Category Archives: rant

Someone needs to push the reset button on Reset 1-1

Reset 1-1 is just one of the handful of games I got back in early January 2017 when I plopped down some digital cash on the Steam Winter Sale. It was bundled with a group of similar-minded, indie action platformers, the kind that ask you both to make jumps as well as damage enemies in your way. Of them so far, I played Dungeon of Zolthan and found it pretty enjoyable, challenging, and quick despite its minimalist look and goals. Reset 1-1 was next on the to-do list, and I began liking it a lot, eating up its quirky sense of humor, bouncy soundtrack, and stamina-driven combat. Alas, I’m now actively against the thing. Don’t worry, dear readers–I plan on telling you why.

Developer xXarabongXx describes Reset 1-1 like so:

The world has ended, Demons have risen to conquer the uninhabited and flourishing nature outside. It’s your turn, with your unknown identity, to find your path for a new beginning.

For those not aware, my day job is editing. I read a lot and am thus quickly able to suss out when an author has no idea what they are talking about, but need to have something down on paper to show that they are clearly alive and involved in the project. That is what I’m getting here: a bunch of keywords loosely connected to each other that, hopefully, comprises something of a story. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, but I guess many aren’t coming to Reset 1-1 for its wondrous plot twists. Still, a little more work could have been put towards this. A little more defining. Here, I’ll even do the developer a solid and provide a better description at no cost whatsoever:

Demonic forces have taken over the world. It’s up to you to discover who you are, defeat evil, and create a new start.

Sure, it still sounds like a generic mess, but I don’t have much to work with. There are hints of story and character development early on, with our pixelated tiny hero not knowing his true identity (is it John of Jhon?), but that doesn’t seem to last longer than the introductory levels. Each boss you come across has something quick to say before the battle ensues, but it is usually of the “I’m going to kill you” ilk. Other than that, this is more about action, with a focus on nailing tough jumps and effectively managing your stamina, especially during boss battles.

In terms of gameplay, Reset 1-1 is a platformer. Think Fez, but less puzzles, more fighting. I guess Cave Story is a better comparison, especially in the graphics department. You run, you jump, and you throw projectiles at enemies by swiping your sword in their direction. Our hero can also roll, and much of his actions are dictated by a stamina bar that quickly depletes. As you progress and defeat bosses, you gain experience points to level up, and you can pick either more damage, more health, or more stamina as an upgrade. There are also different swords to find, as well as single-use health potions to hold on to dearly or, if you are like me and playing with a controller, accidentally hit the X button to use it when most definitely not needed (I was trying to open a door). Speaking of controllers, plugging an Xbox 360 controller in works, but does not work well, as I found the game immediately laggy; however, the standard PC controls are even funkier to get a grasp on so it was this or nothing.

So, I got to the final boss fight in Reset 1-1 last night. It’s some kind of weird ghost-thing that throws fireballs and summons a wave of them up from the lava below that you need to carefully time two rolls to make it through alive. I can’t beat it, and each attempt is more difficult than the previous thanks to this game’s sinister system of upping the difficulty, slowing down the frame-rate, and dissolving color from the graphics with each subsequent death. It is extremely difficult to now see throw projectiles, and jumping with lag is as much fun as you can imagine. Unfortunately, it seems like I’m just digging myself into a deeper hole, and there’s no way to start this final fight on equal ground. More annoyingly, I got the Steam Achievement “Tales of creation and destruction” upon meeting this big baddie, but there doesn’t seem to be one for kicking its ethereal butt or even finishing the game.

On Reset 1-1′s title screen, there are four options–play (continue), reset, options, and quit. For some reason, my brain shrunk in size and strength, and I clicked “reset” thinking that this would reset the fact that I had died so many times that everything moved like quarters through molasses, but kept me there at the final boss fight, refreshed and ready. Naturally, this instead wiped my entire progress. Granted, it only took me about an hour to get to the end area, but still. Time lost. Grrr. Sure, I could go through Reset 1-1 again, but knowing that I’d get to the end boss and only have so many viable attempts early on before I found myself drowning in my own mess is a whole new level of stress that I’m not interested in handling. A shame, as I was nearly there.

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Warning: enter Vault 713 at your own risk

fallout-shelter-29

I waited a long time to play Fallout Shelter; I probably should have kept waiting. This free-to-play mobile room manager from big ol’ Bethesda was revealed and released to the world–well, for iOS devices–in June 2015 during the company’s E3 press conference. It later came to Android devices in August 2015. It never came and never will come to those that use a Windows phone despite that making some degree of sense. You might not know anyone in that last category, but if you are reading these words and follow Grinding Down, you at least know one sad soul–me. Well, it recently made its debut on Xbox One (and PC).

Allow me to run down what you do in Fallout Shelter since there’s no story to follow, save for whatever adventures you create in your brain as you tap and drag and force people to breed with one another. Basically, you build and manage your own Vault as an overseer–a.k.a., the never-questioned ruler of this nuclear safe haven. You guide and direct your Vault’s inhabitants, keeping them happy through meeting their essential needs, such as power, food, and water. You can rescue dwellers from the wasteland and assign them to various resource-generating buildings in your Vault, using the SPECIAL statistics system from the other Fallout games to key you in on their strongest abilities. Your dwellers level up over time, increasing things like health points and how good they are at producing resources. The number of Vault dwellers can grow two ways: waiting for new survivors from the wasteland to arrive at your doorstep or by pairing a male and female dweller in a living quarters room to, after some time has passed, produce babies.

Some other things exist to mix up the waiting on rooms-on-timers gameplay. You can take a risk and “rush” a room to completion. If you’re successful, you’ll get the resources right away, as well as some bonus caps. However, if you fail it, badness arrives in the form of fires, radroaches, or attacks from raiders. There are challenges to be mindful of, such as equipping a dweller with a weapon or gathering up X amount of food, and completing these will earn you caps or lunchboxes, which hold randomized loot. Once you build the Overseer’s room, you can send your people out on quests to find better items (weapons, armor) and caps. Everything takes time, and that makes way more sense for the mobile versions, but after sending out three people to shoot some wild radroaches I found myself staring at a bunch of rooms that wouldn’t be ready for harvesting for at least ten minutes with nothing else to do. Fallout Shelter is a game of waiting, which is not what I want when I plop down on the couch to play something.

On the Xbox One, navigating around the Vault is done via the thumbsticks. This can be a finicky process, and I once accidentally spent caps on removing boulders after the cursor jumped too far from the room I really wanted to select and gather resources from. This wasn’t the worst because, yeah, eventually I planned to clear them rocks, but I wanted it to be my decision, on my schedule. You can zoom in closer to the rooms to see some funny if frivolous bits of dialogue from your dwellers. The majority of the game is driven via menus, and accessing them is thankfully pretty simple and easy to use with a controller. That all said, I’m not a huge fan of the combat; it’s basically hands-off and hope you get some good invisible dice rolls like you’re back battling cliff racers in Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, which is frustrating to witness. Here’s a true scenario from my time in Vault 713: a teeny tiny radroach nearly depleted my level 14 dweller’s health as she missed shot after shot after shot with a decent hunting rifle. Blargh.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but it’s pivotal towards my future progress in Fallout Shelter, of which there probably won’t be any more, so here we go: my Xbox One is broken. Or perpetually breaking. One of those. Some time after Black Friday last year, something happened. My “pins” disappeared from the front dashboard with a message saying, “Sorry, we can’t show these right now.” Then I discovered that I could access the store tab, but nothing I clicked on would work. I could mash the “A” button to no effect. Same goes for a lot of the advertisement tiles on other pages, unless they were tied to the Internet Explorer app. I tried doing a hard shutdown, unplugging my router, resetting the WiFi connection, and checking for further updates. Nothing seems to work. I am not interested in a factory reset, and I’ve managed, for the most part, to survive. I can still access apps like Netflix and Twitch and download those Games with Gold freebies by logging in on my Xbox 360 and adding them to my account. Lifehack central, y’all.

However, the other night, after gathering enough food, water, and power to keep my people beaming with happiness, I saved and shut the game down. A message came up that said the game was trying to sync my save with the Cloud, and so I let it do its thing, not wanting to mess anything up. Which never seemed to finish. Five minutes went by, then ten. Then twenty. Then thirty. There’s no way a game the size of Fallout Shelter takes that long to sync save data that is probably as big as a Cheez-It crumb. Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait much longer and simply closed the console down as it was. When I tried to load the game up the next day, it couldn’t find my save even though it is also on my console’s internal memory, and the screen that shows your three save slots just spins infinitely, unable to find anything. I can’t even start a new Vault. This happened over a week ago, and I still can’t access Vault 713. And I was one room away from unlocking the Achievement for building 25 rooms. Grrr.

I could probably download Fallout Shelter on PC and either start again or see if my save in the Cloud carries over. I could, but I won’t. I’d rather play the Dead Money DLC from Fallout: New Vegas again. Or test my luck out in the wasteland proper. I thought I’d be more bummed about this, but there are a zillion other pieces of digital entertainment available at my fingertips.

Grabbing all of The Division’s collectibles so you don’t have to

gd post the division all collectibles and jackets

Maybe this says a lot about my personality or how I’m wired, but I can’t not collect things in a videogame if there are things there to be collected. Especially if all you have to do is run around a map and pick up said objects with minimal obstacles in the way, and that is most definitely what you can do in Tom Clancy’s The Division. There’s even a great perk that unlocks all the collectibles as icons on the map once you finish all the missions in one area, which I purchased as soon as humanly possible. The feeling of euphoria is strong both when the map updates with a dozen icons to pick up and after I grab them all for my greedy, self-serving purposes.

There are a disgusting number of collectibles in The Division. A total 293 items to be exact. Here, allow me to break them down for you…

  • 24 Survival Guide
  • 130 Phone Recording
  • 40 Incident Reports
  • 16 Crashed Drones
  • 20 Missing Agents
  • 63 ECHOs

Last night, I finished getting them all. One after the other after another, and this is after a couple weeks of plugging away at this task while friends in my gaming group were killing rogue agents in the Dark Zone or bashing their heads against walls in the ultra-difficult “Falcon Lost” Incursion mission, which, they quickly gave up on after learning that Ubisoft is not giving out mission rewards for it due to people glitching their way to victory. Hmm. See, once I begin collecting collectibles, I can’t stop until I have them all. Especially if there’s a bonus reward to boot, such as an Achievement and special piece of cosmetic gear.

Without any further delay, here’s my level 30 character (level 37 in the Dark Zone, pfftt) wearing all the different jackets awarded for finding sets of collectibles spread across New York City’s disease-ridden map:

Meadow Jacket, for finding 24 Survival Guides

Meadow Jacket, for finding 24 Survival Guides

Highland Jacket, for finding 40 Incident Reports

Highland Jacket, for finding 40 Incident Reports

Sierra Jacket, for finding 20 Missing Agents

Sierra Jacket, for finding 20 Missing Agents

Rose Jacket, for finding 63 ECHOs

Rose Jacket, for finding 63 ECHOs

Frost Jacket, for finding 16 Crashed Drones

Frost Jacket, for finding 16 Crashed Drones

Shoreline Jacket, for finding 130 Phone Recordings

Shoreline Jacket, for finding 130 Phone Recordings

Look, the majority of the clothing options in The Division are drab and nearly identical. I try to make my outfit as bright and stylish as possible, and it’s quite challenging. So it is a great disappointment that three of these reward jackets–Shoreline, Highland, and Meadow–look almost exactly the same. Ubisoft has some gall to ask the player to collect 130 cell phone recordings, many of which are uninteresting, throwaway bits of story and banter, and then give them a jacket that is barely indistinguishable from the one you get for collecting a fraction of those collectibles in a different set. I personally think my character looks best in the Rose Jacket and don’t plan to change out of it unless something else nicer appears in future downloadable content.

That all said, I really can’t recommend anyone going out of their way to get all the collectibles in The Division. If one of these jackets strikes your fancy, then sure, focus on it and grab just those items to unlock it. I’m sure many of the other players out there, like me, beat all the story missions and hit the level cap before beginning to tackle these checklists, so it’s not like the XP you gain for getting them even does anything. The collectibles are definitely not scattered along the main roads/areas, meaning it is unlikely you came across many as you fast-traveled from your Base of Operations to whatever mission you wanted to do next.

I suspect I’ll not be dipping into The Division as much going forward, having completed a big part of it now besides Dark Zone stuff, raising my gear score (I think it’s around 178?), and missions on crazy hard difficulties wherein I die a whole bunch. Which is weird, because I worked so hard to get a fancy new jacket, and I have no future desire to wear it out in the world, to strut my stuff. Perhaps I’m ashamed of what I did, of the ridiculous lengths I went to. But I had to know, and now you know–choose wisely.

100%-ing LEGO Marvel Super Heroes nearly broke me

lego marvel superheroes 100 percent grind

Naturally, I saved all the elements I hated the most for last when working towards hitting the 100% completion mark in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. Like races, of all variety. Like replaying every story level a second time to find the last few collectibles. That’s it, really. Those are the two mission types I disliked the most, as the fetch quests and bonus levels kept things lively, and so long as you have a character that can fly–my go-to was always Galactus or Ms. Marvel–then you can zip around the hub world and start checking off tasks…somewhat quickly. Getting there is no big problem, but one still has to factor in solving the puzzle to unlock the gold brick, vehicle, or character.

Races in the sense of a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc. to see which is the fastest in covering a set course are just the worst when it comes to open-world videogames. I avoid them at all costs. I think I did the obligatory one in Grand Theft Auto V and never went back. There are a few types in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: in air, in vehicles, or on foot. None of them are fun. One mistake generally costs you the entire race, forcing you to go back to the mission giver and try again, which is sometimes not an easy process. The flying ones are a real hassle as the controls for zipping through the sky like some cool person are clunky and, nine times out of ten, work against you. Here’s a real kicker though: Maria Hill challenges the player to a go-kart race on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, but it’s on a digitalized, floating track in the sky, and if she wins, the track disappears, and you fall all the way down to the city below. Want to try again? You have to either fly back to the Helicarrier or use a warp station.

Let’s talk a bit about Stan Lee. You know, the iconic American comic book writer, editor, publisher, media producer, television host, and actor who loves making cameos whenever it comes to all things Marvel. He’s a collectible in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, and there’s fifty in total to rescue. One Stan Lee in Peril is found in all the story levels and bonus levels, with the rest, a good twenty or twenty-five out in the hub world somewhere. Thankfully, an icon appears on the map to let you know where he is, but you can naturally only rescue one at a time. He’s not Multiple Man, mind you.

Anyways, after rescuing a bunch of Stan Lees in the hub world, I noticed there was no new icon showing up, which lead me to both recheck the map several times, but also assume that any new Stan Lee rescue missions were locked until I did something else. Or hit a set percent completion. As it turns out, that was not true; instead, there was a Stan Lee icon on the map the whole time, just hidden underneath another icon, one for a story mission that I had already completed. I only saw it visible when glancing at the mini map; you can’t see it through viewing the large map. In short, I could have been collecting Stan Lee the entire time, but didn’t because the developers thought it was a good idea to hide the icon on a map they clearly knew gamers were going to use as a means to set waypoints and track down things. In shorter, screw Stan “The King of Cameos” Lee.

Lastly, even after hitting 100% completion and enjoying the warm fuzzies of seeing all those collectibles collected, I still wasn’t done with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes. See, I began playing the game co-op with my girlfriend, and evidently the Falling…with Style Achievement for successfully sky-diving off the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier is glitched if you try to do it first in co-op. The only way for me to pop it was to start a new game and never bring in another player. More frustratingly, you don’t get access to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier until after the first story level is completed. Imagine me, drained from grinding my heart out on LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, having to play a story level for a third time simply to be fully done with this mutation. Also, you can’t skip cutscenes the first go around. I grumbled through it, jumped off the Helicarrier, saw the Achievement pop, and felt an invisible weight lift off my shoulders.

At one point during my seemingly impossible climb to 100% completion, Deadpool mocked me for even trying. Made fun of me going after all these collectibles or doing another vehicle race simply to check it off an imaginary to-do list. I get that that’s Deadpool’s thing, breaking the fourth wall and whatnot…but when the videogame you are attempting to master is leaning back and laughing at you, one has to wonder. Super heroes are often defined by their sacrifices. I feel like LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is one of my greatest.

Pokémon Shuffle’s Mega Glalie is bad game design

Pokemon Shuffle Mega Glalie is the worst

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was stuck on Pokémon Shuffle‘s level 120 against Mega Glalie, and that everything was fine because, no matter what, my pocket monsters were continuing to gain XP and grow stronger and, without a doubt, I’d eventually have a team powerful enough to conquer the annoying, Generation III ice-type levitating face and move on to level 121. Astoundingly, that hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve been, more or less, using all five of my hearts against the bloody ripper every night before bed. I’m sorry to say, but this is some really bad game design, and I can’t recall the last time I hit such a visible wall in a game.

I’m not the only one struggling. If you type both “Mega Glalie” and Pokémon Shuffle into Google, you’ll quickly get returns for posts about people unable to beat the beast, people beating it using every item and Jewel they had and only then crawling past the finish line, and people puffing their chests out like mighty lions, claiming to have defeated Mega Glalie easily, using no items at all. Uh huh. Here’s a handful of confetti. If you are to use items, which are, let me remind y’all, quite costly, many are suggesting Complexity -1s, Mega Starts, and Disruption Delays.

For me, there’s certainly a stubborn drive behind my desire to beat Mega Glalie without any items, and this is not at all to prove I am a big macho man and super skilled at matching severed Pokémon heads. I conquered all 119 Pokémon levels before Mega Glalie without using any items. Perseverance, patience, and picking the right team was all it took, and so it bugs me deeply that the same strategy simply cannot be employed here. The problem is that, within four or five turns, Mega Glalie begins freezing entire columns, two at a time, often locking you out of sweet–and powerful–combo chains, forcing you to chip away at its health until the board resets or you run out of moves. Even with a team of level 6 Pokémon, the farthest I’ve dropped Mega Glalie’s health is down to about 25%.

This level is designed for you to spend money on (either in-game currency, which takes a good while to stock, or through extra turns via Jewels bought by real-life money), unless you hit the biggest luck streak of the century. Truthfully, I was enjoying Pokémon Shuffle, which just celebrated some 2.5 million+ downloads, when it kept progressing, even if just little by little. Play a few matches every night, unlock more to play the next night. Heck, Nintendo is even adding in more levels to the base set, upping the count to 180. That’s sixty more for me to get through…or potentially never see.

I may have to try an item against Mega Glalie. Call it desperation, call it despair, call it giving in–I don’t care. I have a free copy of Disruption Delay in my inventory, acquired from…uh, doing something cool, so maybe I’ll give that a go tonight. However, if the match goes just as poorly as all previous attempts, I will forever be bitter against using items and will refrain from ever experimenting again, deleting this free-to-play Pokémon game and focusing instead on that other free-to-play Pokémon game. That one, so far, hasn’t raised any walls yet to impede my journey.

If you have any good tips on taking down Mega Glalie, please do share. If you beat this level with your eyes closed and one hand behind your back, kudos for you.

The Incredibles wants you to cross the line and suffer the consequences

the incredibles ps2 final thoughts violet's crossing

After all my years of gaming, I can only recall a few specific moments vividly by name or the tears that I cried as they truly frustrated me, the man with all the patience in the universe. Allow me to name them. That boss fight against Moldorm in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, especially when it could knock you off the level itself, forcing you to retrace your steps. The entire realm of Aquis from Primal, which is all about swimming, but not about good swimming controls. Lastly, there’s that wall jumping section in Super Metroid, which, to this day, is a mechanic I still don’t have down pat. Well, we can now add “Violet’s Crossing” from The Incredibles on the PlayStation 2 to this curmudgeonly list.

I’m actually going to talk a bit about the entire second half of The Incredibles, but I feel like “Violet’s Crossing” is such a special case of fail that it needs its own paragraph or two. Allow me.

For a level that many YouTubers seem to get through in about nine minutes, this one took me forty-one minutes and change; also, I stopped counting how many times I died after twenty or so, especially since you can kill Violet within seconds of gaining control. It’s a stealth mission and the only time you are in control of Violet by herself. For those familiar with the movie, her power is turning invisible, but the game limits this to only a few seconds. Four or three, tops. Your goal here is to reach the end of the level without being caught, as she is killed instantly when spotted, taken down by a single laser beam bullet. Guards are on high alert and can hear her sneaking by if too close or if she brushes against some foliage.

I like stealth, but I guess I should say that I technically like good stealth, and I’m thinking about Metal Gear Solid, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Mark of the Ninja mostly. “Violet’s Crossing” is a terrible stealth level, seemingly created by developers that have never played a stealth videogame in their collective lives. There’s no map, the guards have no vision cones or indication of where they are looking, and you have very limited control of the camera–I wonder if I’ll say the same thing when I revisit Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Throw in a super short period for using her invisibility power, as well as one-shot kills, and this turns into a frustrating spout of patience, of creeping inch by inch forward, hoping to hit a checkpoint and not have to repeat everything over and over. By the end of it, I felt like an AGDQ speedrunner, following a specific path and doing certain button presses, knowing they’d work because I had memorized how the guards moved and where one had to go to avoid them. However, instead of waiting what felt like an eternity for Violet’s Incredi-power meter to fill back up with invisibility juice, I spammed another secret passcode.

The level immediately after this is probably the most fun I had with The Incredibles, as Dash and Violet team up to pilot a bubble shield ball thing and mess around with physics. Basically, you get to bounce around in a bubble, taking out enemy soldiers, turrets, and machinery, while occasionally hitting some sweet jumps. After this, it is back to the same ol’ same ol’, with Mr. Incredible fighting that very same tank mini-boss he fought a few levels back multiple times in a row. It’s maddening, especially since the only way to stay alive and not lose progress and have to do all this repetitive busywork over again is to spam health cheat codes. But get this–The Incredibles is so ridiculous that it doesn’t even have a full health or invincibility cheat code. All you can do is keep typing in UUDDLRLRBAS for 25% health refill….25%. Which depletes quickly when battling a fire-spewing tank. I mean, c’mon, the Konami code used to grant you 30 lives in Contra and dress Qwark up in a tutu in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal.

Ironically, the final final fight against the Omnidroid is not too difficult and kind of fun, so long as you keep an eye on everyone else’s health meters. Plus, after you beat it, you can continue running around the area, throwing rocks and leaping into burning trash bins, as the credits roll. For some reason, it reminded me of a Tony Hawk level. Or maybe my brain was so relieved to be done with this draining process in poor controls and faulty design choices that I was already beginning to think about what to play next. Please note that I did not actually go play Tony Hawk next (more on that in another post).

Oh, and somewhere about halfway through the game, I unlocked “Battle Arena” in the menu option. No, it’s not a local multiplayer slagfest. In it, you play as Mr. Incredible or Elastigirl, placed an arena to face round after round of enemies, culminating in a final tank battle, everyone’s favorite from the main campaign. Why would anyone do this? Well, to earn more bonus items, also known as uninteresting concept art. Here’s the kicker: you get one bonus item at the end of each round, so if you want all twenty of them you’ll need to beat Battle Arena as both superhero spouses. No thanks.

I’m sure it is obvious now from this post and the previous one that I have not had a good time with The Incredibles. A part of me is deeply curious if anything got better in the sequel The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer, but maybe I should just retire my superhero cape at the ripe age of thirty-one. Also: no capes.

Dragon Age: Inquisition’s war table is frozen with fear

dragon age inquisition war table game freezes gd

My favorite quest so far in Dragon Age: Inquisition is the one where you move the cursor across the war table map only to have the game freeze and hard-lock your PlayStation 3, forcing you to manually power it down, turn it back on, report an error to Sony–which I assume goes right into some digital trash bin–and then wait five to ten minutes while the console does a repair fix to ensure nothing got broken. I love this mission so much that I’ve replayed it at least four times now. Sometimes I like to do this mission after playing for a good amount and forgetting to save recently, forcing me to replay parts I already did because I can’t seem to remember just how borked this AAA title from BioWare actually is.

No wonder people are playing Dragon Age: Inquisition for such a high amount of hours. Seems like whatever latest patch that went on did nothing to fix stability, certainly nothing to enlarge the tiny text. Grr. To the Void with that!