The 'Shroom:Issue 64/Critic Corner

From the Super Mario Wiki


Director Notes

Crocodile Dippy (talk)

Polydippy.png

Effing buggery, I have to write another section? Why did I agree to this? Why did I even suggest it? At least I won't have to bother with the tedious affiliates stuff, we were getting nowhere with that. Oh yeah, welcome to the brand new Critic Corner sub-team, a place for you to read the crap talentless, bitter hacks like myself have to say about other people's hard work. It's so much fun.

But yeah, don't fear, it's all still here; your tidy collection of all The 'Shroom's finest review and opinion sections, whether it be critiquing games, fan material, characters, movies, books, etc., or discussing issues such as beta elements and ethical concerns in the gaming medium. Put it all in a nice little corner and keep the main page a little neater, y'know?

So yeah, announcements. Let's see if I can do this right, since formalities are not my strong point. From the last issue, New Super Mario (talk) resigned from his position as a Marioverse Reviews writer due to busyness in real life, and Nabber (talk) has gone on a bi-monthly plan for similar reasons (his section has been renamed to Super Nabber Reviews). Meanwhile, our long-lost Caiman Gamin' writer Xpike (talk) has returned to the newsletter on a bi-monthly plan as well, so enjoy seeing those every two months. I would like to introduce our newest reviewer marioboy14 (talk), who will be writing a second Marioverse Reviews section. Glad to have you on the team, mate.

I have also established brand new section openings in the form of Film Reviews, Book Reviews (this month written by Tucayo (talk)), Wiki Fiction Reviews, and Game Soundtrack Reviews. Have any suggestions for other sections I could add? Want to write a second version of an already filled position? Just contact me about it and we'll work something out; at the very least, I'll pretend to care! Go on my userpage for places you can contact me.

MARIO REVIEWS


This month, Nabber holds the flag for Mario Kart 7. [read more]


Is Yoshi's Island a suitable tourist spot? Find out in marioboy14's debut! [read more]


MG1 keeps things hot this Summer with his evaluation of Lava Piranha. [read more]

NON-MARIO GAME REVIEWS

CROCODILE STYLE REVIEWS
Crocodile Dippy (talk)

It's all riches and bows in Dragon's Dogma. [read more]

Back from deep space, Xpike shares his colourful ending in Mass Effect 3. [read more]


OPINION PIECES

SHOULD HAVE BEEN
MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Super Mario 64 was an amazing game. But MCD wonders how it could've been better. [read more]

DIPPY'S MATILDA
Crocodile Dippy (talk)

Dippy ponders the issue of sexism in video games. [read more]


NON-GAME REVIEWS


Tucayo tells you nine stories in fifteen minutes. [read more]



Super Nabber Reviews

Nabber (talk)

Welcome back to Review Corner! It’s Nabber again, working on a new bimonthly plan. This time around, I’ve been playing a lot of Mario Kart 7 for the 3DS, the latest entry in the popular - and often frustrating - racing franchise. Is it better than its predecessors? Let’s find out!

Review

When you start up Mario Kart 7, you shouldn’t be expecting any major changes. At its core, MK7 is the same game as the other Mario Karts. You play as a variety of characters from the Mario series, and zoom around on tracks that are usually inspired by Mario games. Tricks are also back from the previous installment. And as always, there are a slew of items to make sure that the races are always completely unpredictable.

Of course, there are some new elements. Advertised on the box art are the new gliders, which spring out from karts off of certain jumps. These allow you to glide for a few seconds, which, if mastered, can allow you to shave off precious seconds from your total time. Slowing you down, however, is water. Suddenly, karts can go underwater - but only in certain sections, as you will apparently still drown if you go off course. Underwater sections have floatier controls, though that’s really all there is to them. While they make for a nice change of pace, they’re otherwise mostly unneeded.

The courses this time around are also very fun, though there isn’t too much to say on that matter. They make very good use of the glider and water mechanics, and are incorporated into pretty much every track. There are also plenty of opportunities to attempt quick shortcuts if one has the skills to do so. They also aren’t major shortcuts, which is fortunate. They won’t break the game but they can make all the difference between winning and losing.

The other new mechanic this time around is kart customization, which adds a new layer of strategy to the series. You can now make your own vehicles from coins you collect while racing. Every certain amount of coins you get, a new part - either a kart frame, a wheel, or a glider - is unlocked. Each part affects your overall stats in some way. Unfortunately, the order of which the parts are unlocked is completely random, so you may have every wheel but still only have 2 gliders. And since every part is unlocked randomly, when playing another person, they may have all sorts of parts that you don’t have yet.

Then there is the matter of what some have dubbed “Item Hell.” While it’s not as bad as it was in Mario Kart 7, expect plenty of frustration from this installment. To make things worse, the dreaded blue shell now moves on land, meaning that not only does it hit whoever is in first place, but it will also flip over anyone who gets caught in its path. The new items aren’t helping; both the Fire Flower and the Tanooki tail might be helpful if they didn’t use up your item space while you’re using it. And since the Tanooki tail usually lasts until after you get to the next set of item boxes, you’re screwed from getting any new items if that lands in your item slot. There’s also a new “Lucky 7” that gives you seven different items to use, but not only are they rare, but it disappears as soon as you get hit, so it’s not very useful either.

Now I suppose I should mention the online. Things are a bit different this time around. The first online option is to play against random people from around the world. Like in Mario Kart Wii, you earn points by placing well in races and lose points by doing badly. The difference is that this time you start out with 1000 points and work your way up. Luckily, you’re always placed with players of your own skill level. The second option is titled Friends, but instead of allowing you to play a 1-on-1 match with your friend, it allows you to join their worldwide match, something that is confusing the first time around. The new feature this time is Communities: players can create communities where any player with the group code can play. You can also adjust the rules so that players can only play certain courses or use certain items. There also isn’t much lag when playing online, a definite plus.

As for the graphics and music, they’re on par. The visuals look pretty good for a 3DS game, if not a tiny bit pixelated - but they still look just like the Wii version’s. The 3D works well, too. As for the music, there are a few themes that are actually pretty catchy, but most of them are not mind-blowing either.


As expected, Mario Kart 7 doesn’t completely change the series’ formula. However, it does bring some interesting ideas to the plate, and it’s a great game to have in your 3DS library, and it’s incredibly fun to play - even more so with friends. As such, I award Mario Kart 7 an 8.5/10.

Marioverse Reviews

marioboy14 (talk)

Yes, I'm going back to the days of the SNES. Super Mario World is one of my all time favorite games for many reasons.

The setting: Dinosaur Land. The famous brothers Mario and Luigi are taking a vacation with Princess Peach. The blimp lands, and the brothers fly off with the feather item. Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and the whole mayhem starts all over again to save the princess. (Surprise, surprise)

First off is Yoshi's Island. This is the start of the game so the courses are NOT that difficult to get through. Found in this land of the Yoshi, Iggy Koopa, the first of the 8 Koopalings. You meet Yoshi in this area, and you get the whole feel and vibe of the game. My overall rating of this world: 9/10. Just due to the fact it is very simple.

Next is Donut Plains. I happen to like this area very much because the obstacles get a bit more challenging and the feather item comes into play! There are many Donut secrets here, like finding keys to underwater realms and flying overhead a whole course with a sort of Pegasus Yoshi. Morton Koopa is the boss waiting at the end here, but he is fairly easy to defeat. Three bops on the head and you're on your way! My overall rating of this land: 8.5/10. The courses are still too easy and the boss is too!

Now for some fun, Vanilla Dome. Before I start, do you see something? These places are made out of sweet treats! Sweet! Anyway, my wish has been granted and the obstacles are longer and a bit more complex. From the lava pits to the underwater, this area is challenging! Lemme Koopa waits at the end and man, his castle is tough! If you manage to get by the Magikoopa guarding the castle at the beginning, you might be clear until the red doors. Lemmy has two look-alikes in pipes popping up. On top of that, Lemmy is in one of these pipes waiting to attack. My overall rating of this world: 7/10. Lemmy ruined it. Enough said.

Do I dare even consider the next place a world? It's called Twin Bridges. That's just it! There's only two levels the first time you play! Both are VERY long though... You win that round Nintendo! After you go through and find all the secret places and such, sure you got a world, but who wants to do that? Ludwig Von Koopa is the next boss to defeat. He just shoots fireballs and rolls around. Hmmm Nintendo, maybe switch Lemmy and Ludwig if it is ever re-released again? My overall rating: 3/10. 2 points for the land, one for effort.

Forest of Illusion: Pretty well thought up place... Wigglers and floating Goombas in bubbles are found here. Also, with a completed world, this place looks like an illusion! I like the concepts of the obstacles and enemies found. Roy is waiting at the finish line, as he stomps on Mario and the walls cave in. Dodge this one and keep going! My overall rating: 9.5/10. All I can say is very nice work. Way to make up for Twin Bridges.

Chocolate Island... Hard and aggravating. All these new purple dinosaurs are found here spitting up fire. And the obstacles take FOREVER! Yet they are challenging, and also fun (sort of). Wendy O. Koopa is at the end, and she has girl power! Just like Lemmy, the chick has decoys in pipes. Hard stuff! My overall rating: 7/10. Aggravation.

Valley of Bowser is the final stop. It is challenging, brutal, aggravating, and down right awesome. Larry Koopa is found... In the middle? Yup! Two bosses in one world! Larry is just like Iggy except he bought some enemy friends to help. After a few more long obstacles, Bowser Castle! If you manage to find your way through this maze, Bowser is there, in his Koopa Clown Car and throwing bombs and Mecha Koopas. Peach pops out every time you whack Bowser with a Mecha Koopa and throws a mushroom. Defeat him, save the princess, get a kiss (not really) and boom! The game is over. My rating of this world: 10/10. It's the end, it's hard, it's rewarding.

Overall, 54/70, which is a 77%. Ok, the percent is low, but the game is great! This was the first Mario game I ever played. Tell you what, I'm going to bump that 77 up to an 85 because it can be played in the SNES or the pocket sized GBA/DS. Great game Nintendo. Marioboy14 out!

Character Reviews

Marioguy1 (talk)

Fish...birds...what else could I possibly pick to review...I know! I know how much everyone here adores the heat, so let's pick a plant! A flaming plant! A Lava Piranha!

Storyline

Plant!

A tropical island treasure guarded by a vicious plant that breathes fire. If it were anything other than a deserted tropical island populated only by lizards, it would seem stupid. But who knows what you can find in a jungle? It seems Nintendo found a pretty good boss. However, regardless of how well the Lava Piranha fits into the game, a running fault with Nintendo's bosses is that the bosses are random. You are going through an island, an overweight raven just got you to the volcano to find an ancient treasure...and piranha plant. Once again, what I really want Nintendo to do is stick some background to their bosses into the games. It's a serious flaw. For instance, they could have had some Yoshis whisper about how the volcano is said to have a terrible beast inside of it. But they don't even mention Lava Piranha until the end of the chapter, when it appears. It's ridiculous. While Lava Piranha fits the bill, there is not enough background to it.

Design

During the first fight, Lava Piranha looks pretty cool, with its thorny vines extending from the lava like some sort of vegetable kraken. However during the second fight, the fires look very...pathetic. The flames are too small. In addition, I can't get over that ridiculous tongue that always hangs out of its mouth. It's ridiculous!

Humour

Hm, no tongue.

I never did find characters speaking in primitive language to be very funny. But apparently, Nintendo thought it was, because they repeatedly have a near-illiterate character in their games who shouldn't talk but does. If this is supposed to be humour, Marioguy1 is not amused.

Potential

Like I said, Lava Piranha could have been played up as the beast of the volcano, or as an infestation that took over the volcano, or something else, but with a backstory. However, aside from that, Lava Piranha shared one flaw with its relatives, it is immobile. So it's not going anywhere, Lavalava Island is the only place where it makes sense.

Used Potential

Aside from the lack of backstory, Nintendo used most of Lava Piranha's potential. I think they did pretty well in this category.

Total

I give Lava Piranha a lovely 7/10, making him the first character to receive a positive review this year! Yay!

Character Who? Storyline Design Humour Potential Used Potential Overall
Fluzzard That guy 7/10 4/10 5/10 6/10 3/10 5/10
Boss Bass That guy 4/10 2/10 2/10 4/10 8/10 4/10
Lava Piranha That guy 8/10 6/10 5/10 8/10 6/10 7/10



Crocodile Style Reviews

Crocodile Dippy (talk)

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Dragon's Dogma
DragonsDogmaBoxart.jpg
Developer Capcom
Publisher Capcom
Platform(s) PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Genres Action role-playing game, hack and slash, sandbox
Rating(s)
ESRB:ESRB M.svg - Mature
PEGI:PEGI 18.svg - Eighteen years and older
CERO:CERO D.png - Seventeen years and older
ACB:ACB MA15+.svg - Fifteen years and older
Available From

I am so bored of fantasy! For a genre that prides itself on the whimsical and wondrously imaginative, it appears to have squandered its entire creative savings and has spent the last decade or so trading in whatever dignity it has left to leech off the worn out scraps left over in Gary Gygax and J.R.R. Tolkien's bins. And Dragon's Dogma seems to be attempting to break some sort of record for most fantasy dumpsters turned over; between the dragons, goblins, undead, castles, haunted ruins, standard fantasy weaponry, conventional magic, and NPCs spouting the same line of dialogue over and over again, I was struggling to find anything that wasn't unaltered from the fantasy norm. Oh well, the opening theme is generic Japanese rock with hilariously bad English singing, so there's at least that.

I never bother with character customisation, so I just went with the default appearance with a few tiny changes. I regret that now that I know you can play as a stupidly fat midget.

Anyway, the game takes place in the kingdom of Gransys, home to a proud race of blank-eyed peons with all manner of bad Western European accents. It opens with the typical character customisation shit – but thankfully, you can actually play as a fat bastard instead of the usual six-pack/D-cup aliens of most RPGs, not that I noticed until it was too late, having spent a grand total of ten minutes in that skin wardrobe – before I was drawn into the intro cinematic, wherein I'm in a stereotypically quaint fishing village when it's ravaged by a demon dragon that promptly tears out my heart and eats it. And I thought my heart surgery was invasive, hyuck hyuck hyuck… Sorry. So I later wake up reborn as one of the enlightened ones called "Arisen", and am told to seek out a nearby settlement to get answers about my grand role in the world, which will inevitably entail skinning every wolf in the world and nicking every NPCs unguarded goods, prophesy be damned. To that end, I chose Thief… oh sorry, Strider as my vocation just to make my kleptomania formal, later upgrading to archer mage because I wanted to feel like Hawkeye for a few glorious hours. That's pretty much the full extent of the story which the game itself doesn't seem to be that engaged in; there's also a romance sub-plot involving the Duke's wife that doesn't change no matter what you look like or even what your gender is, but that never really goes anywhere either, so this implies Capcom have realised that as far as storywriting goes their best is like anybody's worst.

Let me just say that I found myself enjoying Dragon's Dogma a lot more than I thought I would, considering that it's fairly standard as far as fantasy games go. Dragon's Dogma can best be described as a mash-up of all of Capcom's modern big sellers; Devil May Cry, Breath of Fire, Monster Hunter, and even Resident Evil, doing survival horror far better than any game in that series ever has. I found the world beautiful and diverse enough to keep me interested in exploring, and the combat has that Devil May Cry flair of bitchin' combos and colourful strategies for killing beasts in the coolest fashion possible, made all the more fluid due to the character's swift parkour mobility, the defaulted third-person perspective, and the strangely friendly camera. The nature of the game to throw hordes of monsters at you when you most don't need it – especially at night – adds a layer of caution and tension to a journey that would otherwise get boring were you just some unstoppable conqueror of the frontiers.

A land of culture, ecology, and architecture, all of which wants you six feet in the cold, unloving ground. Good luck.

Indeed, Gransys appears to be a lush reimagining of Australia, as virtually every man, monster, his dog, and his dog's fleas seem to want you dead and are certainly not shy about it, but never fear for you're not alone in this quest! Being on the gods' guest list grants you the ability to use 'Pawns', human-like-but-not-actually-human blokes who are just a little too eager to assist you, even if that means fucking up a stealth section or repeating "helpful" advice that I swear are scripted to play every single bloody time you approach a certain part of the map, even immediately after you've just completed the quest or exploration objective they so desire to advise you about! Your main pawn is customised – I made mine a ridiculously tall, fat elven fighter with a stupidly high-pitched voice – but the other two that can tag along have to be hired from off the streets based on your own evaluation of their stats, skills, vocation ranking, fashion sense, and who their preferred power metal band is.

This is where the online functions come in since you can pick up other player's pawns, and have your own kiss someone else's ass for a bit while you're resting so they can bring back little goodies for you; likewise, you can give the pawns you've rented gifts and even grade them on their performance before sending them on their way as a sort of thank you note to the owners for providing you with such outstanding slavery services. I kind of prefer this approach to multiplayer, since it means I can assist others and benefit from their efforts without having to directly interact with them, kind of like Journey but with more prostitution. OK yeah, the pimping thing does get kind of weird after a while, but there's never really any attempt to paint them as anything more than mindless masochistic robots, so I never felt bad about using them for imported profit or forcing them into unwinnable scenarios while I looted everything in the next room, so that's score one for sociopathy at least.

Mind, travel is kind of a snorefest since there's no easier means to move from destination A to destination B aside from running as fast as you can before your stamina metre runs out, particularly draining when your objective is half way across the kingdom; I thought I was supposed to be some celebrity chosen one recognised by the Duke himself, but it seems even a horse is too much to ask from these freeloading whores. The absolute freedom of the game's large world may sound good on paper, but it lends itself to balancing issues as there's no indication that any given quest may be out of your league until you've travelled roughly the distance of the Tanami Track and have your face converted into cracker condiments by a randomly spawned chimera, so the word "grind" soon begins to creep up on you like a particularly clingy neighbour.

Sure it's fun, but is it as brilliant as it could be? 'fraid not.

Another prominent feature that the game has to boast about is monster climbing, the mechanic that made Shadow of the Colossus the single greatest game I've ever played, so forgive me if I seem spoiled when I say the monster climbing in Dragon's Dogma is kind of lacking, and that's not just because the feature is rarely ever used. Considering the average size for most of the big beasties is three times your height, they just can't hope to compare to the invigorating triumphs of Shadow of the Colossus' hulking monstrosities, and the lack of indication where you're supposed to hit for bonus damage doesn't bode well with the large monsters having stupid amounts of health relative to how much they can smash out of you. You can climb anywhere on the monster in opposed to Shadow of the Colossus' systematic puzzle-based hiking so movement can feel a bit wonky at times, not to mention many of them have an aggravating tendency to flip on their backside to crush you whenever you're most not prepared for it. Don't get me wrong, though, it's kind of hard to completely fuck up the excitement of monster climbing, but the way Dragon's Dogma does it feels like trying to joy ride on a disgruntled English Mastiff; it may be funny for a little while, but the benefits quickly pale in comparison to the blood streaming down the sidewalk.

Gripes aside, here's the thing; as unprofessional as it may sound, I sometimes don't play a game all the way to the end if I feel I'm just not having any fun, but here I am about 40 hours into Dragon's Dogma and I'm still playing so that should probably speak for itself. Dragon's Dogma isn't going to wow anyone with staggering innovation or imagination, but it's still fun in its own way, the mechanics are functional and interesting enough, and there's nothing particularly offensive about it, which is more than can be said about most triple-A titles. On the particularly dreary Winter days I've been suffering in my time playing this it's definitely an enjoyable time sink to drink hot chocolate to, so if that's all you want then definitely give it a chance; if not, then I guess you could just enjoy having a real life instead.

The 'Shroom: Crocodile Style Reviews
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2011
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Psychonauts
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Assassin's Creed: Revelations
2012
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The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Okami Icon.png
Ōkami
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NeverDead
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Kid Icarus: Uprising and Asura's Wrath
Journey Icon.png
I Am Alive and Journey
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Prototype 2
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Dragon's Dogma
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Spec Ops: The Line
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Darksiders II
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Sleeping Dogs
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Dishonored
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Assassin's Creed III
2013
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PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
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MediEvil
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Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3
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Tomb Raider
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BioShock Infinite
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Metro: Last Light
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Remember Me
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The Last of Us
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State of Decay and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
2015
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Half-Life series
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Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
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Darkest Dungeon and Hand of Fate
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Bloodborne
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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
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Splatoon
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Life Is Strange
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Until Dawn
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Mad Max
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Guitar Hero Live and Rock Band 4
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Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
2016
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Fallout 4
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Ico and Shadow of the Colossus
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Far Cry: Primal


Caiman Gamin'

Xpike (talk)

I'm sure you’ve noticed that I haven't done this in…quite some time. But I have a good excuse! School. That’s all I'm gonna say about that, but I plan on popping on here and doing a review once in a while. I really don't have much to talk about in this introduction, however I guess that I should tell you to go and check out the Steam Summer Sale, IF when the time this article is published is still up. Oh, and The Dark Knight Rises is coming out/came out, so don’t forget to check that movie out! <shameless advertising ends>

Cg 7 12 1.png

Well now for the review itself. Remember last time, way, way back; when I said I was gonna review Mass Effect 3? Well, I got the game in time to fully play though it one time and review it, BUT Origin didn’t like that plan, so it spent 1 whole week doing everything it could to make the game not install correctly. So, I got to play it, but I didn’t finish it in time for me to make a good review out of it. Don't worry though, eventually that game will be reviewed someday. In the meantime, how about I review the other 2 Mass Effect games? And if I review Mass Effect 3 next month, it’ll even make a nice two-parter, so that’s a plus.
Review PC game for N64 month.

Warning: The review contains slight Mass Effect 1 and 2 spoilers.

Disclaimer: The review was made using the PC versions as references, and at the time of the review, no DLC for either game had been purchased.

Ok then, starting with Mass Effect released on 2008. The game is a space opera action RPG in which you control a space marine (what else?) named Commander Shepard, which as part of the appeal is fully customizable. Yes, that means you can use hours of your time as to make your own face be Shepard! (why you would do that instead of just jumping into the game and actually enjoy it is beyond me, though). You also choose his background, which believe it or not affects some side missions you get and I think it also changes some conversations.

The game itself starts on a mission to a human colony named Eden Prime, but SURPRISE some space elite guy has betrayed the galaxy and killed 2 of your partners. So you go to the Citadel, which is like the space hub, and nobody believes you of course, so you need to go to 3 planets with your team, which you recruited on the space hub part, and do things.

Remember when I told you there were going to be slight spoilers? Well, here they are: Turns out there's an ancient race named the Reapers that are giant robots that destroy almost all organic life every so and so years, and the bad elite guy was actually just a puppet of one of these guys, named Sovereign. End spoiler. Why was it necessary to say this? Because if you want to jump right into the sequel, and for purposes of this review, you'll really need to know this.

Cg 7 12 2.png
Imagine this, but with no skill required, and that’s pretty much Easy mode.

“But ENOUGH with the story, amirite?” someone normal would say. “What about the gameplay?” Well…honestly, I can't say much about the gunplay since the quick playthough I did for this review was on Easy. Yes, I know most RPG fans would burn me at the stake for that, but I honestly did not care too much about it. I was in it for the story. But I can say that the Mako vehicle parts are horrible, with the tank behaving more like a goddamn rubber toy.

The other part of gameplay I dared to travel to is the conversation system. Now, you may think I'm insane for thinking chatting with people is a vital part of gameplay, but then you haven't obviously played a Mass Effect game. More or less 60% of your game will be spent making choices and hearing someone talk. Now this may sound like it's a chore, but the writing and the space bar make up for it, and your choices most of the time actually open up new dialogues or affect the story and universe.

I think that's about it for the first game, which I must say, compared to its sequel, is somewhat lackluster, but I would and will still recommend it, because without experiencing a part of the trilogy, you really aren't doing it right.

Cg 7 12 3.png
Yep, the story starts with you dying.

Moving on the sequel, of which I can speak somewhat more, since I played it on Normal, let me start by saying that, in my opinion, Mass Effect 2 is a sequel that completely destroys the original in every aspect.

Now to start start, I'll begin with the story. After the bad guys lost on the previous game, Shepard is now searching the galaxy in case more Reapers rear their ugly head out, but a new, weird race called the Collectors track down Shepard first and kill him and his ship. Shepard is left floating in space, and some things happen that aren't explained in the game, but rather in some comics they published. ANYWAY, Shepard ends up in the hands of a human supremacist group called Cerberus, which, ironically, start a successful project to revive him. And even though it takes two years, Shepard is like new, and now working with the intel Cerberus gives him to take down the Collectors.

The game then dissolves into gathering your perfect team to face them in a suicide mission, and that’s about it without giving much away. The interesting part is that, if you played though Mass Effect 1, you can import your character into the game, and that makes every single choice you made affect the sequel, be it from character interactions, to sidequests and emails you get.

The combat is now much more like a normal 3rd person shooter, with the powers limited to optional ammo and 2 or 3 “magic” or biotics, which are now unlimited in use so you don’t have to worry about them. Like always, you have two squad members with you at all times. And that’s about it, it’s now a normal third person shooter.

Cg 7 12 4.png
It doesn’t really show in this screenshot, but Afterlife is a great place.

With that said, it's a really good third person shooter, and don't think that the story has taken a hit because of it. Your squadmates are all extremely well written, and you can see most of them develop while the story passes. The new settings are awesome, with especial mention to Omega, the galaxy's most corrupt place that houses the best nightclub in a game ever.

However, if there was one part of the game that really, REALLY, shouldn't be there, it would be planet mining. Imagine the fun of a text based adventure game, but it also being part gambling, and that's the gist of it.

In short, I really recommend both games to anyone who hasn’t tried them, and, spoilers, the third one is even better, but that’s for another time. Both are good science fiction games, and while the combat isn’t memorable, the story and characters, along with the setting and music, will sure pull you in.

…Geez, what a crummy last sentence.

By the way, there isn't really any sex in any of the games (the sex scenes don't show anything of anyone), don't really believe all you hear in media.

Should Have Been

MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Superman- uh, I mean, Super Mario 64

Hey guys, and welcome to Should not Have joined Been. It's the 64th Issue of the 'Shroom, so I thought "why not cover a Nintendo 64 game which is arguably one of the best games ever"? Well, Superman 64 isn't a Mario game, so Super Mario 64 will have to do.

What should have been in this game?

Wouldn't you have loved to burn your enemies with a Fire Flower?
Joking aside, this is, in some people's eyes, one of the greatest games ever made. It set a very high standard for 3D games at the time. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement... First, I'd have liked to have seen some classic Power-Ups in this game, like the Fire Flower or the Star. I like the different Caps Mario could pick up, like the Wing Cap, but I think they could have had more power-ups. Maybe Nintendo could have
Never trust cake in video games. Ever.
even included power-ups from Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, which could have stopped items like the Cape Feather or Super Leaf fading into obscurity (BTW HI MG1). Speaking of the Wing Cap, I found it pretty hard to control, and I think they could have improved the controls on that.

I think the game could have had a better story. While "Mario has to find 120 Stars hidden throughout levels and defeat Bowser because he has kidnapped Peach" is slightly different from the usual "Mario has to defeat Bowser because he has kidnapped Peach", I'd have enjoyed some variation on this. Maybe Bowser could have had a different motive for kidnapping Peach? Maybe Peach could have been stolen from Bowser by a new enemy? I know they varied this a few times after this game, but I think they could have done this as early as this.

You defeat this boss by high-fiving it to death.
Of course he's not a king. He's obviously a big.
I also thought the battles with Bowser were too similar. The only things that really varied were the arena and the amount of hits he took. I think Bowser should have had a few different attacks as the battles with him progressed, so it wasn't essentially the same fight three times. I think there also could have been more variation with the Bosses - while there were quite a few different bosses, many of them were just oversized versions of normal enemies; I mean, look at how many's names start with "big": Big Bob-omb, Big Bully, Big Boo (who's fought three times in the same level), Big Mr. I...and most of the ones whose names don't even start with "big" are just larger versions of normal enemies. Most of these bosses are defeated in the same way as their smaller counterparts, too. The Eyerok was probably the most original boss, and that was just a hand with eyes (and everything has eyes in Mario games!). I think there could have been more bosses who weren't just large enemies.
You'd think this is in Snowman's Land, buuut...no, it's the other one.


I don't think it was just the bosses that were slightly lacking originality: while I loved all of them, I felt some of the levels were too similar. For example: Cool, Cool Mountain and Snowman's Land; Jolly Roger Bay and Dire, Dire Docks. I think maybe the game could have had more different levels. For example, a forest or jungle level would have been nice, or perhaps even a beach level.
L is real 7/21/12
Additionally, it would have been nice to have some kind of town somewhere, probably in the hub (Peach's Castle and the grounds and whatnot). Not a town like the one in Wet-Dry World, but with actual NPCs, and houses you can explore.

I think Luigi should have been playable in this game. No, he's not playable. "L IS REAL 2401" is probably referring to Paper Mario, if anything. But, maybe after completing the game, an unlockable Luigi would have been nice. It would have been good to be able to complete the game again as Luigi, like in Super Mario Galaxy, which would definitely give the game more replay value. Next, the "you need one Stars" and "it that really you" mistakes should have been fixed in the final game, and there were many glitches that probably could have been fixed - some of them allowed the game to be completed in about 13 minutes. I'd imagine an old game to have more glitches than a newer one, but I'm sure some of them could be fixed.

Enemies who should have been in this game

A Paragoomba
  • Shy Guys – Shy Guys are pretty popular, and I like them. They could act like they did in Super Mario Bros. 2, and you could pick them up and throw them at other enemies.
  • KING BILL (or should i say BIG BILL)
  • Paratroopa/Paragoomba – I think it'd be more interesting if they had some of these, as opposed to just normal Goombas or Koopa Troopas.
  • A Wiggler as a regular enemy – It was good as a boss, but I think a Wiggler as a regular enemy too would have been better.

Beta elements

An early Pokey. Strangely happy, yet slow, as usual.
This game has quite a lot of beta elements, so I won't waste time with one of those silly intros you'd usually see under the first section, or at the start of the Fake News or anything like that.

Oh, wait, I just did.

Anyway, this game was originally planned for the Super Famicom (known as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) outside of Japan), but was moved after limitations, and the fact that the era of the SNES was dying. Shigeru Miyamoto had thought of making a game like this as early as during the development of Star Fox. It's been rumoured the SNES version was going to be called "Super Mario FX", and was a 3D Mario game that used the console's Super FX chip. However, we can't be certain if this is true, as there's not a lot of evidence "Super Mario FX" existed.

The elusive(?) trampoline.
That Thwomp looks creepy too...I don't like it here in beta Super Mario 64, I wanna go home. :'(
There was once a multiplayer function for this game, but that was scrapped. It was going to be split-screen, with Mario and Luigi (duh?). There were originally meant to be a huge 32 courses in this game, but only 15 were used, in the end. A classic NES painting was found among the used painting textures, so that may have been one of the unused levels. In some sketch-ups of this game's early development in Super Mario History, Mario can be seen jumping on a piano, climbing up a ladder, crushing a rock with his head, swinging around a pole and crushing a rock with his head (ouch). A yellow ! Switch was found in the game, as well as a trampoline with a...oh, there's a picture somewhere near this paragraph, use your eyes for goodness sake.


Beta Flower.gif
Continuing on the unused stuff, a chequered platform, not too different from the elevator in Whomp's Fortress was found, but it was flatter than the elevator platforms, and did nothing. A platform that rotates every couple of seconds was found too. Bizarrely enough, a frames of a flower were found in the texture...here's where it gets strange - the texture for Lethal Lava Land.
Sm64betayoshi.png
A Yoshi Egg was found in the texture of Wet-Dry World, and an ice texture with cracks was found in Cool, Cool Mountain. There was also going to be a cactus somewhere. Nintendo were also planning to incorporate the Flagpole into this game.
I need to think of better captions...
Mario and Bowser originally had different voices - Mario's voice sounded more screechy and childish, and Bowser sounded like a tiger. There were four unused music tracks - two were for Bowser battles, two were alternate versions of music in the final game. Big Boo's Haunt originally appeared to be based around Keys. The Big Boo held a key instead of a Power Star, and the keys would unlock the different rooms. As far as unused enemies go, the most well known is the Blargg, which remains in the game's data, and would appear at Lethal Lava Land. There was also going to be regular Bully-sized versions of the Chill Bully in Snowman's Land, and a water mine (which looked like those bombs in the Bowser battles) in one of the water levels.

Thanks for reading, and I'll hopefully see you next month!


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KING BILL

Kingbill.png

Dippy's Matilda

Crocodile Dippy (talk)


Hey everyone, it's back to serious face time on Dippy's Matilda, although a fair warning that this time I want to discuss something a bit more serious than usual. I don't really like writing articles based on topical subjects, since I'm not a news journalist and trying to write based on current events tends to leave me on short notice, and I prefer to think about issues for several months to really get a grip on the situation and think about possible solutions to the problem. But with the recent Tropes vs. Women in Video Games disaster, the controversial molestation charges surrounding the new Tomb Raider, and the recent wave of dismissal and predictably harsh internet arguments about the topic, I don't feel I can postpone talking about the issue of Sexism in Video Games anymore. Friends of mine can vouch that this has been something I've been mulling over for a while now anyway, so it's not entirely on short notice.

I would first like to clarify, however, that while I could elaborate on why the aforementioned misogynistic outcry against the Tropes video reflects very poorly on us as gamers, and why stopping sexual harassment and discrimination is without exception a responsibility of all gamers; given how serious and broad the subject of harassment is I don't feel comfortable writing about it at this particular juncture, and would rather wait until I have better solutions to the problem. Instead, I'd like to use this opportunity to explain some of the reasons I personally believe people get so upset with the generally degrading portrayal of women in video games and some ideas I have for how to correct these depictions. As I'm obviously not female, I don't claim to speak for all women and feminists; these are just my own personal conclusions drawn from my understanding of the situation and input I've received from some of my female gamer friends. So let's begin. although I should warn you early that there's some fairly questionable material presented in this article for the sake of example, so just be wary of that when you're clicking external links.

No Physical Diversity

Before moving into personality, I want to point out the distinct differences in how male and female characters are presented in terms of physical appearance. Limiting our view to human or humanoid characters, have you ever noticed that male protagonists in video games can come in all shapes and sizes, not just the overly muscular, tough guy look we normally associate with ideal masculinity? From Heavy's large build; to Cloud Strife's femininity; to Guybrush Threepwood's dorkiness; to Wario's lard belly and poor sense of personal hygiene; to Niko Bellic's rugged looks; to Agent 47's baldy-headed grimness. Hell, the most famous video game character of all time is a short, chubby Italian plumber; not exactly the hottest catch by conventional standards of male attractiveness. Now let's look at the average appearance of female characters in games; Lara Croft, Samus Aran, Tifa Lockhart, Cammy, Jill Valentine, Miranda Lawson, Sophitia, the list could go on. Ignoring their personalities just for a second, are you noticing a pattern in the way they look?

World of Warcraft – and well, virtually any fantasy game for that matter – typically offers a very disturbing contrast between the male and female characters.

Now no one is really against there being sexy and attractive female characters – after all, the male side still has Nathan Drake and the Prince for masculine good looks – but the issue here is that they're all depicted in the same generic standard of beauty that modern society still measures the merits of women on, while male characters have been depicted with a far greater range of body types and physiques, and it's really just not on. More variety in the way female protagonists look – especially when betraying the conventional ideals of beauty, as many male heroes and villains have – would be a huge step forward for the industry and send out a message that not all women in games are designed simply to cater to stereotyped sexual fantasies, and that we are mature enough to deliver female characters of all manner of physical appearance.

Some people argue that this isn't really a big problem in gaming because that's just the way things work in all areas of life, both in other entertainment and in daily life itself, but that's a terrible argument because that shouldn't be how it works. It's not how society should judge women, and it's not the mentality games as a prominent entertainment medium should encourage; we can't just insist this is the only way women should look, we need to display equal treatment of both men and women when designing characters, and that means a broader palette of body types and physical features.

Demeaning Marketing

This concept art of Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3 says that she's under a lot of stress in a dangerous situation, but is doing her best to keep her composure and defend herself if necessary.

Marketing is a very tricky matter, because it's not just showing off your gameplay or story; it's also trying to establish the personality and demeanour of the characters. So when we see a character in promotional art, posters, or videos we expect their actions and, in the case of still art, their poise and expression to say a thousand words about the character, to get the message across about what their attitude is and what defines them as a character. This is done far more varied for male characters than female ones; from this picture we know Mario is cheerful and go-lucky; in this picture we see fury in Kratos (even the Sackboy version tells us that); this picture indicates strength, which describes Akuma pretty well; here, we can understand through Nathan Drake's expressions alone that he has an air of smug assurance that he knows what he's doing; this art of Sly Cooper gives an impression of cheekiness and confidence. But for most female characters, whenever developers present them they fall back on suggestive or comprising poses and expressions, which degrades any sort of message about the character they were trying to convey; all we're likely to gather from these is that the characters are saying “we're here for your male gazing pleasure, so look at all of what's on sale to your heart's content”. The information you're supposed to gather from the artwork – about who these characters are as people, and why you should be interested in them – isn't communicated effectively at all since the primary focus, what you're meant to be looking at, is their body; most likely if you know anything about any of the above examples, it's because you researched them. This is not only objectifying to women, it implies we – as young males – shouldn't even be caring about any other aspect of them. And that's just degrading to both genders.

People are generally more complex than just how large their chest is in relation to their waist – or at least they should be – so it's really not good that more often than not, attempts to market female characters trivialises every other part of their personality just to accentuate their body. The fact that this sort of “titillation first, personality later” trick to character design is the majority definitely means there's a problem in the way we're trying to articulate our female characters. For example, see this poster for Soul Calibur V and this video for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (NOTE: they are very much NSFW), and you'll see what I mean by sexist marketing. Notice how all discernible features of the characters are eschewed in favour of showing you their oversized breasts, reducing those characters to mere objects that are meant to be ogled and nothing more. And no, the fact that many of the characters in these games are just one-dimensional eye-candy anyway doesn't excuse this sort of disgraceful objectification. This is not how we should present female characters, and we should not deliver the message that a woman's body is the only part of them we should care about. Simply put, this all comes down to equal treatment; if we're going to market our male characters on their attitude, behaviour, and actions rather than their bodies, and present them true to their personality in all official materials, then we must do the exact same for women.

Stereotyped Characterization

So we have the superficial done, so let's move into the most important part of this argument; the personality of female characters. With a few exceptions that I feel obligated to elaborate on later, many of them are very clichéd and stereotyped, abiding either by archaic ideals of gender roles or based on current incorrect societal assumptions of what women do and don't like and how they do and don't behave. In some regards it makes sense; I mean video games are still struggling with their male characters as well, but I feel developers have made more progress with delivering interesting male characters and exploring typically masculine issues but haven't quite got to the same degree of maturity with female characters yet. I don't really want to dwell on what we've got wrong – especially since I could fill an entire year's worth of Matilda stories with such ranting – so I'd rather focus on how we can make a truly amazing female character. Ultimately, no character should be defined by their sex, race, appearance or orientation; these superficial traits may be an important part of who they are and how they approach societal expectations of their demographics, but it shouldn't be the only reason we're expected to care about them.

Here's Jade, the character I always seem to fall back to during these arguments. She dresses, behaves, and speaks like a normal person; her occupation (photography) is something that we can understand and relate to; and her own personal ideals and talents unique to her in relation to the world around her are what truly define her as a character.

It goes without saying that there's not really that much of a difference between men and women as far as behaviour and personality goes; we're all human beings with our own set of problems, tastes, and ideals that can be shared in one way or another by thousands of other people from different backgrounds. There are societal pressures unique to each gender, yes, and they are an important part of who we are and how our personalities are shaped; but a woman's personality shouldn't be defined solely by those expectations and stereotypes alone, but rather their own personal convictions and approach to those stigmas – what parts of their world and society they refuse to conform to and what parts they choose to adhere to. Just like any good character, and really, just like any real human being; male, female, black, white, gay, straight, transgendered, and all other walks of life. I mean, no one ever thinks “Welp, here are all the ideals and norms society expects my demographic to adhere to, so I'm either going to completely conform to or completely reject them all with no independent thought of my own” unless they're either critically insecure or manically depressed. To give a few examples of really great female characters, we have characters like Jade from Beyond Good & Evil; Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3; Governor Elaine Marley from the Monkey Island series; Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2; Zoë Castillo from Dreamfall: The Longest Journey; Chloe Frazer from Uncharted 2; and even on the silent protagonist side, we can see this sort of dynamic displayed in Samus Aran's actions, Other M notwithstanding. All of these characters managed to seem real and engaging by transcending the stereotypes associated with their gender and standing out as unique individuals, defining themselves by the way they faced their respective obstacles and how they responded to the world and people around them, and the societal pressures placed on them.

But how does that work for, say, a historically accurate pre-civil rights setting where women still hadn't found equality and freedom of expression? Well, why not exploring how other characters interact with a non-conforming female character? You've got to admit, a woman with her own independent set of ideals – some conflicting with the gender roles of the time, some in-line with them – could add a lot of depth and development to the characters around her; on the male side, some would struggle to come to terms with her expression, while other less progressive people would seek to oppress it; and for women, those around her could either endeavour to emulate that freedom or choose to remain within the status quo of that era's gender norms. If you're just trying to go for a straight-up action game, how about drawing influence from female warrior figures like Joan of Arc or Hua Mulan… or hell, why not play as them?? These, in my eyes, are good starts to featuring independent female characters in an otherwise sexist or archaic setting. I'm fairly hopeful that the decision to make the protagonist of the upcoming Assassin's Creed III: Liberation an African-French female assassin in 18th century Louisiana, not to mention the actual Assassin's Creed III's move to feature a native American assassin as our main hero, will bear fine examples of how to create characters of distinct, oppressed minorities that aren't just defined by that fact alone. Fingers crossed.

Dismissing the Issue

Samus Aran is one of the finest examples of a good female character in the medium, especially since much of what makes her such a remarkable person is presented through her actions and mannerisms, not her speech or physical appearance. I mean think of it this way; do you really care that a D-cup hides under that suit? No, of course not.

I think the biggest reason why people get so upset in relation to the sexism in games argument is that so many people are unwilling to seriously confront the problem and discuss solutions to it; at least, that's what annoys me the most. Whenever it's brought up that gamers and developers alike haven't quite done all they can to deliver truly great female characters and create a more tolerant environment that's of equal appeal to both men and women, so many gamers just shut off or throw the dismissive arguments “just ignore it, it'll go away eventually”, “why are we even talking about something like this” or, in the worst case scenario, “stop trying to ruin the fun of games”. Not to be terse, but… grow up. Encouraging developers to create more realistic female characters that women gamers can look up to and appreciate should not damage the intrigue of those characters or even the appeal of the game for you just because they don't look or behave like Ivy Valentine, and it certainly won't stop certain developers from making oversexualised women catering to those fantasies if they still want to make them.

Games may be an escape from reality, but that doesn't exclusively apply to just men; as I keep saying, it's a medium for all people, of all ages, sex, orientation, racial background, and ideological views, and the idea that questioning any social norms that infringe on that open, non-discriminatory purpose of the medium, and that trying to bring some better ideals of equality into it, is somehow not important or even damaging to the appeal of games, is ludicrous. We should do more to reflect the openness and joy of the medium in not just our own behaviour and approach to equal rights concerns, but in the behaviour of our characters. Our combined voices and efforts can and will go a long way to making advancements for equality in video games, I can assure you.

Huh, that turned out a lot longer than I had originally thought… hope I've got you thinking at least, and hope I didn't mess up. Thanks for reading, see you next month.

Book Reviews

Tucayo (talk)

Fame
Fame.jpg
Full title: Fame: A Novel in Nine Stories (Ruhm: Ein Roman in Neun Geschichten)
Author: Daniel Kehlmann
Released: 2009 (German)
2010 (English)
Pages: 208
Buy: *Amazon
*iTunes

HI, readers! Welcome to the first EVER installment of Book Reviews. I'm your bibliophile Statistics Manager, Tucayo, and I'll be writing this section just for this time. If you want to sign up to write this review, please contact Crocodile Dippy on the forums.

For this first review, I’ll be taking a look at a not-so-known book by a German/Austrian writer called Daniel Kehlmann, Fame (original German title: Ruhm). The full title is Fame: A Novel in Nine Stories, but don’t let that fool you, this book is by no standards a novel, it’s rather a short story collection (according to experts, that was a marketing move). I’ll try to keep spoilers to a minimum, but there will be minor details about the plot.

The book tells us nine stories, eight of them with a different main character. The characters and stories are loosely connected to each other. The main character of the first story becomes a minor character in the eight story, a minor character in the first story becomes the main character in the second and ninth stories, and so on; which leads us to think, it’s a small world after all. All nine stories revolve around the loss of identity, and of course, fame.

The stories are told in different ways, be it from the eyes of the protagonist, from the eyes of a book author, from the perspective of a fictional character, or even by Daniel Kehlmann himself. While it is an interesting twist, it can prove mildly confusing, especially in chapters where the author gives no clue as to if it’s really happening or if it’s just a story. For example, chapter 6 (definitely the worst one) is told by a depressed author who writes self-help books (think Paulo Coelho), which leads to the chapter being narrated in a depressed and pseudo-poetic way.

The stories are designed to keep you thinking, since most of them have open endings (not my favorite, but they work really well in this book). The good part is, you get to decide who dies *evil laugh*. To sum up, it’s a short story collection, but the stories are very gracefully connected that it makes a nice read for those moments when you have nothing to do. But if you want a novel, this is book will definitely disappoint you.





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