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Hyrule Warriors Review

The Legend of Zelda mixes its Hyrulean roots with the intense, frenetic nature of Dynasty Warriors in a new mash-up title from Koei Tecmo and Nintendo. But through its addictive gameplay and impressive visuals, the traditional Zelda atmosphere seems to get a little lost in the fray.

As a long-term fan of the Zelda franchise, it’s possibly a foolish thought to believe Hyrule Warriors would offer a similar “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this!” Zelda vibe, but as a spin-off the battle-intensive, capture-the-keep title features some truly glorious moments. While it may not be to everyone’s cup of tea, particularly those who love to pour over old maps of Hyrule and discover every puzzle detail after studying the timeline rigorously, the game’s best moments come from the ridiculously good-looking move sets and combo attacks. And having never played a Dynasty Warriors game before, I was pleasantly surprised at the quick learning curve, despite its tenacity to overwhelm newcomers.

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The blue-haired beauty Lana steps up to fight with her magical tome.

Featuring a new storyline between the white sorceress Lana and her dark counterpart Cia, Hyrule Warriors ventures into three different eras in the Zelda franchise – Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. Due to Cia’s jealousy of Link and Zelda’s blossoming relationship, the sorceress becomes corrupt when a deep-seated evil takes root in her heart and is persuaded to open the Gate of Souls. In an attempt to recover the two remaining Triforce shards, Cia wages war on Hyrule with staple enemies from the series against the forces of light.

With 18 playable levels from Hyrule Field to the harsh Gerudo Desert, players will find an abundance of Zelda references in the game. Taking up a battle stance in Legend mode with a choice of three difficulty levels will let players explore the dramatic storyline, while Adventure mode can grant perks such as heart containers and special unlockable weapons. It’s in these extra elements – hunting the gold skulltulas, bombing rocks to uncover chests, and obliterating a keep full of enemies with a powered-up hookshot – that allows Hyrule Warriors to flourish as a love letter to the Zelda franchise. But it’s precisely due to the chaotic gameplay that players can never truly revel in their discovery.

If you’re new to Dynasty Warriors gameplay it’s easy to feel just a little out of your depth. The fast-paced style doesn’t lend itself particularly well to those who love to explore, so when it’s a choice between the lustrous golden skulltula appearing after 1,000 KOs and the allied base falling, you should know where your allegiances lie. But just before you get to East Boulder Keep, Argorok, or Gohma, there’s a patch of grass. It’s small, possibly only ten mere tufts, but there’s an instinctive feeling rumbling in your gut – the need to landscape. It doesn’t help there’s an achievement medal up for grabs on professional landscaping, nor does it help that so many Hylian Captains, Impa, or Midna needs saving. It’s just you versus those tufts of grass. But at least you can grab a few power-ups or special attack shards before you hypothetically fail the mission. It’s perilously frustrating yet addictively fun.

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The moon is still creepy years after its appearance in Majora’s Mask, but calling it down is erm, out of this world.

Aesthetically, Hyrule Warriors is gorgeous to fix your eyes on. The attention to detail on characters such as Link and Zelda is paramount in HD quality. But with considerable style comes a drop in swordplay accuracy. Boss enemies such as King Dodongo, Gohma and Manhandla suffer from physical woes. When repeatedly hacking and slashing at the enemy target to diminish their weakness gauge, playable characters can be knocked off-balance or even slip through a leg, chin, or belly and still miraculously land attacks on the enemy.

Other similar issues arise when trying to L-Target onto field enemies such as Stalmasters, Poes, Lizalfos, Moblins, and Darknuts. Throughout all four modes – Legend, Free, Adventure and Challenge – players will come across these mid-boss enemies, which are, deservedly, some of the best enemies to face against in the game. Unlike Stalchildren and Bokoblins, the mid-bosses require more thought than a simple slash from your chosen weapon. It’s the perfect time to whip out those combo attacks you’ve religiously learnt through badge crafting and test out the available power-ups.

But when a large amount of mid-bosses group together, fireballs are hurtling towards you, and a Hylian Captain just won’t stop screaming in the distance, the button bashing countdown clock begins and the L-Targeting becomes disorientating. Attacking becomes as mindless as many of the enemies. And it’s at these moments players may begin to realise their battlefield magic potions have a bit more kick to them than they had first thought.

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No time for bosses, better to hunt those gold skulltulas!

As a frenetic game, Hyrule Warriors often suffers from text lag within the game’s coding. During missions, players must frequently carry out story-specific events such as luring enemies into a magic circle, or halting boulder attacks to the allied base. Particularly prevalent when replaying missions, significant lag occurs when capturing a keep on the mission agenda before you’ve been given said in-game mission. Though players can merely leave and re-enter the keep for the mission’s success, it’s wearisome when the game relies heavily on replaying levels to unlock characters, weapons, or skulltulas.

Though the game slips into a tedious hack-and-slash title and takes a hit from occasional lags, Hyrule Warriors is furiously addictive and throws as many Zelda references into the playing field as it does enemies. And hey, listen, it’s not every day you get to play as the evil Ganondorf.

8/10

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Here’s Why EDGE Gave Bayonetta 2 A Perfect Ten

We heard earlier last week that EDGE magazine had awarded Platinum Games latest project Bayonetta 2 a perfect 10/10. What we didn’t know were the details from the review and why the respected publication decided to give the game a ten. Here’s what you need to know about the Wii U exclusive that EDGE describes as a classic.

  • “Best-in-class set of combat mechanics”
  • Can be enjoyed by new players as well as those who are more familiar
  • Other similar games “hide their greatest prizes behind a skill barrier that may take dozens of hours of study and practice to surmount”, but Bayonetta 2 “simply asks that you keep pressing buttons”
  • Umbran Climax mode “adds yet another layer of dazzling spectacle”
  • Praise for the visuals and colors
  • “There is still nothing quite like it”
  • “There are stumbles along the way”, but EDGE believes the only thing wrong is how closely Bayonetta 2’s formula is similar to the first game
  • This might have been more of a problem if the genre had advanced in the past 5 years, but no one “has even come close to pushing it”
  • Issues with the first game have been ironed out
  • Mid-cinematic QTEs and shooting mini-game between missions are gone
  • Enemy weapon picks are a bonus instead of a penalty
  • Pacing improved
  • Cut-scenes “are a good deal snappier”
  • EDGE says you could “play and replay forever” because of the different accessories, weapons, hidden battles in chapters, online co-op, and more

 

“You never tire of it, but how could you? This is a game that begins with Santa riding a car along the side of a building, continues with you summoning a demon to headbutt a meteor, and ends with the most joyously cathartic climax of any game since, well, Bayonetta. When the pace does dip, there is more than enough charm, wit, and heart to take its place. It is a masterclass in combat design, in videogame variety, in the balance between accessibility and depth. Sure, it’s a sequel, but it’s a sequel to what has stood, for almost five years, as the best game of its type ever made. Until now, that is. SEGA’s loss is Nintendo’s gain: Bayonetta, twirling away from a gigantic demon’s maw and smacking the highest choir of angels on the nose, has just given Wii U its first true classic.”

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Fantasy Life UK Review

A dozen lives to lead in a visually stunning world awaits players in Fantasy Life. But while its union between life simulation and RPG is a marriage made in Reveria for some, others may find the simple storyline diminutive and the variation between jobs a little thin.

From the developers behind the logic-prevailing world of Professor Layton and the sports-filled space of Inazuma Eleven, Level-5 brings the previously Japan-only title Fantasy Life to western players for the first time. In a text-rich environment, players can choose up to twelve lives in the vast land of Reveria and exude their prowess in weaponry and magic battles, crafting or healing. But just like reality, it takes time to master your new life as Hunter, Magician, Blacksmith, or Tailor, as well as the other eight lives available in the game, so players will never find themselves at a loss for new objectives.

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Which life will you choose first; gutsy Paladin, masterful Magician, or the trusty Hunter?

After customising an avatar, players will be dropped into the beautifully lush world of Reveria, bulging at the seams with Level-5’s trademark charm both in characters and the surrounding scenery. But it’s not until you meet a talking butterfly named Flutter that this seemingly peaceful land will shortly feed itself unknowingly into the jaws of annihilation. A strange phenomenon has corrupted the tame beasts roaming Castele, Port Puerto, and Al Maajik, sending them into a wild craze and attacking humans at will. Charged with saving the land from the plummeting Doom Stones by King Erik of Castele, you’ll buddy up with Flutter to reforge past alliances, fulfilling her Bliss requirements along the way.

Fantasy Life’s main storyline can be completed in around ten hours, chiefly due to its half-baked RPG format with no need for levelling up or grinding. However, it’s no detriment to the storyline which provokes emotion and stimulates character attachment in its seven-part drama. But just when you believe there’s more to come with its comical approach to doomsday, it sits placidly in novella terrain. Though perfect for children or newcomers, it misses its mark among seasoned RPG players.

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Now if only there was a genie one could spend three wishes on in Al Maajik.

Those who crank up their 3D slider are rewarded justly when travelling around Reveria. While Castele and Port Puerto are prosperous in allure with historical features, azure oceans and sandy-washed beaches, it’s Al Maajik which truly fascinates the eye. Amidst the desert haze, magic carpet houses, hovering furniture, magical lamps, and rainbow-coloured portals dance across the town as a miniature pop-out Agrabah from Disney’s Aladdin. Since the game’s textures and lighting are perfectly encapsulated within the 3DS screen, tearing your gaze away to read text is solely an afterthought. And coupled with Fantasy Life’s music, it’s a perfect bubble to keep yourself contained within.

With a choice of twelve lives, savvy players should choose three lives for an efficient run. Pick up your sword and shield as a Paladin and venture into the Grassy Plains or caves, then grab your pickaxe as a Miner to chip away at those precious ores, and finally bring those materials to a Blacksmith bench and craft glorious weapons. The game’s ease of switching between lives at various Guild Offices around Reveria is one of the best features in the game, but the many life specific quests received means you’ll be endlessly looping between X, Y and Z for completion, resulting in slightly stale gameplay.

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Learn how to craft items such as potions or food for health along the way in an Alchemist or Cook’s life. It means you can have your cake and eat it too!

While crafting is largely the same in each life – whether as an Alchemist, Blacksmith, or Cook – and simply requires mashing the A button in quick succession, holding A down, and gently tapping A at the correct moment, beast-slaying requires a little more thought. Enemies can either be defeated by quickly tapping the A button with your equipped weapon, or players can use a range of special attacks and supercharge them to unleash ultimate damage. And with a variety of weapons on offer, buying different items with the in-game currency or “dosh” will certainly provide hours of enjoyment.

For those who choose to kick back and relax in Fantasy Life and let non-player characters join them on any given quest, unfortunate coding within the game will render them more troublesome than they are worth. Other than physically popping out from behind your avatar, NPCs will also stick like glue to walls and corners if too great a distance is travelled, while your avatar can seamlessly walk through them as if they were merely ghostly apparitions. The game also suffers from mild frame rate drops, particularly in the vicinity of large enemies, following NPCs, and trailing bounties. It’s jarring and ultimately brings players out of the gorgeous world when we desperately want to be drawn in.

Though Fantasy Life faces a few pitfalls with occasional NPC slip-ups and repetitive gameplay, its visually worth its weight in Al Maajik gold. If only the game’s well-paced and superbly crafted storyline was just a little longer, Fantasy Life would saddle up and race off into the sunset with a fist full of dosh and a near perfect score.

8/10

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Pokemon Art Academy UK Review

A small adventure awaits budding artists in Pokémon Art Academy, which is delightfully appealing to children and adults alike. What it may lack in stretching accomplished artists, it delivers in bundles for beginners with easy-to-follow lessons and a good selection of fan-favourite Pokémon.

Though it may be a niche franchise, Art Academy has proven its success in the touch-based generation of Nintendo consoles. And for the first time, Pokémon fans can learn how to draw their much-loved pocket monsters from the adorably small to the ferocious and large in the 3DS application. With a variety of artist tools, Pokémon Art Academy takes you through the basics one step at a time – first you’ll learn how to quickly sketch a Pokémon’s face, then from an angle or from a curled-up pose, and eventually you’ll be taught advance techniques to bring the otherwise flat, two-dimensional sketches to life. It’s linear, accessible and, most importantly, it’s a whole bunch of fun.

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The first sketch without tracing construction lines – part of the novice stage.

Pokémon Art Academy offers three stages – apprentice, novice, and graduate – along with three to four main lessons and several mini lessons per course. Players will work alongside the Art Academy’s professor and AI buddy Lee in each lesson, learning a basic skill set with one or two main tools at any given time. There’s no grading system implemented so, no matter how your drawings turn out, players will never be forced into creating masterful pieces of art to unlock more content. The stage’s main lessons merely need to be completed in order to progress, with mini lessons serving as an extra practise session to reinforce the skill set learnt.

Although not as diverse as other professional artist applications, Pokémon Art Academy certainly delivers with an array of tools in comparison to previous entries in the franchise. From the standard outline pen and markers to the more creative pastel and graffiti spray can, players can experiment with many different styles to produce their ideal and most-treasured Pokémon. Though the lessons always pinpoint which specific thicknesses and opaque settings you should use, don’t be afraid to opt for the smallest thickness setting in order to achieve those sharper details, particularly in the advanced and unlockable bonus sections.

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Comic-book style Lapras – her neck is elongated here to reflect the style.

Providing a linear approach, the application’s lessons become too restrictive in due time and its main gripe falls at the feet of the franchise’s mascot: Pikachu. Players must conclude each stage’s finale by drawing Pikachu and applying the various techniques learnt. But since there’s no other option to draw additional Pokémon at this stage, players are forced to draw Pikachu three times – it’s tedious rather than circular, taking up two slots which could be given to other firm favourites instead.

While free paint offers a greater selection of Pokémon, without the guidance of lessons, beginners may feel out of their depth and uncomfortable with such an open format. However, construction lines and grid markers can be chosen from the layer tool, providing a basic guideline for rough sketching. Additionally, users will find the full palette, eyedropper and colour picker tools for a more superior creative control.

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And the awesome fire-breathing Charizard finishes off the Graduate course. Remember to take regular breaks as this illustration took me two hours!

Pokémon Art Academy gives users plenty of space to save their sketches in the album, as well as Miiverse interaction. But it does lack an image sharing tool, as seen in Tomodachi Life, in order to share to additional social networks with ease. And though 3D isn’t utilised, the app doesn’t suffer from its exclusion, perhaps only missing out on aesthetic appeal, making it perfect for 2DS users.

With superb accuracy between stylus and touch screen, Pokémon Art Academy delivers a solid experience for long-term fans who have yearned to draw their favourite characters. But its main drawback is its inability to bridge the middle ground between lessons and free paint. It may not be a standard Pokémon adventure, but its slogan can always be adapted: gotta sketch ‘em all.

8/10

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Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow UK Review

The fantasy football RPG arrives on the Nintendo 3DS for the first time along with a new hero to boot. But with a darker and more corrupt storyline is Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow worthy of championship glory, or will it dribble down into the corners to be forgotten?

Level-5 has granted us a new vision for the Inazuma Eleven series and welcomed protagonist Arion Sherwind as Light & Shadow’s football hero for Raimon. For those less familiar with the series, it’s been ten years since Inazuma Japan clinched their victory at the Football Frontier International – which closed the third instalment of the original Inazuma series – with goal keeper Mark Evans at the helm of the game. Now, there’s a deeper and larger darkness at work behind football, where winning or losing matches is predetermined by Fifth Sector bigwigs, making players detest the sport they once loved.

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This is only the beginning of Fifth Sector’s dominance.

For 3DS owners who are fans of Japanese anime, the Inazuma Eleven series is bound to nab your attention. Gripping cutscenes with hyperbolic drama, along with superb voice acting, is certainly expected, so it’s without a doubt Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow delivers action marvellously. Characters are voiced with such sincerity that it brings the sports RPG to full and vivacious life, something that the cheesy and cliché script lacks in comparison. And combined with the upbeat tunes and fully operational 3D overworld, Light & Shadow both looks and feels the part handsomely.

Yet while the game’s aesthetics are beautiful, there are times when frame rate drops can occur between character conversations, and are noticeably present in 2D and 3D. Although only a minor issue in the grand scheme of gaming, it’s an aspect that detracts players from the storyline and character voice over – and no player wants to miss loveable Adé’s Geordie accent and his cracking anecdotes on the team’s formation and competitive fishing.

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Rounding up recruits for your dream team is all in a day’s work during your time at Raimon.

On a similar path, Light & Shadow’s story mode script is a rather unfortunate and painful experience. Aside from the odd scripted guffaw, Arion’s love for personifying football is a little vomit-inducing. His constant peppy attitude towards his team mates can become so tiresome that players may find themselves cheering on the villain of the story after a quick jibe to the protagonist.

Forced jokes often meander throughout the script, as well as an unfortunate social networking device called “iNattr” which has Raimon’s football squad needlessly hash tagging every last word. Luckily, players can avoid ever having to find out which sandwich JP wants to buy, or which #awesomefriendisawesome, and why Arion is #sozlike over an inside joke. Sadly, there’s no “soz ‘ard” to add to the game’s British colloquialisms.

In terms of gameplay, Light & Shadow brings the best of both worlds with battle modes and match missions, as well as straight up football. Players are able to customise the Raimon team and recruit new members through a grand selection of PalPack Decks, along with the ability to purchase boots, wrist and neck accessories, and gloves for stat boosts. Item chests are also hidden throughout the overworld, with the better item stat boosts located further afield as you progress, encouraging exploration.

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Fighting Spirits can be summoned for great effects during matches.

By using the stylus, matches can be easily mastered through ball passes and intercepting the opposition with blocks and slides. As the game progresses, players will be able to summon a fighting spirit or use special moves in order to get the upper hand on the field. Basic football rules apply to levelling in matches, but occasionally story mode will enforce a new spin on the game with match missions. As such, they produce variety, as well as breaking up the monotony of training, giving Light & Shadow larger appeal.

On the other hand, verses battles used to train the Raimon team are typically very easy to exploit. With only three different match battles to train in – scoring a goal, defending the ball, and upping offence with tackles – most can be won within a couple of minutes and rarely need decisive planning.

In a nutshell, Inazuma Eleven GO: Light & Shadow delivers a solid gaming experience and will become a sure hit with fans of the animated series and its previous instalments. But the game is drastically let down by its poor script and monotonous, highly exploitive gameplay, leaving Light & Shadow unavoidably offside.

6.5/10

*Please note the Shadow version was played for the above review.

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Tomodachi Life Review

Far from the generic life simulation game, Tomodachi Life lies somewhere in between the invisible fly on the wall we’ve all secretly wished to be and the guilty pleasure of a pseudo reality TV show. While there’s life, love, scandal and birth, the game’s biggest advantage with quirky observation is also its largest flaw – there’s just not enough to physically do.

Previously a Japan-only title, Nintendo has certainly taken a dip into hot water in order to bring Tomodachi Life to western audiences. But controversy over same-sex relationships aside, the whimsical Mii simulation title may find itself oddly placed on the condiments shelf next to Marmite, Mustard and that weird one at the back no one ever uses. It’s a complex title which won’t appeal to everyone; some may love it, others not so much. But Tomodachi Life can surprise and makes way for a pleasurable and addictive experience.

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Silver kicked her husband out “accidentally” after a bad dream. Clark was snoring too much.

Firing up the game will take you through the step-by-step process of naming your island and making your lookalike Mii. So, meet Silver; she’s energetic, outgoing and charming. Based on a sliding scale in five categories – energy, speech, facial expressions, mood and how they act overall – Miis personalities are calculated to fit one of 16 personality types within the game. And they are scarily accurate – even my lookalike’s parents were spot on.

But after creating a host of Miis and feeding them crazy concoctions of caviar, cappuccino and gigantic mouth-watering cheeseburgers from the island’s supermarket, players can edit their personalities and tone of voice as much as they like, so there’s no limit to creativity. Meaning a ridiculously low-voiced male named Gandalf, who’s obviously incredibly unique, lives with a cat in a Wizard-themed room, and secretly fancies the pants off the girl next door, Galadriel, is best friends with the confident, go-getter Tony Stark who just can’t stop wearing cowboy outfits and hates crisps so much he melts into a pool of liquid mercury.

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That’s Linda being her usual clumsy self. #ohdear

Though the game’s most amusing moments emerge from drama unfolding in your Miis lives, there’s much more to do than just mere observation. Once a number of residents are living in the island’s apartment complex, they’re going to need food, clothes and living arrangements. They are the ultimate Tamagotchi – but will never bleep every two seconds for food or walks – and as the player, you get to solve all of their problems.

Equipped with a levelling meter, Tomodachi Life blends from simulation to RPG seamlessly. In return for solving Miis’ problems, the player is rewarded with money, which can then be spent on daily necessities for residents. It’s a truly vicious cycle that will always benefit them, but who can resist the joy of seeing one’s father eat a strawberry and then shoot into space? It must have been one heck of a juicy strawberry. Players can then take a trip down to the boutique to grab the latest and most fetching fashion trends, or peruse the interior store for different designs to makeover their living space.

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Yes, that’s Mr. Stark. His red helmet is a little different, no?

However, as wacky as the selection available daily is, Tomodachi Life lacks customisation methods. The interior designer screaming to burst forth and exude creativity from your mind is not an option, and neither is the internal sous chef who longs to combine a French baguette with soft cheese. Unlike Animal Crossing, there’s no designated area to doodle needlessly in order to replace an awful duck shirt, making Tomodachi Life fall a little flat.

The game also opens up various places of interest as you progress, including the Concert Hall, Mii News Station, Photo Studio and Amusement Park to name a few. Each place tends to hold different events which are scheduled at a particular time every day. For example, players can catch a magic show to slice and dice their Miis with excellent use of gyroscope and motion sensor controls, or head to the park for a daily barbecue, making sure to blow any smoke away with the 3DS microphone. Although events and dreams are amusing at first, there’s never any additional surprises planted in order to return. Much like the cycle of reality, it’s repetitive and desperately needs variety to revitalise those first experiences.

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A gorgeous moment between two Miis. Everybody say “aww” on cue now.

Completing Tomodachi Life’s goal for marriage and children can be surprisingly quick. Maybe it’s the summer haze that’s got those eccentric Miis craving for a love nest, but within a week my lookalike had their hands full babysitting two children after a whirlwind wedding. In these special moments, the game really comes into its stride and offers up some truly memorable moments. Plus, when your lookalike is stuck in a love triangle between two superheroes it’s akin to the Mastercard adverts: priceless.

The quirky life simulation game is not without its flaws, but delivers a scintillating experience fit for any age, shining brightest when shared with friends. If you’re not a fan of dressing Miis in an assortment of chick suits, it may be best to sit this one out.

7/10