About This Place

First started in late 2007, Kasey's Mobile Game Review (then just a regular feature of Kasey's Korner) started as a simul-post between here and IGN. Later I realized there's no reason to post it twice, when I can use the traffic on my own site. so, here we are, in 2010, and the mobile game industry has grown a bit. What do you think?

KMGR of "Bugs Bunny: Bunny Rescue"

Bugs Bunny's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.Image via Wikipedia

Bugs Bunny: Bunny Rescue brought out one of the perennial animation stars: Bugs Bunny, and many of his friends. However, the end result is more of an extremely simple puzzle, rather than a game. As such, it's not really worth the price of admission unless you can't get enough of Bugs Bunny.

Bunny Rescue basically is one of those flash games where you randomly pick one of the X buttons to push so something will grow. There is an optimum sequence for the button pushes to maximize the "growth", but it's up to you to figure that out. Bunny Rescue gives you amusing animations involving Bugs Bunny and friends, and only lets you play the next puzzle if solve this one. However, puzzles are simple enough that you'll probably be done with the game in less than 30 minutes.

For example, say, the huge Hairy Monster is about the break down the door. There's some exploding hair tunic, barber's scissors, a level to activate a trap door, and a rubber mallet (the cartoon kind). How do you use each in sequence (some takes several "turns" to activate) to take care of the hairy monster? You would 1) put the mallet in hands of the "knights" at the door, 2) put the hair tonic as a trap on the chandelier, by then the monster would have entered, got hit by the mallets, and got zapped by the tonic. 3) activate the trap door, which produces a barber's chair, and the monster falls into it, and 4) use the scissors!

As you can imagine, when there gets to be like 8 items, the combinations gets pretty darn large. At the end of the "puzzle" you get a rating about how close you got to use each item in the right place, so you can improve upon your previous attempt.

And really, that's all there is to the game. You'll get to see some classic Bugs Bunny characters, but that's about it.

If you like these light-hearted games, give them a try, though this game is way over-priced for the short amount of entertainment it provides.

Overall rating: 5.5 out of 10
Pros: classic Bugs Bunny characters, some clever animations
Cons: not much of a game here, only 5 puzzles to solve

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KMGR of "Tiki Tower"

Saimiri sciureus.Image via Wikipedia

Real Arcade also calls this "Tropical Towers". What it actually is, is "Bridge Builder" but with monkeys. Yes, monkeys as in simians. The story is simple: these five monkeys fell out of a plane and wants to go home, but they landed in a bunch of islands. Help them go through each island (each island is a level) by building them some bridges, and also find them all the bananas on the level as well. The result is surprisingly challenging and addictive piece of game that will have you coming back for more.

There are five groups of islands. Each island group has nine levels/islands. The first group is pretty simple, but later groups you *can* fall to your death. Third group introduces lava pools (needless to say, "monkey + lava = no-no"). Final two groups are for experts only. Each level, you are limited in the amount of bamboo you can use. Some levels comes with anchor points and maybe a few steel rods. You must construct one or more structure(s) that can get all five monkeys a) to the exit point, and optionally, b) allow them to grab all five bananas on the level. If you fulfill just a), you can pass on to the next level, but with a silver mask or less rating. If you fulfill both, you'll get a gold mask for the level.

If you manage to beat all 45, you will unlock the "Eco Warrior" mode, which makes you go back through each level and start REMOVING bamboo pieces! Do more with less, so to speak. On some levels you remove just 1, while on others you will need to remove like 8. It may sound impossible, but it is quite doable. I've gone WELL BEYOND what was requested before, and the monkeys DID escape with their bananas. It's all a matter of physics. Remove the required numbers, and you'll add "leaves" to the gold masks.

And remember, you are dealing with simians. They will go for the bananas if they can get to them, else they try to go for the exit... else they swing back and forth a bit and look for the path through. This may look stupid, but it is surprisingly efficient. It is also very hard on your bridge as the monkeys actually swing from junction to junction, and they can easily tear your structure apart if you did not "monkey-proof" it.

In fact, you can build free-rotating wheels (which are needed on some levels) as well as the standard bridges, towers, and so on.

Graphics are cute, and music does get a bit repetitive, but the sound effects are right on. And there are some awards awaiting you if you do complete the all three achievements (complete all islands, complete all islands with gold mask, finish Eco mode).

All in all, Tiki Towers is one of the most educational and fun games to come along in a while that is easily accessible (even for kids), yet challenging even for adults. With nearly 100 levels (counting both regular and eco modes) to go through you will be spending quite a bit of time, and perhaps, even more by beating the requirements of eco mode. Just how few bamboo sticks CAN you use?

Overall rating: 8 out of 10 (!)
Pros: easily understandable, charming, AND still challenging
Cons: no editor, no online board for records, no multi-player

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KMGR of "Exile: Journey through Darkness"

The Sixth SenseImage via WikipediaExile: Journey through Darkness is more like interactive fiction than a game... It features excellent writing, but ultimately isn't that much of a game as you don't as much play it as see it happen. The end result, including the major "twist" at the end, is as shocking as it intends to be, and the result... again, is mixed.

The game is an isometric adventure with very few commands. You basically can choose to go in a particular direction (as dictated by arrow on screen to another screen), or interact with something on screen.

Its most interesting aspect is known as "face-off", where you need to "battle" your opponent in a test of wills. Your opponent will say something, which will reveal his upcoming attack: plead, threaten, lie, or deal. The game explains which one beats which one. So choose wisely. If you chose the right one, he loses energy. If you both picked the same or polar opposite, both lose. The idea is to deplete his mental energy before he does it to yours. If you win, he will do what you want.

The story started with a bang. Your character woke up underwater, and struggled to the surface. You know your daughter Perdita is nearby, and she is in danger. You must make your way back into town to find her... But how do you convince the person that you see to help you? And why is he so reluctant to get involved?

And the story just starts to take twists and turns you don't expect. You start to gain various powers... some of which you need to solve your problems. You'll find a conspiracy around you... many people wish to kill you... and you WILL find out who really killed you at the end... and it'll be a huge "Sixth Sense"-type revelation that'd be so shocking... you'll flip. And too bad as that's the end of the game.

The graphics are a bit low-tech, but they got the job done. Music... is okay.

All in all, Exile: Journey Through Darkness makes you justify does the ends really justify the means, and what WILL you do for love? And how will you handle the truth? It has great writing, but the game aspects are just a bit too simple.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: great story, some genuinely shocking moments, great twist
Cons: not much of a GAME

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CSI: NYImage via Wikipedia

Gameloft so far has done a pretty good job converting CSI and CSI Miami into a mobile format using their "Blood on Campus" engine. So is the new CSI:NY worth playing? Yes, if you like the genre. The story is twisted enough and enough red herrings will be found, and licensed use of four major CSI:NY characters (Mac, Stella, Danny, and Hawkes are present) keeps things authentic.

For those of you who are not familiar with the series... CSI:NY is a TV series about crime scene investigators of the New York Police Department. These folks come to the crime scene, and using the smallest clues left and a lot of scientific and other investigations, they uncover the truth. And this game lets you be Mac, the leader of CSI:NY, investigate this story of apparently suicide... or is it? Young woman fell head-first from 42nd story window right through windshield of a taxi.

The game gives you some pointers like objectives, as well as a few hints like "how many pieces of evidences to collect" counter. But basically, you move from location to location, process the location for every last bit of clue available, talk to the suspects for information, and then go back to CSI lab to process the evidence gathered, which will give you new leads to follow and rule out old ones. Using the right tool to gather evidence is the key to getting a good rating, as well as doing good lab work (i.e. playing the minigames well).

When you have enough evidence, suspects will be detained and brought to precinct HQ for interrogation. Sometimes, presenting the right piece of evidence will cause the subject to loosen their tongue. At other times proper use of good cop or bad cop technique will also help, as are techniques like repeating the question (which may catch the subject at a lie, or get more information). The ideal case would be a confession, but that doesn't always happen.

You must complete the game at regular difficulty to unlock the hard difficulty, which isn't really that much harder, just no more prompts like "flashing bits of evidence" when you're supposed to find them, and a bit more time to play the minigames.

Graphics are typical of CSI games from gameloft... The digitized characters are prefect, and between the scenes you get a 'saying' from each character, usually something profound-sounding, like "I'm no longer surprised at anything I see." Controls are responsive, though sometimes you'd swear the controls are cheating you when you're playing the "DNA Extraction" minigame (which is related to Zuma/match 3). Sound is okay, but not too surprising. What is surprising is they added a 'sniper' minigame to the story, and I'm not going to say any more about it as it may spoil the story.

All in all, CSI:NY is a highly polished police-investigative game that follows the formula well enough, and it feels like a CSI:NY episode, and that is a compliment.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: feels like an episode, lots of twists and turns
Cons: nothing really new here, seen it all before

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KMGR of "LocoRoco Hi"

LocoRoco with Mui-Mui and Domingo!Image by Lancer873 via FlickrLocoRoco was a hit on the PSP, where you guide little blobs (that can combine into a bigger blob) around the fanciful and cute world by tilting and bumping the world, and occasionally, by ordering them to split up. On the way, you run the blob into various things. The game's so cute, that Sony decided to port the game to mobile phones. How did LocoRoco Hi fare? Not as well as one had hoped.

LocoRoco has some weird control scheme... Instead of controlling the blobs themselves, you control the world by "tilting". However, as not all phones have tilt sensors, you are reduced to using two keys on opposite ends of the keyboard. You also get to "bump" the field to make the blob fly a little (think "pinball machine") but in this case you have to push BOTH tilt buttons together. ARGH! Who designed this interface? Finally, a button splits (single press) or combines (press and hold) the blobs.

The intro is excellent... a nonverbal explanation about how certain bad elements stole away the sun and you need to use your powers to go through the level, recover the people lost, and try to grow as large as possible along the way as you go about your journey. The graphics are extremely 2D and cute, and nicely animated, though mobile version is nowhere as nice as the PSP version. And neither is the music.

The port's charm is mostly there, but the controls are horrible, and they can't be remapped. Argh! I tried to make it through a couple levels, and through several attempts I was able to jump / bump high enough to access some areas, but it is basically fighting the user interface, which is BAD when it comes to game. Why can't they just let us use LEFT/RIGHT to tilt, UP to bump, and OK to split/combine? Other than that, there really isn't much to complain about the game. This game is basically a platformer in disguise, with some WEIRD controls.

With that said, in actual play most of the frustration is spent on fighting the weird control scheme and getting "bump" to bump properly (and jump to where you *do* want to go). It takes a lot of practice.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: cute, simple controls, great story
Cons: a platformer with weird controls, non-responsive controls

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A new record in KMGR... 6 previews all at once!

Yep, this time, we're going to bring you ALL SIX previews together!

LocoRoco Hi -- using 2D "tilt controls", you try to gather up as many items as possible and jump around the level. While cute, it feels to be more fighting the interface than actually having fun.

CSI:NY -- Gameloft brings us yet another CSI game, this time featuring the gang from New York City (Mac, Stella, Danny, Hawkes, and the gang). A top fashion model appears to have fallen to her death. Can you help Mac find the clues, and solve the murder?

Exile: Journey Through Darkness -- adventure game that features an excellent story, but not much of game play. You were just resurrected by powers unknown. You know your daughter's near, and she is in danger... How/why did you die, and what will you do to get back to your daughter?

Tiki Towers -- Help the five monkeys make their way through five island groups by building them some bridges. Basically bridge-builder, but with monkeys, and some banana bonus items the monkeys can get. Additional modes to unlock, can be quite addictive!

Bugs Bunny: Bunny Rescue -- find the optimum sequence to activate some gadgets in scenes from classic Bugs Bunny episodes, featuring Yosemite Sam, the Martian, and more. Only 5 episodes means you'll probably be done within the hour, probably much less.

Demolition Derby -- 2D isometric game is way too small even on my LG VX9900 EnV, and controls are pretty bad. It's just not much fun to play, esp. in demo derby, as the dead cars put out a SOLID column of smoke, obscuring EVERYTHING. Somehow the derby is much harder than the figure 8 racing. Overall, not that much fun.

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KMGR of "Clue"

Clue (video game)Image via WikipediaThe classic Parker Brothers game gets to the mobile phone! Is it good enough? Quite good, actually!

For those of you who have no idea what Clue is, it's basically a murder mystery with you as the inspector. However, you're not the police... You're a reporter for a tabloid paper who must break the news ASAP, and you're given a short amount of time (less than 100 minutes) to question suspects, find clues, and figure out who killed Boddy where with what (i.e. who, what room, and what weapon).

To make it "fair", there are rules. The information suspect gives are always truthful, but may be useless at first glance. You also have to take their statements and parse it into where clues may be hiding. For example, if a suspect said something about "musical instruments", you'll have to check the various rooms for trumpets, piano, and so on. Searching those items will yield additional clues. And each room can only contain ONE suspect and maybe one weapon. However, each "movement" from room to room costs time, as does the questions and searches. If you run out of time, you can ask the editor for more time, but you will lose 1 of the 4 possible stars for solving. The other three stars are for getting the who, where, and what correct.

To help your crime solving, you are issued with an all-purpose notes, which records everything important you found, both from scene and from suspects. You also get a crime map, which you should use to construct who was where when with what, as your final accusation is done with the map. Finally, you also have a list with which you can eliminate suspects. For example, if one suspect tells you that the murderer is a man, you can eliminate all the women as suspects. Similarly, if a suspect tells you that the murder weapon is a blunt weapon, you can eliminate the gun, the razor, and the axe from the suspect list. That should narrow down the possibilities considerably.

There are ten cases to solve, each of increasing difficulty and complexity. Beginning cases are simple enough, but later cases will involve a dozen rooms, six suspects, and six different possible weapons, and you will need to be very efficient with your questioning and clue analysis to find the suspect.

The interface *could* be better designed and more user-friendly, as hotkeys could have been assigned to bring up the notes, crime map, and eliminate options. Instead, you must choose them from the menu each and every time, and it's not possible to switch between them. You must quit out of each and load the other. Also, you also wish that the notes allows some organization other than by suspect.

However, the cases are infinitely replayable as the house layout (yes, it DOES matter), the distribution of suspects and weapons, and the actual solution is randomly generated each time, and the game automatically saves your progress if you quit the game.

The problem with this game is it does depend a little on luck... As you question suspects and they reveal clues, you may need to back track, and that takes "game time", which you have very little of.

Graphics are good, but there's only so much of the same scenery you can take, as the look of each room does not change, while the layout of the house can change. Music... is forgettable, and there really isn't much of a sound effect needed.

Overall, if you need something to challenge your brain, this game will do very nicely, and it's much more fun than those "Brain Challenge" games. But the interface issue means this can't get top award.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: random case every time you play, variety of cases, auto notes
Cons: interface issues, can be a bit repetitive, depends a little on luck

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KMGR of "Paws and Claws: Pet Vet"

Paws and Claws is a series of games that focuses on reflex and simple controls, and has to do with pets. Pet Vet lets you be a vet and treat various pet problems. No experience is needed, however. Controls are single-button-press timing affairs. The result is a charming is a bit too timing-dependent game that lets you learn about pet problems.

The control scheme is really very simple... There's an instrument you need to move... It can be a needle, a syringe, a bandage, a tweezer, an ointment tube... Doesn't matter. A cursor "circles" the item. Press OK and the item moves... Let go and the item stops, and the circle reverses direction (counter-clockwise to clockwise, and vice versa).

You can play a full 'career', which is 20 days, up to 5 patients a day, a single day 'quick game', or just "pick flowers", which lets you practice the control scheme.

As you go, if you can diagnose the problem with the first diagnosis method you pick, you get a bonus "heart". At the end, you are measured by the # of hearts you earned. Basically, the faster you diagnose the problem, the happier the owner is, while the faster you perform the "fix" on the patient, the happier the patient is. Both together determines how many hearts you get.

With a bit of experience, you'd know which complaints should be used with which diagnosis tool first. Foot ache is either a wound (magnifier) or a broken bone (X-ray). General fatigue / sad face is internal sickness (stethoscope).

At higher levels (later days of career) owners start talking nonsense or give wrong complaints, which makes your diagnosis more difficult.

The graphics are cartoony, a bit like Mii avatars. You can customize your vet with different cloths, hair, gender, eyes, and so on. And you'll be visited by a variety of pets... Dogs, cats, parrots, and rabbits, and lots of different problems.

You can pick fresh flowers daily, which seems to make the others happier. You also get improvements for your office, which makes the patients more relaxed, in career mode.

All in all, Paws and Claws: Pet Vet is an amusing little game that makes you learn about being a vet and a bit of pet illnesses, and is recommended for young kids, though it maybe a bit too simple for adults.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: simple control scheme, learning experience about pets
Cons: only 4 type of pets? easy to do okay, VERY difficult to do VERY WELL

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KMGR of "Stunt Car Racing: 99 Tracks"

An R/C truck pops a wheelie after a jump.Image via Wikipedia"Stunt Car Racing: 99 Tracks" is somewhat misnamed, and somewhat overblown, but it does offer quite a bit of challenge to those who want a non-violent game and race against the clock.

Basically, you drive a 4-wheeler on this 2D course, in a similar perspective and gameplay to Stuntman or even ATV Offroad Fury. The idea is simple: complete the course without destroying the car, and get as much points as you can. There are several ways to score points: you can beat the clock... At 90 seconds you get no bonus. The more time you can shave off the more points you'll get. Also, there are periodic bonus coins you can run into. Those give 100, 500, or 1000 points. Finally, stunts such as wheelie, jump, and perfect landing yields points as well. At the end of the run you are rated by your performance out of 5 stars. Speed isn't always the key!

Controls are very simple... Down to brake, OK to nitro, and left/right to raise/lower your car's nose. For example, to do a wheelie (nose in air and front-wheels off ground) you'd press and hold Q / Left until front wheels leave the ground. Then you try to hold it as long as you can. Jump is simple... Go off a ramp at speed. however, a far jump doesn't always get the "coins", and a short jump may land you in the badlands (which may instantly destroy your car). If you land with both sets of wheels (i.e. perfectly) you get a perfect landing, which is never that easy to pull off.

The "99 tracks" are actually 99 stages, divided into three seasons: spring (muddy), summer (sandy), and winter (snowy), each with multiple "routes" which are composed of the different stages/tracks. You simply race yourself, no other cars are on the course. You can crash, but restart is easy. If you don't crash, you may unlock additional vehicles after 5 races in a row without crashing (which, again, isn't as simple as it sounds). Different vehicles have different characteristics, and initially two vehicles are available... The default is fast and nimble, but not very roadworthy, while the alternate is tough but a little slower and less nimble.

On the course you'll find coins, repair icons (restores some of car's "health"), and of course, nitro refills. The idea, again, is to gather as much coins as possible, and perform as many stunts as possible, to score as many points as possible

The problem with this game is the controls are a bit lacking. The regular car is responsive, but it is still hard to land the perfect landing. I've yet to unlock the 3rd car, probably because I do crash too much.

All in all, Stunt Car Racing is not a bad title, as it does provide some challenges.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: simple to learn, hard to master
Cons: everything they've done, it's been done before, simple 2D title

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KMGR of "Brick Breaker Revolution 3D"

Arkanoid screenshotImage via WikipediaWe've seen probably bazillion variations of Breakout (tm) by now... As it's one of the oldest games ever. There's Arkanoid, one of the better ones, and in recent years, Ricochet series from Reflexive. So should you be impressed with "Brick Breaker Revolution 3D" from Digital Chocolate? Both yes and no. It's impressive to look at, but doesn't play well in practice.

The plot has you trapped in some sort of computer matrix, and you need to fight your way out by playing Breakout, with both power-ups and power-downs. Power-downs are bad for you, like ball speed-up, paddle-shrink, close-up view (can't see the ball in relation to the paddle!) while power-ups are good for you, like sticky ball (ball sticks to your paddle until you launch it), slow ball, BIG ball (demolish bricks instead of bouncing off) and so on. Every few levels, you'll come across a boss, who has to be killed a certain way, usually by hitting him with the ball in certain vulnerable spots.

The classic mode doesn't resemble Breakout much. The revolution mode on the other hand, sometimes opens a second set of paddles on top of the field, so you now have to juggle the ball on BOTH sides of the playing field. If you miss, you get dumped to some OTHER playing field. It's a lot of variations in 3D.

The problem is the actual playing field. There seems to be a strange "lag" behind the controls. I'm not that bad in games, but it took me a while to get use to this game, as I keep missing balls just left or right of the paddle. And where you hit the ball with the paddle DOES affect how it bounces. When bricks are destroyed, you get debris strewn all over before they fade off the field, and that sometimes interferes with your vision of the field. The way the camera is in 3D doesn't help either as your viewpoint tends to float a little, and bobbles, and changes between levels are done in 3D (ball flies off the field, and drops onto another field). Some people can get sick watching this rollercoaster ride.

If you are masochistic and incredibly good, you may be able to unlock the nightmare mode.

All in all, Brick Breaker Revolution 3D looks pretty good, but doesn't play as good as it looks. The 3D gimmick wears off quickly, leaving you with a Breakout clone with a shaky playing field, and that is no fun to play. The secondary paddle doesn't really add that much to the game.

Overall rating: 6.5 out of 10
Pros: Breakout in 3D, woohoo!
Cons: Not much beyond the novelty of it

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Yet more previews of mobile games!

This time, you have FOUR previews instead of the usual three!

CLUE -- the classic murder mystery game comes to mobile. How is EA's adaptation compared to the original?

Paws and Claws: Pet Vet -- how do you feel about being a vet and treat pets like dogs, cats, parrots, and rabbits? No actual vet knowledge needed!

Stunt Car Racing 99 Tracks -- drive a 2D vehicle on 99 different 2D tracks without crashing (not as easy as it sounds!)

3D Brick Breaker Revolution -- you thought breakout/Arkanoid have done the genre to death? You haven't seen it this way...

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KMGR of "Bettie Barista"

I made it mayselfImage via WikipediaBettie Barista is basically Cake Mania with Coffee and a bit more of the business sim aspect of the game incorporated. If you like the genre of "multiple-plates spinning" games then this one is done very well, as you try to expand your cafe empire throughout the US by opening increasingly bigger and better cafes serving more and more varieties of coffee and other items.

As you have guessed, you are Bettie, and you are an excellent barista, so you're going to open a cafe to rival the big names, and make it big in the business of coffee! Basically, your "store" has one or more coffee machines, each of which brews two or more varieties of coffee. You also have a shelf with two or more sizes of coffee cups. And a "topping machine" that adds special toppings (two or more versions). And finally, a "breakfast bar" has two or more items for sale. A client comes in from any of the three directions, and when you greet them, they will have an idea bubble with their order (which is can be drink only, food only, or both). You have to complete the order ASAP, and when they leave, they leave the money on the counter. You have to grab the money and put it in the register, or else a thief may steal it. When three or four customers queue up, each with different orders, this can get very hairy.

You can buy upgrades for your cafe. Each cafe usually has three or more upgrades, which range from faster machines, additional machines, to more items for sale / more varieties available. Instead of just 2 varieties of coffee, you have three (or more), and so on. You get the idea. Customers don't queue up automatically, so you have to go to the customers, and there are no hotkeys. It's directional pad all the way. If you got the order wrong, dump the coffee in the recycle bin.

At the end of each day, you get a tally of how you did, and between end of day and beginning of next day you decide what to do next day. You an take a day off (and let the temp(s) run the store(s), but keep in mind they are never as good as you and their progress can actually BACKSLIDE if left alone too long. You can choose to spend some of the revenue (only 100+ a day) on advertising, which can be expensive. If you have enough cash, you can pay the rent to open an additional store, upgrade equipment at existing store, and so on. When ready, next day will start. If you decided to take a day off, you're shown the results immediately. Else you pick a store to work at and you run that specific store for the day. Each store's layout can be a little different, and their equipment can be different (one may not even have room for additional machines). The idea is to finish each city's "progress bar" to progress to the next city, and there are four cities to go through, each with more challenges.

This game is quite stressful at the higher levels as you try to take care of as many customers as you can as fast as you can, without making any mistakes. As each order is different, it is not really possible to start any rhythm, and you can't queue up orders, as each cup must be fresh. Makes me appreciate the baristas in my local coffee shop more.

Every once in a while you'll get a "custom order" which basically has you play "guitar hero" with up/ok/down on the d-pad. Basically, you're supposed to add sugar, water, and coffee but in specific rhythms just like Guitar Hero (tm). You get a percentage rating of how close you get to perfect, and that'll get you a big tip if you get close.

Graphics are good, though very similar to other games in the genre. And there's no explanation of the different types of clients and how they differ. Music is par for this type of game.

All in all, Bettie Barista is an also-run, although polished to near perfection. The additional business sim aspect helps it go beyond the competition, as does the different upgrade options and different cities.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10
Pros: simple controls, business sim aspects, good adaptation
Cons: also-ran, nothing too new here, no quick-game modes

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KMGR of "Thief, run!"

Daniel Ilabaca does a cat balance.Image via Wikipedia"Thief, run!" is a game about "parkour", or "free-running", the technique of moving through urban environments at maximum speed by going over, under, and through various obstacles through jumping, rolling, and so on. But it is also about burglary. Some excellent animation and a great 3D engine that renders the characters and environment in somewhat comical way, and you have a game that is a lot more fun than it first seem.

The backstory is a bit hokey... You are a pair of brother/sister (?) thieves. You just did a job and when you return, Kingpin has put a warning on your room door... either you steal him X huge diamonds, or it's out on the streets for you two. Needless to say, you simply go do what you do best.

The game has a camera that works in several perspectives. If above the action, it's probably the "2D run", where you must hit the action button at the right time to go over certain objects, and avoid running into cops (which is "instant jail"). The camera can also pan sideways or semi-behind for more of a 2D look. The graphics are very smooth and lots of frames, making motions look quite a live, though view distance needs to be a little further.

As far as the action is concerned, it's actually quite simple... Hit OK to "action". it could be duck and roll forward, or touch and go over, or rabbit hop over, and so on. Use the direction pad to move your guy if possible. It's mainly about timing. Hit the OK too late, and you bounce off whatever you didn't jump over, or fall to your death as you didn't jump. As police are chasing you, this may result in you getting caught, and you don't want that. Hit it too early and you are not going at optimum speed.

On the way, you need to grab as much money from the level as possible, as well as trying to locate a bright window that you need to run past. That window leads to a room with a safe, and inside is your objective: a large diamond that you need to pay off the "debt".

You can do a level multiple times. Indeed, you are expected to do it multiple times as there are several ways through each level, and only one will take you past the diamond, and it won't be the easiest one. You are graded three ways: did you get the diamond? How much money did you get out of total available? And finally, did you beat the "par" time? You need to get the diamond to unlock the next level. The catch is... If you *do* get the diamond, you have to escape the level without "dying" for it to count.

The graphics are good, but music is a bit simplistic and boring. And the art is a bit on the caricature side, so you may or may not like that. And the way the camera shifts between stages is a bit weird. Also, the checkpoints are a bit too far apart so you have to repeat a LOT of action if you *do* fail / die in the level.

You can customize your avatar's shirt color, pants color, and shoe color, but that doesn't actually *do* anything in the game.

All in all, "Thief, run!" is a light-hearted game emphasizes action, and quite simple action, instead of strategy or tactics. If you like parkour, you should like this game.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: easy to learn, good graphics
Cons: finding the diamond can be frustrating, controls not always responsive

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KMGR of "Hero of Sparta"

Minos's Palace.Image via WikipediaGameloft puts out another 2D fighting game... Except this one tries to do both regular 2D platform (i.e. Mario) vs. 2D fighting (i.e. Double Dragon). The result is rather weird, as you basically devolve into massive OK button mashing. While graphics are okay, it's not as fun as their previous Might and Magic series.

As King Minos of Sparta, who was out leading his men against false Gods and destroying evil followers. They are ready to return home when a wave wrecked their ship and deposited King Minos on an island... And he must fight his way out...

The problem with this game is it relies way too much upon the few buttons that it DOES use. Stand still and your character will block automatically. Hit OK when enemy is far delivers a "strong" attack. His OK multiple times and you get a series of "quick attack" combos, hit OK when enemy is close to do a "shield bash"... There's quite a few more combos, like jump attack, but you really don't have time to do them, not when you're usually in the thick of enemies... So you end up mashing the OK button as many times as fast as you can... and thus, no defense at all, so you basically avoid being hit. You can perform "fatalities" by hitting the right combo.

The perspective shifts a bit as it changes from 2D plane to 2D platform, and back. It requires you to adapt, and it's just weird playing the game that way. And not too far into the game, the challenges started to get almost impossible. The "bad habits" you learned (quick OK button mashing) no longer works, and you can't tell what you're supposed to learn.

On the other hand, the graphics are good, action is fierce, and weapons are upgradeable by pumping in those "experience" you've been collecting. However, when you're surrounded by a bunch of Centaurs with more backstabbers, you know you'll need a bit more than that for you to keep playing the game...

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: lots of action, good graphics, fast
Cons: too MUCH action, controls degenerate into button mashing speed contet

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Even more game previews...

Parkour - Dash Vault and WallspinImage via WikipediaMore mobile game previews for your viewing pleasure! I play games so you don't have to!

Hero of Sparta -- King Minos of Sparta was shipwrecked and forced to fight to go back to the ones he love. Will he make it back alive in the 2D fighter/platformer? If you like the genre, it's not bad, but it devolves into a mad button mash later, and blocking is difficult.

Thief, Run! -- parkour (free-running) and a pair of diamond thieves run from the police in this light-hearted parkour run where you control the thief as he tries to stay one step (or more) ahead of the pursuing police forces... in full 3D. Better than the side-scroller version from RealArcade.

Bettie Barista -- Cake Mania, but with coffee shop instead. Build your coffee empire from one store to many, and conquer the coffee world by serving up the right coffee quickly... and get the money too. Add upgrades, advertising, and it's a business sim. If you like the genre, give it a whirl.

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KMGR of "Resident Evil: Degeneration"

Leon S. KennedyImage by MagnusK via FlickrLatest Resident Evil to hit the mobile scene is a 3d shooter, that tries to emulate Metal Gear Solid mobile, and comes across as "not bad, but could be better".

Resident Evil: Degeneration (RED) is set 5 years after the Raccoon City incident. A terrorist group has unleashed T-virus on an airliner. They thought they'd unleash mayhem, but they have NO IDEA what they started... As zombies started to spread throughout the airport, infecting passengers, workers, and first responders alike. Special agent Leon S. Kennedy is sent in to rescue some VIPs, and to keep the situation from escalating.

As you can imagine, it's a mess. One of the planes overran by zombies crashed into the terminal and wrecked a lot of places. You'll be moving throughout the airport trying to contain the crisis, and fight a few mutated "bosses" as well.

The game is presented in full 3D, powered by the IdeaWorks 3D engine, and while the texture is a bit thin, it is full 3D. You assume a 3rd person viewpoint just behind Leon, and you can move, or switch to aim mode. When you're in aim mode, you can't move, except to aim. Fortunately, all the guns you have has a aim laser, allowing to aim for the head of zombies. To move, you need to exit aim mode. It's workable, but somewhat frustrating interface.

The zombies need a bit more texture work in such low-res environment to look scary, but they shamble and drag-feet enough to look evil. And as in the RE lore, aim for the head puts them down faster. If you got bitten, there are "herbs" you can find scattered throughout that will heal or even expand your max health.

You start with a trusty pistol, and later you'll find shotgun, SMG, rifle, and more. Each gun is also upgradeable in damage, reload speed, and mag capacity in 3 levels, if you get enough money and trade with the mercenaries that have taken up residence in the airport to make a quick buck. There are also grenades, and if you need it, the trusty knife that never runs out of ammo.

The game is divided up to several chapters, and makes use of the existing levels, but often in new ways, such as forcing you to take a different path through, backwards, and so on. It's basically one "Fedex" quest after another. You need to get into VIP lounge, but the people who knows the password are not responding, so you need to go find them. Once you found one, he said the other one went to another area, so you need to go find him. Once you found HIM, he said there's another threat you need to take care of first, like a full infected plane that may be taking off on autopilot... You get the idea.

There is a PDA with overhead map that tells you where you are and where you need to go, so you can't get lost. You're even told where the merchants, and if you bought the treasure map, the treasures, are.

The controls are slightly twitchy, and walking through the levels aren't as creepy as they should be in a game of this type. Sound effects are sorely lacking in subtlety, which can be difficult on a mobile phone, but it IS lacking. Gun barks are horrendous and lacks difference in different types of guns, which range from 9mm to magnum to SMG to rifle to shotgun, but they all sound about the same.

The story is involved enough to keep you interested, as you need to make your way through the terminal, lounge, baggage area, interior of a plane, and so on. And the levels are quite detailed, with the appropriate signage and objects of the area.

The bosses are extremely hard and some areas feature "close-range" zombies that takes a few bites out of you before you can "shake" them off, and there really isn't a "proximity detector" that tells you they're close... If you fight one and kill one, you still have to check if there are others that are about to attack.

Other than this "mobile turret" control issue, the game is quite well done and lasted many hours of play. If you like the zombie genre, you should at least try RE:D.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10
Pros: full 3D game that does last a while, upgradeable weapons
Cons: one-path only like marionette, either move or shoot but not both

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KMGR of "Tank Wars 2: Devastation"

Bombs away! FILE PHOTO -- A B-1B Lancer unleas...Image via WikipediaTank Wars 2: Devastation is basically a clone of Worms, except you get cute little "tanks" instead. Otherwise, they teleport, shoot, throw grenades, move, and jump just like Worms. They however, do not ninja-punch, commando-rope-swing, or jetpack. Is it fun? If you like this genre, sure, as this game has "auto-aim", something that really helps even the odds against the AI. And there are a lot of alternate modes that you can try. So it's not too bad for a clone, but it's only a clone.

The main "story mode" has you follow a bunch of other "knight tanks" trying to take back a world overrun by an evil baron and his henchtanks and soldier tanks. The "bosses" have special abilities like bonus airstrikes, bonus arachnobombs, and so on. There are several areas, each area with 9 levels you must fight through. Initially you outnumber the enemy, but later the enemy will outnumber you, and the evil baron has a special trick: he regenerates.

Otherwise, the game is exactly like Worms: one side starts, and you have 30 seconds to look around, and decide on your shot, pick your weapon, and/or a special item (or more). You also choose the elevation of the gun using up down, left/right to move the tank, 0 to jump. When you are set, hold the OK button to charge the gun, and let go to make the shot. There are landmines, bonus crates, and more everywhere.

Each "floor" can be thick or thin. On the tinner floors it's quite possible to devastate the floor enough to cause a tank to "fall through", esp. with an air strike, if you drop it correctly. Of course, if you drop the tank into the water/lava it's an instant kill. A hard hit can cause a tank to slide off the edge as well, esp. an anti-tank gun hit.

On the other hand, there's not much here that's original. Almost every bonus here and weapons are in Worms or its variations. At least there are no cluster bombs or some of the more outrageous stuff like Jesus grenade.

Alternate game modes are pretty simple... like how many one-shot kills can you make in a row using only one type of weapon, how fast can you do the challenges (15 in all), and so on. They are pretty simple, and you may get bored quickly.

All in all, Tank Wars 2 is just a Worms (tm) clone, and not much else.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10 (okay)
Pros: Tried and true mechanics, cute graphics
Cons: nothing much new here

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KMGR of "MySims"

Screenshot showing online capabilities of the ...Image via WikipediaMySims is basically Sims for kids, so who made the decision to put it out for mobile phones, which are really for adults? Good question, bet you EA don't even know. The game is WAY too simple, the quests easily done, and adults should stay away from this kid's game.

MySims first came out for the DS, and this mobile game is a DS port. The characters are "superdeformed" (i.e. huge head, squashed, looks a lot like Nintendo Mii avatars), and there's only one "want" per character: happiness. And yes, you can actually converse with ANIMALS in this game.

Your main goal is to obtain all gems from various sources in order to restore the main fountain of the island, and thus restore the glory. Along the way, you'll meet a lot of zany characters, do a variety of quests, and play a variety of minigames... and that's about it.

The main problem in the game is you aren't informed of new characters popping up... You pretty much have to run into them by accident. Thus you aren't sure where to go next. That is just... bad game design.

Quests are usually incredibly simple... A needs X from B, B will only give you X if you get Y from C... you get the idea. Usually at the end of a major quest you'll get a gem, which you go install at the fountain.

Minigames are simple too... Fishing, paragliding, skydiving... are simple keypad controlled affairs. There just aren't much here for adults, as these are reflex challenges far more suitable for kids.

By the time you're finished, you'll know over a dozen characters (and at least two animals...). You'll "converse" with characters by choosing best match of three icons, and if character has nothing in common, the icon has no match among your choices, so you have to pick one that's "close", so it's a bit if hit-and-miss. You can also talk to tourists, but they may not have much to say.

Also, part of the level is NOT on the map. There's a "cave" which is not mappable, and portions beyond the cave cannot be "jumped to", which makes for a tedious commute.

All in all, MySims is a simple game for kids, so why did EA port this to mobile phone market, which is mainly aimed at adults, is a real puzzler. At least you can customize your avatar pretty closely, but overall, there just isn't much of a game here.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: easy to get into, lots of quests, characters, and so on
Cons: way too easy for adults, gets repetitive, esp. the "maze" parts

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More mobile game previews!

MySimsImage via WikipediaAre you ready for more mobile game previews? Of course you are!

MySims -- Sims dumbed down for the kids, with minigames. Is it good enough? The backstory is some mumble about restore the island with the gems you must collect. It's one Fedex quest after another.

Tank Wars 2: Devastation -- basically Worms but with Tanks, enough said. Less zany weapons, auto-aim mode, and a multitude of alternate play modes are available.

Resident Evil: Degeneration -- RE goes mobile in a 3D adventure... except you can either shoot, or move, but not both. However, it is rather good looking.

Stay tuned for actual reviews!

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KMGR of "Rollercoaster Rush: 99 tracks"

An example of a roller coaster, one of the sta...Image via WikipediaRollercoaster Rush is a very simple yet addictive game, that when combined with 99 different tracks, 3 types of rollercoaster cars, and plenty of "achievements", keeps you coming back for more.

The backplot is superfluous and silly: before you can inherit a kingdom of rollercoasters, you must control all 99 of them without crashing (not all at once), over 3 continents. Not as simple as it sounds, of course.

You start with regular coaster car, one occupied, one not. There are only two controls: speed up (right), and slow down/brakes (left). Unlike real coasters, these coaster cars are NOT locked down to the track. Only centripetal forces and gravity are keeping them on the track. Not enough speed through the loop, and the cars will fall off. Too much speed over the hill, and the cars will fly. Flying a little is good. Flying too much is a crash. As you earn your experience, you'll get longer cars (up to 4 cars all with passengers) for higher score, and different cars (which requires very different acceleration and braking techniques).

Each track is rated by riders for "excitement". If you do a loop you usually get a LOT. Series of excitements can be "chained" for bonus multipliers, which will further increase the score. However, TOO MUCH G-load and/or impact that loses part of the coaster (remember you have up to 4 cars, and only ONE needs to make it back to station to consider the track "complete") will turn faces sad and decrease your score.

Initially you just need to complete all 99 tracks. Once you do, you may want to revisit the tracks to complete all of them with 5 star rating, as well as try to unlock all the achievements, which is to finish all the track with each type of coaster cars. The light car is easiest to fly and loop, but is rather delicate. Heavy is hardest to fly and loop, but is very sturdy and can withstand impacts. The regular is in between and what you start with.

The game is very simple on the surface but requires exquisite timing as well as an eye toward the dynamic forces involved... Some sections need to go slow, some section need to go fast, and some sections you go at maximum and hope you survive the fall, while others you pause at the peak and let it just slip over the hill... There are lots of things you can do in this game to max the score, and things are not as simple as they seem, which is a sign of a good but DEEP game.

Graphics is 2D only. Indeed, the whole coaster is 2D, but 2D in a cute way. When the cars crash, the passengers bail out and fall gently to earth on umbrellas like Mary Poppins. Icons denoting passenger mood are easy to read, and scores and speedometer fly by like reels of a slot machine. You do get a "preview" of the track, and you are warned of loops and hill crests. It's what's BEYOND the hill that requires a bit of memorization and deft controls. Best of all is a replay of your accomplishments (or disaster). Unfortunately, the scoring progression is not a part of the reply, so you can't see where did you score the most points and such.

Music and sound... music is not bad but can be repetitive, while sound is rather forget-able, and not the best parts of the game.

All in all, Rollercoster Rush 99 Tracks is a simple if addictive game that can be tried in just a minute or two, great for short breaks, and keeps you coming back for more as you try for the elusive 5 stars for every track, and other challenges.

Overall rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: easy to get into, simple controls, deeper than it seems
Cons: some sections VERY frustrating, not quite enough feedback, 2D only

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KMGR of "Ferrari GT Evolution"

FerrariImage via WikipediaFerrari GT Evolution is one of the better "2D" driving games around. Car handling is very responsive, and other than glitches with some of the fastest cars and with the key held down, the game is surprisingly fun and there are PLENTY of driving.

There are two modes to play: Arcade, where you race a car around various circuits, unlocking additional tracks and cars as you go, and Career, where you start off as a new Ferrari owner, and are challenged by other owners to visit all over the world as well as participate in amateur races, historic races, Euro Challenges, GT Championships, and so on (different races have different car requirements, depending on which car(s) you own), as well as special challenges given by multitude of characters, from fans and movie stars, to other Ferrari owners eager to "defend" their city from your "transgression".

As you can guess, this game is Ferrari only, and they have almost every civilian Ferrari available for sale, from the 208 all the way up to the latest California and FFX Evo, and everything in between... F40, Testarossa, Enzo, Berlinetta, 308, Scuederia... They are ALL here. And they do handle a bit differently... And you do get graphs and bar chart ratings to help you pick which one to drive.

And the races do vary somewhat. There's the duel (one on one), "best race" (i.e. NFS style "knockout" where 4 cars start, last place at each lap is eliminated until one car is left), "race" (8 cars start, must finish in top 3), "avoid the cones" (avoid at least # cones specified), "get the roses" (hit at least # of roses specified), and "top speed" (exceed the specified lap speed). What's more, there's traffic on the road (hitting one will flip your car, forcing a 'reset' which also costs you a little in prize money).

The tracks themselves are 2D, but VERY GOOD 2D, reminiscent of Outrun and Turbo Outrun, except no radio station and no "turbo" button. As you go through each city, you are given street names and any "sights" to see in the area. Most courses feature an intersection with an alternate path which rejoins the main route a little later. Buildings, trees, landmarks, lamps, and other features whiz by with very good sensation of speed. The vehicle itself is also 2D, but again, very good 2D, with sufficient variations as well as proper "drifting" animation to actually show you drifting, tire burnout marks on the road, dirt and grass if you go offroad, smoke when braking and/or drifting, and so on.

Controls are a bit sensitive, but that's the way a Ferrari should handle. However, there's way too much "drifting", IMHO. Drifting should be optional but here it is required. Nice part about this drifting is you can actually still maintain control WHILE drifting, and when the road straightens out, the car automatically goes back to grip driving. You don't need to use opposite lock to force the car back to grip, and that got me a few times before I figured it out.

You can switch between the arcade progress and the career progress at any time, as the two sets of data are kept separately.

The main problem is the music... It's repetitive and underwhelming. I usually turn it off, except you then lose all the sounds.

There are lots and lots of racing to do in order to complete both the arcade and the career to 100%. While it is a bit repetitive, the different cars, different tracks, and different variations does offer a lot of different challenges to the driver/player. This one definitely one of the best driving games out there for the mobile, except for the enforced drifting.

Overall rating: 8.5 out of 10
Pros: looks great for 2D, lots of tracks, lots of cars, career mode
Cons: 2D still, drifting required and very sensitive, repetitive at endgame

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KMGR of "Simpsons 2: Adventures in Itchy-Scratchy Land"

The front gate of Itchy & Scratchy Land.Image via WikipediaYou know Bart and Lisa always wants to go to Itchy & Scratchy Land, the amusement park in theme of the cartoon show with plenty of gratuitous violence and mayhem. And as can be expected, when Homer ignores the warning NOT to use flash camera in front of the robots, he triggers a killing rage in the robots... and now the family is scattered and in hiding. Can Homer survive the dangerous place, retrieve his family, and perhaps save a few citizens of Springfield, defeating the horde of killer robots, with just his port belly and his skills in bowling?

Compared to the first one, this game has a bit more of the bawdy humor that's more in tune with the Simpsons theme. This time, your "tutorial" and occasional hints are narrated by the narrator, who "breaks the fourth wall" by telling you that you're probably a loser playing this loser game. (No, I'm not kidding.)

However, once you're into the game, it's actually a very plain 2D platform game. You control Homer on this 2D isometric playing field. There are all these nasty things about... Retracting spikes, back-and-forth sawblades... Avoid them all. Every once in a while you switch to a minigame, and there are a few variations:

Bartman / Slingshot -- Homer finds Bart who is using his slingshot to shoot stinkbombs at the approaching killer bots.

Lisa / Bombots -- Homer finds Lisa, who is building bombots to defend against the killer bots

Marge / Vacuum -- Homer finds Marge, who is using her vacuum to pull in random junk to "shoot" incoming killer bots

Homer / Bowling -- Home must use his bowling skills to send a ball downrange, take out as many robots on the way as possible, and smash a gate at the end.

Homer / Jumping Minefield -- The minefields have arrows, redirecting Homer into different directions. You need to make it to the other side of the field without losing all of Homer's lifebar (each jump zaps a little)

(Sorry, Baby doesn't get her own game)

You are "graded" by your speed and the number of "deaths" to "finish" the sub-level. The speed you do it, the more "combos" (multi-kills) you do, and so on will enhance the score. Survival is easy. Good score is hard.

The amusement park itself has multiple "lands", like "unnecesary surgery land", or "searing gas pain land", and so on. As you guessed, none of it "pleasant".

The problem is, while the humor is more abundant here, it still doesn't feel much like a Simpsons "game". It doesn't quite seem to have the proper... 'feel', even though this one is far more tolerant of mistakes than the original.

All in all, this game is an also-ran. You can probably find much more enjoyable 2D games, though this one at least uses the Simpson characters properly, the subgames don't feel quite right.

Overall rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: simple controls, obvious objectives
Cons: the minigames don't feel very Simpson'esque

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First Previews of 2009

Yep, first previews of Verizon Mobile games of 2009... Look forward to reviews of the following:

Simpsons 2 : Adventures in Itchy-Scratchy Land -- Homer decided to flash the parading robots, turning them into killing machines. Can our underachiever save the day, rescue his family, and save the other citizens inside?

Ferrari GT Evolution -- Ferrari decides to make a game all about owning a Ferrari, and racing a Ferrari... Plenty of game modes, drifting, courses, challenges, and more. Can this be the ultimate mobile driving game?

Rollercoaster Rush -- control the rollercoaster on 99 different tracks to give the ultimate excitement! But don't run off the tracks or destroy the cars! How many stars can you earn?

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