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|OT| Polybius |OT| So many things to see and do in the tubehole

Shifty

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Sep 25, 2015
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the planet Thra


NeoGAF OT


WARNING: This OT contains flashing colours and images.



Recommended Listening
Gareth Noyce - Brace Position



Platforms
PS4, PSVR
PC, Oculus Rift

Release Dates
PS4
May 9, 2017


Steam
Dec 21, 2018


$ 17.99
£ 13.99
€ 14.99

ESRB - E10+
PEGI - 7


Store Pages
PS4
Steam



So What Is It?

Polybius is like skiing.
Polybius is like falling forwards really fast down a neverending well.
Polybius is a recreational program with lightsynth elements.
Polybius is a secret government conspiracy to brainwash you into going fast and getting high... Scores! High scores.




Listen.

POLYBIUS is a fast, trippy tunnel shooter playable on a normal screen or in VR.
50 levels of blissful trance shooting action are set to a blistering soundtrack.


So sayeth the steam store description, at any rate.

Polybius is the brainchild of Jeff 'Yak' Minter, British independent game designer, veteran of the industry, lover of ruminants, and creator of Gridrunner, Attack of the Mutant Camels, and Tempest 2000 among many other things.


Pictured: Jeff w/fluffy sheepie

Based on an urban legend about a mysterious arcade game that would leave its players a coma, Polybius intends to reinterpret the myth and create an entrancing yet harmless experience that evokes a sense of speed and euphoria through ludic psychadelia.


Screenshots


Horns and Bulls in the tubehole


The inside of a Toblerone



Polybius makes FULL use of your personal computer's colour palette. Scream if you want to go faster!


Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Fast Very Nice Fast Fast Fast Fast



I CAN FEEL THE COSMOS (Naw, that's just the DMT kicking in.)



How do you play it?

You do what feels natural, of course.

A level in Polybius is much like one you would find in Tempest 2000 or the like- a linear field of a specific shape that may or may not loop around on itself at the edges.

You strafe your ship left and right as you fly deeper into the level, firing at the enemies ahead of you in order to dispatch them.
Your ship has several shields, one of which is lost each time you crash or take a hit. If you have no shields upon impact, it's game over.

There are boost gates shaped like bull horns that will accelerate you upon passing through, as well as adding a short period of invincibility to your ship's Deflector - the ball-like cage you see around it in the footage.

Occasionally a large medicinal-looking pill will drop.
This is a power up, the effects of which can range from various types of enhanced bullets, to freaky hallucinogenic time dilation, to a super boost effect that will see you rocketing through the visible spectrum at Ludicrous Speed.
There are some notably less pleasant things should you take the Wrong Pill, however, so try not to do that.

And then there's the Fried Eggs, Space Invaders, Deflector Chaining, Lift Gates...
You know what? Here's a video of the first seven levels commentated by Yak himself to give you an idea of exactly what goes on:



What can I expect for my money?

The game features:
  • Trippy, colourful visuals
  • 50 varied levels
  • Fast, fluid tube shooter gameplay from the master of the genre
  • A full OST packed with excellent electronic tracks from all sorts of different artists
  • Llamasoft's signature Restart Best system
  • VR Support
  • 1000+ cattle guaranteed
  • Absolutely no subliminal messaging whatsoever
  • I Will Buy Jeff A Nice Soft Drink
  • I Will Buy Jeff A Nice Soft Drink
  • I Will Buy Jeff A Nice Soft Drink

Tell me more about this excellent original soundtrack
Brace Position up at the top of the OT is one of the finest tracks in the game- if you like the sound of it, you can sample the rest of the OST for free over at the game's bandcamp page:

Polybius OST - Bandcamp

What was that about an urban legend?

This documentary from Ahoy covers the original Polybius myth in great detail, with lovely production to boot:



In addition, Jeff wrote an account of how he came across an original Polybius cabinet in the course of a journey to darkest Basingstoke:
It was this chap and he wouldn’t really tell me what exactly he wanted, only that he reckoned he had something “extraordinary” to show me, since he thought I was somehow uniquely qualified to analyse it, or something like that.
At first I thought he was just being a loony but he promised me it’d be something worth seeing, something related to the history of arcade games. In the end I said I’d come and see, hoping the while that he wouldn’t turn out to be an axe murderer or anything.
I had to swear on Flossie’s name that I wouldn’t reveal the exact nature of what I was to see, and video or pics were strictly out of the question.
Playstation EU Blog - A story of darkest Basingstoke and the wondrous secret hidden there that’d give birth to Minter’s latest creation

Whether you believe a single word of it is up to you, but it's a fun little bit of backstory.

Can I get a first impressions video ovah here?

The extremely New Yorkish PSVR Frank has a solid first impressions video review stream thing here:



Trent Reznor?!

Why yes, Polybius was featured in the music video for the Nine Inch Nails song 'Less Than':



Surely this 'ludic psychedelia' stuff is nonsense. Videogames can't get you high.



I don't have anything past anecdotal evidence to offer here, but the game seems to use a combination of visual colour patterns and ASMR-like audio cues to trigger certain responses in your brain, leading to a notable feeling of elation and clarity both during and after play.
Perhaps I'm just crazy, but you should try playing the game in a dark room with headphones on (or VR, if available) and see for yourself. It's quite remarkable as someone who's never been susceptible to hypnotism or other such things.

Hints and Tips
I'm gradually figuring the game out piece by piece, and will post my findings here. Spoilered in case people want to figure things out on their own.​
Tips
Try to slalom smoothly left and right whenever possible, and also in between gates. This will greatly boost your shot down rate and point gain when combined with Divergent Shooting.
Horn gates will turn red when you're lined up with them correctly
Your fire rate and score multiplier are based on your speed. Keep it high to avoid being mired in unwanted business!
The line on the ground that stretches out ahead of you indicates where certain fixed gates will spawn, so you can use it to infer your trajectory
Not all gates are fixed - some will come in pre-generated patterns such as the common cattle + gate zig-zag
It's handy to follow the line as closely as possible if you're under the effects of super boost and things are getting hectic- a lot of the time everything will die from the gate waves and you'll come out safe.
Gates will recharge your deflector by 0.3 seconds
The legally distinct space invaders will fire revenge bullets on death that can be destroyed to yield a shield ring that will power up your deflector slightly
The trick is to avoid gates when going after shield rings, because they'll be blown away by the gate wave
If you prioritize shield rings when they're available, you'll effectively be invincible and still able to fit a gate or two in here and there between waves
Smashing a bouncing yellow cube or fake pill with the deflector will instantly recharge it to full
Areas with a lot of these enemies often have an alternate strategy whereby you can chain smash them repeatedly to maintain invilnerability
You can press forward or back on the left analog stick while flying to reduce or prolong your flight time
Try to exit the level under the effects of Super Boost whenever possible - this will apply the increased muliplier to all post-level bonus points​

Pill Types
Purple & Yellow / Divergent Shooting
Causes your bullets to inherit your velocity
Every even bullet will have positive velocity
Every odd bullet will have negative velocity
Allows your firing arc to cover more of the stage with less movement​

Purple / Super Divergent Shooting
Causes your bullets to inherit your velocity
Every even bullet will have negative velocity
Every odd bullet will have double negative velocity
Allows you to cover even more firing space than regular Divergent Shooting

Purple & Red / Super Penetrators
Causes bullets to pierce through enemies​

Red / Super Boost
~2x speed increase for the duration
+2x multiplier increase for the duration
Rainbow distortion effect

Blue / Time Warp
Time slows down to ~0.5x speed and gradually speeds back up
Additional 10x multiplier for the duration
Very cool effect with certain music tracks (ex. Brace Position)

Green & Orange / Bonus 1000
1000 Bonus Points

Green & Yellow/ Bonus 2000
2000 Bonus Points

Green / Bonus 4000
4000 Bonus Points

Green & Purple / Bonus 10000
10000 Bonus Points​

White & Magenta / Fake Pill
Causes damage on contact
Blowing it away with the deflector will grant a full 5 second recharge​

??? / Wrong Pill
Causes you to lose 1 shield
Heavy visual distortion for a few seconds​

??? / Sequencer Reset
Causes the level sequencer to reset
Only appears in one specific state​

White? / Shield Recharge
Fully recharges your shields to 9
Only appears in final few stages​

Accuracy Checks
Certain enemy waves will make a beep noise upon death that gradually increases in pitch as more are destroyed
During these waves, you will be judged on your accuracy and rewarded based on your shot down rate

80-100% - Super Boost
70-79% - Bonus 10000
50-79% - ???
0-49% - Nothing​

Traveler's guide for things to see and do in the tubehole

Take in the vintage atmosphere and classical styling
Admire the local wildlife as it flies past at incredible speed
Sample boost pills, a local delicacy
Have your head encased in a fractal snowflake
Admit to yourself that the Commodore really was was better than the Spectrum
Avoid accidentally taking the wrong pill
Make the journey to Basingstoke
Ascend to a higher plane of existence as your mind becomes a receptacle for enlightenment​

Afterword

Thank you for reading! Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back in.
[ENGAGING PROJECT MKULTRA, PLEASE STAND BY...]
 
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Hissing Sid

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Can’t recommend this highly enough in VR, even if it’s not your style of game. Trippy shit.
 

Musky_Cheese

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Cheers!

Now I just need more folks to read it :messenger_grinning_sweat:
Well I’m sure we have a good number of pot smokers here. They will get high and play the game.

Unfortunately they won’t remember it already has a OT. They will make another OT while baked. Staff will have to merge threads. But they are baked to after playing a game. Accidentally rename all threads to this OT title

Smh marijuana
 

nowhat

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I'd even recommend it outside of VR as well
Oh yes, got this off the PSN January sale (not that it's expensive at any rate, just never got around to buying it) and it's a blast. 4K/60fps on a Pro, looks trippy enough on a large TV, I can only imagine VR would be even more out there. And also agreed on the pot - it's not mandatory, but oh boy it doesn't hurt either.
 

nowhat

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Oh one more thing. I've posted about this before here, but just to get more exposure - Jeff Minter is a mad genius. Genius, yes, but also completely, utterly, bonkers - which is what makes him and his games great.

He did a stint trying to do mobile games. But being old-fashioned/a decent human being, he didn't want them to be riddled with microtransactions. Like, pay for a game and then play the game - what a novel concept! Unfortunately for him that didn't pan out, the greater public is more willing to get a game for free and then keep getting fleeced. Such is life.

But while the iOS games are no longer available (changing SDKs meant new builds, not worth the effort if no one buys them), the Android ports still exist: http://www.minotaurproject.co.uk/Minotaur/donate.php

There are no guaranties they'd work with your device, and the usual caveats about installing APKs from untrusted sources apply; but if you can install them you probably know what you're doing. "Goat Up" is a personal favourite of mine. There's also GridRunner++ available for PC as well on the page. They're being offered for free, but if you enjoy them, do consider donating. While you may feel there's too much madness in our world already, I maintain we could use more of the Minter kind of madness.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Really need to buy this game. I sunk tons of time into TxK and Tempest 2000.

My impression is -- aside from the thrill of the trippy visuals -- the game is built on top of a solid arcade core. So if you do wish to play for score/1CC, the game is suitable for that challenge. What's your opinion Shifty Shifty ?
 

Jae Mara

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Anyone know if it's anyway similar to Thumper, closest comparison I can make to what I have played. If it scratches that itch I'm in. Certainly can't be helped that the visuals have me transfixed.

Also nice OT. Double the recommendation of that Ahoy video. It's good stuff.
 

Cattlyst

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Jan 18, 2019
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Have this, is a blast on PS VR but as previously stated it's also great fun using a 4K TV. It's so smoooooth!

It's not really like Thumper as it doesn't require you to hit buttons in a rhythm - you just move left and right and onto the ceiling (a bit like Tempest 2000) while holding the fire button. It does share a smooth frame rate though.
 

Shifty

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Sep 25, 2015
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the planet Thra
Thread resurrection! Praise be to the almighty space giraffe!



Well I’m sure we have a good number of pot smokers here. They will get high and play the game.

Unfortunately they won’t remember it already has a OT. They will make another OT while baked. Staff will have to merge threads. But they are baked to after playing a game. Accidentally rename all threads to this OT title

Smh marijuana
Such is the way of de kind 'erb :messenger_sun:

Speaking of, I wonder if TrainedRage TrainedRage know about Polybius...

Oh one more thing. I've posted about this before here, but just to get more exposure - Jeff Minter is a mad genius. Genius, yes, but also completely, utterly, bonkers - which is what makes him and his games great.

He did a stint trying to do mobile games. But being old-fashioned/a decent human being, he didn't want them to be riddled with microtransactions. Like, pay for a game and then play the game - what a novel concept! Unfortunately for him that didn't pan out, the greater public is more willing to get a game for free and then keep getting fleeced. Such is life.

But while the iOS games are no longer available (changing SDKs meant new builds, not worth the effort if no one buys them), the Android ports still exist: http://www.minotaurproject.co.uk/Minotaur/donate.php

There are no guaranties they'd work with your device, and the usual caveats about installing APKs from untrusted sources apply; but if you can install them you probably know what you're doing. "Goat Up" is a personal favourite of mine. There's also GridRunner++ available for PC as well on the page. They're being offered for free, but if you enjoy them, do consider donating. While you may feel there's too much madness in our world already, I maintain we could use more of the Minter kind of madness.
Ah, Gridrunner++. That was the game that introduced me proper to the weird world of Minter after running across a demo of Hovver Bovver 2 on the front of some british computer magazine. Great game, still holds up and you can see a lot of Minter-isms that would later make it into Polybius.

And I for one welcome the Minter Madness. The 'rough-feeling yet amazing super retro trippy arcade shooter with sheep' genre would be nothing without it.

Wow, didn't knew this game.

Must be a hell of a trip on VR.
Absolutely. It's almost meditative, if meditation involved high speed and lots of explosions.

Really need to buy this game. I sunk tons of time into TxK and Tempest 2000.

My impression is -- aside from the thrill of the trippy visuals -- the game is built on top of a solid arcade core. So if you do wish to play for score/1CC, the game is suitable for that challenge. What's your opinion Shifty Shifty ?
I won't lie, playing it again reminded me of the talks we've had about shmups on the discord- bumbling through at first and gradually refining your run for optimal scoring and multiplier abuse. There's a great selection of mechanics that unfurl over time as you dig in and learn new tricks.

1CCing in this game is an interesting case, because it has 50 levels that last 2-4 minutes each. There's a Pure mode that starts from square one every time specifically designed for that, but it's a considerable challenge of endurance.
You're going to need some serious galaxy brain for the more intense parts though, going at max speed (for max multiplier) and triggering the rainbow distortion effects is a certain kind of sensory overload that pushes you to play reactively due to the sheer amount of stuff happening around you.

Thankfully the default game mode has the Restart Best system, which saves your best shields and best score at the end of each stage and effectively allows you to jump in anywhere and pick up where your best run left off.
It's really handy for practicing, not to mention scratching that completionist itch of "I want to max out every stage".

Anyone know if it's anyway similar to Thumper, closest comparison I can make to what I have played. If it scratches that itch I'm in. Certainly can't be helped that the visuals have me transfixed.

Also nice OT. Double the recommendation of that Ahoy video. It's good stuff.
Cheers :messenger_grinning_smiling:

Have this, is a blast on PS VR but as previously stated it's also great fun using a 4K TV. It's so smoooooth!

It's not really like Thumper as it doesn't require you to hit buttons in a rhythm - you just move left and right and onto the ceiling (a bit like Tempest 2000) while holding the fire button. It does share a smooth frame rate though.

Pretty much, though the perspective is similar enough to give me Thumper flashbacks.

I feel like the locked high frame rate is pretty significant for reaction time as well- I got through okay at 60Hz on PS4, but some sequences feel tight enough that those extra hertz are very much welcome.
 

DunDunDunpachi

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Apr 18, 2018
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I won't lie, playing it again reminded me of the talks we've had about shmups on the discord- bumbling through at first and gradually refining your run for optimal scoring and multiplier abuse. There's a great selection of mechanics that unfurl over time as you dig in and learn new tricks.

1CCing in this game is an interesting case, because it has 50 levels that last 2-4 minutes each. There's a Pure mode that starts from square one every time specifically designed for that, but it's a considerable challenge of endurance.
You're going to need some serious galaxy brain for the more intense parts though, going at max speed (for max multiplier) and triggering the rainbow distortion effects is a certain kind of sensory overload that pushes you to play reactively due to the sheer amount of stuff happening around you.

Thankfully the default game mode has the Restart Best system, which saves your best shields and best score at the end of each stage and effectively allows you to jump in anywhere and pick up where your best run left off.
It's really handy for practicing, not to mention scratching that completionist itch of "I want to max out every stage".
TxK also had the Restart Best mode (unsure if they called it that) but I still did a full marathon run. It felt like the "correct" way to play it. However, many of those stages can be completed in 60s or less so 50 levels at 2-4m each... oof.

I won't know until I try. Sounds like the mechanics are there beneath the wonderful visuals. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this game someday!
 

nowhat

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Sep 18, 2017
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Ah, Gridrunner++. That was the game that introduced me proper to the weird world of Minter after running across a demo of Hovver Bovver 2 on the front of some british computer magazine. Great game, still holds up and you can see a lot of Minter-isms that would later make it into Polybius.
I don't want to sound like someone ranting about how "back in my day we walked to school uphill both ways, in snow two meters deep", but... I guess I'll sound like one anyway, so here goes.

If you have any knack for 80s nostalgia, "Attack of the Mutant Camels" and "Revenge of the Mutant Camels" were great. My personal preference is for the C64 versions, due to my love for the SID sound chip, but I suppose any version will do (...no it won't, get a C64 emulator). But there's also "Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time" - I never got around to playing that, but that's just such an awesome title for a game that I think it's worth a mention.
 

TrainedRage

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Thread resurrection! Praise be to the almighty space giraffe!




Such is the way of de kind 'erb :messenger_sun:

Speaking of, I wonder if TrainedRage TrainedRage know about Polybius...


Ah, Gridrunner++. That was the game that introduced me proper to the weird world of Minter after running across a demo of Hovver Bovver 2 on the front of some british computer magazine. Great game, still holds up and you can see a lot of Minter-isms that would later make it into Polybius.

And I for one welcome the Minter Madness. The 'rough-feeling yet amazing super retro trippy arcade shooter with sheep' genre would be nothing without it.


Absolutely. It's almost meditative, if meditation involved high speed and lots of explosions.


I won't lie, playing it again reminded me of the talks we've had about shmups on the discord- bumbling through at first and gradually refining your run for optimal scoring and multiplier abuse. There's a great selection of mechanics that unfurl over time as you dig in and learn new tricks.

1CCing in this game is an interesting case, because it has 50 levels that last 2-4 minutes each. There's a Pure mode that starts from square one every time specifically designed for that, but it's a considerable challenge of endurance.
You're going to need some serious galaxy brain for the more intense parts though, going at max speed (for max multiplier) and triggering the rainbow distortion effects is a certain kind of sensory overload that pushes you to play reactively due to the sheer amount of stuff happening around you.

Thankfully the default game mode has the Restart Best system, which saves your best shields and best score at the end of each stage and effectively allows you to jump in anywhere and pick up where your best run left off.
It's really handy for practicing, not to mention scratching that completionist itch of "I want to max out every stage".


Cheers :messenger_grinning_smiling:



Pretty much, though the perspective is similar enough to give me Thumper flashbacks.

I feel like the locked high frame rate is pretty significant for reaction time as well- I got through okay at 60Hz on PS4, but some sequences feel tight enough that those extra hertz are very much welcome.
Buying it today based on this thread. Thanks! Will it work on the Vive? Nothing like a stoned rainbow shooter in 3d to get your juices flowing.
 

Shifty

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the planet Thra
I don't want to sound like someone ranting about how "back in my day we walked to school uphill both ways, in snow two meters deep", but... I guess I'll sound like one anyway, so here goes.

If you have any knack for 80s nostalgia, "Attack of the Mutant Camels" and "Revenge of the Mutant Camels" were great. My personal preference is for the C64 versions, due to my love for the SID sound chip, but I suppose any version will do (...no it won't, get a C64 emulator). But there's also "Metagalactic Llamas Battle at the Edge of Time" - I never got around to playing that, but that's just such an awesome title for a game that I think it's worth a mention.
I think I might have unknowingly run across some Minter games in my time trawling through the Amiga library via emulation trying to find weird and interesting stuff. Attack of the Mutant Camels, perhaps.

Buying it today based on this thread. Thanks! Will it work on the Vive? Nothing like a stoned rainbow shooter in 3d to get your juices flowing.
Unfortunately not, the engine only has support for PSVR and Rift. Judging by the steam forums, various attempts at using ReVive haven't been successful either which is something of a bummer. It's still radical in 2D, but I know that probably isn't much of a consolation.

There were some tweets about hooking Minter and co up with a Vive through official channels for development purposes, but I guess it must have fallen through :messenger_neutral:
 

strange headache

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That was a really fun OP, thanks for making this. Never knew woolly hippies were that much into speedy high-stress psychedelic techno-thumpin' tunnel racers. I'd always imagined this would be more their jam:



That being said, I'm a wee bit disappointed this isn't about the fabled legendary game of the same name:

 

nowhat

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Sep 18, 2017
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That was a really fun OP, thanks for making this. Never knew woolly hippies were that much into speedy high-stress psychedelic techno-thumpin' tunnel racers. I'd always imagined this would be more their jam:
Oh, that's just after the first hit after a long break. Once the tolerance kicks in, we're game.

Regarding Polybius though, or the myth:

It's a long watch, but well worth it in my opinion. Like a proper detective story. Not going to spoil the ending, you'll have to watch it yourself.

Edit: yes, that video was in the OP too... must have been too stoned and missed it.
 
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Shifty

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Sep 25, 2015
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the planet Thra
OP Changelog:
  • Improved the styling
  • Shored up the jokes a bit
  • Thread is now out of early access
  • Added hints and tips section
That was a really fun OP, thanks for making this. Never knew woolly hippies were that much into speedy high-stress psychedelic techno-thumpin' tunnel racers. I'd always imagined this would be more their jam:

Why thank you! :messenger_grinning_smiling:

And well, I've been known to relax to the tones of Shpongle before now, but going fast is my jam!



That being said, I'm a wee bit disappointed this isn't about the fabled legendary game of the same name:

I'll claim the OT if I manage to track down a copy. Might be a challenge though :messenger_winking:

Edit: yes, that video was in the OP too... must have been too stoned and missed it.
I'm nothing if not comprehensive :messenger_sunglasses:
 
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