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Sonic And All-Stars Racing Transformed review

Un-met expectations, now available in three disappointing flavours!

How do you make a character-led racing game so characterless? That was the thought that slammed its way around our brains like a pesky firework as we played Sumo Digital's sequel to its 2010 racer. We raked perfect drifts around corners, dive-bombed rivals to beat them to the finish and dodged various swarms of irritating bee-stacles. And very rarely did we care.

That's a problem in itself, but when you've got ex-members of Bizarre Creations helping in the design process it moves from inexcusable towards inexplicable. This is the team that made Blur and Project Gotham Racing. It knows how to make racing games that grip, push and make you love a single car like you're one of those creepy men from satellite-channel documentaries.

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We don't know if it's working with unfamiliar faces, constrictive licenses or simply the malaise of having its studio canned, but none of that comes across here. So what's the problem? It's not too simple - there are numerous characters, each with up to five mods to tweak their chosen vehicles' not-so-vital statistics. Neither is it too complex - the racing itself is stripped back to the bare bones of 'go fast, slide round corners and shoot fictional doctors' kart standard.

Nor, even, is it as simple as it being a bad game. The concept is sound and executed competently. Ploughing the land, sea and air furrow of Mario Kart 7 and pushing it to its limit, SAA-SRT (which has the accolade of least keyboard-friendly acronym for a game we've ever seen) sees tracks scattered with Transform Gates, towering blue rings that stretch your character's automobile into new, terrain-specific shapes. None of that gliding or driving-a bit-slower-underwater nonsense for Sonic: roadless sections see you flying (excellent) or powerboating (the worst of the three states, but no doubt well-realised).

A Fleeting Pleasure

At first, it's a joy. When you first scream over the boost pads in the Afterburner-themed Carrier Zone track and take off alongside a squadron of F-14 Tomcats into a raging air-sea battle, you'll squeal in delight. Jet Set Radio's Graffiti City pitches your race over the roofs and construction sites of a city skyline, turning your driving into vehicular parkour (karpour?). These are brilliant moments, but the interest wanes quickly.

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This is mainly down to the interminable career mode in which the majority of characters are unlocked. You'll play almost every level at least three times along the way, often augmented with challenges that range from 'interesting' (a countdown challenge where the timer's only stopped by boosting) to 'oh god, let it stop' (shooting a ponderous tank in the rear until it explodes). That you have to play through much of this on the hardest difficulty to unlock the better-hidden characters for multiplayer seems downright mean when you consider that kart racers are famed for their competitive sides.

Never fear, the local multiplayer's pretty poor anyway. While there's a decent number of modes, our five player races were marred by the stuttering framerate that Sumo managed to eliminate from the single-player portions, making even the best levels a chore, and the worst ones all but unplayable.

Even the Wii U-exclusive asymmetric mini-games, free from framerate issues though they may be, don't deliver. The Shinobi-flavoured hide-and-seek of Ninja Tag is much too easy for the invisible GamePad player and Banana Heist, which sees a giant Monkey Ball attempting to crush fruit-collecting drivers is a little better, but nowhere near as addictive as it needs to be. We couldn't test the online aspect, but guess that's where the best competitive play is to be had.

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  1. Emperor Evil Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 07:54

    I completely agree. I played the original in 2010 and thought it was the best racer on the Wii, so playing this was a huge, HUGE disappointment.

    It's just completely lifeless and SEGA got rid of some of the best characters from the original (Bonanza Bros, Jackie & Akira and the zombies to name but a few)

    So to sum it up in one word: crap.

  2. nintenu Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 09:12

    I completely agree. I played the original in 2010 and thought it was the best racer on the Wii, so playing this was a huge, HUGE disappointment.

    It's just completely lifeless and SEGA got rid of some of the best characters from the original (Bonanza Bros, Jackie & Akira and the zombies to name but a few)

    So to sum it up in one word: crap.

    It's a little harsh!
    I prefer Transformed over the Wii version, the Wii version felt jolty …like Sonic Drift!


    ...Transformed does has a nice F-Zero GX feel! =)


    Anyway, anyone that has the game and feels the same as this "great" review …feel free to send it to me? I will find it a good home!

  3. Zeropage Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 09:58

    What a ridiculous review :shock: . Lots of blabla and 90% about (strange) personal expectations. Just 10% info about the game itself. It's a fun racer with gorgeous graphics and a very cool "transform" twist (not only the vehicles transform, but also the courses). Sumo did a great job and I'd give it a 98% score at least! :mrgreen:

  4. shy guy 64 Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 10:29

    personally im rather enjoying it

  5. Herbert_Rarr Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 12:21

    I only got this game because it was pretty much free when I bought the console at my nearest GAME store. I have to agree that it is enjoyable, but there's nothing in it that makes me particularly want to play it again over Nintendo Land.
    I haven't got far in the career mode but from what I have played I've had fun. The items do feel like they've just picked some random objects and made them dangerous and I'm happy with the Sonic characters included (since that's the only game I know SEGA for)
    If the local multiplayer mode is that bad then that's just unacceptable since it is one of the most important parts of the game.
    Well anyway I'm glad I got it - it gives me something else to do when I don't feel like screaming at Donkey Kong's Crash Course.

  6. imbusydoctorwho Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 13:31

    I haven't played much of the game,but so far I'm pretty impressed.

  7. FamilyGAMEGuy8 Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 15:46

    Yeah, so I'm going to pretend this review doesn't exist.

  8. CyberGW Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 16:03

    I have to disagree. I have this game on Wii U and I am loving it. It's really fast, really fun and all the races are much closer. I used to be out at front for the whole race in the original. And with the World Tour mode as well as the Grand Prix, it has a longer lifespan.
    Each to their own, but I love it.

  9. lminett Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 19:40

    This game isn't terrible, and its control over the cars feels far superior over the original game. The track designs are cool, some better than others, and its fun unlocking the extra players, id say this is a fun game to play, its not mario kart, but its still solid

  10. Darkblizz Thursday 27th Dec 2012 at 23:25

    Quite the clash of viewpoints here....

    It'll be interesting to read feedback for the 3DS version when it finally makes it out.

  11. Retrogamerdude Friday 28th Dec 2012 at 00:03

    I really like this game although it has some serious frame rate issues. It's not nearly as polished as mario kart but is still a lot of fun. And if you shop around you can get it for Ł30. So it fills the gap until mario kart u eventually gets here :shock:

  12. IPecksU Friday 28th Dec 2012 at 01:39

    You don't have to do each challenge at least 3 times to get all the stars, just play one once in hard mode and you get all 3. Havent tried the mini games or playing with more people than just my brother but I'm really enjoying it so far

  13. sonicka Friday 28th Dec 2012 at 17:34

    Yeah, hate to say it but despite the downing nostalgia opinions that dominate this review (which I find baffling considering the actual effort and history Sumo obviously dedicated themselves to delving so much further into this time) - this is technically an absolutely amazing game.

    I thought the original All Stars Racing was a great effort as a Mario Kart contender, but despite a 'slightly' deeper handful of Characters on the roster - there was really only around 8 or 9 franchises/area used and recycled for extra tracks. 9 of these were dedicated to Sonic Heroes. Meh.

    Transformed has so much more variety and history in its use of tracks - and best of all they're completely different to each other. Each track is a new and vibrant experience that homages each of their respective franchises so expertly. Heck, there was even a ton of different Sonic Tracks in there this time across the board from Sonic 2, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic Heroes, and Sonic Colours. Yes please.

    Personally after playing this game I'd say that it's the Mario Kart teem that need to up their andante for future installments. They're dangerously close to churning out the Kart titles with the same 'Great' but not 'Amazing' vibe that the New Super Mario Bros series has been seeing recently.

    Yeah, Sumo definitely set a new Bar as standard for a Kart racing game.

  14. cheezit Friday 28th Dec 2012 at 18:08

    What a pathetic review! This game is excellent and a marked improvement on both the original and the more recent Mario Kart entries. It's an easy assumption to make that you only slammed this game because you're a Nintendo magazine and here's a game that threatens your beloved franchise.

  15. RainbowGazelle Friday 28th Dec 2012 at 21:50

    What a ridiculous review :shock: . Lots of blabla and 90% about (strange) personal expectations. Just 10% info about the game itself. It's a fun racer with gorgeous graphics and a very cool "transform" twist (not only the vehicles transform, but also the courses).


    Personally after playing this game I'd say that it's the Mario Kart teem that need to up their andante for future installments. They're dangerously close to churning out the Kart titles with the same 'Great' but not 'Amazing' vibe that the New Super Mario Bros series has been seeing recently.

    Yeah, Sumo definitely set a new Bar as standard for a Kart racing game.


    What a pathetic review! This game is excellent and a marked improvement on both the original and the more recent Mario Kart entries. It's an easy assumption to make that you only slammed this game because you're a Nintendo magazine and here's a game that threatens your beloved franchise.


    I completely agree with all of these comments. When you first accidentally posted this 'review', you said that you were all Sonic fans and wanted to like the game. I'll quote your 'Hedgehog Killer' paragraph in from issue 89, page 62, "Nintendo... blew away anything that had come before, crushing Sonic into the tarmac of gaming history where he belonged. The blue smear never recovered." That certainly displays your affection. You're all totally biased.

  16. ChandraONM Saturday 29th Dec 2012 at 16:32

    I do find the differences in opinion with this game amazing. . . I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

    Just for the record, if I had reviewed it I would've given it a similar or lower score.

    Personally I find the game really average. I don't like the racing and I don't like the way that the levels feel like everything has been chucked at them just because the content is there.
    I played the offline multiplayer for a good hour with the rest of the team and found every moment a chore.

    Everyone cries bias because it's an easy answer to the differing opinions.
    The fact of the matter is that whether it was Matthew, Joe or myself reviewing it, the game would've got pretty much the same score because we all agreed that it just wasn't much fun.
    I'm stunned that people out there like it as much as they do but hey, each to their own.

  17. starmie68 Saturday 29th Dec 2012 at 16:35

    I have to say i totally love this game its just a brilliant racer alot better than the first one they did. Just hope the wiiu gets the DLC that PS3 and xbox360 will get

  18. King Slazo Saturday 29th Dec 2012 at 21:41

    I do find the differences in opinion with this game amazing. . . I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

    Just for the record, if I had reviewed it I would've given it a similar or lower score.

    Personally I find the game really average. I don't like the racing and I don't like the way that the levels feel like everything has been chucked at them just because the content is there.
    I played the offline multiplayer for a good hour with the rest of the team and found every moment a chore.

    Everyone cries bias because it's an easy answer to the differing opinions.
    The fact of the matter is that whether it was Matthew, Joe or myself reviewing it, the game would've got pretty much the same score because we all agreed that it just wasn't much fun.
    I'm stunned that people out there like it as much as they do but hey, each to their own.

    Fun fact, one of ONM's writers actually lists this game in his top ten for the year, over ZombieU and Nintendo Land. I have no idea whether the version he played was the Wii-U one or not, but considering there's only a few points difference on Metacritic between the various platform versions, I'm inclined to say that's irrelevant.

    Its also funny how this is the exact opposite of Paper Mario Sticker Star, which you guys put on a pedestal despite it being easily the weakest entry in the history of Mario RPGs, and the only difference is that the latter is published by Ninten-oh.

  19. sonicka Sunday 30th Dec 2012 at 03:03

    I do find the differences in opinion with this game amazing. . . I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.

    Just for the record, if I had reviewed it I would've given it a similar or lower score.

    Personally I find the game really average. I don't like the racing and I don't like the way that the levels feel like everything has been chucked at them just because the content is there.
    I played the offline multiplayer for a good hour with the rest of the team and found every moment a chore.

    Everyone cries bias because it's an easy answer to the differing opinions.
    The fact of the matter is that whether it was Matthew, Joe or myself reviewing it, the game would've got pretty much the same score because we all agreed that it just wasn't much fun.
    I'm stunned that people out there like it as much as they do but hey, each to their own.


    I don't think it has anything to do with Bias myself, in fact, I think your review and final score on New Super Mario Bros U was enough to show the world you can be nicely critical on even Nintendo's highest of franchises. I applauded that.

    I do find it interesting that none of your team liked this game though (especially as general reviews across the board seem to be positive). I love both the Sonic and Mario franchises respectively - but it really felt like they pulled a lot out of the bag for Transformed. I suppose it didn't exactly help that SUMO released the game slightly broken and in need of patching before release though, that can't have helped matters. But I really can't understand the 60ish% rating here. I know we're going on opinion here, but I've played plenty of 60ish% games, some of them Kart racers. And this... this just isn't one of them.

    I want to use Mario Kart 7 for an example/comparison (because as fun as that was), it was missing so much that made me enjoy the DS iteration. For one thing the disinclusion of missions was a bizarre step backwards in my opinion that made single player feel very compromised, and this is where I think SUMO really came up trumps; because not only did we get Grand Prix Cups, Time Trials, Single Races and Online modes and Tournaments, but they also included a fun and revamped iteration of their Mission mode from the last game introduced to us here as the main World Tour mode of play - which I thought was a brilliant way to introduce the player to each of the tracks whilst giving them bursts of re-playability whilst getting us aquatinted with each of them personally.

    There is so much personality to every world, every track, there is lots to unlock and even the RPG-lite character building progress to contend with. Then they threw Boat and Plane racing into the mix whilst somehow making the handling actually work well whilst feeling fluent and intuitive - it lends a degree of skill on the players behalf giving the game a great learning curve. The vehicle transformations in each track just add so much more to the thrill of the ride too, and add that extra area of unpredictability and help each track feel organic in nature as certain laps transform in layout too. This keeps things exciting.

    I'm Sorry, but that is pretty impressive from where I'm standing. And I didn't even get onto the music. Those tune remixes... wow.

    I dunno, I just feel like I've been spoilt to SEGA's complete back catalogue. I want Nintendo to really pull out the stops like this next time, because this is essentially SUMO's heritage answer in racing form to what Nintendo delivered with the Smash Bros games. And I know Nintendo can do it, even if it means just adding the mission mode back in...

  20. OXM Joe Sunday 30th Dec 2012 at 17:52

    Hello! It seems only fair that I take this over on behalf of the team as it's my views they're taking the flak for. The problem with reviews is that they're often perceived as a sort of "house rule" and, despite the fact that Chandra agrees with me, this review is entirely down to my opinions, and was never run past anyone else before it came time to put it on the page. That's my name and stupid, large-necked face at the bottom there, and there's a reason for that.

    A couple of things that perhaps haven't been covered: Firstly, this is a Wii U-only review. Many outlets have covered the game on other formats, and the Wii U version has its own issues. I gather that patching has done away with some of them, but my review was based on pre-release code, so I flagged those issues up. This should go a little way towards explaining the score discrepancy.

    Secondly, we have recently changed our scoring policy as a magazine. Within the greater context of the industry, a 60% is considered a definitively bad score - this is a true thing and a sad thing. However, I don't write for the greater industry, I write for ONM and our scoring brief says that 60% indicates a "solid but unspectacular" game. You might disagree with my opinions, you might even believe you have factual proof that they're wrong, but what can't be disputed is that I have never said that this is a definitively bad game. In fact, I hope I make it pretty clear that I'm disappointed in it, because I want to love it.

    I am (and prepare to hear the thunderous rattle of a P45 drawer from Chandra's home any minute now) a huge SEGA fan. Many of my issues in the review stem from a sadness that I didn't feel like I was playing a Dreamcast, or using an Outrun car or reliving Skies of Arcadia (still one of my favourite ever RPGs - I'm praying that the rumoured HD remake comes this year) - it's hardly an an anti-SEGA bias at work here. Ristar waving the flag is all well and good, but when I'm playing as freaking Pudding from Space Channel 5, shooting the world's dullest bees on a Burning Rangers track that stutters like that dude from Pan's Labyrinth, I'm not feeling a love for SEGA, rather psychic pain for the love of what I'm not getting.

    Of course, the looming shadow of Mario Kart hangs over everything here too. It would be churlish of me to say that I'm not a great fan of Mario Kart 7 after the fact (oops), but, on a more mundane level, you'd be hard-pressed to find me invoking its spirit here. If you read the text you'll see that one of my two references to it is in praise of this game over it, and the second simply states the fact that Mario Kart takes its weapons from the games it draws on and this doesn't. In fact, my most obvious (and strident) comparison is to Blur - a game that never came out on a Nintendo platform.

    I could (and possibly will) go on, and I'm genuinely happy to answer any questions you might have that you aren't able to glean from the review (800 words is a lot less space than most online outlets give for these kinds of things, so there's bound to be stuff you want to talk about that I haven't been able to address).

    I just ask one thing. Tell me I'm an idiot, or ill-informed, or just wrong (well, tell me those things if you have the opinions/documents/covertly-taken pictures to back them up) but please don't tell me I'm biased or working under some Machiavellian business structure that dictates I bring down games that have got good to excellent reviews literally almost everywhere else you look, because it's just a bit dull. There's a certain amount of faith to be put in here - I'll believe you guys are reasoned, well-meaning people searching for a good debate as long as you believe I'm not Gordon Gekko or Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate. I'm not that well-dressed for a start.

    Cheers!

  21. Gigagator Sunday 30th Dec 2012 at 18:57

    Like so many other people here, I have to disagree with the review and echo many other peoples' opinions. This is a really surprisingly fun game to play. It's definitely more suited to just pick up and play for a short session rather than having a long slog in front of the TV.

    But I liken it to Mario Kart on speed, it's just so fast-paced and enjoyable. And you do get an immense sense of satisfaction when you successfully perform some stunts in the air, or when you're hooking up a string of nice boosts and drifts. On 'Medium' mode, which I guess is the equivalent to the 100cc group in Mario Kart, you have one heck of a job staying ahead of the competition, they do play hard and I love that.

    This is why I keep going back to play it; it brings a genuine smile to my face, and that's something that very few games make me do these days. For that reason, it's a total winner and I truly believe Mario Kart could learn a bit from 'Transformed'.

  22. Herbert_Rarr Sunday 30th Dec 2012 at 20:21

    What I like the best about this game is how it differs from Mario Kart.
    In Mario Kart it annoys me pretty much all the time if I don't finish in first place, since it's not usually difficult to get to the front of the pack. But in S&ASRT it's a struggle to end up in the top three and in the end I'm happy with third. It actually feels like a race with other participants, rather than some opponents to overtake.
    And the step back in focus on items really brings the skill (or lack of) of the player to the forefront. I really think this game could have still been solid without the items all together.
    The more I play Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, the more I enjoy it.

  23. sonicka Tuesday 1st Jan 2013 at 19:02

    Hey Joe, admittedly that's something I didn't completely take into account, and that is that your review is based off the Wii U version of the game (whereas I'm playing from experience of the PS3 edition). Though I did suspect it's from the pre-patch - that is something I do take issue with, because I don't think it's entirely right for a developer to release a game that isn't quite finished and then rely on everyone to have the internet to be able to finish completing the game code themselves. So I think review-wise that is justified.

    It is a shame as a fellow massive SEGA fan you feel the way you do about the game. Interestingly almost everything you've said about it throwing everything in and not getting that SEGA feeling back is entirely the opposite of how I feel. For example, I get tingles of NiGHTS nostagia playing that particular track, and I feel they captured every essence of the other game series (Skies of Arcadia especially) for their respective tracks too, gives me that gamer joy with the attention to detail put in. =)

    I'll certainly agree on the weapons though. I think whilst they're better implemented than Mario Kart - they are hardly SEGA inspired. XD

  24. Super-PWii Wednesday 2nd Jan 2013 at 14:03

    While I admire and respect the honesty and integrity that both Joe and Chandra have shown in their defense of the review. You have to admit that based on the majority of comments in this thread that you may be quite a way off the mark in relation to what your audience is looking for.

    There will be those such as myself, who are of a similar age or maybe a little older :wink: , who have high expectations for these nostalgia based games. Though to be honest at my advanced age I'm am just really enjoying all the nods to my gaming past, especially to the Skies of Arcadia stuff (My personal fave game of all time).

    Then there are those younger who are just looking for a solid racing game, which I honestly believe this is, and all the unlockables are just a bonus for them.

    I'm not meaning to denigrate your reviewing ability, just maybe point you in the direction of taking onboard what your fans are looking for in a game, and maybe take a little time to think are you writing the review for an audience exactly as you are, or for the diverse, eclectic bunch we obviously are :lol:

  25. imbusydoctorwho Wednesday 2nd Jan 2013 at 21:55

    Nintendo Life gave it a 9/10.

    I still think the game is an absolute blast,the track design is brilliant,there's hoards of content,bar some strange character design,and funny glitches,it's an absolute hoot.And dare I say it,Nintendo could learn a thing or two from Sumo attempt.

    Has anyone notice that the al for Alex Kidd is terrible,he just stays in the same spot for the whole race.

  26. X-Mysticala-X Monday 28th Jan 2013 at 00:34

    I am completely going to have to disagree, the more expansive unlocks, level ups, and details to the tracks. This was a lot better than the 2010 game. I have spent 5 time as many hours on this as i have on my other 3 wii U games, (NSMBU, Nintendo land, Tekken Tag tournament 2) I think the graphics are stunning, the career mode is great for completionists alongside the sticker option for licenses, and the choice of different non-generic characters, gives people more variety, to be honest i completely preferred this over Mario kart 7, which i found to be a disapointment due to the lack of variety.

  27. adepitt12 Friday 8th Feb 2013 at 22:38

    I have just bought the game for 22.99! After playing the demo which I enjoyed at that price it was a no brainer! Onm I think we're wrong in this review, but they can't really give mario karts rival a good score"

  28. James Walkom Tuesday 12th Feb 2013 at 06:38

    At first i was going to come in here and blast this mag for this horrible review. I mean it seems you've hardly played the game.

    and when you compare it to other scores it scores a 8/10 average at best. One thing i notice in reviews is they always bring up the same point. "Not only do the vehicles, the tracks do too" And to me that is the best feature. You miss that completely. It is so exciting seeing a track transform before your very eyes, think you got a strategy work out, okay lets destroy the track and make you fly around in the final lap. The whole landscape changes.

    To me that that is the best feature this game has to offer. The weapons although tacky are much better balanced than let's say Mario Kart. There are no blue shells for starters.

    The Vehicles some of them are so clever and look so cool it makes you cringe with excitement especially with the AGES transformation. I wont ruin it but it is by far one of the best transformations ever.

    Plus it you are lucky to defeat the challenge world tour or get to the end there is a whole new difficulty for you. S Rank. And if you thought Hard was Brutal. S Rank will make you suffer big time.

    To me this topples the original by far. I never liked the original i felt it was trying too much to be like Mario Kart. But in this one it's strayed away from that and has tried to be its own racer. It may borrow a few things but it something completely different when you scratch the surface.

    But now i've read your comments and i sort of understand where you're coming from i have noticed faults here and there. especially when you hit a wall whilst flying. Recovering is horrible in that retrospect. It makes you work even harder not to stuff up though. I can look past that and look at the strengths. There is a drop of framerate at times. It still can be fun though.

    I love the difficulty that this game is set up to, reminds me a lot of F-zero. You really have work hard to win in the latter ranks and tracks. But that's the beauty of it, it gives you so much to work for.

    I'm hurt you feel this way about the game, and i feel you are robbing yourself of putting it on the shelf, it is a cool game. IN my view Sonic games have been really good and really deserve more support right now, because Sonic is Back and Mario better watch out!!!

  29. parker-skywalker Wednesday 13th Feb 2013 at 00:30

    sorry buddy I think you got this wrong this is a hidden gem on the wiiu its an addictive kart racer that is actually really good. this game should have got over 80%. And I know alot of people who would agree the only downside is the online is a ghost town. But hopefully that has got better now there are more people buying wiiu's.

  30. raindash44 Friday 30th Aug 2013 at 12:41

    Whats up with ONM lately. Is it their dislike towards the Sonic franchie that putting them off, is it their love of Mario Kart putting them off. Is because of reasons i said putting them off. I'd give this a extra 20% (82%). It's got a great sense of speed, the handling is spot on and the gameplay is pure and simple fun. My main problem is the fact that the games AI is too cheep on A Class and S Class. All i can say is go buy it if you like the look of it.

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