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Some games I played in 2018

eyyy nothing better than updating your web browser only to find the newest version of my plugins stink and it now displays foreign language text in a needlessly bulky font, ruining my otherwise lovingly-spaced page designs. I dread to see what it’s done to the Bomberman shrine!

What’s new this month?
Scans & Bits has a bunch of stuff because I wanna see people translate this stuff already (I’LL COMMISSION), including all of the Super Princess Peach and Sonic Generations manga, plus the rest of the Sly Cooper in my possession because it got a lot of buzz for some reason.
Metal Slug: Missing in Action updated with some reader submitted bits and bobs, including hopefully more user-friendly methods of accessing Metal Slug Advance’s unused stages and debug dipswitches.
The Bomberman Shrine is just some junk I had lying around, though the Pocket Bomberman page is worth a goosey if just for its unused material, complete with .IPS patch so you can sample some of it yourself!

It’s that time again: writing thoughts about the media I gorged over the past 12 months. At this point this routine is just a formality for my ailing memory – I keep needing to remind myself, yes, I’ve beaten Star Fox Command and gotten all the endings, I can’t just keep making excuses to play it again!

Wild Guns Reloaded

I played a buttload of the original SNES version and its fancy-pants remake at the start of the year, getting one-credit-clears across all difficulties on both versions I wrote a big dumb blog post about it! It’s full of nerdy comparisons and minutiae that’ll make sense to no one, which I’m pretty sure should be the tagline of Random Hoo Haas.

Void Pyramid

I was sick as a dog for months at the start of this year, and Void Pyramid was exactly the kind of off-kilter, out-of-body experience I needed. A top-down RPG of sorts where you explore the titular space labyrinth as one of its many prisoners, looking for ways to escape and/or wreak vengeance on the tyrant who built it. It’s a somewhat linear, exploration-based game split into three or four zones, and its systems really make you feel like you’re in control. Your choice of class at the start determines your character’s background, which locks or unlocks certain options throughout the game that will open different avenues, bypass challenges, and determine your stats, natch.
The simplified stat and item system is a boon, and you really feel an impact just with one stat increase; the game shows your chance of escaping in percentile before you even challenge an enemy, and stats even impact on the overworld – big strength helps you tear things apart, speed is necessary to scale pits and avoid traps, and intellect allows you to read runes and manipulate machinery. There’s always some way of resolving a problem, and it makes your stats feel like something to get invested in beyond killing things faster.

Where the game really excels is in its constant narrations and descriptions for almost every possible tile. Everything is given a detail-heavy prose-like description, really painting a picture of this surreal Egyptian-influenced future society and the civilization that once lived there, before its conversion to slimy prison populated only by shady guardians, listless foes, and the tragic in-between. Despite the primitive tile-based aesthetic, the lavish descriptions and uncanny creatures make it feel like a really immersive world.

It’s a darkly grim game, but its simplistic graphics and detached narration kind of distance you from the grisly undertones, in addition to strange enemies like diminutive scribes throwing acid at you, griffins wearing sunglasses, and a Tankopotomus. There are multiple endings, many of which occur simply through finding an ‘early’ exit, be it a booby-trapped escape pod or foolishly opening an airlock, or even settling down with a mutant woman who has no people of her own. Even how many enemies you kill, times you save or artificially beef up your stats can impact the ending, painting the kind of person you’ve become. Given how easy it is to level up through fighting I confess I don’t know if I’d have the patience to try the comparatively pacifist route, but I really dig the sheer variety of things to see and do here.
While the tone might not be for everyone, its simplistic gameplay grabbed me and everything else had me truly entranced. It’s a free download and one I’d recommend.

Bomberman Tower

A Bomberman fangame by pal Plasma Captain that expands on the basic design of Pocket Bomberman with some rogue-like sensibilities. I’d dinked about with it for a couple of minutes at a time when it first came out, but finally decided to sink my teeth into it properly, playing all three worlds in the latest build. It’s so rare to see Bomberman fangames that aren’t just, well, regular old Bomberman, so this is a treat. Seeing the obscure baddies of Virtual Boy Panic Bomber as the main foes is cute fanservice, and applying your Pocket Bomberman skills across randomised levels and new objectives is a lot of fun.


The rogue-like buzz of wanting to see how far you can get without dying, seeing how many power-ups you’ll amass or new foes you’ll find is a fun sensation. Admittedly the first world is bit of a slog – it’s just a bit too sprawling to get the buzz going – but the worlds afterward are more immediately fun and challenging if you stick with it. Getting acquainted with each world’s unique challenge is a fun learning curve, and I think the last time I played I was still gunning for a no-death run across all three worlds. You can pick it up at the Bomberman Board or at Plasma Captain’s site.

Rockman Battle & Chase

Yo it’s a Mega Man mascot racer!!! One of the first games I got in the early 2000s both as I began picking up weirdo PS1 titles and as I somersaulted into Mega Man nerdom, so I’ve got a bit of an unwarranted infatuation with it. You get to drive Rush and Beat! You get to play as the Robot Masters! You can steal each others’ parts and make your own ludicrous amalgamation of a car with unique properties and powers! There’s a little bit of voice acting!!!

As a racing game… it’s not great. The sheer novelty of playing as Guts Man and co. kind of masks the very act of driving is a wonky mess. You bounce off walls like a pinball, steering feels like a binary state between driving straight and quasi-drifting, and it’s just a bit of a bumpy ride. Some characters are tough to work with, with bizarre properties (like Spring Man’s penchant for sproinging off every surface imaginable) and special abilities that feel limited in scope. That’s not even getting into the ludicrous difficulty spike in rematches or against Dr. Wily, which I’m sure is down to blind luck. Like a lot of Mega Man games it takes some concessions to get a feel for it, and in this case it means accepting the fact it’s not a very good racing game.


It pains me to write that, as the sheer novelty of a Mega Man kart racer is just so nifty. That, and I absolutely love the game’s visual style. The low-poly 3D models are perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, but the game’s lush colour palette and charming textures and sprite-work surely make up for it. It’s a terrific demonstration of how to keep the spirit of 2D games alive in three-dimensions, with courses boasting as much colour and variety of detail as any level of Mega Man 7 – compare this to the basic Gouraud plains of Mario Kart 64. This was my first time playing the Japanese version, and its three unique hosts with their colour commentary and pre-race interviews add a lot of flavour to the game… though none of it actually adds to the gameplay.

It’s a game I like to grind away at once in a blue moon, but I’m honestly not sure if it’s actually any fun. I can’t imagine the 2-player mode being a good time, and beating Dr. Wily is enough to make me want to put it away for another five years. Playing the game is more an excuse to soak in the aesthetic. What if there was a fully 3D classic Mega Man in this style…?

Sonic Labyrinth

I had a sudden and inexplicable urge to see Sonic the Hedgehog in an isometric perspective, and as nifty as it is, Jon Barton’s Sonic 3D Director’s Cut just wasn’t scratching that itch. Unless there’s a kickass fangame nobody’s told me about, this is the only alternative…!

So you’re Sonic and you gotta find keys across spiral-esque mazes to open the exit, which are occasionally multi-tiered and even spread across several ‘rooms’. This is also that one game where Sonic isn’t fast. It doesn’t cast a good first impression seeing just how sluggish his default speed is, and even the speed-up sneakers – or any of the power-ups for that matter – are a futile gesture.
So you have to spindash. Spindashing makes you go fast! It also makes you pinball around off the walls like nobody’s business, and it’s very easy to bounce from one end of the level to the other and back again in just one roll. Pressing the button again makes you screech to a halt, and that’s basically the game’s core mechanic – mastering control of the spindash, using it to get places fast but knowing how to brake and tilt without hurtling yourself backwards.

It’s extremely simplistic and barely expands upon its basic fundamentals, but it’s a neat way of applying the momentum of the Mega Drive games to the Game Gear’s simplistic hardware. You don’t build up speed gradually, but speed is still something you need to maintain and control without it getting to your head. The stop-and-go nature means it isn’t nearly as riveting as soaring over huge gaps in Green Hill Zone or whatever, but it’s a fair facsimile for the limitations.

The level design arguably gets more… “ambitious” in the last world, with genuinely labyrinthine designs featuring warp doors that lead to unexpected exits, at least five tiers of platform per room, and a whole lot of opportunities to lose your keys and have to find them again. Oh, and moving platforms that you won’t see unless you deliberately dawdle in unremarkable locations. The game design takes such a dive it’s not worth playing to the end, to be honest! The game is better when it’s just a simple treasure hunt, exploring the four corners of the map to find keys and preferably in as quick a pace as possible.

While it’s maybe not fitting for Sonic, I do like the basic game design and was all geared up to defend it as the first Sonic game truly designed around time attack… until I realised its time attack mode doesn’t even have multiple challenges, it’s literally just the second level and nothing else. That was a serious bummer. With its compact stages and basic treasure hunt objective, it would’ve been the ideal baby’s first step into speedrunning, and this just took the wind out of my sails. You coulda had something of merit, Sonic Labyrinth!
I want to say it’s worth giving a spin (preferably armed with the maps from GameFAQs) if just for being a unique change of pace, but I think that’s my obsession with isometric viewpoints clouding my judgment. It’s not quite as absolutely god-awful as everyone makes it out to be, but it’s still barely an adequate game.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

I’ve been slowly going through the games that came with my second-hand 3DS, and I was rather averse to playing this for the longest time – until recently I couldn’t stand using the Circle Pad and figured I’d get far more enjoyment if I waited until I played the console version. I gave in and, hey, whaddaya know! Playing Smash Brothers on a handheld is exactly what I needed to kickstart my interest in it again!
As you’d expect, it’s more of that weirdo platform-fighting with oodles of bizarre characters and modes. It’s surprisingly ideal for handheld play, with the likes of Homerun Contest and its offshoots finally feeling at home when you’ve only five minutes to muck about for a bit. Smash Run is my runaway favourite mode of the game, a large map with randomised elements where you have to collect upgrades and stat boosts in preparation for a final challenge. It’s a total smorgasbord of features and elements that otherwise go unused in nearly every other mode, arguably a bizarre use of resources, but I love it. It’s perfect for a quick ten minute sessions, ideal for testing out characters I’m not acquainted with in a variety of settings, and it feels like the unexpected bonus stages of N64 and Melee’s Adventure Modes bashed together with the good bits of Subspace Emissary. It’s extremely replayable and a fun playground for testing out character abilities.


It’s a bit daunting at first use, but I dig the custom fighter option. While the variety of alternative specials aren’t nearly as exciting as I was hoping they’d be, it is fun being able to fine-tune each characters’ stats and moveset, and helped me tweak characters to fit my preferences a little more. You up their damage ratio a bit and suddenly I’m all aboard with the likes of Pit or Meta Knight, characters I’ve otherwise little affinity for. Unlocking each move one at a time is an absolute pain though, and a lot of them feel like such by-the-numbers mods it’s not worth the trouble, but the idea is nice if just for completely remixing Palutena or Lucina.

Bowser’s definitely my main. I so wanted to like him in the previous games, but his clunky movement and lousy specials just didn’t do him any favours; this time around everything about him seemed to gel. Palutena’s a runner-up as my Smash Run favourite, but only with a custom loadout – her default moveset is… certainly distinct, but functionally useless. I’ve dabbled a lot with Ryu (YO I CAN FINALLY PULL OFF SHORYUKENS ON COMMAND!!!) and Wii Fit Trainer (partially because of adorable fanart by @inkopolis), but I’m not particularly proficient with either.


While the controls are a bit imprecise without a joystick or big meaty buttons to pound on (ooer), it hardly impacted on my enjoyment – I’m not here to play pro or anything. The game’s bevy of kooky modes really shines when I’m only picking the game up for five to ten minutes at a time, experimenting with new characters or approaches, and I’ve found myself lost in the game for a couple of hours at a time only to realise I was meant to be cooking dinner instead. It’s still got it!
The new Smash on Switch looks boffo and I’m keen to try my hand at Simon Belmont and K.Rool… but I’m not in any rush. I’m still mining plenty of entertainment from this version.

Deltarune: Chapter 1

How’s this for a surprise! A free download from Toby Fox, offering something new in the vein of Undertale – not quite a sequel, nor quite a spiritual successor… but something in between. Same characters, familiar worlds, similar themes, just given a bit of a shake-up. The battle system is expanded into something more Final Fantasy inspired, and although the overworld seemingly takes place after the ending of Undertale, the ‘underworld’ is implied to be a realm entirely separate from the worlds of humans and monsters.

The new battle system looks spiffy and its new features really tie everything together nicely – avoiding attacks or encounters on the overworld, having multiple party members, and more abilities beyond attacking and ACTing. It’s still somewhat lightweight compared to a ‘real’ RPG, and Toby himself even remarked on how limiting it could be at times, but the way it plays with conventions is pretty nifty. Having berserker Susie in your party makes for a fun challenge, having to peacefully pacify your foes before she smears them against the wall, and Kris serving as a buff for allies in the late game is a nice focus on prioritising turns. It’s twists on conventions like that I’d like to see more of.

The whole “kill or be killed” angle is seriously downplayed this time around, with defeated foes simply being roughed up and a bit miffed about it, and nobody dies because of your actions. It was a strong theme in the original Undertale… but it also meant the actual fighting mechanics went practically unutilised outside of, what, one or two fights in a pacifist run? You’re given no option but to fight and suddenly you’ve no idea how the Punch Glove actually works. It makes the stakes feel a lot shallower, but I’d argue as an accessibility feature it works out; you do miss out on a slightly different ending if you choose to beat up dudes, but it’s also not the heart-breaker of accidentally murdering your skeleton friend. If you want to raise your defence or just end this battle without a multi-step routine of expressing mercy, that’s fine, it’s not a weight on your conscience.

The aesthetic is on point. There’s some terrific music tracks and the game employs a neat shift in style, from the traditional monster-influenced Americana of the overworld to the very distinct abstract landscapes of the underworld, employing great use of colour and shapes. I admit the underworld inhabitants didn’t strike me as anywhere as memorable as Undertale‘s, though that may be simply because they exist only as map sprites, without the expressive higher-res monochrome battle sprites of the last game. The banter between Susie, Ralsei and Lancer is a lot of fun; the latter two feel like archetypes we’ve seen before, but Susie’s brash attitude brings something new to the table.


As a demo there’s a good chunk of content, lasting about three to four hours if you’re exhaustive with exploring, covering far more ground than a single ‘chapter’ of Undertale, and there’s a secret boss I still need to challenge. It is somewhat stop-and-go because of its heavy focus on dialogue, with the ratio of gameplay to story arguably feeling slim compared to the first hour or two of Undertale. I confess the first time I played I was a bit cagey about it, and it definitely didn’t make the same impact as the last game – the emotions I had playing Undertale for the first time was lightning in a bottle.
I’ve played the demo three or four times now and it’s come to grow on me. I admit the high school setting at the beginning had me ready to tune out, but the story really evokes the classic tale of humble kids stumbling into a quest where the fate of the world hangs on their shoulders, and their relationships grow as they adventure – the only comparison I’m qualified to make is to the Narnia books, I’m afraid. Seeing Susie open up over the journey and Kris trying to convince the others there’s a good person under her rough exterior is really sweet, and I’m keen to see what role the other students have to play if more chapters follow suit. (if Catti doesn’t become a party member i’m gonna scream)


One of the things I sort of respect about Undertale is that there’s a lot of facets to like. Some people like the characters! Some people like the themes of gaming’s relation to meta-fiction! Some people like the dark undertones of seeing characters at their worst, unknown entities buried inside the game code trying to break out, and dead kids fucking with the plane of reality! … I, uh, mostly just like the characters. The game throws some dark stuff at you, including a completely gonzo Flowey battle unlike anything else in the game, but you generally need to dig for the darker stuff, be it piecing together info from different routes or even into the game code.

Deltarune begins with a cryptic sequence where you, the “creator”, create a “vessel”, parodying create-a-character functions and even insulting your illusion of choice or agency. It’s a weird first impression but seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of the game, which is otherwise straightforward fantasy adventure fluff… until the ending. No matter what ending you get, you’re treated to a cryptic scene of Kris ripping his heart out, throwing it in a cage and brandishing a knife.
It’s a bit of a sour note to end on. It obviously alludes to no-mercy kid Chara from the last game, and I’ve read some interesting theories regarding Kris the character being controlled against his will and acting against type by you, the player. What NPCs say about him is at odds with the sappy mushy crap you, the player, can make him perform – and ripping his own heart out and locking it up is to say he’s not a toy to be played with, and he’s calling the shots now.


While this meta-narrative is interesting, I personally found it a bit distracting; I don’t like it overshadowing the characters and worlds on display. Fan theories are going wild over everything about the game, though the theory scene honestly isn’t for me. I’ve a hunch that the story takes place after a version of Undertale‘s events where the human had little to no involvement, based purely on the sour/non-existent relationships between Catty, Bratty, Undyne and Alphys… but I’m pretty sure that’s hogwash.
I think I’m just a bit exhausted of meta-fiction at the moment, and especially fandoms that obsess over it to the point of overshadowing the rest of the media. Don’t let me spoil your good time or nothin’, but I was just having a good time with these fun characters and their cute adventure and then you had to go and remind me about the genocidal kid and all that shared-minds bullshit again. If it were buried under an alternative path or something, fair enough, but I’m just playin’ the game all standard-like, dude!

Aaaaand it’s discussions like this that drive people away from Undertale. I just like the game, man! I like the quirky characters and the fun worlds and the engaging twists on RPG formula. More power to fans enjoying media whatever way they want, it’s just a bit exhausting having to address topics like this even to casual outsiders. Long story short, it’s a free game that offers a bunch of fun content and memorable characters. That’s either up your alley or it isn’t. I did mention it’s free, right?

Willy Wombat

One of those SEGA Saturn imports I’ve always been aware of, but figured I’d finally get into it after perusing @overthemoonpie’s fansite. An isometric 3D platformer where you find keys, hit switches and solve basic puzzles to find your way to the exit – oh, and maybe a bit of jumping too. Willy’s got a very basic moveset, and the game’s fundamentals remain extremely simple all the way through, yet find new ways to challenge you, from chucking loads of enemies in your path or forcing you to master the double-tap dash before gates close on a timer.
It’s almost on the level of simplicity as the first Legend of Zelda, and quirks of the era aside (the camera is a bit fiddly and its iffy depth perception gave me some bother) I’d say it’s very easy to get into, arguably an evolution of the isometric platformer… a genre I’m struggling to think of examples that aren’t Super Mario RPG. It takes a little while to warm up, as its first world is just showing you the basics through repeated drawn-out challenges… though I confess I’m not sure when I’d consider the game at its best.


The second half of the game has some particularly fiendish levels, ranging from a timed wall that blocks your path if you aren’t quick enough on the draw, to an outrageously obtuse switch puzzle to assemble a staircase the correct way. The last world just chucks screens full of enemies at you along with some dangerous platforming segments. I had to resort to save states during one wind-based platforming bits, as just reaching the first platform was enough of an endeavour, never mind the next four.
The basics of the game design are really engaging, and the simple combat is in the vein of Zelda 1, either slashing dudes up close for fast damage or safely from afar with your boomerangs. The levels use warp holes to carry you to different areas, and while sometimes it’s an interesting challenge working how all the areas intersect with one another, some of them just feel too long and bloated; I got lost in Megalo Canyon for over half an hour because I had the key for the exit, and had even stumbled across the keyhole before I had it, but had no idea which of the dozen warp holes it was that took me there!


The game’s style is a big part of the charm. The story, all told through English voice acting, follows the enigmatic Willy and his three pursuers as they try to recapture him and return him to their city-state of Prison, where they all served as enforcers. Despite being the player character, you don’t actually know much about him, and for the early game you learn most of the story and world-building from the baddies, who wonder why someone with such a lofty position would throw it all away. Willy is a free spirit in search of the Miracle Stones which are said to lead him to Eden, the garden of freedom. Freedom is his raison d’être, and the latter half of the story turns into bizarre quasi-philosophical arguments where Willy and the baddies argue the merits of free will and authoritarian government respectively, if free will is worth sacrificing in exchange for eternal life… and to what end?

It’s strange to hear this serious dialogue coming out of the mouths of fuzzy animal characters, yet seeing Mail’s faltering faith in her mission and Tagdor going rogue had me truly engaged. The voice acting, while perhaps a bit ill-fitting at first, is a big part of the appeal, with a quasi-comic book vibe to the encounters. It’s a rather interesting angle that most of the story is learnt from the bad guys with only a vague prophecy guiding our hero from the start, meaning the long gap between story scenes has you pondering what endgame your player character is actually working towards.

Even the frequent discussions about their home state of Prison is a point of interest – we never see what it looks like or even hear many details, and given how all you find are ghosts and ghouls across the various plains, it suggests it’s the only population centre left. While the environments are mostly wild plains, you do visit the Egyptian-influenced “Ruins of Khuf” and the seemingly-abandoned “Detriam City”, which I really dig the look of – hexagonal housing blocks that rise up from the ground at the press of a button, ostensibly for platforming shenanigans, but a really nifty visual for a modular city. Shapes from the Nazca lines and Egyptian hieroglyphs make appearances in the geometry of some stages, which is a cool aesthetic even though I’m not sure what it implies about the game’s world. Admittedly it’s more about the journey than the destination, as the mandatory big reveal kind of sucks the mystery out of everything and the story ends pretty much where it started. Oh well!

It’s perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, and I’d encourage you get acquainted with the level skip and health-refill cheats when things get a bit bullshit, but I had a surprisingly engaging time with Willy Wombat. A game I’d recommend to anyone looking for quirky 32-bit platformers or just a sucker for fuzzy animal dudes. It’s one I’d love to see given a second chance, to take its old-school sensibilities and apply some modern quality-of-life features to make it shine. That, and I’m absolutely in love with its theme song. I’ll almost definitely be covering the game in some form in future, as I’ve been tinkering with the game’s code, making maps, ripping sprites, and trying to unearth whatever unused gubbins I can. Stay tuned!

Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark

I may not have reviewed Age of Extinction on the blog when I watched it (my primary takeaway: “I could listen to John Goodman threaten to kill people all day.”), and my toy collecting days are a thing of the past (hopefully), but let it be known: I am still stupidly obsessed with Transformers and will consume any and all Transformers media, no matter how terrible. So much so that I went to the trouble of making a Hong Kong PSN account to get this game hours before it was delisted. Was it worth the trouble? Definitely not. Did it keep me decently occupied when I surely had better things to do? You know it!

If you played War For Cybertron or the painfully-banal Dark of the Moon game, this is pretty much more of the same, only made by a more budget-conscious developer. The show-stopping setpieces are gone, the large-scale PVP multi-player is absent… the game recycles the assets of the previous games to build new levels and challenges, but not with any idea of escalation. You fight lots of Insecticons, there’s a couple of flying levels, you thrash about with Bruticus… yet the challenge never really excels, nor do the setpieces expand upon anything we haven’t seen in the previous games. It is extremely by-the-numbers.
Even the story is remarkably tepid, despite covering events in both the War For Cybertron universe and the movie universe. It follows tangential story threads set between the events of the games/movies as both factions squabble over the Dark Spark, this week’s all-powerful macguffin. Despite dramatic dialogue exchanges regarding the object’s power or of epic battles the player is allegedly taking part in, the stakes might as well be nonexistent. It feels like a middling episode of the TV show or stop-gap issue of the comic.


In a way, I kind of like that. It’s not often you see a video game that feels another syndicated adventure of the week, with no grand ambitions beyond having another round of adequate action on your screens. If all you want is to hear more sass from Starscream or another opportunity to play with Jetfire and Grimlock, then here you go. It won’t match the scale or intensity of the previous games, nor does it rectify on the previous games’ mistakes or produce anything remarkable of its own… it’s just more of the same.
It’s a bit hard to swallow such low ambitions when the game retailed for a whopping £50, though. Even its get-it-now-before-it’s-delisted-forever sale was around £15, which was still a bit much! Its wave-attack multi-player mode is a fair enough extra (and can be played alone, though you still need to sign into the online lobby), and I’ll confess its in-game lootboxes grabbed my attention far more than they deserved, but it’s just gravy on top of reheated leftovers. Whether or not that’s your thing boils down to how much of a filthy stinking Transformers nerd you are. Dump me in the trough, buddy, because I’ll take anything, apparently!

We can probably expect more of the same ol’ guff from Random Hoo Haas next year – more scans, more Bomberman bumph, more reader-submitted Metal Slug malarkey. I did jot out some things I’d like to do a couple of months ago,  but I’ll laugh if any of it comes to fruition any time soon. Maybe I’ll surprise myself, who knows! Here’s hoping for a 2019 that plays fair for good folk and doesn’t hit too many people below the belt – not unless they’re overdue a kick in the balls, at least.