Tag Archives: PC

Kern Plays: “Dear Esther: Landmark Edition”

Hey guys, it’s Kern here with a little bit of gameplay. Dear Esther is basically a walking simulator with a heavily laced narrative focus. Due to that I won’t be diving too deep on this one, there isn’t much to explain.

Dear Esther is a first person point-of-view exploration first and foremost. Although you might also coin it an adventure game, I’m hesitant to do that. There’s really no enemies or prevailing threats. All that you’ll find here is a riveting story… 

Kern Plays: Dear Esther

More Information

Dear Esther was developed by The Chinese Room for the PC, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. The game was first released in 2008 as a free to play model. Later on, the game was entirely redeveloped for a commercial release in 2012.

As I said above, the game features very minimal gameplay at best, which is why it is often called a “walking simulator” a phrase you generally either love or hate as a gamer.

Personally, I think games like these have their own value, particularly if well written prose is the goal ambition of the design from the start. Dear Esther showcases this perfectly. Really, you only have one main objective here; explore the island the narrator stands upon. While you explore around and get your bearings, a troubled man explains his turmoil and reads a series of letters to his beloved, yet deceased, wife. Details of her death are slowly revealed as you explore around the island.

That’s about it… no really… that’s the basics of the game.

It is noteworthy to state that despite the minimalist style and gameplay, the game was critically acclaimed for the story it tells. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it horror, but if you are the imaginative sort, it can be a bit unsettling.

When 2017 came around, an updated version known as the Dear Esther: Landmark Edition was released, based on the Unity engine. That’s the one I’m playing in the video.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at it’s finest, and level grinds are par for the course. ..

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Unique Horror Game: The Thing

Warning: This is a horror game! This is NOT a generic science fiction romp, this is NOT a basic “blast aliens” shooter game. This is a without question a horror game, based on a horror movie. In the game NPC’s (non-playable characters) can do direct harm to themselves and others. It is a core part of the gameplay. I will be explaining that game mechanic in detail, though no images will be shown of it. Therefore, if characters becoming directly mentally unstable bothers you, maybe don’t read this post or play this game.
Kern’s note: I’m adding this warning because this game isn’t as well known as other horror titles. The movie came out about forty years ago. The game itself came out about nineteen years ago. I don’t want gamers to think this is just a common science fiction shooter game. It’s a near “survival horror” game, plain and simple. You’ve been warned.

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. In gaming, we don’t often see good video games based off of movies. Many of them flop thanks to bad game design.

Messily cobbled together cash grabs were what we expected in the early days of gaming. Back in the day, licensed titles usually promised that a game was going to be absolute crap. This trend carried well into the 2000’s. Any possible way you looked at it, more times than not, games based almost entirely out of movie material ended up missing the mark.

However, there is one game from that early 00’s era that actually managed to be far greater than I think anyone could have expected. However, it isn’t your typical gaming fodder, either.

In 2002, gamers were given a very interesting title called “The Thing“, which was based on a 1982 movie of the same name. The reason I want to talk about this game today is because it stands as a solid horror experience. This is a very underrated horror gaming title in my personal opinion. Then again, it also only panders to a very niche audience.

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Basic Source Material

Sadly, not all gamers are movie buffs. I’m certainly not, and therein rests the biggest issue the game has. You really do need to have seen the movie, or know the events of the movie to really enjoy the game to the fullest.

If you like horror movies, you’re in real luck here. If you haven’t seen it, watch the 1982 movie first before getting your hands on the game. Do not watch the reboot, it won’t serve you well. Trust me, you will absolutely want that backstory of the original movie. If you don’t like horror movies at all, even slightly, this is a game you really might want to bypass.

Some gamers may disagree with me on this. That’s fine, but I think playing The thing is far more enjoyable after having watched the movie first. Now, as a quick warning, I’m going to have to spoil aspects of the movie just to talk about the game. This is why I decided not to make this a full on game review.

See, at the end of the day, I don’t think it’s fair to review The Thing as a standalone game. Its desperately needed source material comes from something outside of gaming media entirely. The Thing video game is a direct sequel based on the movie itself, and this cannot be overlooked.

So before we dive in too deeply, what is this game? Pure fear, that’s what. Pure damn fear!

The Thing is a third person horror game. It was developed by Computer Artworks and produced by Universal Interactive beneath their “Black Label Games” publishing label. Konami dealt with the console side of things, and so as you can see we have a solid line-up on that front. You can play this game on PC, PlayStation 2 or the Xbox.

As for the game itself, it doesn’t have all the typical trappings of the survival horror experience. If I’m being honest, I find it hard to really call it a “survival horror” game at all. At the same time though, you can’t really call it a “run-and-gun” horror based action game either.

The Thing is a game that meshes both of those elements very well, doing so in a way that is absolutely ruthless. The combat and enemy design is pretty spot on for its time. Even the weakest monsters can do insane damage if you let your guard down, and that’s one of many survival horror elements.

Most of the enemies are certainly bullet sponges, but even the ones that aren’t can move freakishly fast. As a result you need to be tactical and cunning to take down these “assimilated” foes.

On top of this, you’re in an inhospitable environment at best. You’re out in a frozen wasteland for some parts of the game. Venturing out into the cold for too long makes you lose health. Sometimes you have to be out there, other times it’s just worth the exploration. The rewards are sometimes really useful, but it is a risk and it makes for some great tactical decisions as a gamer.

See that blue bar above the red bar? If that blue bar reaches zero while you’re out in the cold, your health bar starts dwindling next. Plus, there are enemies to contend with out there.

Unfortunately because this game is so fast paced, there’s an auto lock-on feature. If an enemy gets close enough, your character will lock onto it automatically. It is a bit clunky though, this is a game from 2002. Let’s not forget that particular era of gaming had a lot of clunky crap in it. As gamers, we just didn’t care as much back then. Going back to play it now, this is one thing that certainly didn’t age well.

In fact, I’ll say this; it can be an absolute pain in the ass. I’m not even joking here. I’m love this game, but it can be a complete and total piece of crap when I lock onto enemies I don’t wish to be locked onto.

Then again, almost all survival horror at the time were a clunky mess, which was part of the charm. We can turn our noses up at it now, but back then this game played as smooth as butter to our understanding.

Unique Horror Experience

So first of all, since the video game acts as a direct sequel to the movie, it won’t be retelling or rehashing too many of the movie related events. It will expect that you already know them, and I’m not joking on this, either. This is actually a full-blown story all of it’s own. It’s based on the events in the movie that took place prior to it.

You’ll get bits and pieces, but this is not a retelling, you can’t pretend it is. That said, onto massive spoilers for the movie. If you want to watch the movie, stop here! I mean it, if you don’t want it spoiled, stop! Go find “The Thing” movie that was made in 1982, watch it, and then play the game if you wish.

You play the game as a member of the United States special forces team. Your deep in the heart of Antarctica. Your mission is to investigate a United States outpost a few days after it has been destroyed. Other teams have also been deployed, but they’ve gone missing. You’ve got to find them, and find out just what in the hell is going on.

Fairly soon after the group arrives, your character and his team are made aware of some of the dangers. Namely, you find out about “The Thing“.

The explosion in the movie didn’t kill the creature. The blast maimed it most assuredly, but now it’s back and with vengeance. Further proof that not everything was completely demolished during the blast.

The rest of the game is about finding survivors and doing battle with the titular monster that managed to survive the events from the movie, “The Thing” itself. If you’ve played survival horror games in the past, then this general set-up should come as no surprise… it’s right out of other great franchises such as Resident Evil. We’ve been there, we’ve done that, and we’ve got the T-shirt, so let’s move onto what makes this game so good.

One thing I really want to make note of, is the atmosphere. The game is very good at building tension through your preconceived notions. Since this particular outpost was in the movie, getting to explore the area really helps to ramp up tension.

You’ll notice key locations that scenes took place, and although the graphics are old by today’s standard, it won’t matter that much. You’ll still know where you are in relation to the the events that occurred prior. This game is even better for those who want to walk down memory lane. Huge fans of the movie will thoroughly enjoy the game for that reason alone. That’s not the only theme that holds true, either.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what you’re in for. You’ve got yourself a halfway decent supply of guns and ammunition, but that’s not what you really need, and movie fans know it.

You can’t just waltz in guns blazing and expect to always win. You actually need fire to take down bigger enemies. Bullets don’t land a finishing blow on these big boys. You’ve got to burn them to a crisp.

If that sounds particularly familiar for survival horror at the time, you’d be right. Resident Evil: Remake had it’s own obsession with fire in 2002 as well. That very same year, players had to burn zombies after downing them. Zombies that weren’t burned, returned to life became the much more deadly crimson heads.

Like almost all horror titles, you’ll find written entries and research notes to give you clues about what happened in the area at the time. The best addition to this is the same recording that R.J. MacReady from the movie left behind, which is a really smart tie-in to the movie and the lore itself.

You’ll also come across survivors too. Now, this is my highest praise for the game, but it deserves its own section, so let’s get into it.

Survivors: Comrades or Burdens?

To trust, or not to trust? That is the question at the forefront of this gameplay mechanic. Just like in the movie, trust is a major factor in the game. You need to treat NPC’s with care, or you’ll only make the game far more difficult for yourself.

When it comes to the survivors, they are your bread and butter. They’ll have different things they’re good at. The medic will heal you, the technician will repair electronics, and the soldier will be a real powerhouse to fight along side you.

All of the comrade types are assets, and they help you out during certain segments of the game. You’ll want your comrades repairing electronics and watching your back. There is just one tiny problem. The Thing is out there, and they know it. You’d better watch their backs too.

If you aren’t careful, your comrades will be your absolute greatest detriment to survival. If they get infected by The Thing, they’ll eventually turn on you. Even if they aren’t assimilated, if you’ve managed to lose their trust, they won’t follow your orders and they could become unstable.

Another aspect of survival horror shows itself in spades here, inventory management. You’ll have to manage their weaponry and their ammo, and the importance of that can’t be understated. These NPC’s can and will occasionally become emotionally unstable, just like in the movie. They just can’t handle being too stressed out.

If they get upset, you’re in for a world of trouble before you know it. These comrades can end up shooting blindly into the dark, having nervous breakdowns, and of course being assimilated as part of The Thing itself.

Your comrades just can’t handle unreasonable levels of monsters, gore and death. Just as a real person would begin to emotionally fracture under this sort of stress, so do your comrades. These NPC’s may end up killing themselves due to a complete and total emotional breakdown. Worse yet, they may end up shooting at you during their unhinged rampage.

This is one of the key places the game really sets a high bar. I just can’t praise it enough. It is true to the movie in this way, it’s almost astoundingly so. Trust was a huge theme in the 1982 movie. You could argue it was one of the core themes directly. I certainly do. Having that aspect brought over into gameplay was a masterful decision. Your comrades need to be able to trust you, and you also need to trust them.

Gaining trust is easy enough, give them some weaponry or aid them in battle. Help them, and they will happily return the favor. However, don’t get sloppy. Loosing trust is easy too, almost too easy, and this is a key factor in gameplay.

One of the biggest plot lines in the movie was that The Thing was able to replicate any living creature it killed. It was incredibly hard to tell that someone had been assimilated until it was too late. Once your teammates are infected, they will eventually turn on you. More often than not, this happens just when you’ve gotten too comfortable with them.

You can test if a teammate has been infected by using a bit of their blood, but by doing that, you risk losing their trust. One of the key gameplay tactics is to give yourself a blood test as well, to prove you aren’t a copy of The Thing hiding in plain sight.

Final Thoughts

Okay, look let’s be honest. The barrier for entry is steep on this thing. You’ve got to know about the movie at least a little. On top of that, the game is old now, the movie might as well be geriatric. If you don’t like dated horror, you might not like this game.

That is a very valid complaint to have, because how we understand horror games has changed significantly in the past few years alone.

Classics are classics for a reason, and both the movie and the game are classics in my opinion. They do stand the test of time… but, that’s not without notable flaws. If you haven’t experienced both pieces of media, you might really want to. On the other hand, you might just want to write it off, and that’s fine too.

There is a real horror experience to be found here. A grotesque one to be sure, but a truly horrifying experience regardless.

This is a solid game. It has a bit of that early 2000’s clunky design that’s very noticeable nowadays. Sadly that’s unavoidable. It doesn’t diminish the game though, at least not in my opinion.

The Thing stands as a unique horror title, only bolstered because of it’s 1982 movie counterpart. Does that make it perfect? Oh hell no. Do I think this game should stand as a beloved classic among gamers? Oh, hell yes I do.

To me this game is right up there with the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, it is an experience worth having.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest, and level grinds are par for the course. Don’t forget to check out some of our other great content.

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Fandom: Stardew Valley

Hey guys, Kernook here. This is not a review. Rather, this is a post about a game I absolutely adore and always suggest to those looking for a casual gaming experience.

I love farming simulators. I always have, and my first introduction to the genera was Harvest Moon. I absolutely loved it, and my mom did too. We’d spend hours after I got home from school playing it together. The two of us dedicated way too much time building a farm, raising the animals, and befriending the characters. Getting to play my wholesome little farm family lingers as some of the most memorable gaming moments in my life just due to how often I played those types of games.

Naturally, when I’d heard an indie developer was working on a game to rival the Harvest Moon franchise I didn’t believe it would be successful. I was told the game would be available on steam, and when it released, I bought it. I was skeptical, but soon I realized my fears were unfounded.

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Stardew Valley is one of the best farming simulators I ever played. It’s a game I often return to when I just want a game to play casually.

Farming isn’t all that you do, but it is a rather large part of the game’s core design. Tending to crops and caring for the animals are the only way to make some of the highest quality goods in the game. Unsurprisingly, Stardew Valley was heavily inspired by the Harvest Moon franchise. Therefore plenty of the core features in the game revolve around key aspects that were so loved by players of Harvest Moon.

In many ways, those core ideas were expanded upon, and new concepts were added too.

Eric Barone, also known as “ConcernedApe“, developed the game as an endeavor to improve upon the genera. I’d like to think that he certainly did, as Stardew Valley is an incredibly robust game all on its own, not to mention the modding community that comes along with it.

Published by Chucklefish, the game was released for Microsoft Windows in February of 2016. Later ports of the game were released for macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, iOS, and Android devices.

ConcernedApe developed the game over the course of four years, and players are still treated to occasional updates. If his updates aren’t enough to satisfy, the modding community has a wealth of content to satisfy even the most seasoned players looking for new challenges or simply additional features.

The Story

The story starts the same way many other farming simulators do. Usually, an aging family member decides to leave you an old farmhouse in hopes that your character will continue the family’s legacy.

Upon starting the game, you play as a young adult who takes over your grandfather’s farm. Packing your bags, you move to Stardew Valley. The farm is in a horrible state of disrepair. It’s your job to get it into proper working order.

In this respect, Stardew Valley settles into a predictable pattern. However, the game will subvert expectations quickly.

Let’s take a brief look at the opening story…

Now I’ve made a male character, but both genders are open to creation. You can make a male or a female character, and have that character marry a man or a woman.

Your character’s has an old and ill grandfather. He leaves his legacy to you.

Once you’ve made your character, the scene begins with an old man lying in bed. He’s clutching an envelope and struggling to breathe. This man is your grandfather, and he says that this letter is for you. Then, he asks you to not to open it until the time is right. He gives you the letter, and the screen fades to black.

A moment later, a new visual awaits…

Your first look at “Joja”, the major corporation that threatens to consume everything that your character seems to care about.

A grey and lifeless office building comes into focus. Cubicles stacked closely with one another pan slowly, showing office workers in poor conditions. Two figures loom over the exhausted employees, gazing down at them from the comfort of their offices on the floor above.

This is the first indication that Stardew Valley has a darker story to tell. Make no mistake, this isn’t like the farming simulators of the past. The plot elements begin the same, but this is a somewhat mature re-telling of classic tropes. The game is riddled with grim subtext and context clues to further its narrative.

This oppressive atmosphere seems like a prison. The building is untidy, and workers are being treated unfairly. The imagery in front of you suggests long hours and little pay. The sounds themselves are mechanical, lacking any warmth. There are none of the usual comforts you might find in a typical office building.

The lighting is dim, grime cakes the desks, and a security camera hangs over the head of each employee. The skeleton of a deceased worker hangs limply in his cubicle. The slogan plastered upon the wall is a lie.

Life isn’t better with Joja…

Your character is unhappy. The poor working conditions have obviously taken their toll. His eyes are closed as the monitor in front of him glows blue. He looks as dull and lifeless as everyone else around him. His eyes slowly open, groggy and with a sense of hopelessness.

He bends forward to reach into the drawer of his desk. His grandfather’s letter rests neatly inside, sealed and waiting. He opens it, finding a heartfelt letter from his grandfather.

You’ve kept the letter for an indescribable amount of time. Yet, today is the day you choose to open it.

According to the letter, your grandfather has left you his farm. He tells you to reconnect with what matters most in life. The names you’ve chosen for your character and your farm will be listed in the letter.

Your grandfather writes that the farm is tucked away on the southern coast, located in a place called Stardew Valley. After a moment the scene fades to black again.

Although it isn’t shown on screen, your character packs his bags and heads off for his new home. The scene opens with a bus speeding down an otherwise empty country road. Upon arrival, you meet the first of many NPC townsfolk.

Robin, the town carpenter. She is the first of many characters you’ll meet in the game.

Her name is Robin, and she’s the local carpenter. She’ll be useful later for making upgrades to your farm. She tells you that the town mayor, Lewis, asked her to come and greet you. She offers to take you to your new home.

Befriending the townsfolk is a core game-play mechanic. The closer you are with them, the more you get to know them. All of the characters have at least some level of depth to their backstories. It behooves you to make friends with all of them.

Like other genera titles, giving gifts twice a week and speaking to the NPC’s daily raises their friendship score. Higher scores give you access to more cut-scenes. Each character has things they like, and things they don’t. You’ll have to learn about that through trial and error, or simply look it up online if you don’t want to go through the trouble. Lastly, Don’t forget to give them gifts on their birthdays. It gives a greater friendship boost.

Lewis is the town mayor. If you want to get a divorce later in the game, you can do it at his house.

Robin takes you to your farm. There, you see what a complete mess the farm is. Obviously, it’s fallen into disrepair. This is the another core game-play mechanic. There’s a lot of different ways to enjoy your time playing Stardew Valley, and one of them is maintaining your farm.

You can raise crops and animals here. That’s not all, the game offers a robust crafting system, allowing you to run your farm is several different ways. Bee keeping is one of my favorites, but there are others too.

You’ll need to clear the mess on the farm to get it in working condition. First however, you need to finish the cut-scene.

Once you enter your farm, you meet Lewis, the mayor of Stardew Valley. Robin and Lewis banter, proving that not all of the townsfolk get along. Eventually, Lewis tells you to get some rest because there will be plenty of things to do tomorrow.

Finally, the cut-scene ends, and the screen fades to black. After this, you get control of your character for the first time. This is where the story truly begins.

Final Thoughts

The game isn’t intense or “hard core” in any way. The appeal of it comes from the short bursts of time you can offer and still feel like you’ve gotten something done. The game saves after each in-game day, and they’re fairly short.

Now, you can binge the game for hours on end too, I certainly have at times. However the long-running appeal for me is that I don’t have to binge it to enjoy it.

No matter how you choose to play though, you’ll have to manage your character’s time on the farm wisely. Days move quickly and you have limited energy at first. As a farmer, you’ll clear your land and care for your crops. You can choose to raise livestock, too.

Seasoned players will tell you that it’s best to avoid livestock during your first in-game year. You’ll have to earn money if you want to expand your farm, and livestock can be a drain on time, money, and valuable crafting goods such as wood and stone. That being said, the great thing about Stardew Valley is that it’s meant to be played however you wish to play it. You can set up your farm in many ways, and it’s not set in stone.

By crafting goods, mining for ore, and befriending townsfolk, you’ll make your deceased grandfather proud. It’s important to join in on social activities around Stardew Valley. You’ll be able to start a romance that may lead to marriage. If you get married, you’ll get to have children. If you have a same-sex marriage, you’ll be able to adopt. There are many inhabitants in the small town, so there are plenty of spouses to choose from.

The game is fairly open-ended, allowing you to choose how you’d like to play. Friends can play together too. Stardew Valley features a multiplayer mode that allows up to four people to play on the same farm at once.

I absolutely love Stardew Valley. With the wealth of content constantly being released by fans and the creator alike, Stardew Valley is a game that is always refreshing to return to.

The modding community is a fairly healthy one too, and the types of content you’ll find among them is vast. Some of them produce darker cut scene content, that add to the already lightly mature themes discussed in the series. I won’t cover that here because if you’ve played the game already, the mods are the next logical step. This is more of an overview for players who haven’t heard of the game, or simply weren’t sure if they’d like it.

So, if your looking for a relaxing title, with a story that appeals to an audience that isn’t inherently a child at heart, then look no further. Give it a try and see how you like it.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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Gameplay: Kreshenne Plays MYST

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. In the two videos below, Kreshenne explores the immersive world of Myst, solving puzzles along the way. The game is coined as a graphic puzzle adventure, as the main draw of the game is the puzzles themselves. The game is considered a classic.

It was developed by Cyan, Inc. and published by Broderbund. Originally it released in 1993 for Mac. As time went on other ports of the game were released. PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and Windows saw notable ports of the game.

As for the game itself, it’s all about the insanity of two brothers. The mind-games that you, the player, must sort through.

Kresh Plays: MYST

Part 1

Part 2

More About MYST

In the game players use a special book to travel to the island of “Myst“. Once there, you solve puzzles and travel to four other worlds. These other worlds are known as “Ages”. Each age uncovers more backstory of the game’s characters.

Myst is a first person game. Players interact with specific objects on screen by clicking on the item, or dragging it around. Certain items like journal pages can be picked up and carried to particular locations.

Movement in the game relies on the player clicking on locations shown on the screen. There are plenty of areas to explore, and a keen eye is required to solve some of the puzzles. More on that later…

The game also features a journal. This is a necessary component to the game. You’ll be collecting the pages that belong inside of it. This is a double edged sword. You can only carry a single page at a time. If you drop a page, it reverts back to its original location. When you find them, be sure to place them where they belong.

Little Details Matter

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To beat the game, you’ve got to explore the island of Myst in its entirety. With every puzzle you solve you’ll discover clues for the next one and where you ought to go next.

You’ll be tasked with visiting the “Ages” mentioned above, The “Ages” you’ll visit are small sub worlds, self-contained and with their own puzzles to solve. Each of the Ages have their own name and theme to go with it. The Ages are: Selenitic, Stoneship, Mechanical, and Channelwood. Some of the clues, items and information discovered in one of the “Ages” might be required to solve puzzles in a different one. This is why details matter.

Rushing through a puzzle too quickly may leave you stumped later. In the videos above Kreshenne runs into this issue a few times.

Unique Aspects of MYST

Myst uses each in-game environment to the utmost advantage to tell the story it presents. Like many games of its era, the game relies largely on text based story telling. There are some “cut-scenes” if you can truly call them that, as well.

What made Myst so popular for its time was the unusual ways it provided the backstory. The entire game is riddled with mystery waiting to be unraveled. At first, you’ll have very little backstory. Nothing is particularly clear, and there is no hand-holding in sight.

You won’t have any obvious goals or objectives in front of you. As a player, it will all be left up to you. There are no enemies in the game, and no combat. The game is a slow burn, and the player can solve the puzzles at their own pace.

For more opinions about this game, might I suggest you look at the Myst review written by Jason Smith over at Adventure Gamers, or that you check out the one by Christopher Livingston on PC Gamer website.

In my personal opinion though, the two brothers that made the island are crazy people. Frankly, I’ve said too much about them with that single statement. The rest is up to you. If you haven’t played Myst or watched a play-through, you really should.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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