality to levels, especially if youíre looking for all the stars.

Thereís levels where the platforms change every time you jump, levels where you have to keep moving, levels where you ride on the back of a giant dinosaur thing, climb towers, even sprint across a Mario Kart track. Thereís not a shortage of memorable moments with 3D World, itís why itís a shame that the game repeats its boss fights later on. Not that they themselves are bad, and you kind of expect to see repeated boss battles in a Mario game, but it does feel like pointless game lengthening, especially as these are levels that canít be skipped.

Some of the optional levels are great, thereís the Toad levels where he has to collect 5 stars. Itís a small cube of a stage that you have to rotate to see all the sides of. Itís more a puzzle game than a platformer, Toad canít jump so the challenge is to work yourself a route that collects all the stars and avoids all the enemies. On the other end of the scale thereís a set of levels where you have to collect 10 stars, one per room, with a few seconds to get each of them. These are great, fast paced, exhilarating, requiring precise skill, reactions and quick thought. These and the Toad levels are the best parts of the game.

So whatís wrong with Super Mario 3D World? Well, not a lot truth be told. It looks great, although it can look a bit jaggy in parts, most of the time though the design definitely wins out over the resolution. I did have an issue with knowing where Mario was in the world. Perhaps itís because I see this as a sequel to the 3DS game 3D Land, but it does feel like the lack of 3D makes depth a problem. Maybe itís the camera angle, who knows, either way even using my shadow to gauge position wasnít really working for me.

Thereís also the issue of difficulty, Super Mario 3D World takes far too long to get going. Iím not against an easy game, Tearaway for example I think benefits hugely from being easy, but the lack of challenge in the first few worlds of 3D World means I never felt engaged until I was halfway through the game. At this point Iíve played a few Mario games, I need something to get my teeth in to. To be fair the difficulty certainly does get there eventually, and thereís an argument that the problem is actually the suits being overpowered, certainly the cat suit, which can go a long way to negating the platforming.

So yeah, I suspect Super Mario 3D World is a better game than the score below suggests, and maybe it was just a case of me playing it right after Tearaway, if it had followed The Last of Us for example perhaps it would have had more of an effect. Regardless itís still the best Mario game on the WiiU, and still well worth your time for the wealth of good ideas it has.
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26-08-13
Posted by Ben at 07:40

There are certain games that are nigh on impossible to review. The Dynasty Warriors games would be an example of this, critically they arenít great but then you (not me) have loads of fun with them, so do you give a game you recognise to be less than great a high score, or do you mark down a game you enjoyed? Pokemon Rumble U is one of these games, I know itís not great, I donít feel I can in good faith stick an 8+ on the end of this review, but I enjoyed it, really enjoyed it at points.

To explain what Pokemon Rumble U is; rpg gameplay of the main games is gone and replaced with simplistic action combat, moves are assigned to the A and B buttons, and thereís a new Ďbombí style move activated by pressing on the touch screen. Rather than control a trainer you control the Pokemon directly, moves are unlimited, but the various Pokemon typeís weaknesses and strength remain.

The 3DS had a Pokemon Rumble game a while back, in that you played through themed levels, such as woodland or volcanic regions, before having a battle royale in an arena. Pokemon Rumble U simplifies this, the linear levels are gone with the focus squarely on the arenas. The aim of the arenas is invariably to beat the boss, so the free for all battles are gone, but things do get mixed up with level hazards and different requirements such as protecting forts or other Pokemon.

Rather than face the arenas on your own you have a team of 4. The game is built for co-op play, with A.I. taking control of the Pokemon you donít have friends for. Which is why itís such a strange decision that thereís no online modes. The A.I. do a decent enough job, generally they just follow your lead, but will go off and attack things on their own. Itís helped that there arenít really any great tactics involved in the game, but there are a few moments where a real human (or humans) would be beneficial.

In terms of gameplay, the thing that makes things interesting are the bonus challenges for each level. These vary in difficulty, some are incredibly simple like picking up a set number of points or beating the level in a set time, some are more involved like using a certain Pokemon, not getting hit, beating enemies in a certain order, and not destroying enemy spewing rockets (itís this one where the A.I. can be a hindrance).

The thing that really makes Pokemon Rumble U interesting though, and it really shouldnít, are the NFC figures. Built in to the WiiU gamepad is a sensor, this allows data to be shared with small, plastic Pokemon that accompany the limited edition or are bought separately. You donít need the figures to play through the game, but having one gives you a reason to. Playing through earns you P coins which can be spent levelling up your character, adding traits, and swapping out moves for better ones. This is your personal Pokemon that you can take anywhere with you.

The problem with this is that if the figure you got isnĎt one you like (figures are sold Ďblindí) then it could potentially turn in to a slightly more resentful process than Nintendo intended. Still, if you do get a Pokemon you like, then having it boss fights does have a certain satisfaction to it.

The game suffers technically far more than it should. It doesnít look especially great to begin with, I suspect itís using assets from the Wii game, but when things get more heated thereís some considerable slowdown. It generally is restricted to when thereís a lot of Pokemon on screen, lots of special effects, and often when youíve turned giant, but it happens far more often than it should. The game might have a length issue for some people, however Iíd argue you get out what you put in. If you play with your overpowered limited edition Kyurem (I hate myself for writing this review) then youíll tear through the game in no time, if you play closer to the gameís pace, trying to complete challenges and collect Pokemon then it will last you a lot longer, the WiiU has me clocked at 11 hours.

So, if you like Pokemon, if you like Ďyourí Pokemon, if you try to collect extra Pokemon, if you try to beat the challenges, if you can get past the slowdown, if you have some friends to play with, and if you donít mind the simple nature of the combat, then you might well really enjoy Pokemon Rumble U, I did. However a game with that many ďifsĒ is not going to be for everyone
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02-08-13
Posted by Mark at 18:57

As an attempt to 'save' the flagging Wii U, Pikmin 3 stands out as an odd choice. A fan favourite, sure, but not one that ever set the sales charts alight, and long term probably isn't going to, despite showing promise early.

Despite this, until the big names hit later in the year, the platform has this and the superficially similar Wonderful 101.

The gameplay of 3 picks up where the other two games left off- a small army of smaller creatures under the control of someone who crash-landed on the smaller creatures' planet gathering objects (in this case fruit) before going home again.

This time around, there are three crash-landers who, like the pair in 2, can be controlled separately, but can also be sent off to automatically travel to different parts of the map with a handful of pikmin in tow. This way, you can be off doing one thing on one side of the map knowing that the AI will be at least heading to the other one.

This takes away a lot of the admin and keeps you on the more compelling puzzle aspects of the game, making the game seem punchier and more involved.

The game's criticism for being short isn't unwarranted, however. While this is hardly related to the runtime of the game- which hardly threatens the Skyrims but compares favourably to the Call of Dutys- it does just come to a very abrupt end.

The final batch of pikmin you encounter come alongside the final major plot event before the final level- so it's just as the game stops giving you new toys to play with that the game reaches its conclusion, leaving you with very little time to get acquainted with said toys.

While there is a lot to do when you have the full set of pikmin types, it is all too easy to then follow the set's completion into the final level without realising. It is testament to the pacing of the game that you don't notice yourself sleepwalking into the game's conclusion, but it does bring a surprising halt to the fun.

The last level isn't much to write home about either- taking the form of a gauntlet rather than the more open areas seen in the rest of the game, this should be more exciting than it is, but is unfortunately let down by fiddly tasks and an uninspiring final boss fight.

If there's one area of the game that can't be faulted, though, it's how it looks. The small stature of the characters in comparison to the scenery- alongside Nintendo's eventual switch to HD- gives the game a striking look which isn't being seen on other platforms.

What the whole thing boils down to is that this is the sort of game you bought your Wii U for. The only problem is, despite how good it is, it's not the game people will buy a Wii U for.
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