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BROK the InvestiGator - Point and Click X Beat'em Up!

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Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Wrath
Finished the game. A little too much chatter towards the end, but still a very good experience. In my opinion, definitely the best P&C graphic adventure game in the last 5 years.

And you know, it's certainly not an RPG, but it's more of an RPG than the overpraised and overrated Disco Elysium.
 

Fatberg Slim

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My thoughts after finishing this recently:

- My assumption going in was that solving the puzzles in traditional adventure game fashion was the “right” way to play the game and that you’d only resort to beat-em-up mode if you were too dumb to figure things out, but it seemed like you need to break stuff and get into fights some of the time to avoid turtling like a bitch, getting captured, letting other people die, etc. My final stats were something like 75% brains / 25% brawn

- Interrogation system was picky. Many of the clues you need to link together say similar things and it wasn’t obvious which specific combinations the game will accept and in what order to introduce them. Luckily this part of the game is forgiving in terms of making mistakes
- According to the game, I got the “Canonical” ending. It was rather bleak despite making what I thought were moral yet practical choices throughout the game, but I guess that is also true of real life sometimes :negative:

- Definitely agree with the previous comment about being too dialogue-heavy at the end. It also took an unexpected metaphysical turn towards the end of my playthrough, which I found jarring in this setting

- My single playthrough took about 11 hrs, which is pretty long for a modern adventure game

- No blatant furry-related depravity which I was very thankful for, although I’m sure there are people out there who use it for that purpose...

- As an aside, one computer game trope that I find very hard to believe is when a character has long-standing amnesia about their past and everyone acts like it’s not something to freak out about or at least see a doctor. Are there actually people out there walking around like this?

Overall a decent game but better-suited for those who prefer choice-and-consequence over puzzle-solving (i.e. not me). Your actions do seem to cause the game to go in very different directions and not just result in superficial differences, so definitely respect the effort there :salute:

EDIT: Forgot to mention my favorite part was Brok repeatedly being called "Pork" by that one guy. Cracked me up every time! :lol:
 
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lightbane

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My assumption going in was that solving the puzzles in traditional adventure game fashion was the “right” way to play the game and that you’d only resort to beat-em-up mode if you were too dumb to figure things out, but it seemed like you need to break stuff and get into fights some of the time to avoid turtling like a bitch, getting captured, letting other people die, etc. My final stats were something like 75% brains / 25% brawn
Punching your way out is perfectly valid for a second playthrough actually!

I wanted to write a mini-review of this game, but it's taking time and/or I have other stuff to do, I'll try to finish it ASAP because this game needs more love.

- According to the game, I got the “Canonical” ending. It was rather bleak despite making what I thought were moral yet practical choices throughout the game, but I guess that is also true of real life sometimes

The bottleneck for the best ending and not getting the Canonical one is your relationship with Graf. Due Graff being a realistic teenager, it's always an uphill battle, but if you pay attention to what you do, and do some stuff like trying to call him even if he doesn't answer, you'll get the alternative to the "Canonical" ending.
- As an aside, one computer game trope that I find very hard to believe is when a character has long-standing amnesia about their past and everyone acts like it’s not something to freak out about or at least see a doctor. Are there actually people out there walking around like this?

TBF Slummers don't look like they can afford a doctor. It's not said explicitly in-game but some characters treat Brok as if he has brain-damage (ie: try jumping on the bed in the apartment while Graff is around, or on the table at the hangar), which would be fitting as he used to be a boxer. Some of his quotes also give this theory more strength (ie: forgetting who's the government body). Either way, the way Brok is handled is usually better than most cases.
 
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Fatberg Slim

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- According to the game, I got the “Canonical” ending. It was rather bleak despite making what I thought were moral yet practical choices throughout the game, but I guess that is also true of real life sometimes

The bottleneck for the best ending and not getting the Canonical one is your relationship with Graf. Due Graff being a realistic teenager, it's always an uphill battle, but if you pay attention to what you do, and do some stuff like trying to call him even if he doesn't answer, you'll get the alternative to the "Canonical" ending.

Yeah, I have to admit I neglected the whole phone/text mechanic for the most part. It also sounds like I could have gotten a better school on Graff's test by not messing with the other students' projects, although the rules of the test suggest this is permissible (and Graff seems fine with it as long as he doesn't directly touch them) and no one seemed to notice me sabotaging them. OK, not all my decisions were the moral ones. :oops:

- As an aside, one computer game trope that I find very hard to believe is when a character has long-standing amnesia about their past and everyone acts like it’s not something to freak out about or at least see a doctor. Are there actually people out there walking around like this?

TBF Slummers don't look like they can afford a doctor. It's not said explicitly in-game but some characters treat Brok as if he has brain-damage (ie: try jumping on the bed in the apartment while Graff is around, or on the table at the hangar), which would be fitting as he used to be a doctor. Some of his quotes also give this theory more strength (ie: forgetting who's the government body). Either way, the way Brok is handled is usually better than most cases.
Right, it ties in with his boxer background (and maybe there's a real-world lesson in there about the sports-related risk of chronic traumatic encephalopathy). It's not the most unrealistic thing in a game featuring talking animals in a domed city, I just find it funny when NPCs are like "Whoa, you have no memories at all of your childhood? Weird. Anyway, here's what I need you to do for me..."
 

lightbane

Arcane
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Dec 27, 2008
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Actually, I think which way to do the science fair you take affects how do involved parties react to your actions and your total score. The game is big on C&C.

Whoa, you have no memories at all of your childhood? Weird. Anyway, here's what I need you to do for me..."

I don't think it gets that bad in Brok's case. Moreover, just like Blade Runner's original novel which is based on, nearly everyone seem to have brain damage of some kind, this time due to the exposure to the constant pollution, which explains the quirky characters (which in some cases their behaviour is an obvious act to face their depressing lives).
 

lightbane

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Dec 27, 2008
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10,253
This should have been posted earlier, but I’ve been busy.

Short version: Fear not, this is not a furry game (most NPCs are fuck ugly probably to ensure that), but a GOTY one. Sequel when, COWCAT??



Longer version: A proper point-and-click adventure whose creator doesn’t outright insult the players nor has a non-ending that tries too hard to be deep, or having an unlockable wall-of-text that tells how the game was about the journey and not the ending itself, yadda yadda.

I’ll start with the fighting gameplay as that’s the main novelty of the game and it’s a very rare thing to see in a point-and-click game: You have 3 enemy “types”: robots, dirty rat criminals and bosses, each with their own moveset and quirks.

The variety may seem low at first, but it is compensated with enemy numbers, different enemy types with ranged and/or melee attacks to keep on your toes, their ability to pick-up weapons and healing items left unattended, their ability to surround you given the chance and, lastly but not least, they’re smart enough to hit you while trying to heal to steal your recovery item and use it for themselves (some bosses love doing this).

Interestingly, there’s a friendly fire “feature” with certain enemy types, so if you can position yourself rightly you can make the bad guys accidentally tear each other out. More interestingly, certain enemy types can be rendered useless in a way the game doesn’t explicitly tell you, but which makes you feel smug as hell once you figure out. Sadly, there are no grapple moves of any kind, which is a shame (at best, there’s an enemy that can throw you and that’s it IIRC). At least there are environmental hazards for both you and the enemy. You also can “buff” yourself with support items before a fight if you know it’s coming. On the other hand, the virtual arena levels are dull and prevent you from using your inventory items, for good and bad, but these are short and only useful to level up your stats, excluding the story-related mandatory sections. Speaking of: while you can level up your stats, I only noticed Health as the most relevant stat, as you need to spend HP to use your special moves and once you’re at low health, a super-attack starts charging, encouraging you to have a big HP pool.

You have 2 main characters that you can swap at will and they of course have different fighting styles. Brok mostly uses boxing, but he has short reach, his strong attack is too slow, and his moves do not really matter once you realize you can find a weapon right at the start of the game that does more damage than anything you can do. Meanwhile, his adopted son is a catboy teenager with better reach, faster than Brok but weak as hell, so you’re pretty much encouraged to AVOID fighting when you play as that one (or alternatively level up a little and play it smart so that he’s not KO’ed instantly should violence happen).

In both cases, in this game you’re finally allowed to do a thing most adventure gamers wish they could do in many, many games: the ability to punch your way out of a puzzle! If there’s an idiot standing in your way, you can either solve the puzzle required to continue, or simply hit him. You can in fact punch nearly every NPC you can come across! Of course, just because you can it doesn’t mean you should. One of the game’s themes is all about being tormented repeatedly by the short and long-term consequences of poor choices, including yours.

Graphics are okay, the atmosphere is believable and everything looks dirty and run-down like a proper cyberpunk scenario (shame that some of the characters don’t look rough enough to fit).

The plot is quite interesting and there are 11 endings, from good to bad, to one uber-bleak one (to the point a trigger warning was patched in later on, kek), and what the game calls the “canonical” ending. Most endings are mutually exclusive as they track what you do and what you didn’t during the game, which means replays are encouraged. I liked it how this extends to the puzzles which sometimes have alternate solutions besides brawn or brains, and how characters remember what you did (or didn’t). You also can be an ass and punch Graff, the aforementioned adopted son, right after starting the game and later continue being a terrible father, just because you can (don’t expect this to end well though). Speaking of, Graff is an interesting character:

He behaves like a realistic teenager, which means he’s sometimes annoying, quite whiny, he's a pain in the ass, loses control of his emotions easily, not as smart as he thinks and is always itching for an excuse to yell at his dad. Having a good relationship with him is an uphill battle (just like regular fatherhood!), but worth it (if only to see how some scenes change depending on your "relationship score").

Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed canonical ending sucks:

It’s a goddamn cycle of guilt that explains very little and blatantly sets up stuff for the sequel. Some may also find the aspects behind it contrived. For what’s worth, it doesn’t come out of nowhere if you pay attention to your surroundings. There also two additional ending scenes if you unlock all other endings and find all of the ingame collectible ads, but these are not worth much except to be teaser material for the sequel/s.

By the way, the ads’ codes can be scanned with your RL phone, funnily enough.

Also, the game uses its own written language that you can (optionally) translate to discover some fun stuff if you're crazy enough to do so (unless you're lazy and use a guide instead).

Like all cyberpunk works, many themes are touched upon, this time including but not limited to the consequences of having an overwhelming police force with very little restrictions to their methods, the dangers of being always online, how far are you willing to go when you’re desperate and stuck in a bad situation, the consequences of physical abuses and how survivors react to such experiences, the differences between the haves and have-nots, how youngsters with access to too much technology can forget even the most simple things, the effects of extreme pollution over humanity over generations, whether you’re strong enough to live with your bad choices or if you would drop everything and try again if you were given a second chance (even if it’s risky or unknown to work), how bad choices can keep haunting you even at the worst time possible, etc. Also, while there are robots there’s barely any mention of dehumanizing cybernetics though, for once. IMO sometimes the setting is too bleak (despite the game calling itself “light cyberpunk”), which clashes with how cartoonish the characters look. Hell, at one point there’s a character that is supposed to look intimidating, but comes out as goofy instead due the art style. Brok also behaves like a moron at points, but you’re told repeatedly how he used to be a boxer and suffered for it. Either way, the plot is interesting at the very least.


Regarding puzzles, there’s a little of everything: logic-based ones, optional ones, timed puzzles, puzzles with invisible timers, puzzles with multiple moving parts in the same screen, classic “you have to do ‘x’ chores to have ‘y’ character let you do ‘z’ ”, interrogating people in a minigame inspired by the Ace Attorney games and so on. Some puzzles also require you to punch stuff to continue, or do some platforming (unless you find an alternative if there’s one). Have in mind that this is a story-driven game though, for good and bad. NPCs are also chatty and will give plenty of hints most of the time. I liked how you can not only brute force some puzzles, but that you’re allowed to fail some of them, which can change future scenes (ie: having Graff perform terribly at school will not result in a game over but a radically different route than if you did well, which is also affected by how you did it, whether Brok helped or not if he was capable of doing so and so on). The game reminds me of Deus Ex with how obsessive is with the little details. You also can use the ads collected ingame to get some hints, but sometimes they're not too useful.

As for the writing, it’s a solid noir tale. Some characters are aggravating on purpose, but others try too hard IMO (like Shay the crazy bird who can quickly get on your nerves). The last chapters have too much dialog, particularly Chapter 4 with the investigation case that goes on forever (thankfully there are “shortcuts” to skip most of the talking if you know how). Moreover, the villains will unleash their Villainous Speech™ at you given the chance, which is as verbose as you may think, but once again depending on your previous choices, you may end up in a different "ending route", which can change the ongoing scenario a lot and even if you have to face the final boss at all! You can in fact finish the game as a complete pacifist, Fallout-style.

The music is... fine. Only the main theme and the credits theme stood out to me. The voice-acting is quite good. Brok sounds adequate and everyone else do as well... Except for Graff, who as mentioned is insufferable and grating (not sure if that counts as good or bad voice-acting).

Finally, the dev is still working hard on this to patch up bugs and add the finishing touches that are still missing (ie: unique virtual arena bosses), but it’s fully playable as it is now.

To summarize: GOTY. Better than Return to Monkey Island and done by 1 guy with a quarter of the budget.

Sequel when?
 
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lightbane

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I'll be damned. It seems the combat got updated making it MUCH better and fluid, including grab attacks (for the enemy at least).

 

COWCAT

COWCAT
Developer
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Oct 10, 2015
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France, Saint Etienne
Hi,

Thanks for reposting that trailer. Yes I reworked the combat according to feedback.
The game has now reached Overwhelmingly Positive with 98% player rating on Steam!

BROK the InvestiGator has won "Best Concept" at the Aggie Awards (from AdventureGamers.com), plus "Best Character", "Best Gameplay" and "Best Concept" from readers. Thank you if you voted for it!

Today it releases on consoles, which means it's now available on Steam, GOG, PS4, PS5, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.
(with special features for each, you can use touch screen on Switch for example)

releaseconsole.jpg


If you know any streamers interested, please tell them to reach me for a review key:
https://www.cowcatgames.com/press_kit_key.php?idgame=BROK
 

lightbane

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Cool! I haven't played the game again as I already finished it, but can the PCs finally use grab attacks, or only the enemies? Were the special bosses added?
 

COWCAT

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Cool! I haven't played the game again as I already finished it, but can the PCs finally use grab attacks, or only the enemies? Were the special bosses added?
It was never planned for players to do grabs, the main reason being it would be impossible to achieve grabs with the mouse and keep a good gameplay. The player would constantly get stuck into grab positions accidentally, or the opposite. (Full beat 'em ups usually don't have to make their games playable with the mouse, so it's a constraint of the genre mix!)
Keep in mind, this is still the most advanced game to combine an adventure game with beat 'em up. Compare the combat with Lucasart's Indy games super basic ones and see the difference...
However I've added several enemies grabs to add variety, and made the combat gameplay way more dynamic with update 1.2.0, with the possibility to juggle enemies in the air for example.
 

lightbane

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For the sequel, consider adding more weapons, especially guns, as that would make combat easier with point and click, especially guns (click the attack button to shoot and that's it). On the other hand, weapons are OP enough already, the few you can find, but I think that was the idea, as that's usually the case in ALL beat-em-ups...
 

Alienman

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Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Codex Year of the Donut Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
Might add my review to the mix as well. You can read it below, or on my blog! Spoilers: It's pretty good, but the META ending feels a bit lacking.

Point & click and the beat ’em up genre combined, two genres that should never cross, like the beams in Ghost Busters. What is next, horror and comedy? Oh wait, that is a thing. Unlike that unholy meld, Brok the Investigator does the blending fairly well, which adds some gameplay to the otherwise pretty static adventure gaming. However, it’s not all happy sunshine, but COWCAT almost succeeded!

You play Brok, a crocodile detective in an anthropomorphized dystopian cyberpunk world filled with interesting, and topical themes. And not unexpectedly you are down on your luck. Don’t let the cute animal graphics fool you, this is an adult story for the most part. It starts with a dream that set the stakes. In the dream, it turns out Brok’s wife died in a fire, and he blames himself fully for what happened, guilt-ridden as he is. The incident left him alone with his stepson Graff, which he now cares for, and life hasn’t been easy living in the slum of the city since that event that turned everything around. Brok makes most of his money as a private detective, and when you get to take over for real, you get a call from a client that will change everything for the future.

The game relies on you not knowing much of the story, so I will not spoil anything here, or at least try to minimize it. In the sense of a typical detective tale, things are not what they seem, even if the game takes time to get the main plot going. The game has plenty of subplots, and you even get to play as Graff a few times, experiencing his part of the story. Most of these subplots are resolved at the end satisfactorily, however, I found the “canonical” ending a bit disappointing and off-putting. First off, as expected since the setting is cyberpunk, there is a deeper conspiracy to unveil. In the beginning, when this storyline finally opens up I found it intriguing, but unfortunately in the end, it turned way too simple for me – typical villain stuff forcing his will on the world. The other thing is the META the ending relies on, as it turns out there is some heavy “science fiction” involved that has a direct connection to how the game works.

The furry version of American History X


Regardless, I enjoyed my time with the game, and I found the narrative intriguing, and the characters charming. Even the world-building is interesting – overall, everything surrounding the story has a cozy feel to it. One of the few things that make it so is there is a lot of reactivity to the stuff you do. From a pure storytelling perspective, it’s a real joy – characters will often mention things you interact with and react to things you have done in the past. It’s a cool thing to see, and some RPGs can only dream of reaching that level of reactivity. What also is cool is that the narrative has several paths and endings, for example, people you meet can die, depending on what you do, say, and what sidequests you complete.

When someone takes the last pizza slice without asking you
The adventuring part works in the usual way, you pick up items, combine them, and scan environments for clues. Nothing too special here, everyone that has played any point & click game knows what’s up. However, the beat ’em up part is not common in these kinds of games, and in general, I think it works well. It works a bit like the classic sidescrollers, such as Street of Rage, or Double Dragon, except that you fight on a static scene. There are a lot of moves to learn, and it seems to have all the important basics down for a brawler, actually, I think this mode could have been a stand-alone game, it’s that functional. But I did find a few issues with it. I started on the hardcore difficulty, overconfidence in my ability to fight, and well, that didn’t end well. I managed to fight okay until I reached a boss fight that promptly kicked my ass. I should clarify with me being okay at fighting means me mostly flailing around until I win by pure luck. I’m not great at brawlers, and as it turns out, hardcore mode is hard and is way too fast and spastic for an elderly man like me.

What about normal mode? It’s like night and day, while hardcore proves to be a challenge, maybe a bridge too far for my skills, normal is unfortunately a cakewalk. The switch made the fighting way too easy, and made the aspect of violence no longer a risky path – so heed my warning, if you do well on hardcore, but perhaps hit a wall or two facing a boss – keep going still, normal is very easy, and after the swap, you can’t go back.

The fighting element of the game is more than just a simple beat ’em up since it adds to the narrative experience, and above all, it expands the puzzle solutions. You see, Brok the Investigator commits to the good old “brains or brawn” approach, which lets you solve puzzles how you see fit. Is a door blocking your progress, and you can’t scramble enough brain cells to get through? Well, just change to combat mode and smash through it like there is a free perfectly baked salami pizza on the other side! It adds a lot to the game and lets the gameplay aspect directly influence the riddles, which is just a great design. You will be rated on this of course, but I wouldn’t say the game passes judgment in any way, however, your mind might when it comes to that point. So, I recommend not trying to smash everything unless you are that kind of guy.

Someone had a little too much catnip


Other gameplay pieces of the game are doing investigations and collecting clues used for interrogations, having you go full Columbo at times. In this mode, you combine statements said from interviews and clues you have collected. What is interesting here is that these interrogations can fail, which of course will change the storyline, and ultimately the ending. However, it also means that you will have to pay attention to stuff that is being said and take notes of the environment where the crimes have been committed. Once again the game demands a little. Going from standard AAA-gaming to this is like jumping from elementary school to college in one go. It’s a fun aspect, though, and a bit stressful since most of us don’t want to send an innocent to jail. All these different gameplay designs mash together well, and nothing feels out of place. It’s clear a lot of love went into all these different modes, especially the interrogation scenes from a production standpoint. There are a lot of moving parts in these segments, and it’s impressive to see the scenes react to what you pick and do.

I’m almost a pacifist!
For the collector/hidden object lover there is some stuff to find if you are into that. In each scene, there are hidden “ads” to pick up, and they double as “help tokes”(use them to get clues on puzzles) and as an optional collectible that unlocks things. I should add I played the game with a controller. I tried to play it with a mouse and keyboard at first, but it didn’t feel comfortable – the fighting at least. However, with a controller, it felt much better, and the actual point & clicking didn’t suffer too much, except that it takes longer to move the mouse pointer with the stick.

Visually, it’s a stand-out game. I almost always prefer pixel graphics when it comes to point & click adventure games because of nostalgic reasons, and I like that style in general, but this one kind of feels nostalgic too in its own way. The style used reminds me of the 90s cartoon shows I watched as a kid on TV. It’s well-made and pleasing to watch. The only issue I found with it is that characters are a bit “fat” when fighting, and when several of them share the same screen it can get messy, as in a clusterfugg of the highest magnitude. Luckily, it doesn’t happen too often to become a greater issue, but it is there.

In the instance of sound, the voice acting is excellent all around. Everyone made a stellar job, and once again, the voices feel like they could be out of a 90s cartoon. It’s very charming, and everything is voiced in the game, from the dialogues to item descriptions. Sound effects are okay, I can’t say I noticed anything that stood out here, and the same goes for music except for one aspect of it. When you get closer to the truth in an interrogation segment the music gets louder, and much more intense. It makes you feel like you are about to make a great reveal, which in truth it often is. A minor thing perhaps, but it’s a nice design still, and should be mentioned.

Hey, I know that sundown


Brok the Investigator feels like a game you shouldn’t miss out on, especially if you already enjoy point & click and like when the genre tries something new. While I enjoyed the story, I have to mention once again that the ending can feel off, as it did for me. It’s not bad, but I think it undermines the plot a bit since this specific “aspect” of storytelling is never easy to do well. It’s also clear there is a setup for a sequel here, however, it doesn’t ruin the game as a standalone if a sequel never comes out. Do I recommend Brok? Yes, it’s a unique game, with interesting design decisions that work well together and are fun to play. The game also allows for replays since there are plenty of different endings, and storylines to unlock.

Thanks for reading.
 

lightbane

Arcane
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There's new stuff incoming! To start, a co-op mode!


Where's the sequel though? I hope I don't have to wait 5 more years.
:rpgcodex:
 

lightbane

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The Co-op is here! No idea how it plays, especially considering the multiple choice and consequence routes.
New bosses for the arena when?
 

COWCAT

COWCAT
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lightbane

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I wonder how beat-em-ups work with touch screens, it sounds like a nightmare. Holographic interfaces or the return of keyboards when?
 

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