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Giant Bomb's 2015 Game of the Year Awards: Day Two Text Recap

The second day of our GOTY feature brings a second set of categories and one very long listening party. Strap in!

Well, day one went so well that we figured we'd just keep going with this Game of the Year thing. Four more categories await your consideration below, along with another daily video recapping the awards and a second deliberation podcast that spells out in excruciating detail exactly how we came to select these winners. Find that stuff on the GOTY hub page!

Best Music

Splatoon

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Splatoon is fresh as hell for a multitude of reasons, but a huge part of its freshness must be attributed to its endearingly goofy soundtrack. Mixing together rock guitars and a wide variety of electronic samples, composers Toru Minegishi and Shiho Fujii effectively invent their own peculiar genre of music. Absent an actual name for it, we'll just call it Squidpunk.

Whatever you call it, Splatoon's soundtrack is uniformly perfect for the game's overall vibe. This is the kind of music squid teens would be listening to while splatting one another in this world of upbeat gladiatorial combat. You can find the bulk of the soundtrack online, but even if you don't want to take the time to listen to all of it, definitely check out the track Gusher Gauntlet. It's just the weirdest, most wonderful thing.

Runners-up: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Crypt of the Necrodancer

Most Disappointing Game

Toy Soldiers: War Chest

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The long-in-coming second sequel to a relatively little-known downloadable tower defense game might seem like an odd choice for the most disappointing game of 2015, but let's break it down. War Chest--the third Toy Soldiers game to mix tower defense and third-person action in a really fun way--should've had everything going for it. With the first game, Signal Studios proved it could make an engaging game with a little-seen historical period like World War I. With the sequel, Cold War, it gave the series a healthy dose of personality, with cheesy '80s action-movie machismo that filled every inch of the bedroom-sized battlefield. Cold War also brought about a really satisfying, robust multiplayer mode that made it seem like Toy Soldiers could become something you'd play for months instead of a few days.

On top of that strong foundation, War Chest had an absolutely incredible set of real-world toy licenses in G.I. Joe and He-man (which, being perfectly honest, are the toy licenses most strategically positioned to tweak the nostalgia of the mid-30s Giant Bomb staff). And the game even replicates the toys from those properties in exquisitely accurate detail, to the point that merely scrolling through the list of Rattlers, B.A.T.s, Hisses, Cobra Commander, and Battle Cat was enough to get more than one of us a little misty-eyed for our childhoods. This game seemed poised to be incredible.

(As an aside, the game also had the best main menu music of the year, and it was a certain unexpected delight to find you could actually buy an MP3 of that music with uPlay points, marking the first time in history uPlay points were actually useful for something cool. If the person who thought up that idea is reading this: good job.)

With all those extremely promising elements in its corner, War Chest just plain failed to meet the Toy Soldiers series' previously high bar of quality. The level designs were downright bad in some places, and merely limp in others. The game was fraught with some painfully ugly performance problems and audio bugs. It felt uninspired and rough around the edges in a way we just didn't expect after the first two games were so good. You even had to pay extra just to access any of those licensed factions, and the way the game was structured meant it wasn't especially worthwhile to play the campaign multiple times just to see them all anyway. What should have been a nostalgic triumph instead ended up feeling like an enormous missed opportunity.

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Runners-up: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Fallout 4

Best Short-Time Game

Lara Croft Go

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As the followup to last year’s Hitman Go, Lara Croft Go had a hard act to follow. For some reason, Square Enix Montreal’s minimalist take on Agent 47’s surreptitious activities just made sense, and it was hard to imagine the complex puzzles, run-and-gun action, and vast vistas of Tomb Raider translating to a pocket-sized experience in the same way. But somehow, they pulled it off. Not only does Lara Croft Go meet the high quality of the first game in the "Go" series, but it even exceeds it.

The result is not only a great Short-Time game, but also a great take on classic Tomb Raider. Lara moves through ancient ruins one tile at a time, and whenever she moves, so does the dangerous wildlife. The player learns to anticipate enemy movement patterns, utilize a variety of weapons, and dodge devious traps. It's a tense puzzle game that rewards patience and careful thinking, and it does all this while being incredibly stylish.

Lara Croft Go trades in the board game aesthetic for a look that’s low on polygons and high on character and color, distilling and sprucing up the recognizable style of the early Tomb Raider games. And because the game’s look is both simple and striking, it’s never hard to understand what the game is trying to communicate to you.

It’s pretty, smart, and it’ll make you miss your stop on mass transit. Is there higher praise for a short-time game?

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Runners-up: Puzzle & Dragons Z + Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition, Box Boy!

Best New Character

The Bloody Baron (Philip Strenger) - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

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It would’ve been really easy for CD Projekt Red to flub the landing on Philip Strenger, the petty tyrant known as the Bloody Baron. Plenty of games (and works of other media for that matter) try to make sympathetic bad guys, but most of the time they lean a little too far in one direction or the other. Either the supposed villain is just a badass anti-hero or else the antagonist’s hidden heart of gold does little to redeem their terrible deeds. With the Bloody Baron, CD Projekt Red (and the Baron’s actor, James Clyde) found that rare middle ground of just right.

In a game filled with monsters, it would’ve been easy to make the Bloody Baron one more amoral, inhuman creature. But this would be letting him off easy: Monsters don’t have to feel guilty. Instead, the horror of Strenger’s crimes are met equally by the depth of his regret. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt never lets him off the hook, but it does go out of its way to remind you that the thing hung up on that hook is a human, for better and (often) worse. He is complex and cruel; a clever conversationalist and a disinterested leader; a loving father and a terrible husband and sometimes all of those things mixed and remixed in different arrangements. Nothing is simple with him. Even his nom de guerre isn’t actually as bloody as you might first think.

CD Projekt Red rolls all of this complexity out slowly. There’s nearly a dozen hours between first meeting Strenger and finally seeing some degree of resolution with his story. All this time gives the player the time to think about him and his predicament, opinion swinging back and forth not only because of big story twists but also because of the natural sway of feeling. Is he an asshole or a screw up? Was he sincere when he said he was sorry? Does it matter in the end? It’s rare that a game character can inspire this sort of internal back and forth, let alone do it with such a forceful performance. For all these reasons, the Bloody Baron stands tall among other new characters this year.

May the crones take his goddamned soul.

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Runners-up: Paul Rand - Contradiction: Spot the Liar!, Nick Valentine - Fallout 4

276 Comments

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MolluskLingers

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dr_mantas

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dr_mantas • 

Pretty meh on most of these.

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SomeJerk

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Edited By SomeJerk • 

I'm happy to agree with all the picks. Splatoon is incredibly groovy and fun.

(and I need to pick up W3, my post used to say. Where did it go.)

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Wiseblood

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Wiseblood • 

The fuck? Undertale didn't even get runner up in Best Music?

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flasaltine

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flasaltine • 

Yeah, all of the Witcher 3 characters are great. You should have finished the game.

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ollieg_94

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ollieg_94 • 

Man, Hotline Miami 2 has been robbed for best music. But then Contradiction has got it's nomination, so I shan't complain.

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Efesell

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Efesell • 

These are all great picks. Maybe Crypt as the top spot for music there but three good choices either way.

The Bloody Baron is one of the best video game characters full stop, this or any year.

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hassun

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gerrid

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Edited By gerrid • 

Interested to hear how Toy Soldiers got the nod for most disappointing

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RonnieBarzel

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Edited By RonnieBarzel • 

Man, Hotline Miami 2 has been robbed for best music. But then Contradiction has got it's nomination, so I shan't complain.

I'm really looking forward to listening to today's podcast to hear how the Best New Character deliberations went down. As much as I enjoyed "Witcher 3," Paul Rand is just so...Paul Rand.

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Efesell

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Efesell • 

Since there's no associated page I just thought Contradiction as a whole was runner up for best character and was just like 'Yeah okay that checks out.'

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Bones8677

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Bones8677 • 

I am confused how Toy Soldiers: War Chest can be the most disappointing game of the year. I recall people were really just perplexed that yet another Toy Soldiers game was coming. And then it simply came and went. Doesn't a game have to fail expectations in order for it to be disappointing? I don't think you can disappoint if expectations were already nil.

Should be an interesting podcast segment.

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viking_funeral

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Edited By viking_funeral • 

I've generally been disappointed in the Best New Character category each year (see: Iron Bull last year and the apathy on the podcast towards the category) but this is not a bad choice, if odd. I think the Bloody Baron story line is a strong start to The Witcher 3 and worthy of recognition, but the game has many such great moments. (see also: Cat and Wolf.) And it's not like we're going to see the Bloody Baron again as a character, so it's more about this moment in time with him than anything else.

Well, whatever. It is a weird category. And the Bloody Baron storyline is a good little story worth recognizing. Look forward to the deliberations on the podcast.

~

Edited for trying to type words on a mobile device with giant hands.

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RonGalaxy

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RonGalaxy • 

D-Dog was robbed. ROBBED I SAY!!!!

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Seriouslywhat

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Edited By Seriouslywhat • 

I know how these picks are 'opinions' and music is the most diverse category possible for opinions

But there is no way the one or two groovy songs of Splatoon ever compares to the Hotline Miami 2 soundtrack and the simplistic yet memorable beats of Undertale soundtrack.

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I mean, common

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Powerlyne

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Powerlyne • 

No Rocket League for best Music!? That soundtrack is like album of the year for me.

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JesusHammer

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Edited By JesusHammer • 

I see a Wii U game in best music, but it seems to be the wrong one. Should probably tell someone to fix that obvious slip up and put Xenoblade Chronicles X there.

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PerfidiousSinn

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I thought Hotline Miami 2 would be the easy winner for Best Soundtrack (Roller Mobster is all I gotta say) AND Most Disappointing Game. Now I gotta check out the podcast.

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silentman0

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Edited By silentman0 • 
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@ollieg_94: There are a lot of good music in games that I would have been happy with winning this year, including Hotline Miami 2, Undertale, and Necrodancer. Hell, even Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth if that would have counted. Splatoon was a really solid choice.

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Schlagwerk

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Schlagwerk • 
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Splatoon soundtrack is incredible!

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ollieg_94

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ollieg_94 • 

@silentman0: Oh, don't get me wrong, I love the Splatoon soundtrack. I'm just surprised that HM wasn't even nominated. I guess I'm off to the podcast to hear more.

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paulmako

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paulmako • 

Spl-spl-spl-spl-spl-spl-spl-spl-spl-Splatoon!

Hugely worthy winner for best music.

Also great that Paul Rand got a nomination!

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gbrading

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Edited By gbrading • 

Come on, Paul Rand was easily character of the year. :P

I thought Rebel Galaxy's music was some of the best this year; sad to see it didn't make it onto the list. I don't find Fallout 4 disappointing; it was exactly what I was expecting it to be (and it's my personal GOTY). I think it's only disappointing if you expected some kind of revolution since Skyrim.

The Order should definitely be considered most disappointing, when you think about what they promised that game was going to be.

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soundlug

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soundlug • 

The Bloody Baron makes sense to me because his storyline was handle so well and is a big moment to the player, as it realizes that people were no kidding when they said the Witcher games were well written.

Nick Valentine had a similar effect in Fallout 4 but the writting of that game is overall mediocre and his companion quest has a big plot hole.

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generic_username

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Edited By generic_username • 

I haven't entirely finished listening to the first segment of the podcast yet, so I don't know if they brought this up, but HOLY SHIT this track in Undertale is so good. It's so, so, so good. Every time I hear it, I just melt inside, and I don't even have the same love for that game that most people do. This song is so goddamn good.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLd89aYTAhs

EDIT: So yes, they do bring this song up. It's so good.

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BabyChooChoo

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oooooo, didn't expect Splatoon to win best music, but I can get behind that choice. That soundtrack is something special. The Squid Sisters theme is probably one of the most absurdly catchy things I've heard in a while.

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Colonel_Pockets

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Witcher 3 characters were great. Should be interesting to see how to rest of the awards play out. I'm expecting more love for Splatoon.

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Sessh

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Edited By Sessh • 

The Witcher has now officially won two awards. Consider me baffled. (Especially if it still didn't make the actual top ten.)

Also I'd probably gone with Hotline Miami 2 and Crypt of the Necrodancer as the top pick in their respective categories.

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Marz

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ShadowKirby

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@generic_username:

This track is sooooooo good. This entire soundtrack is, but man, Asgore and Heartache are such good tracks.

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Chicken008

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yesac2004

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yesac2004 • 

So I guess Fallout 4 won't be in the top ten?

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generic_username

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@shadowkirby: I'm seriously just listening to it over and over and swearing because it's so good and I can't figure out how to express how good I think it is other than shouting expletives every time any note in that song plays.

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mems1224

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mems1224 • 

"Make em say uhh!" was my helicopter music and all my vehicles were gold.

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clovy

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Edited By clovy • 

Kinda bummed Dancing all Night didn't at least get some mentions/listens in the Music category.

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Teddie

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Edited By Teddie • 

Ouch, Undertale not even getting a runner up for Best Music is a shame. Based on the deliberations I've heard so far, it sounds like it's losing out "because chiptunes are overdone now". No accounting for taste after all, "Best Music" definitely seems like the hardest thing to pin down so props to those guys for figuring out a top 3 at all. Even if it is wrong ;)

Bloody Baron is a good choice for best character though-- he's easily the best thing in that game.

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BannerThief

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@yesac2004: I'm stunned that it's not Most Disappointing Game, considering how lousy its world/writing is when compared to previous Bethesda games.

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Brackynews

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Edited By Brackynews • 

@ollieg_94 said:

Man, Hotline Miami 2 has been robbed for best music. But then Contradiction has got it's nomination, so I shan't complain.

Can you or anyone make the argument for Miami 2's soundtrack being better than the first? If that is its one tickbox over the original then I gotta get invested.

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TOA_Doom • 

Opinions and all, but...boy does it make me sad to see MGS on the best music list. It was a lot of licensed stuff, the original music wasn't at all memorable for me. Meanwhile Undertale had incredible music. Definitely could have seen it winning, but to not at least have it as a runner-up is a crime.

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Rirse

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Rirse • 

@yesac2004: didn't stop Destiny for being in runner up Most Disappointing and number 10 in the Top Ten last year.

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hassun

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hassun • 

Even after reading this piece I'm curious as to why or how anyone expected enough from Toy Soldiers: War Chest to be very disappointed by it.

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rtkwe

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rtkwe • 

@wiseblood: It came a really close 4th in the discussions. Splatoon was the only thing that was mostly locked in from the things that made it to the end.

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VincentVendetta

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Edited By beforet • 

I wanna preface with the fact that I have not listened to the podcast yet and that I know that this is just some opinions and I'm not actually mad about anything.

That said yo FUCK Undertale not at least getting runner up for Best Music! That games has that category on LOCK! Son! On LOCK!

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And for that matter, San or Papyrus belongs on that Best Character list. Maybe not winner, but probably ahead of whatever Blade Runner junk Bethesda came up with. (Further Disclaimer: I have not played Fallout 4. Nick might be a beautiful soul, this conclusion has been reached based on data pulled from other Bethesda games).

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Unsupervised

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Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball doesn't even get a mention for best music?

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Monkeyman04

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steveurkel

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steveurkel • 

the besg part of game of the year is when each staff person stands and talks about their favorite games and why. not enjoying this at all :(

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ArbitraryWater

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Boy, I forgot about that Toy Soldiers game apparently being garbage. I'll be interested in hearing how they got to that point on the podcast.

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ds9143

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ds9143 • 

Anyone ever feel like Jeff hates everything?