system Index A-B
new 007: Blood Stone
Grade: A-
Publisher: Activision (2010)
Reviewed: 2021/11/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotHaving recently reviewed the console version of 007: Blood Stone (Xbox 360, 2010) I was curious to see how much was lost in the portable translation. This feels like a PS1 version of the game, following the same basic storyline but with scaled-down stages. Still, there's good variety and characters are decent likenesses despite their angular features.

You get a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective which allows you to duck-and-cover. That's a bit tedious so I prefer the run-and-gun approach. Blood Stone employs the same excellent controls as Goldeneye DS (Activision, 2010), using the stylus to look around and point your weapon. Headshots are far more effective than they were in Goldeneye DS.

I like how you can sometimes shoot environmental targets like scaffolding and fire extinguishers to neutralize nearby enemies. One feature exclusive to this portable version are entertaining mini-games like a safe cracker puzzle and a game of Texas Hold'em against a Russian business tycoon.

Blood Stone offers a diverse set of locales from the streets of Istanbul to a glitzy Monaco casino to the icy terrain of Siberia. The vehicle chase stages provide an exciting change of pace, although steering can be hard on the thumb.

It's hard to fully appreciate this DS version of Blood Stone if you've already played through the epic console version, but if you're looking for a portable Bond adventure it doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: James Bond 007 (Sega SG-1000)
007: Blood Stone (Xbox 360)
James Bond 007 (Colecovision)
Point Blank DS (Nintendo DS)
007: Quantum of Solace (Playstation 3)

new 007: Quantum of Solace
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (2008)
Reviewed: 2021/11/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotThe first thing to know about Quantum of Solace is that the game requires you to hold your DS system like a book, viewing the action on the left screen while interacting with the right (lefties have the option to flip the scheme). The problem is, this doesn't give you easy access to any buttons. Perhaps to compensate, when a button press is required you can use any one within reach.

Cut-scenes feature both digitized stills and dialog from the movie, which is pretty cool. The action is viewed from a tilted overhead perspective. The 3D characters are jagged but 007 looks vaguely like Daniel Craig. The floors look shiny and the footsteps sound crisp.

Like many 007 games, Quantum of Solace begins with the obligatory training level to get you acquainted with the controls. It's very necessary considering how inordinately complicated it is to shoot, manipulate your inventory, or engage in hand-to-hand combat. During the fighting tutorial I was forced to repeatedly beat the crap out of a man who looked like Richard Nixon.

To move you simply point to a location and Bond walks toward it. Unfortunately while reaching across the screen the stylus obscures your view. Combine that with semi-transparent scenery and it can be hard to tell what the hell is going on. Stages tend to be maze-like, repetitive, and painfully long.

To fire your weapon you hold a button and tap your target. Unfortunately enemies can absorb bullets like a sponge, and the constant tapping drains your ammo in a hurry. You'll need to return to the inventory screen just to reload, dragging more bullets onto your gun icon. I hate how enemies can shoot at you from offscreen but you can't return the favor.

Most of the time I was out of bullets, forcing me to engage in clumsy hand-to-hand combat. This mode requires performing a lot of complicated stylus moves to throw punches and block. Once you realize how unresponsive these controls are, you end up doing the touch-screen equivalent of button-mashing.

Quantum of Solace is a confusing mess. When using my inventory screen I thought I was storing my poker chips into a shot glass on the bottom. That turned out to be a trashcan! I really don't like this game. Instead of making things easier, the touch screen interface complicates matters... considerably. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: James Bond 007 (Colecovision)
James Bond 007 (Sega SG-1000)
007: Quantum of Solace (Playstation 3)
Chip's Challenge (Lynx)
Goldeneye 007 (Nintendo DS)

Aliens Infestation
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (2010)
Reviewed: 2014/5/27
Rating: Teen (violence, blood, partial nudity, mild language)

screenshotI just want to know one thing: when exactly did Sega forget how to make a decent 2D game? Aliens Infestation boasts sharp graphics, a harrowing musical score, and perhaps the best movie license around. It's hard to screw up a game like this! The action gets off to a slow start as you explore derelict spacecraft by collecting key cards, riding elevates, and crawling through ventilation shafts.

The ship layouts are a confusing labyrinth of repetitive hallways, elevators, and "you can't go here" dead-ends. You command a crew of four soldiers, one at a time. Periodically you'll encounter stranded crew members standing around like they're on their coffee break or something. Why in the [expletive] am I scrolling through all of this text? There's more dialogue here than an RPG for crying out loud!

Early on you'll deal with regenerating robots which are a real pain in the ass. Eventually you encounter aliens, but they are so common that disposing of them quickly becomes routine. Infestation is at its best when you're splattering rows of eggs or facing off against one of the grotesque bosses. Getting stuck in a small area with a hyperactive face-grabber is not much fun, especially since you can't hurt them when they overlap with you.

Whoever designed this game didn't think things through. Who would think to toss a grenade at the ceiling to blast open a ventilation cover?! Sometimes you come across what seems to be an important glowing object that you can't interact with or even identify. The lower screen selects weapons and accesses the map screen, but trying to figure out how to close the map is a puzzle in and of itself!

Aliens Infestation is seriously lacking in the fun department and feels like a by-the-numbers effort. If only the developers had sat down and played Alien 3 (Genesis, 1993), they would have known what a good Aliens game is like. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Alien 3 (Super Nintendo)
Turmoil (Atari 2600)
War of Nerves (Odyssey 2)
Alien Syndrome (NES)
Dragonstomper (Atari 2600)

Arkanoid DS
Grade: C-
Publisher: Taito (2008)
Reviewed: 2008/9/18
Rating: Everyone


screenshotI've always appreciated how Arkanoid took that classic Breakout formula and injected some much-needed variety and unpredictability. The basic premise is to clear out colored bricks by deflecting a bouncing ball, but each stage offers a new wall configuration. Some bricks are unbreakable, others release items, and some even float around. Power-ups cause your "paddle" to stretch (or shrink), unleash multi-balls (yes!), or become equipped with a laser cannon!

Using the stylus lets you move your paddle with pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately, that space between the screens creates a fairly large blind spot that's especially problematic when juggling multiple balls. But the real problem with Arkanoid DS is its lack of difficulty. The main mode provides minimal challenge, and with 35 rounds, you'll be absolutely sick of it after a half hour or so. A force field below your paddles allows you three misses per round, and that's entirely too generous.

You can also try your hand at a mildly amusing "quest mode", which offers more specific challenges like clearing a stage within a certain time limit. My favorite mode was the versus mode where you race a friend (or the CPU) to clear a wall. Your opponent's progress is displayed in a small window on the side of the screen, and it's fun trying to stay ahead. Arkanoid isn't much to look at, but its techno/dance music isn't bad, and some songs even have vocals! Arkanoid isn't a bad fit for the DS, but this version feels too watered down. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Arkanoid (Super Nintendo)
Off The Wall (Atari 2600)
Breakout (Playstation)
Break 'Em All (Nintendo DS)
Super Breakout (Atari XEGS)

Asphalt Urban GT
Grade: D-
Publisher: Ubisoft (2004)
Reviewed: 2005/11/19
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI think it's safe to say that Asphalt Urban GT isn't going to get much playing time on my DS. It's a very generic racer that's not particularly well suited to the system. The touch screen isn't used at all, and the overhead map on the lower screen is pretty useless. GT's graphics are about Playstation One quality, so they're not likely to impress. It's difficult to see upcoming turns, but this is remedied by arrows displayed on the top of the screen.

The scenic locations, including New York, Miami, Paris, and Cuba, make superb use of color, but the scenery suffers from a serious case of pop-up. There's a Gran Turismo-inspired "Evolution Mode" for people with too much time on their hands, and an arcade mode for more casual gamers.

The racing itself comes off pretty flat. The camera angle changes to capture jumps and crashes, but even these are boring to watch. I didn't really enjoy playing this, and it actually made me feel nauseous during extended play. I can't seriously fault Asphalt Urban GT in any way, but there's nothing here to get excited about. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Gran Turismo 2 (Playstation)
Sega GT (Dreamcast)
Gran Turismo 4 (Playstation 2)
Ridge Racer DS (Nintendo DS)
R: Racing Evolution (Xbox)

Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari Interactive (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/6/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotClassic gaming experts will always find fault with compilations like this, but there's no denying that Atari Greatest Hits is jam-packed with classic goodness. You get 50 games including 9 arcade ports and 41 Atari 2600 titles. The low resolution graphics look pretty sweet on the DS, although some of the vector graphics can be hard to make out. The arcade lineup includes strong titles like Asteroids, Missile Command, Centipede, Tempest, and the underrated Space Duel. Most were controlled by a trak-ball in the arcade, and while the directional pad is a poor substitute, the stylus is a really, really good substitute!

Tempest and Centipede work particularly well because you can use the shoulder buttons to fire. I love how you can configure Missile Command to fire using the directional pad, leaving your right hand to "spin the ball" with the stylus. The Atari 2600 game selection is less impressive. For every gem like Haunted House, Dodge 'Em, and Adventure, there are duds like Slot Machine, Hangman, and Math Grand Prix. I have no idea why they included all three Swordquest games considering they can't be properly played without the comic books they were originally packaged with.

The emulation is first-rate and the 2600 games especially look extremely sharp without the RF interference of the original system. I like how the bottom screen lets you adjust all the switches from the original console, but mapping the fire button to the reset switch was ill-advised, as you often start a new game without even realizing your last one was over!

A previously unreleased "military training" version of Battlezone is included, but it's boring and practically unplayable. Other bonus materials include scanned instruction manuals (nice) and an Atari trivia game that's surprisingly addictive. High scores are saved for the arcade games, but not for the 2600 titles, which is pretty lame. Still, Atari Greatest Hits is a great value, if only for the fact that you can now play Adventure in the doctor's waiting room. Finally! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)
Atari Flashback Classics (Nintendo Switch)
Atari Anniversary Edition Redux (Playstation)
Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1 (Playstation 4)
Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2 (Nintendo DS)

Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2
Grade: B
Publisher: Atari Interactive (2010)
Reviewed: 2011/7/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis second volume of Atari hits features another 50 games - including 9 arcade titles. The arcade games are most notable because they contain several rarities that I had never even heard of! Liberator plays like the next generation version of Missile Command. You view the action from space as missiles are launched over the earth's horizon. It's very challenging because the missiles change their trajectories in flight. While not as playable as Missile Command, I found it fascinating nonetheless.

Major Havoc is a colorful vector-graphics title that alternates between rapid-fire space shooting and platform jumping. The physics is really weird in the platform stages - I couldn't figure it out. Red Baron is a primitive dog-fighting game with monochrome vector graphics, and it's pretty hard to stomach. Also included is an arcade version of Super Breakout that I didn't even know existed.

Asteroids Deluxe and Black Widow are two obscure but worthwhile vector-graphic shooters. Crystal Castles is a great-looking platformer but I found its sound effects to be a little off. Also, you really can't read the high score initials because they're too small. Few gamers have played the actual arcade version of Warlords, but it's terrific. Millipede is another winner, presented on a vertical screen and controlled with precision via the stylus.

These arcade hits are enough to justify the collection, but the developers dropped the ball with regards to the Atari 2600 stuff. Paddle-controlled games like Circus Atari and Night Driver feature poor, non-configurable controls. Using the stylus to move is fine, but you're forced to use A as the fire button which is supremely awkward for righties. The big name titles include Yars Revenge, Video Pinball, Super Breakout, Maze Craze, and Star Raiders. I always enjoyed the blocky simplicity of Golf, but what happened to the sound effects?

Unreleased titles like Combat 2 and Return to Haunted House are nice additions, but they could really use some instructions. High scores are saved for the arcade games, but not the 2600 titles. The bonus materials consist of a series of video interviews with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell. It's cool to watch real videos on the DS, and the interviews are fascinating. Purists will have their issues with Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2, but if you enjoy dabbling with the classics this will scratch your itch. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 2 (Playstation 4)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)
Atari Anniversary Edition Redux (Playstation)
Atari Flashback Classics (Nintendo Switch)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 2 (Playstation)

Backyard Sports: Rookie Rush
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atari (2010)
Reviewed: 2020/11/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen I was a kid we'd go to my aunt's house on Thanksgiving and all the boys would play a pick-up game of football. Sometimes we'd play at a nearby park and sometimes right in the street (caaaar!). I preferred a Nerf ball because a real football would hurt your hands in the cold weather. Even with only three players we could make a game out of it. Backyard Sports Rookie Rush evokes that simple, stripped-down brand of pigskin fun.

The teams feature seven kids on each side playing on a short field. There are only a handful of plays selected by simply tapping the screen. With fast pacing, no penalties, simple controls, and no timeouts, you can bang out an entire game in about ten minutes. It feels like a simplified Madden on offense as you bull-rush for yards or put the ball into the air. It seems like catches depend on luck and it's hard to tell who you're controlling on defense.

Still, the game has a nice flow, responsive controls, and the best kicking meter I've ever used. Tackles are punctuated by a satisfying smack sound effect. Spicing things up are goofy plays like "banana peels" and "stinky pants".

Rookie Rush is fun but there were a few missed opportunities. There's a diverse range of scenery but it's only visible during extra points, and where are the variable weather conditions? I'd love to play in the snow. Finally, the gadget plays can be pretty cheap, like "ice cream" which sends the kids running around in a state of euphoria. Still, it's that silly, carefree spirit - and short games - that make Backyard Sports: Rookie Rush appealing. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Touchdown Football (Atari 7800)
Madden NFL 2000 (Playstation)
Tecmo Super Bowl (NES)
Madden NFL '94 (Super Nintendo)
Madden '93 (Genesis)

Big Bang Mini
Grade: B
Publisher: Southpeak (2008)
Reviewed: 2010/8/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis stylish, unconventional shooter is a hidden gem in the DS library. I've never played anything quite like this before, and I suspect I'll never play anything quite like it again. The idea is to launch fireworks toward the top screen by flicking the stylus on the lower screen.

In addition to aiming for targets up top you must also protect your "ship" on the lower screen by moving it out of the path of raining missiles. Typically you'll find yourself alternating between unleashing a series of shots and moving your ship slightly to avoid the onslaught.

Your targets are nonsensical shapes, and some are pretty outrageous. You'll see snowmen dressed as pirates, monkeys riding fans, and rabbits flying magic carpets while wearing 3D glasses. Whoever designed this game either had a very active imagination or a severe drug problem (get help, man!).

Each set of stages has a distinctive theme, beginning with a colorful Hong Kong city skyline. Other themes include snowy meadows, rocky deserts, and haunted countrysides. Not only does each offer a distinctive visual and audio style, but each introduces a new element like homing missiles or the ability to create a vortex.

Big Bang Mini's gameplay is unique but somewhat flawed. First off, you can't aim with any degree of precision, and most of the time you'll rely on your peripheral vision to see the top screen. The stylus frequently obstructs your view, especially in advanced waves when enemies begin to enter from the bottom.

Big Bang Mini is still a blast though thanks to its fast action and quirky style. I love how you can fire as fast as you can flick the stylus, and the collision detection is forgiving. The game looks extremely polished and the music is catchy as hell. Big Bang Mini is an odd title that doesn't easily fall into the "shooter" category, but it certainly falls into the fun category. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Midnight Magic (Atari 2600)
Feel The Magic (Nintendo DS)
Diddy Kong Racing DS (Nintendo DS)
Cosmic Raiders (Bally Astrocade)
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (Super Nintendo)

Bolt
Grade: D
Publisher: Disney (2008)
Reviewed: 2009/1/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe DS can produce lovely 2D graphics, but as this game illustrates, it's far less capable in the 3D realm. Bolt is a run-of-the-mill platformer that doesn't excel in any way. Bolt is a tiny dog with incredible strength, but you'll also play as Bolt's owner, a little girl named Penny. On a mission to save Penny's father, the duo scale tall buildings and explore jungle ruins while fighting generic ninjas. The blocky scenery is nothing to look at, and the constrained camera angles make it hard to determine the layout of each stage.

The control scheme is clunky as well. Most DS games use either the stylus or buttons, but Bolt uses both at once, and that's ill-advised. How are you supposed to use the stylus (or blow into the mic) while you're mashing buttons? The fighting controls don't feel natural at all, as you'll exert too much energy trying to "line up" with an enemy for an attack. It's so hard to aim diagonally that you'll wish the DS had an analog stick.

One original element of the game is Penny's "wheel bar", which allows her to zip up the side of buildings or across ledges with ease. The computer-hacking mini-games are better than you'd expect, offering a connect-the-dots style of gameplay that's simple and fun. Your progress is saved automatically between stages. Bolt isn't terrible, but lacks the charm and clever design of most Disney titles. The hamster on the title screen is hilarious, but otherwise this is one game you'll forget about the moment you shut it off. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Incredible Crisis (Playstation)
Point Blank DS (Nintendo DS)
Nova Blast (Colecovision)
Scrapyard Dog (Atari 7800)
Kaboom! (Atari 5200)

Brain Age
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/9/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen you consider that my wife could generally give a [expletive] about video games, you have to give Brain Age a lot of credit for holding her interest over the span of several weeks. Unlike any other game ever created, Brain Age manages to be educational, fun, and competitive at the same time. Designed to be "played" on a daily basis, Brain Age supplies a series of short mental exercises and carefully tracks your performance.

These "games" include rapid-fire arithmetic problems, speed-reading, and memory puzzles. Under most circumstances, completing these would be an unpleasant chore, but Brain Age makes superb use of the DS hardware. You hold the system like you would a book as you play, which feels remarkably comfortable.

Voice and handwriting recognition are effectively used to provide an intuitive, responsive user interface. But what really makes the game addictive is how it maintains high "scores" and compares your performance to other players.

Brain Age is loaded with surprises. One day it asked me to write down what I had for dinner, and a few weeks later it asked me to remember what I had on that particular night (I guessed right - chicken!!). In addition to "Daily Training" exercises, Brain Age also offers a well-executed Sudoku mode. If you've ever tried these "numeric crossword puzzles", you know how madly addicting they can be.

Brain Age has a few quirks, but no showstoppers. The talking head "Doctor" is a bit verbose at first, but gradually becomes less disruptive. The voice and handwriting recognition aren't perfect, but in general they're surprisingly good. I'm not sure if Brain Age can improve your mental abilities, but it certainly can't hurt, and you'll have fun in the process. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Henry (Tiger Game.com)
Berzerk Voice Enhanced (Atari 2600)
Metroid Zero Mission (Game Boy Advance)
Wii Fit (Wii)
Royal Dealer (Intellivision)

Break 'Em All
Grade: C
Publisher: D3Publisher (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/9/21
Rating: Everyone


screenshotSince the dawn of mankind, 1977, man has aspired to fling balls at walls, inflicting massive damage and loving every minute of it. Taking its cue from Breakout and Arkanoid, Break 'Em All is pure wall-smashing satisfaction. Adding its own twists to the ancient formula, the game features different types of bricks, random wall configurations, and a Gradius-style power-up system.

Before each game you'll select from a list of possible power-ups, including extra-wide paddles, multi-balls, a "bomb" that blasts groups of bricks, and a "laser" that rips through an entire wall. Better power-ups gradually become available as you progress, and combining them is an effective strategy. You actually have some degree of control over the ball caroms, and the ball speed gradually increases to prevent boredom from setting in.

Break 'Em All held my attention for a while, but maybe the game should have been titled "Break A Few", or "Break One or Two Later On If It's Not Too Much Trouble". Once you become proficient, the games tend to be drawn-out and repetitive. Even the random walls all tend to look the same. The Quest mode is worth checking out because it offers occasional "bosses" to defeat, but the ill-advised Survival mode (Breakout meets Asteroids) is worthless.

Break 'Em All's ultra-modern visuals are plain but clean, and the electronic background music reminds me of an old Genesis PGA Tour game. It's pleasant enough at first but does get tiresome after it loops a few hundred times. Break 'Em All will never monopolize your DS, but if you're looking for a simple change of pace, you could do a lot worse. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

If you like this game, try: Arkanoid DS (Nintendo DS)
Asteroids (Playstation)
Arkanoid (Super Nintendo)
Off The Wall (Atari 2600)
Breakout (Playstation)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Sacrifice (Europe)
Grade: C+
Publisher: 505 Games (2009)
Reviewed: 2017/10/21
Rating: 16+

screenshotAs a longtime fan of the television series I feel it's my personal responsibility to review each and every Buffy game in existence - even if that means importing from England! Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Sacrifice is a fully-licensed product and it shows. You get superb character likenesses, excellent graphics, and a fantastic audio track.

Much the original Resident Evil (PS1, 1996) the pre-rendered 3D scenery looks nearly photorealistic. The problem is, the camera angles are fixed and change abruptly as you move from place to place. Particularly when running it can be disconcerting as hell, especially if you get stuck between two areas. A green arrow helps keep you headed in the right direction and there's also a helpful map.

Buffy can perform melee attacks, use weapons, cast spells, and even administer fatalities. Unfortunately the game relies heavily on touch screen controls. Worse yet, they require use of the stylus, so you have to take your fingers off the buttons! The opening stage takes place at Sunnydale High which is crawling with trenchcoat-wearing vampires. While enemies are in close proximity the game plays blood-curdling music overlaid with mysterious whispering. Very cool.

Defeating enemies takes practice. Trading blows will get you nowhere so learn to use combos, spells, and weapons. In addition to exploration and combat, there are some surprisingly enjoyable mini-games that let you pick locks and solve circuits. The witty dialog is reminiscent of the show and the game incorporates memorable villains like Caleb and the skinless Warren Mears.

Sacrifice is so ambitious it actually tries to incorporate first-person modes. This is where the game goes off the rails. You can't see where you're going in this mode and adjusting your view with the stylus is a nightmare. These controls tie your fingers in knots! Sacrifice is far more complicated than it needs to be, but the Buffy faithful will appreciate its fine production values and attention to detail. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Escape From The Mindmaster (Atari 2600)
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (Nintendo DS)
Resident Evil (Playstation 4)
DeathKeep (3DO)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Xbox)


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