Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Three Phase Interactive || Overall: 6.0

Occasionally a game comes along that reminds me of something that I used to do as a kid.  I was very much into building my own custom LEGO spaceships or random things and having them fly around and shoot at each other, making up a story in my head about all of the cool shit that was “actually” happening.  Indeed, I was just waving plastic around in the air and making noises, but it was fun to me, dammit!  Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit harks back to my earlier days, giving you a litany of neat spaceship parts to assemble and construct, then take it out for a spin through the universe.

The concept is great.  The shipbuilding is fun.  The game design is okay.  The controls, though… holy shit are they frustrating.  When you get out of the shipbuilding menu and into an actual mission, you’re going to be fighting against the user interface as much as you do enemies.  The game controls exactly as you would expect an Asteroids-floaty-space-combat game to be, and that’s not an especially great thing.  Because there are some micromanaging aspects in the arcade gameplay, it is hard to be able to control your ship during intense action as well as make use of the “Direct Control” options.

Your crew will automatically use weapons, but they don’t hit your target very often.  When you put weapons under “Direct Control” your weapons are a lot more effective, but it becomes painfully obvious that it’s a lot harder to kill anything than it should be, especially at the beginning of the campaign.  Your projectiles usually don’t have a very long range, or are slow-moving and dissipate before they hit the moving target (these are alleviated as you progress).  It would be a lot more satisfying if anywhere near half of the shots you are shooting hit something, but in my experience it was more like 25% unless I was right on their ass.  Considering your ships start with awful engines and awful maneuverability, that wasn’t very often.  You can also use Direct Control to buff another piece of your ship and also to repair them as they take damage.  There are plenty of weapons that will one-shot you, so you’ll have to be careful.  A major impact on your performance is how well you execute building a ship that is able to move fast, have enough weaponry, and have enough armor to accomplish the task at hand.  Not an easy feat, typically.

After the first couple of missions, I hit a wall in the difficulty level, mostly because of the controls.  It became frustrating for me to constantly fail despite designing all sorts of ships and doing all sorts of tactics.  Another grating thing on my patience was that the whole level had to load again for each retry, after booting you to the mission select screen.  Considering the game starts you out quite under-powered, your enemies seem to be a lot harder than they should be, and the missions don’t seem to ramp up in difficulty in a consistent manner.  I started out on “Normal” difficulty and once I hit the wall, I knocked it down to “Easy.”  Unfortunately, there was no tangible difference between Normal and Easy that I could see.  After getting through the first few missions, about six different ones become available for play and go into different branching paths for a total of 50 missions.  The mission variety is not too bad, but tend to boil down to “kill the enemies,” and rightfully so.  You are able to replay older missions so you can unlock more parts, but at the same time you don’t want to be stuck in a grind instead of doing new missions — especially since new missions grant you the most new parts.  Not to mention, doing an old mission isn’t an assured win by any means.  To top it all off the camera constantly zooms in and out; this removes you from the action and being left with not knowing who or what is being shot at.  Getting disoriented from the seemingly-random zooms is another obstacle in and of itself.

After defeating a mission, your ship will always be stolen away from you by mutineers.  At the end of the next mission, you’ll fight that ship in a duel.  This is a sort of clever progression mechanic as it forces you to at least have to build a “better” ship than your last and you can’t always rely on your older designs as they use lesser equipment.  The double meaning of “Defect” becomes quite amusing as you have to fix the defects (flaws) in your ships, and your ship ends up being your enemy when your crew stages a defection by mutiny.  As an Easter Egg of sorts, a fun homage to David Bowie is one of the mutineer character designs.

Since the game forces you to constantly design new ships after they are stolen, it is a great way to put focus back on the ship building.  Even though your ship designs are saved, you’ll typically unlock something new after each completed mission, so you’ll want to mess around with the new things you got or try to make something completely different.  Missions usually demand a unique ship configuration, anyhow.

There is a great variety in ship building even from the start.  Your main limiter in building is Power Level, which is dictated by the Power Core you have.  You earn better Cores as you complete missions, and as you have more Power, you are able to have more Crew.  Most pieces require Power Level+Crew, but since Power converts into crew, you’ll eventually hit a point where you can’t add anything more to your ship due to your initial Power Level.  As you equip stronger propulsion engines you’ll need to balance them out with Stability, which forces you to mess around with different combinations of wings and rockets.

Defect also looks great; the enemy spaceships are unique and quite inspired in their designs.  While many pieces of ships are obviously influenced by popular media, the combination of them all together make for some interesting sights.  As you progress and acquire larger Power Cores, you’ll be able to build larger ships.  The graphics in general are pretty good and the sound effects aren’t annoying either.  The ship building user interface is also pretty simple to understand and nothing hinders that experience.  You are allowed to save up to 499 designs and share them with friends, which is also cool.  Using a controller during missions is an option, but most of the game requires a mouse/keyboard, so there isn’t much impetus to use one.

Despite all of the good things I have to say about the game, justifying giving it a low score really comes down to me not being able to derive much enjoyment from the actual usage of the ships I was making.  The controls aren’t intuitive, which leads to the levels being too difficult which leads to the game simply becoming a frustrating experience.  I can’t in good conscience recommend this game to anyone unless you’re great with floaty-space arcade games.  It may be entirely possible that none of the defects (pun!) of the game make no impact on your enjoyment, as it is essentially Asteroids on steroids with ship-building.  And much like no longer playing with LEGO spaceships in the air pretending they shoot lasers, I’ve given up on what could have been.

 

Assault Android Cactus (PS4) Re-Review

Developer/Publisher: Witch Beam  || Overall: 9.0

Déjà Vu is an odd thing. By its very nature it is a contradiction; a feeling of hazy familiarity in a completely unfamiliar setting. That’s not even to mention the inherent mystery in the whole process. Often you aren’t even sure where the feeling comes from; it is just a sudden hit of nostalgia that leaves you dazed and seemingly comes from outta nowhere. It could even be triggered by any number of things: going to a new area, performing a task or even reviewing a game you already reviewed a few months ago…

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Things could be worse.

Déjà Vu is an odd thing. By its very nature it is a contradiction; a feeling of hazy familiarity in a completely unfamiliar setting. That’s not even to mention the inherent mystery in the whole process. Often you aren’t even sure where the feeling comes from; it is just a sudden hit of nostalgia that leaves you dazed and seemingly comes from outta nowhere. It could even be triggered by any number of things: going to a new area, performing a task or even reviewing a game you already reviewed a few months ago…

groundhog-day-driving
If you haven’t gotten the joke by now, maybe you should
give it another go-round?

Harkening (is that even a word?) back to a time where carpet shooters were a thing and all you needed was two buttons to play a videogame, Assault Android Cactus is now set to land its special brand of bullet hell madness to the PlayStation 4. Developed by Witch Beam, Assault Android Cactus was a pretty great game on the PC and seems willing to continue that trend on the new platform. Though, be prepared; this is a review of a game that I recently reviewed, so if you aren’t looking to hear a lot of the same just know it’s a great game and you should give it a shot if you haven’t. For those that wish to stay, get ready for me to abuse my “as expected,” “just like last time,” “also,” and “once again,” privileges.

 

As expected, the story doesn’t really change at all between versions. It is still a simple story set in a large ship full of robots that have just downloaded their mutiny protocols and are now dealing with their Three-Laws-of-Robotics-frustrations by way of wanton destruction. Of course, every story must have its heroes so it’s up to Cactus and all the other androids already on board to quell the mutiny and regain peace by way of wanton destruction. Thankfully, Assault Android Cactus’ titular character and all the other playable androids help to balance out all that wanton destruction with some charm. Each playable character has their own personal set of quirks that makes them stand out, and even their own combination of weapons that further separate them from the rest. These varied personalities and gameplay styles go well with multiple playthroughs of the game too. If only because the developers took the time to give each character their own unique and entertaining dialogue with every boss.

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WANTON DESTRUCTION!!!

Just like last time, the gameplay is the best part of Assault Android Cactus. It’s a sweet mixture of dodging and shooting that teases the nostalgia for old carpet shooters right out of me. It can be overwhelming but it hits that sweet spot where it still seems fair. Plus, it could even be considered a bit more forgiving than its 2D forefathers because getting hit isn’t a problem, instead time is. In a bit of innovativeness on its part, you are put on a timer instead of a life system, and while getting hit does lose time it is definitely not the end. In the upper-middle portion of the screen there is a battery that is slowly draining juice and the only way to fill it up is to pick up the battery packs that the enemies drop occasionally. This forces the player to keep up a constant pace of shooting, destroying and picking up the enemy drops. This is where the game excels. Very often, I would barely get the battery packs before the battery would completely drain, it timed nearly perfect to keep the tension high and the fun just as exciting. Overall, it was pleasure to pick up and play.

 

Also, it was easy to pick up and play. The control scheme isn’t overly complicated and only really requires the two top triggers and both analogue sticks. The right trigger is for shooting, the left trigger is to use your special ability and the analogue sticks control your movement and aim. This simple system is more than enough to control the game and aid you in your dance of death as you hard-reboot all the evil robots on board the ship.

 

Once again, the graphics and music of the game aren’t all that spectacular but don’t detract from the great gameplay. There are no drawbacks on either part that are particularly worth noting. Each is just enough to complement the game nicely but not enough to be spectacular. While on the subject, there are things to complain about, but they are nitpicky at best. For one, in multiplayer it is sometimes hard to keep track of your character and, occasionally, your character might drift off screen. For two, the isometric view this game uses, instead of the standard top-down perspective, can obscure your view near large enemies and objects causing you to be hit by hidden projectiles. Lastly, there still seems to be no option for online multiplayer forcing you to socialize if you want to experience it. These are in no way game changing, but they are definitely spots for improvement.

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Truth be told, it’s already easy to lose yourself in all of this mess.

So there you have it, harkening (I’ve decided, it’s a word now) back to my earlier review, Assault Android Cactus does a lot of things right and a few things wrong. It’s an overall great game and you should really consider giving this quirky, hectic, and fun romp a chance on PlayStation 4… or PC if you don’t have that. Either way, its hours of enjoyment and a pretty damn good time with friends present.

If you want a more in-depth review of the game, check out my PC Review for the same game here.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Rogue Continuum (PC) Early Access Preview

Developer: Rocktastic Games  | Publisher: Surprise Attack Games

THIS IS A TEST OF THE EMERGENCY SQUACKLE SYSTEM!

THIS IS ONLY A TEST!

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW DECIDES TO ALTER THE TIMELINE, DON’T! IT IS A HIGHLY VOLATILE AND SENSITIVE PART OF METAPHYSICS THAT SHOULD ONLY BE HANDLED BY A PROFESSIONAL. SO UNLESS YOUR FIRST NAME IS “DOC” AND YOUR LAST NAME IS “BROWN,” PLEASE LEAVE THE TIME STREAM ALONE.

SIDE EFFECTS INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO: NOT KILLING JOHN CONNER, ATTEMPTED SEDUCTION BY YOUR OWN MOTHER, BEING YOUR OWN GRANDFATHER, AND BEING CAUGHT BETWEEN TWO TIMELINES WHERE EITHER YOUR ROMANTIC INTEREST OR CHILDHOOD FRIEND WILL DIE.

ONCE AGAIN, THIS WAS ONLY A TEST!

Time is a valuable resource; luckily you’ll have plenty of it in Rouge Continuum. The newest incarnation in the rouge-like genre, Rogue Continuum has you die, die and die again all to stop the eventual destruction of Earth. The Earth has been destroyed and the survival of the human race is in peril as a small team of psychos take it upon themselves to go back in time and take the fight to the alien’s home world. Armed with plenty of weapons and a time machine that allows them to retry missions time and time again, the team looks to eradicate the alien menace before they can even reach Earth. Thankfully, with a good assortment of characters, varied enemies and a system that makes your character stronger with every death, it also might be a lot of fun to do so.

Rouge Continuum attempts to inject rouge-likes with a good bit of crazy to bring out the best in the genre. Already impressive, even in this Early Access build, there is a good bit of fun, variety and fast-pace zaniness. The basic set up is simple: maneuver through an enemy-filled stage, fight a few bosses and then make your way to the enemy-infested extraction point to finish the level. You get power ups along the way that upgrade your speed, attack, defense and weapons to make you stronger overall. More importantly, you acquire experience points that increase your character’s base stats and abilities. You’re allowed to keep any abilities or stats gained through experience points but must forfeit any abilities or upgrades picked up during the level when you die. This makes you steadily stronger at the start of every new life and eventually makes you strong enough to complete the level. This common repetition of fighting, dying and coming back stronger is the basic rhythm of this game.

Though the formula may sound a bit repetitive, Rogue Continuum does a fine job keeping it fresh and new. Having 4 vastly different characters, many enemy types, unique upgrades and various stages to enjoy, it is often a pleasant surprise to see how they all work. The playable characters deserve special note since they all play quite differently from each other; whether it is Smackdown Sam (yes, that’s his real name, isn’t it awesome?) with his run-and-gun style of combat, Ownage Olga’s (and yeah, they don’t really get much better than that first name) charge shot and dodge tactics, Rampage Rufus who is the only melee combatant in the game, or Destructobot who is quite literally a walking tank, each character plays wildly different from the other. Couple these characters with a game that doesn’t really care about the small things like “realism” or “making sense” and you have a fun time-waster. At one point in time, I was even able to mix elemental abilities to create a bullet that encased enemies in blocks of ice while setting them on fire. Rogue Continuum cares about that much.

Other than some balance issues between the weapons and characters, and the occasional pop-up of a bug or two, it’s really hard to fault Rogue Continuum, even at this stage of development. They could inject many things to make it better, but it would be more of a wish list than any actual detriment the game currently has this early in its Early Access cycle. And with the inclusion of online co-op on the way, they are already hitting one of the items on that personal wish list. Overall, they are off to a mighty fine start.

The flow of the game may be repetitive, but the variety of character, enemies and weapons really make Rogue Continuum stand out. Plus, the way it wholeheartedly embraces its unrealistic premise with equally unrealistic gameplay makes for a game that’s low on brain power but high on fun. Rogue Continuum is currently on Steam Early Access for $9.99, look for it today… or sometime yesterday.

When not writing previews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

Assault Android Cactus (PC) Review

Developer/Publisher: Witch Beam  || Overall: 9.0

There’s much to say about first impressions. They hold a strong sway in coloring our dispositions towards certain things, and are often easy to acquire but hard to forget. That’s why it is beneficial to give off the best impression of ourselves at first; it is often a deciding factor on jobs, friendships and romantic relationships. That being said… Calm the F’ down Witch Beam! Give yourselves room to grow! Come out with too strong of a first impression and it’ll be much harder to impress on your second, third and so forth attempt. In the music industry, this might result in an affliction called the “One Hit Wonder.”

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And your fans will run, they’ll run so far away!!!
They’ll run, they’ll run all night and day!!!
You are not gonna get paid!!!

The first impression for rookie game developer Witch Beam, Assault Android Cactus is the first love child created by that three person team. Describing itself as a “Twin Stick Arena Shooter,” it is probably better described as the natural evolution of a Bullet Hell Shooter, and a very well regarded one at that. Already having made a good enough showing at a few expos to come out with an award or two, this long-in-development game has quite the reputation to live up to. But can Assault Android Cactus live up to all those high accola… oh, who am I kidding? If you read that first paragraph of flavor text you already have a good impression of what I think about this game.

As mentioned, Assault Android Cactus is the natural evolution of a Bullet Hell Shooter. The genre is usually characterized by the sheer amount of enemies and harmful projectiles that are present on screen, so much so, that they are often also called “Carpet Shooter.” The screen is often “carpeted” with enemies and projectiles that you must skillfully maneuver through while destroying any other living thing on screen. This also aptly describes this title’s core gameplay and is something that it does really well. Each level a familiar dance of dodging and shooting that the genre is known for. And while overwhelming at first, it strikes a near-perfect balance of those features. It’s often a great pleasure to start with a screen full of enemies only to surely wipe them out by level’s end.

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Protip: When surrounded by enemies (aka in serious shit) using your
secondary fire gives you a short second of invulnerability.

Not content with merely giving Bullet Hell Shooters a 3D facelift, Assault Android Cactus also provide it own special innovations to make it pop out from all of the others. Unlike its 2D forefathers, the game takes an isometric view of the battlefield instead of a top-down approach. It is often a benefit since it gives you a clear perspective of the stage’s obstacles and the much needed cover that are spread throughout a level’s map. Also, unlike most in the genre, the game gives the player a full 360-degrees of shooting action allowing them to shoot up, down or any direction at will. A mechanic that comes in handy since the enemies can appear anywhere on the screen. They are no longer bound to coming in from the screens edges, and will often try to blindside you to tick away at the precious time you have left. That wasn’t a typo. In probably the most major departure from regular Bullet Hell Shooters, there is a slowly draining battery on top of the screen that serves as ticking time bomb for your own personal destruction. So instead of focusing solely on remaining unharmed, the player has to keep a constant pace of enemy death and destruction so that they can drop a battery pack to refill the battery bar on top. This makes Assault Android Cactus more of a struggle in time management than a simple task of survival set on a spaceship full of rogue robots.

The story in Assault Android Cactus is really nothing to write home about. Though the uninspired sci-fi tale of a few androids rescuing a spaceship from a robot uprising is easily offset by its cast of colorful characters. Each android in Assault Android Cactus has a clear and often charming persona that adds a layer of personality to the game. Taking into account their personal battle quips and that each character has different dialogue when meeting a boss, the characters would seem at home in any number of entertaining Saturday morning cartoon programs (if that were still a thing).  You’ll encounter characters like Cactus, who is a shoot-first-ask-questions-later sorta gal (android?) or the psychopathic man-child that is Starch and her freakin’ game-winning laser beam of death. In all, their different personalities are a fun addition to game’s solid gameplay and, thankfully, the differences don’t stop there.

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Each character is great…

Just like their personalities, each android is outfitted with a different primary and secondary weapon. They often play off of each other to give each android a unique strategy for dealing with the rogue robot ruffians (alliteration!) that have taken over the spaceship. Whether it be Coral’s in-your-face style of combining a combat shotgun with a plasma shield that reflects projectiles and enemies, Shiitake’s slow-but-powerful railgun and mine combo, or Cactus’ middle-of-the-road style that combines an assault rifle with a flamethrower making her effective at any range, there’s plenty of fun in seeing what makes these combinations work. Thankfully, switching between these characters is also a very simple task thanks to the equally simple controls.

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… except for Starch who is a cheating cheater who cheats.

You only really require two buttons and two analog sticks on a controller.  Your primary and secondary weapons are assigned to the two buttons, and the sticks control your movement and aiming. Playing with a keyboard and mouse isn’t that much harder since the WASD keys control your movement and your mouse controls the aim, leaving the left and right mouse buttons to control your primary and secondary weapons respectively. This all leads to a very intuitive set up that doesn’t really take all too long to get down and responds well on screen.

The graphics and music of Assault Android Cactus aren’t all that spectacular but are effective for this sort of game. There wasn’t any noticeable screen tear, or any noteworthy hiccups to complain about. The same could be said for the music, a nice and effective beat that compliments the game’s sci-fi setting to a decent degree. Though nothing truly spectacular can be said on both counts, by no means did they do a bad job on either front and that’s especially good to know considering that you’ll probably play this more than once.

There is a ton of replayability even after you have finished the single player campaign. The multiplayer is its own bag of awesome with an increase in both manpower and firepower on the enemy’s side. Once done with that, the game offers the usual-but-welcomed smatterings of game modes to keep you hooked, from the obligatory boss rush mode to the customary survival mode, the game even throws in a different daily challenge through their “Daily Drive” mode to keep things fresh. Though, the most interesting bit of extended play is in the several EX(tra) options that are available, each affecting the game in a major or minor way. Some are so game-changing that I don’t even want to spoil what they can do for you.

Everything I said about the game so far has been positive, but if I were being a little nitpicky sad-sack there are a few complaints. While playing in multiplayer the action can get so hectic that a player can be left off-screen during the chaos and left to the dangers of projectiles and enemies they cannot see. The isometric view of the camera can do a similar job by obscuring the view of your character around large enemies or objects. Lastly, multiplayer is only available via local co-op, meaning you can only enjoy the multiplayer with a group of IRL friends.

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Despite that, IRL friends are useful for dealing with stuff like this.

So there it is. I only needed a single small paragraph to tell you what this game does wrong but it took me almost the whole review to tell you what this game does right. If that doesn’t show you how good of a first impression this game gave me, I don’t know what else will. The full version of Assault Android Cactus will be released the 23rd of September and deserves all of the praise it gets.

When not writing reviews as Unnamedhero, Eduardo Luquin can be reached at unnamedheromk13@gmail.com.

 

 

GODZILLA Rampage in Ida, Michigan

Oh no! Godzilla is on a rampage in downtown Ida, Michigan! There is no way to stop him! “Well, actually,” said the really smart scientist guy, “there is a way to stop him.” “Really? Hmmm…no, I don’t believe it,” said the big mean general guy, “I say you are a dumb scientist who doesn’t know anything. I think we should blow him out into orbit with my new nukes I got!”

“NO!! You’ll KILL US ALL!!”

“Shut up, you crazy scientist whose plans never involve using my new nukes I got two weeks ago,” said the general. Then he put two fingers in the scientists face and said, “Two!…..do you see? Thats two weeks! Thats a lot of days! Do you realize that I could have had breakfast fourteen times in that span of time?? ….Actually, I did…that just shows you how long that is!”

“Alright, alright,” said the scientist, “you can use your nukes but as soon as they don’t work, I get to do my plan.”

“Yeah, we’ll see….”

They both jump into the general’s suped up “Hummer” and peel out of the trailer park. Suddenly the general stops the car. “That’s far enough, scientist boy. I didn’t buy this hummer so I could chouffer dumb scientists around. I’ll come back if my plan fails. …maybe,” said the general as he pushed the scientist out of the car.

The general (whose name was Bob) sped down Main Street really fast. He was probably going really fast, but he didn’t know for sure because his speedometer was broken. He knew he had to kill Godzilla before Godzilla destoryed the world…or at least downtown Ida. Bob smiled to himself. He didn’t really have any nuclear weapons. He was suprised he fooled the scientist (whose name was Albert).

“I thought scientists were supposed to be smart!” said Bob, “Or at least the smart ones should be…” This puzzled Bob. Why had the scientist smiled? Did he smile? Maybe the scientist had just pretended to smile, just to fool Bob. “Yeah, that sounds about right,” said Bob, as he pulled over next to Godzilla.

Meanwhile, back at the trailer park…

It sure was a long walk to Godzilla, but Albert knew a shortcut….no, he actually didn’t, he just likes to have a positive attitude. He had walked one mile already, and he was only halfway there. he could be there in half an hour, if he walked slow.

Half an hour was exactly how long Bob needed to fill his car’s gas tank with nitro glycerin. He would then offer Godzilla his car, and as soon as Godzilla turned the key…BOOM!! …Or he would just make Godzilla step on the car. The general smiled at himself and thought, “What am I smiling about? Maybe I’m just a happy person.” Just then the general finished filling his car with nitro glycerin. Now all he had to do was make Godzilla step on it.

Just then Albert came over. “I guess I made it just in time, right Bob?” said Albert. “Don’t call me Bob,” said Bob.

“We have to stop Godzilla before he destroys the world!”

“I know that! Now get on top of my car and use this megaphone to talk to Godzilla.”

“Talk?? But…what? What should I say?”

“Talk scientist babble.”

“Umm…okay…ahem,” said Albert into the megaphone.

Godzilla looked over at them.

“Yes, well…,” said Albert, “Um….did you know that the gravitational pull-”

Albert was cut off by the giant explosion that occured when Godzilla jumped on top of the scientist and blew up the car. Bob was kind of smart. He knew that any giant monster hates scientists that want to kill them. They especially hate it when the scientists talk.

Bob, Albert, and Godzilla were all killed in the blast. (or at least Godzilla was, the other two were probably killed when Godzilla jumped on them)

The End