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Carter Dotson

Senior Writer with the 148Apps Network since June 5, 2010

I'm Carter Dotson, freelance writer based out of Chicago. I've been a fan of portable gaming since the days of the black-and-white Game Boy, but now mobile gaming consumes my life. Along with writing about mobile gaming. Which is why you see all these posts below. Also, check out The Portable Podcast, every Tuesday here on 148Apps.

Carter is not currently writing for the 148Apps Network.
Personal site :: http://about.me/wondroushippo
Kiwanuka Review

Kiwanuka Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Kiwanuka takes a radical approach to how it is structured, but is it still worth checking out?

Read The Full Review »

It’s always easy to be way too cynical when it comes to free-to-play games, and when Tony Hawk’s Shred Session was announced there was certainly some thought that it could be a cheap licensed affair. Well the game has soft-launched in New Zealand, so I put on my helmet, grabbed my board, and found out this is a more casual game – but not a cash-in.

The game is set up as a lane-based runner a la Subway Surfers, but it truly is just a Tony Hawk game set up in that vein of being friendly for mobile and casual play. Levels include ramps, rails, and even half pipes. Tricks can be strung together through the gesture-based system for grabs, flips, and grinds. Extended gestures exist for more complicated tricks. These complicated tricks can be unlocked and bought with coins over time as players level up, or unlocked instantly with bucks (the hard currency).

The game takes place in two modes: Shred Session and Survival. Shred Session is a level-based mode where each level tasks players with short-form goals to chase after. Some levels involve scoring a certain number of points before the timer or level runs out. Others involve collecting a certain number of orbs, collecting time tokens, and participating in trick-offs with other skaters where the prescribed tricks must be matched. All are managed by a three-star system, with higher scores or more collectibles necessary to get more stars.

THSS_ICFC-1THSS_ICFC-4While the game is free-to-play, and more advanced tricks will help with combos, it does a great job at not letting the monetization get in the way of playing the game. There are boosts to buy along with new boards and skaters, but purchases largely feel optional instead of necessary. Having no energy system helps out a lot, too. Given that style is a huge part of skating culture, I can see cosmetic upgrades contributing to the game’s moneymaking – particularly as hard currency is needed to unlock many of the skaters and cooler tricks early on. But there’s no replacement for skill.

While certainly the monetization could change, it seems as if there’s a really interesting core here; one that could appeal to those who like skateboarding games, but want a mobile-friendly experience. We’ll see how the world reacts when Tony Hawk’s Shred Session eventually goes worldwide.


MLB Perfect Inning Review

MLB Perfect Inning Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
MLB Perfect Inning has a few good ideas, but the implementation is severely flawed.

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Perfect Paths Review

Perfect Paths Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Like challenging puzzle games? Then Puzzle Paths is a must-have.

Read The Full Review »

KeroBlaster Review

iPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad
KeroBlaster, from the creator of Cave Story, nails the Japanese pixel art style of art and gameplay that many others try to imitate.

Read The Full Review »

Thomas Was Alone Review

iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Mike Bithell's creative platformer is a fantastic experience because of its writing.

Read The Full Review »

Order & Chaos Online from Gameloft Goes Free for Only the Second Time Ever

Posted by on May 23rd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Gameloft’s Order and Chaos Online, the MMORPG currently entering its fourth year of service, is available for free through June 2. This is only the second time that the game has gone free, though it does have in-app purchases for various forms of currency.

Read our review of the game for more, though plenty has been added and changed in the game since then!

orderandchaos

via: Our Review

Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork Gets Achievements and a New Control Scheme

Posted by on May 22nd, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork, the Galaga-inspired shoot-em-up created as a collaboration between Pixeljam and James Kochalka, has been updated today. Want to play the game with tilt controls, eschewing those pesky virtual buttons? That’s now an option! Want achievements to feel better about your accomplishments? Why, those are in the game now as well! Huzzah for feeling good about yourself while tilting about!

You can download Glorkian Warrior: Trials of Glork now for $2.99.

via: Our Review
$

FairPlay Media has launched a game based on everyone’s favorite improvising crime-solver from the 8-s: MacGyver! In MacGyver Deadly Descent, players make a descent into a labyrinth of deadly puzzles in a laboratory that’s quickly running out of air. They will have to act quickly and solve a variety of puzzles to save the day.

MacGyver Deadly Descent is available now for $2.99, with proceeds from sales of the game going toward the MacGyver Foundation, which “aims to encourage and support individuals and organizations throughout the world who utilize self-reliance, non-violence, and sustainability to improve people’s lives.”

MacgyverDeadlyDescentmacgyver

King is releasing a sequel to the game that got them started on mobile, thus becoming the behemoths that they are today: Bubble Witch Saga 2. The game has soft-launched in the Netherlands, so I busted out my wooden shoes for this edition of our soft-launch series: It Came From Canada, Holland Edition!

If I were to sum up the experience of Bubble Witch Saga 2 in one word, it would be “polished.” The visuals are shiny and detailed; the animations are fluid; even the controls are exceptional. This Bust-a-Move-esque bubble-bursting game’s controls use a simple touch-and-drag method to aim upward from the bubble launcher, with tapping on the other bubble in the launcher to switch to that one. The aiming is accurate for even small movements, making it easy and pleasing to use – because the game will take a turn for the difficult.

BubbleWitchSaga2_ICFC-3There are a variety of levels to mix up the bubble-bursting: the primary ones are levels where players must use a limited supply of bubbles to pop six of the bubbles on the top-most row. These levels scroll, though there’s no way to scroll upward to see which bubbles are off screen. There are similar levels with encased animals, who must be freed by having no bubbles above them. Finally, there are ghost levels where all the bubbles that encase a central ghost must be eliminated, with the twist that the level, well, twists around with each bubble hit.

BubbleWitchSaga2_ICFC-11There’s the standard King array of midgame power-ups and lives that slowly recharge, with the ability to request more from friends on Facebook. The distribution of bubbles seems to be not particularly weighted around making sure players can beat a level: if a color gets eliminated, it won’t appear any more, but don’t assume that the game’s going to ensure that you get all the bubbles you need; it won’t necessarily be that generous. Any miss should be treated as a potentially grave sin – a damning step toward failure. Of course, there’s the ability to buy more bubbles. This feeling kicks in after about ten levels or so. The game starts to mean business, and it punishes players who aren’t very careful and calculating.

Of course, this is pretty much the formula for King’s success so far: extremely playable games with a brutal streak that keeps players coming back, spending more money or spreading the word about the game for their personal benefit. Bubble Witch Saga 2 is expected worldwide soon.


LifeTrak Releases App for Their Bluetooth-Enabled Activity Trackers, Providing Graphs of One’s Personal Fitness

Posted by on May 22nd, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Salutron today has released its new LifeTrak app for iOS, which syncs up with its LifeTrak activity monitor accessory. The app tracks and provides graphs on data such as sleep time & efficiency, heart rate & calorie burning, along with activity time, making it possible to get the discrete data to manage one’s health. The free app is available now, and compatible with the Move C300 and Zone C410 activity trackers.

Scanbot, the iPhone App for Scanning Important Documents to the Cloud, is Free Today Only

Posted by on May 22nd, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Scanbot, the app that makes it easy to scan receipts, documents, whatever else, and easily upload said documents to the cloud, has gone free for iOS for today only, after selling 50,000 copies. It’s normally $1.99, but now those who need to scan their documents can do so for free if they act quickly. And there’s no in-app purchases right now, so there’s no catch, either. Act fast!

Scanbotscanbot

A team of former Google employees has announced Osmo, a set of creative-minded toys that interact with the iPad to try and give kids ages 6-12 richer play experiences. By using an accessory that connects to the top of an iPad, around the front-facing camera, kids can use a variety of pieces, including Tangram, Words, and Newton, to play games that stimulate the mind and use the real-world pieces to interact with what’s on the iPad screen, such as using objects and drawn lines to interact with objects to create physics-interactive structures.

Osmo can be preordered from playosmo.com for $49, 50% off the regular price, until June 22.

After Phil Hassey’s release of BREAKFINITY, the fast-paced endless Breakout game, he’s taking another stab at the world of free games: by releasing a free version of Dynamite Jack, his explosive 2012 action game – creatively entitled Dynamite Jack Free. While plenty of developers are starting to release free ad-supported games thanks to Flappy Bird‘s success, this is one of the bigger attempts at such a release. As such, I spoke to Phil Hassey about what he’s doing with Dynamite Jack Free.

148Apps: Many of the games that have gone with the free-with-ads route are simpler games: ones like Flappy Bird, and your own BREAKFINITY. Why take this route with a deeper game like Dynamite Jack? Was BREAKFINITY‘s performance a motivator in this regard?

Phil Hassey: Dynamite Jack came out almost two years ago, so it’s sales have run down pretty thin at this point. Since I did all the work to set up ads in BREAKFINITY it was pretty trivial to set up Dynamite Jack with the same thing.

I am really curious how well it will do. It’s definitely totally different from your typical ad supported game. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if the free crowd is ready for this kind of experience or not!

djack-advanced-labs

148Apps: Why did you go with the continues-as-monetization IAP system?

Phil Hassey: I’m not really an ad monetization guru or anything, since BREAKFINITY is my first ad supported game, and it’s only been out for over a month. Over the past year I had given thought to doing a F2P version of Dynamite Jack, with various ideas like “buying bombs” or whatever. However, changes like that would have seriously impacted the gameplay in ways I wasn’t too excited about.

So doing the continues is nice, because it doesn’t change the gameplay at all. If anything it makes the death experience sightly more intense because the penalty for death is greater than in the paid version of the game. I think the monetization will actually make the game have a slightly greater emphasis on stealth than the paid version.

djack-the-halls

148Apps: You have an IAP for unlimited continues for $4.99. Was there any thought given to making this a higher price than what the main game is available for?

Phil Hassey: About 6 months ago I changed the iOS price to $4.99 for the paid version. So the IAP for unlimited continues just matches that. I upped the price on Dynamite Jack because I think it’s a solid game and people definitely get their $4.99 of entertainment out of it. Some of the players who have gotten into the game have played for hundreds of hours thanks to the community maps.

148Apps: Is there a particular threshold where you see this being worth the time and effort put into it?

Phil Hassey: I really only spent a couple days putting this together, so it doesn’t need to do a whole lot to break even on my time. But really, in terms of being an experiment with how well a hard-core iOS game works in the ad supported market, the answer to the question “Will this work at all?” is going to be worth finding out.

djack-editor

If it’s found that you can make more heavy games and support them through ads, we might see more games going that route. Or maybe we’ll find out that this sort of game just works best as a paid-only title.

148Apps: If this is successful, do you fear that perhaps it could be part of a movement where players expect more free games, monetized primarily with ads? And if so, do you think that it is good for the App Store market?

Phil Hassey: I think anything that helps indies find new ways to support their art is great! The more avenues there are to being able to make games full-time the more chances there are that great games are going to be made. Another great thing about ad supported games is how they can reach a wider audience. People who don’t have the means to purchase paid games can play free ad supported games.

148Apps: Depending on how this does, would you ever consider releasing a future game initially with a free version like this? Perhaps even one of the Galcon games?

Phil Hassey: I’m still working on Galcon 2, which is going to be F2P. I’m still working out the details, but my experiences with BREAKFINITY and Dynamite Jack FREE are certainly giving me more insight into how to make it work out. I expect Galcon 2 will contain “earn more Galcoins by watching videos” options for those who want more in game currency but don’t have the means to pay for it.

Thanks to Phil Hassey for his time.

FREE!
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2014-05-22 :: Category: Games

$4.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-06-28 :: Category: Games

Triposo, having reached the 7 million downloads mark, has launched an update that overhauls the app’s interface and the way people use it. It’s designed with an iOS 7 friendly interface, and makes it easy to find things to do, food to eat, and drinks to drink in your city, or wherever you choose to search for around the world, with offline maps available for when internet signals aren’t available.

You can download Triposo now for free.

Triposo-41-city-walk

Fire and Ice: Evolution Brings the Real-World Slot Machines to iOS as a Social Casino Game

Posted by on May 21st, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Ruby Seven Studios has launched Fire and Ice: Evolution for iOS. This is a mobile version of the real-world slot machine manufactured by Grand Vision Gaming. Featuring six machines to play on, all centered around the “fire and ice” theme, players can try to win big with free daily spins and wildcard slots.

The only thing it doesn’t come with is the real money payouts, sorry.

Like to take photos with your iPad? Olloclip finally has a product for you. The Olloclip 4-in-1 iPad Photo Lens clips on to the iPad and its camera lens, offering fisheye, wide-angle, and 10x & 15x macro lenses for zoom.

The clip-on lens supports iPad Mini (original and Retina) and iPad Air, and will be available for $69.99 – expected to ship on June 2. Now, you can buck the absurd social stigma against iPad photography by taking much better photos than those who would dare mock you.

iPhone_4-in-1_iPad_lens-3b3

EA has soft-launched a free-to-play version of Peggle in the New Zealand App Store, our sister site Pocket Gamer reports. But this appears to be a similar situation as to Tetris a few years ago: EA has removed the original Peggle from the App Store in that territory, making this quite likely the one version of Peggle that will be available in the future. This version features boosts, a level progression similar to Candy Crush Saga, and is optimized for portrait displays.

Time will tell if this is a portent of things to come, but it might be a good idea to keep a backup with the original version of the game and of the game’s IPA file in iTunes handy.

NewPegglepeggl

source: Pocket Gamer

InnoGames, fresh off announcing Rising Generals, has an iPad strategy game currently soft-launched in Canada. Forge of Empires has players building a town, so I grabbed my sword and hammer and set off for the land of maple syrup for this edition of It Came From Canada!

ForgeOfEmpires-11The main phase of the game is town-building: creating new buildings in order to earn more money, or items that can generate more resources such as building points, villagers, gold, and even happiness. There’s a lot to keep track of here. This is all in service of becoming the most powerful town in the world. There’s a leaderboard of players that one can peruse, with guilds that can be joined for cooperative purposes.

Okay, it sounds a bit like Clash of Clans so far. The key difference is that players don’t just send off enemy hordes to battle: they enter a turn-based strategy game with them.

Battles take place on a hexagonal grid, where players can move their units about within their specified range, and can attack enemies within their attack range. There are also defense bonuses for certain terrain types. It’s very basic strategy gameplay, but it’s definitely deeper, even in its simplicity, than most Clash of Clans-esque games. Units start out as Bronze Age soldiers and eventually get up to modern era ones, though this will likely take a long time to get going. Those who check in often and spend their forge points regularly will get to the later eras first.

ForgeOfEmpires-05While there is a campaign against computerized enemies, it’s also possible to interact with other players. These can be in friendly ways: motivation and polishing will help resource generation and production happen at a faster rate. As well, it’s possible to attack other players and plunder one of their buildings. It appears that all battling is asynchronous for now against human opponents.

Players can research new units and types by spending forge points. These recharge over time (or can be bought with gold or diamonds) and by researching new tech trees, new unit types can be had. The tech trees are deep, so people who come back often will be the first to unlock later portions of the game.

While the town-building is very familiar – and the strategy very basic – for this oft-imitated genre spearheaded by Clash of Clans, the relatively-deeper (yet still approachable) combat might be worth checking out once it launches worldwide.


D3 Entertainment and Demiurge’s Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign keeps chugging along, with Episode 5 of the match-3 RPG now available. The story of this episode has players trying to convince Marvel character The Sentry to join SHIELD before Norman Osborn can get him to join the creatively-named Dark Avengers.

The episode 5 update, entitled The Prodigal Sun, is available now.

MPQ_-_Episode_4_-_Mobile_Battle_01marvelpuzzle

Chasing Yello Makes it Easier to Get Continues and Boosts Without Spending Money

Posted by on May 21st, 2014
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Chasing Yello has had a new update released on the App Store that makes it easier for players to get boosts and continues. Now instead of having to spend coins and buy boosts, players can watch video ads to save their money and get what they want. Along with the Everyplay and gamepad support added in the previous update, Chasing Yello continues to be an evolving and improving product, even two years after release.

chasingyellow1chasingyellow2

via: Our Review

Space Hulk for iPad Gets Cross-Platform Multiplayer and a 50% Discount

Posted by on May 20th, 2014
iPad Only App - Designed for iPad

Space Hulk just got more hulking. Full Control has updated the app with a new cross-platform multiplayer mode, where three players team up as Terminators in order to take on one player who controls the Genestealers.

This mode is online and supports play with Windows/Mac/Linux/iPad players. Plus, for those who haven’t picked up the game yet, it’s on sale until the 27th for half-off ($4.99 or local equivalent).

2.Cross_Platform

via: Our Review

Just announced on Monday, May 19, Super Monkey Ball Bounce also showed its face in the Canadian App Store. This free-to-play game puts a Pachinko and Peggle spin on the game of monkeys in spheres. So, I sealed by plastic ball up tight and crossed the border for this edition of It Came From Canada!

This game is very Peggle-like. It uses many of the same tropes and gameplay setups as Peggle does. The general mission is to pop the various star pegs, with other pegs existing as opportunities to get bonus points, including randomly-placed multiplier pegs. Power-up pegs also exist, which grant an ability based on the selected character, though ones beyond AiAi require playing the game to certain levels to unlock. AiAi’s is a guided line, which is pretty much identical to the first character in Peggle, though other power-ups start to show some variety. Still, this skews closer to the Peggle formula than even what Papa Pear Saga did – though the physics feel a lot more consistent than King’s take on the genre.

SMB_Bounce_ICFC-04SMB_Bounce_ICFC-09How does Super Monkey Ball Bounce operate within the confines of its monetization? The game uses a currency of gold bars, which come with a free supply at the start but are either not earned or only infrequently so. What can be bought with them? Well, there are boost power-ups that players can take into levels with them, including the power-ups of other characters. Also, a slot machine that can be played for every ten spins can get guaranteed win spins for the cost of a few gold bars.

As well, continues can be had for gold bars. That’s likely where the money-making comes in: levels can start to ramp up in difficulty, and the temptation to spend real-world money on gold may just set in. As well, there’s a lives system like Candy Crush Saga (with a level progression map just like it as well), and these run out whenever the player fails a level, though connecting with Facebook friends can earn more lives.

The monetization might be an interesting thing to track at the final release. Super Monkey Ball Bounce is a slow burn early on so it might not make money for a while, or the early part of the game might get a bump up in difficulty. It’ll be interesting to see how Sega approaches this once it releases worldwide.


Addappt Launches Big Update, Revamping the Contact-Managment App

Posted by on May 20th, 2014
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad

Addappt has launched a new update on iOS. There’s a brand new UI and iconography, totally revamping the way that users use this contact management app. As well, organization has become better with easier group creation, and an improved search functionality. Using the app for the first time? The first-time user experience is much improved now. The update is live on the App Store now.

Oh, and if you’re in the US, you can get a free t-shirt from this link, because hey, free t-shirt.

Mobile gamers know Terry Cavanagh for Super Hexagon, the challenging minimalist arcade game that seemingly begat a hundred more challenging minimalist arcade games. But before that, Terry Cavanagh’s big game was VVVVVV, a gravity-flipping open-world platformer that was also very difficult. A mobile version, while discussed before, may have seemed impossible: after all, being a platformer built around precision, virtual controls aren’t the friendliest situation for this game. But Terry Cavanagh’s taking a stab at it, and the mobile version is nearing completion. And it just might surprise some folks who thought VVVVVV was practically impossible on mobile.

For the uninitiated, VVVVVV takes place in a universe where the player, controlling Captain Viridian, can flip gravity to run along the ceiling as well as the floor. Players have to use Viridian’s abilities to rescue five other missing crew members, along with discovering the “shinies” that are hidden throughout the world.

VVVVVV_Preview-3VVVVVV is a non-linear game, and players can discover it as they so choose. There are no additional abilities to unlock, so unlike a Metroidvania game where progression is hindered until a certain item is obtained anything can be seen and any challenge conquered with one’s own skill. Just be prepared to die a lot. Thankfully, checkpoints are abundant.

VVVVVV_Preview-8VVVVVV presents an interesting controls challenge for touchscreens, though. The game requires being able to swiftly move left then right, but with a third button for flipping. Thus, the game’s default control scheme uses swiping horizontally on the left side of the screen to move Captain Viridian around, with tapping on the right side to flip gravity. As well, there’s a virtual buttons option, and one where tapping on either side of the screen moves that way, and tapping on both flips gravity.

The controls are still very much being tweaked and perfected, but VVVVVV is perfectly playable, and at a skillful level, with these controls. Will this become the preferred version of speed runners? Most likely not, as precise movements are what suffer a bit here just by the nature of virtual controls, but for people enjoying this game for the first time – or once more – the experience should remain true.

VVVVVV_Preview-6VVVVVV itself is fully playable in its current form, with even the player worlds feature from the computer versions available for more challenges once the main game is completed. Various bug fixes and tweaks to make the mobile version work better are what stands between this and its eventual release.

Darkin Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Darkin is a darn fine puzzle-RPG that will suck up all your free time.

Read The Full Review »
Hyper Square Review

Hyper Square Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Team Signal Games has made an arcade game that sits frustratingly close to greatness.

Read The Full Review »
I Dig It: Journey to the Core Review

I Dig It: Journey to the Core Review

+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
I Dig It: Journey to the Core is a free-to-play spin on the classic iOS digging game, and it's not the best expedition for the series.

Read The Full Review »

Manila-based Altitude Games has announced their upcoming Run Run Super V. Taking cues from sentai series such as Power Rangers, this game will be an auto-running action game where players form a ranger squad and fight evil without stopping. There are three modes planned: run mode, vehicle mode, and robot mode, with the latter involving one-on-one fights with giant enemies, all using one-finger controls with gestures.

Run Run Super V is expected during the 4th quarter of 2014.

RRSV_ScreenMockup_RobotMode-WIP

Adult Swim Games and Mediatonic have soft launched a new trial-racing game to the App Store in Canada and other territories: Outlaw Delivery. So, I strapped on my helmet and put some curds and gravy on fries for this edition of It Came From Canada!

Outlaw Delivery takes after titles like Trials, Extreme Road Trip, and Zombie Road Trip as a physics-centered trial-racing game where players must try to make it to the end as quickly as possible, but also in one piece. Players’ health is regulated by the health of their cargo: rough landings and hard collisions will damage the cargo, and that’s not gonna be good for anyone. Especially so if trying to get the gears, the game’s star system. One requires players to stay above a certain health percentage, and three gold gears usually requires both a fast time and high health.

OutlawDelivery-ICFC-7Controls are simple: there are gas and reverse buttons, which serve as spin forward and backward buttons respectively, while in mid-air. Players get extra gold for tricks like spins (which are very difficult to do), wheelies, perfect landings, and even just getting air time in the first place. Players have a limited amount of fuel to work with, though more can be collected mid-level, and just letting gravity and momentum keep oneself going is an option to conserve fuel.

OutlawDelivery-ICFC-12As far as monetization goes, the game uses only one currency – gold – which is spent on buying new bikes, upgrades, and better parts. There’s no secondary currency, and no energy mechanic at all, which is very good because there’s a lot of retrying involved, and grinding to do better and get more money plays a significant part in the game. It’s a lot quicker to just buy it outright of course, but hey, at least the option is there to try and earn it. While Adult Swim Games has been unafraid to use energy-type systems before, like in Amateur Surgeon 3 (though that only reduced players’ lives when they die), this is definitely a much friendlier system than what most publishers implement. Of course, friendliness and free-to-play don’t often mix, so whether this makes any money is a good question.

Outlaw Delivery should at least prove to be rather entertaining: it trods well-worn territory, but it has the production values and the base appeal that most Adult Swim Games’ titles have. This should be one worth keeping an eye on when it launches worldwide.


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