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Video Game / Just Shapes & Beats

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It's a game about shapes, and beats.

Just Shapes & Beats is a indie video game developed by Berzerk Studio for Nintendo Switch and Steam. The game is best described as a combination of intensely difficult bullet hell games along with rhythm action. The game offers four-player co-op multiplayer, a story mode, and a electronic-chiptune soundtrack by 20 different musicians.

The game was released on May 31st, 2018.

TROPES By TvTropes:

  • Action Bomb: One of the common "enemies" which can be seen at the start of the game is a pink shape that shortly explodes into a Spread Shot of pink projectiles.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Many of the levels feature at least one, with the intention of forcing the player into a small area and limiting their movement. Most notably, the level “Cool Friends (Murtagh & Veschell Remix)” has a literal wall of spinning sawblades which chases the player along a conveyer belt.
    • After unlocking the Helicopter friend, the player falls down a chute onto an actual conveyer belt with a similar wall of sawblades. The player must then climb over piles of trash in a quick-time event to avoid being killed.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The giant pyramid that attacks you out of nowhere in the "Barracuda" stage. Because of the game's lack of dialogue, we never do find out what its role and motives are. It's unclear whether it's a dragon to the Big Bad, affected by the corruption and turned evil like the two subsequent bosses, just trying to protect its territory, or some other thing. We don't even see it joining the Dance Party Ending.
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  • And I Must Scream: Implied for the blue square friend after it becomes corrupted. The achievement for beating the song "Close to Me" on Steam is called It's trying to say something, meaning that the square was either trying to tell you not to get close to them, or to stay close to them (its attacks require the player to stay close to dodge them). The beginning half of Close to Me also has a distorted voice singing the phrase "close to me" repeatedly.
  • Animal Motifs: Centipedes for the Big Bad's One-Winged Angel form, which appears have a centipede-like body. Throughout their fight, it summons centipede-looking worms that fly across the screen in a wavy pattern.
  • Arc Words: "IT'S OVER" and "IT'S NOT OVER".
    • The former appears in the Game Over screen and turns into the latter when you choose to continue.
    • "IT'S OVER" also appears when it seems as if the game's complete before the Big Bad reveals that they're Not Quite Dead, after which it changes into "IT'S OVER?" as they wreck havoc on the land.
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    • Finally, when you gain your 11th-Hour Superpower after being revived from death, the words "IT'S NOT OVER" appear on the screen, while the music Till it's Over plays. Said track has the lyrics "It's not over till it's over".
  • Big Bad: The antagonist is a pink, one-eyed horned circle known only as The Boss. It survives your first encounter, pulls a surprise attack, steals the MacGuffins and corrupts the world to turn it pink and makes itself king of the world.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Double subverted. Everything in the game is made up of simple shapes, so blood isn’t really shown. Until The Boss gets stabbed in the head with the MacGuffin and bleeds from their eyes.
  • Bond Gun Barrel: The end-game level "Try This" has this appear around the player at the start. Not surprising considering that the music and stage itself are basically a homage to a spy movie heist.
  • Bonus Boss: "La Danse Macabre" cannot be fought in the main story mode. Instead, it's available in Challenge and Playlist modes.
    • The Lost Chapter update also provides "Spider Dance", which can only be played after beating the main story thanks to being part of the Lost Chapter.
  • Bookends: Nitro Fun get not just one, but two boss levels featuring the Big Bad, which are aptly named New Game and Final Boss. Although, they are not exactly the first and last songs.
  • Boss-Only Level: Boss levels contain a single boss in which the player has to endure through with no Check Points. Thankfully, each player gets the ability to take a few more hits than the standard three.
  • Boss Rush: One of the post-game challenges requires you to go into Playlist Mode and go through a playlist of all the boss tracks in the game.
  • Bowdlerize: One of the game's many Bonus Levels in "Creatures Ov Deception" by RainbowDragonEyes, a song with lyrics involving swearing and sex references, including rape. Needless to say, the version in the game is an instrumental.
  • Bullet Hell: A very interesting variant where the player(s) have to dodge bullets that are in time with music.
  • Call-Back:
    • The Big Bad drives a triangle into itself twice. The first time is to regain its power after being defeated in "Long Live The New Fresh". The second time is to gain even more power to defeat the hero. It works... for a while anyway.
    • The very first attack the Big Bad uses when it fully forms is to smash the ground with its arms to create shockwaves. The very last attack it uses before its defeat is to smash its face into the ground to create shockwaves.
  • Checkpoint: Each non-boss level has a few of them. Passing one of them will rewind the game to that point and restore all players to full health if every player gets broken. The area the game rewinds to is a few seconds after the checkpoint, so intentionally breaking oneself and spending a rewind to take on the next phase of the song with full health can be done if the player doesn't care about their stage ranking.
  • Check-Point Starvation: However, the boss levels have no checkpoints. To leverage this, players get six hit points instead of three, and "tag" revives can still be performed in multiplayer.
  • Climax Boss: "Close To Me", which pits you against the Brainwashed and Crazy Blue Cube Friend, who you've been chasing and trying to rescue for almost the entire game. Appropriately, it's the last boss fought before the final world and therefore the last boss fought before the Final Boss.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: During the final boss battle, after you get your 11th-Hour Superpower, you start destroying the Big Bad. At first, they appear in their One-Winged Angel form like a Living Structure Monster, but you quickly start destroying the segments that make the "room", and they opt for an Orbiting Particle Shield. After enough damage, they're badly damaged, without any weaponry/terrain and unable to even fire a single shot. Their only attack becomes a futile bid to kill you by smashing the floor to create a shockwave.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Anything that is pink is dangerous. Anything that isn't pink is generally on your side.
  • Combat Breakdown: When the Big Bad is on its very last legs, they lose all projectile attacks and can only smash the ground to make shockwaves.
  • Coop Multiplayer: Up to four players can play at a time. If a player dies, another player can revive them by running into their ghost.
  • The Corruption: The pink colored stuff not only hurts you, but it also corrupts the world, the landscape, the water, and the inhabitants within. You even encounter several of the "flower" beings that have been corrupted by the pink stuff and even fight against one as a boss battle, as well as your cube friend who was similarly corrupted as a later boss battle. The pink corruption can be cured by the triangles, of both the small and giant varieties.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: This is eventually what happens to your blue cube friend, and throughout its boss battle, you can see it obviously struggling to fight the corruption.
  • Cosmetic Award: Your reward for completing the various "unlock" challenges the game throws at you is... more effects and characters on the main menu, which includes the boat, the helicopter, some of the flowers, your square friend, corrupted flowers, in addition to the Big Bad's forms as the DJ and guitarist.
  • Credits Gag: Towards the end of the prologue cutscene where the Big Bad goes on a rampage after reawakening, they come across a credit saying "design by Lachhh" and promptly shoot it to bits with their Eye Beams. The credit itself isn't too happy about it.
    I didn't design THIS! :(
  • Crosshair Aware: Several enemy "attacks"/hazards have a pre-emptive warning (a translucent silhouette of the area, or an area within a dotted line) demarcating exactly which area will turn lethal in short order.
  • Crossover: "Mortal Kombat" by The Immortals is one of the unlockable tracks, and features silhouettes of Liu Kang coming at you.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The very final part of the game has your player character revived by The Power of Friendship and two of the three MacGuffins, rebuilt into a laser-shooting shape... which also has infinite hit points. No matter what the Big Bad does to hurt you, they can't kill you, and you can hurt and kill them.
  • Dance Party Ending: The ending shows all the characters including the Big Bad at a rave party, with the Big Bad (in his first boss form) as the DJ. Were you expecting anything else?
  • Detachment Combat: Used by the first boss, who can grow arms and send them out to fly around and punch you.
  • Developers' Foresight: In the early levels, it is very easy to simply dash against the screen boundaries and win. Later levels have Advancing Walls Of Doom or Deadly Walls to prevent you from doing so.
  • Drunk with Power: The Big Bad seems to have become become this after morphing into his second form. The final battle with him even shows him wearing a crown and surrounded by minions, as if he's a king.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery:
    • Averted in Story Mode. Similar to Celeste, there is a "Casual Mode" which gives players double health in Story Mode, and unlocked songs can be played in a relaxed "party" mode (albeit without getting a ranking or points). In the words of the developers: "Don't worry, we ain't judging. Just have fun!"
    • Played straight in Playlist Mode, where setting the difficulty to Party will not allow you to earn any Beatpoints. You also cannot use it to complete title screen challenges.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Big Bad's final form — its eyes start crying blood and it starts summoning what appears to be eldritch tentacle centipedes. It then hatches into a much more sinister being with what appears to be a snake-like skull for a head.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: At the very final part of the game where the Big Bad has smashed you to bits, your blue cube friend uses the power of two of the three triangle MacGuffins to restore you... and also gain an invincible, laser-shooting mode.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: If it was possible to wage war against the color pink, this game shows what it'd be like. Any given enemy of any shape (including bosses) in a level will damage the player upon contact as long as it is coloured pink.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: It's a game about shapes and beats. Sure, there's an engaging story mode too, but the game's crux is the fun Bullet Hell levels filled with geometric enemies and catchy tunes.
  • Eye Scream: When the final boss jams the final triangle in its head to transform into their final form, you get to watch its eyes swell up and burst. In the first phase of the true final boss, you have to dodge the blood dripping from its exploded eyes.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Throughout the fight against your corrupted cube friend, they'll constantly flicker between their regular blue self and their corrupted pink self. At one point they even turn back to normal and try to crawl away, but then gets hit by pink lasers which re-corrupt them.
  • Fission Mailed: During the Final Boss fight, you're cornered into the boss's mouth and eaten, resulting in what appears to be a Game Over. You can revive as usual...but the boss simply subverts this trope by killing you again, and if you continue to try, it'll just keep knocking you back down. Double subverted when your friends come over to revive you with an 11th-Hour Superpower.
  • Flash Step: The Dash maneuver, which also gives you invincibility frames when you use it. You'll need it, and some levels are outright impossible to clear without using the dash.
    • However, in playlist mode, the game will give you 10 credits if you can beat a level without using the dash.
  • Foregone Victory: The final part of the final boss where the players get their 11th-Hour Superpower is pretty much a victory for the player character(s) since they are capable of firing at the boss, and while the players can be hurt, it doesn't do any damage.
  • Foreshadowing: During Lycanthropy, one of the goopy-eyed corrupted plants you've been dealing with transforms into a new form that has a spiky evil face. The final boss undergoes a similar, yet far more sinister transformation.
    • In The Lost Chapter, the beginning has a spider jumping off with one of the giant triangles, laughing with the same sound as Muffet from Undertale. The last song of the chapter is against a giant spider with a remix of Muffet's battle theme, complete with her signature laugh dotted throughout the song.
  • Freaky Electronic Music: Annihilate is one of the notable examples for the game. Composed by Destroid, Excision and Far Too Loud, this song actually fits for the final showdown between Square and the now-monsterous Boss in a terrifying Dubstep-like matter.
  • Game Over: Lose all your lives in Story Mode and the words "IT'S OVER" will appear on the screen. Choose to continue by repeatedly smashing the "SPACE" button, and your character pulls themselves together via Heroic Resolve and the word "NOT" pops up between the two words, turning it into "IT'S NOT OVER". This is attempted against the villain's One-Winged Angel form after it destroys the player, but it puts an end to that by smashing the player right there and then during the "IT'S NOT OVER" screen.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: It's never truly explained why the Big Bad is trying to take over the triangles/world, it just... is. But it makes for one hell of an adventure!
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: When you first enter the volcano, the only level you can play is "Barracuda". Should be pretty simple, right? Then an illuminati pyramid shows up out of nowhere and starts thrashing to the beat.
  • Hard Mode Perks: Hardcore mode in Challenge and Playlist modes makes levels and bosses more difficult, but doubles your Beatpoint gain.
  • Heads I Win, Tails You Lose:
    • No matter what happens, the second boss fight will always end with you getting eaten and shot out of a cannon. Losing all your lives anytime before then still gives a Game Over, however.
    • This also occurs in the level "Annihilate". This time, the final boss traps you within their mouth before chomping down, thereby destroying you. And just when the player gets back up from death and tries to fight again, it descends and smashes them to bits again. Again, losing all your lives anytime before then still gives a normal Game Over, however.
    • A reverse example in the level "Till It's Over". With your 11th-Hour Superpower, you can thrash the boss to your heart's desire, and the level WILL always end with the boss dying, releasing the third Macguffin.
  • Heroic Spirit: Implied by the Game Over screen, particularly the way "NO" overlays the screen while reviving, to be the reason for the protagonist's ability to revive.
  • Hit Points: Represented by how "filled" the player character is. Each time they take a hit, they lose a segment and they're dead if they lose all segments. Each player gets three for normal stages and six for the boss stages.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • The first boss destroys itself when its own four arms Rocket Punch... back into its face. Partway through the fight, their Rocket Punch fists also hit them in the face which cause them to become angry.
    • The third boss self-destructs while trying to summon a horde of triangular snakes.
  • Hope Spot:
    • After you beat "Final Boss", you reach the top of the tower to claim the crown with the last triangle. Just as the triangle is released and is about to work its magic, the music grinds to a halt while the Big Bad reappears to push the player out of the way and gain the power to transform into an Eldritch Abomination.
    • When the player is eaten by the final boss, the "IT'S OVER" message appears as your character begins piecing themselves together, turning into "IT'S NOT OVER" as your character begins to continue... and then the Big Bad descends, right before smashing you into bits again. They do so repeatedly if you attempt multiple times.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: What "Close to Me" is, essentially.
  • Ironic Echo: The first boss ends with it hitting itself with the sound effect of an 8-bit explosion that is at the end of the levels set music. Later, the same explosion sound effect plays as it rips the tree made of the three MacGuffins out of the ground.
  • Interface Spoiler: After beating the first boss, you get an achievement/trophy named "It's Over". The land forms and credits roll, as if the player has finished the game. The problem is that the information for said achievement/trophy says "Beat the tutorial boss", which means that there's much more to come.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Downplayed. It's heavily implied the protagonist uses Heroic Spirit to self-resurrect when you run out of lives, explaining why you can continue after a Game Over, but it isn't explained why you get three chances before then, or why the level goes back in time.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The third major set of levels take place inside a volcano which the player character navigates through via platforming. After a surprise Escape Sequence, there is a boss that you have to fight in order to obtain the triangle at the top.
  • Life Meter: The aforementioned "fill" of the player shapes. The Big Bad also gets one for the Till It's Over level, explaining just what kind of boss battle this is going to be.
  • Logo Joke: Upon booting up the game for the first time after downloading the 1.3 update, Shovel Knight descends from off-screen and strikes the game's logo to the beat of his home game's level-clear jingle. On the last strike, the logo changes to say "Just Shovels & Knights".
  • Mad Eye: the Big Bad in its second form.
  • Magical Defibrillator: A literal case. After the Big Bad smashes you to pieces, killing you, the blue cube uses the two triangles on its head as a defibrillator. Not only does it revive you, but it also gives you an 11th-Hour Superpower.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The Final Boss, during its second phase, constantly blasts you with lasers from its mouth. This, combined with the music's heavy bassline, makes it seem as if he's screaming out lasers.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Upon taking damage, your shape will briefly flash, giving you the chance to get out of the pink zones, avoiding further damage.
  • Mickey Mousing: This is the main mechanic of the bosses and levels because they move and attack with the music it also serves as a way to have their attacks be telegraphed.
  • Mondegreen: The song in the final boss does NOT say "You have been destroyed" (as per the game itself). It's actually a name drop to the composer, "You been been Destroid".
  • Nameless Narrative: This game fits the bill. The closest things we get to names for any characters are the titles of certain boss levels, which many fans have indeed adapted into their respective characters' names.
  • Nightmare Face: The Big Bad gets a huge angry demonic and spiky-looking face when he becomes his One-Winged Angel form, in contrast to his cartoony angry/happy face they have for most of the game.
  • Nightmarish Factory: The fourth set of levels is this, where one of the giant triangles has been corrupted and is being used to corrupt the "flowers" that inhabit the land.
  • Nintendo Hard: True to the Bullet Hell genre, the levels are very challenging. When you're not being distracted by the pretty visuals or catchy music, the fast-paced gameplay tends to leave players disoriented. While multiplayer mode has the option of reviving teammates, it's still easy to get a Total Party Kill.
  • No-Damage Run: Basically how you achieve Rank S on songs in the playlist which can be downright brutal to achieve on many songs. Try it on Hardcore too; it's fun.
  • No Fair Cheating: Some songs on Hardcore (especially the Brutal Bonus Level "Mortal Kombat") place a pink border on the edges of the screen, putting the kibosh on the "dash mindlessly against the edge of the screen and abuse the invincibility" strategy.
  • No Name Given: None of the characters in the game have a proper name to them.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Just when the player's about to obtain the final giant triangle, the Big Bad wastes no time in stealing it from them and using it on himself. After he's killed the player and the player uses Heroic Resolve to put themselves together, he descends during the "IT'S NOT OVER" screen and smashes the player before they can even continue the fight.
  • Not Quite Dead: The first boss. The credits seem to appear a bit too early after beating him... cue Wham Episode where it's revealed he's not dead, and then starts wrecking the world and turning it pink...
  • Post-Final Boss: The final track in the game in Story Mode, "Till It's Over". At this point you've been given an 11th-Hour Superpower that gives you an automatic laser that you use to destroy the Big Bad, but more importantly said superpower also makes you invincible (you still get knocked back, you just can't die).
  • Power-Upgrading Deformation: When the Big Bad jams the final giant triangle into himself, he turns from a grinning face into some... eldritch bleeding egg-like thing as it summons wormlike tendrils. Partway during the fight it "hatches" into his final form as some giant skeletal looking jaws.
  • Pre-Explosion Glow: Several bosses gets this right before they die.
  • Purposely Overpowered: Your Super Mode is given only at the very end of the game and it's clear why you only get it thereit easily destroys the Big Bad's One-Winged Angel form while you won't even take damage when hit.
  • Recurring Boss: Taken to its logical conclusion in this game: The Big Bad is the first boss. He also thoroughly averts Villain Forgot to Level Grind, as each encounter with him is entirely different and more frantic than the last.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Happens twice during Story Mode, in the leadup to the Volcano boss and the Final Boss.
    • Midway through the Lost Chapter, a reawakened and enraged Big Bad proceeds to chase the player up the caverns, only for them to end up in the state they were in at the beginning of the main story mode.
  • Rotten Rock & Roll: The Big Bad spends his free time rocking out at the top of his Evil Tower of Ominousness, with thunderstorms looming around him.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: The bosses tend to kill themselves via their own attacks or tire themselves out via expending too much energy, since the players are incapable of attacking them. Subverted by the final boss, where you gain the ability to attack and blast the daylights out of him.
  • Suddenly Voiced: After spending the entire game terrorizing you, your friends, and the lands, the Final Boss speaks the only line of dialogue in the entire game (actually a sample from the background track but its mouth flaps accordingly) during the second phase of their fight:
  • Surprise Creepy: It's only shapes and beats! How could it be creepy?
  • Shout-Out:
    • The player death animation involves them exploding into balls of light in 8 directions.
    • The stage "Spectra" is almost entirely centered around hexagons, as a nod to Super Hexagonnote .
    • "Try This" by Pegboard Nerds starts with the iconic Bond Gun Barrel, and the level depicts a heist through a heavily-guarded faciltiy, not unlike something you'd see in a typical spy movie.
    • One of the unlockable tracks is Yoku Man's theme from Mega Man Unlimited.
    • One of the language options in the menu is Hodor, which naturally changes all words into "hodor".
    • “New Game” by Nitro Fun features references to Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man. A couple other songs also use the Mario jump and warp sounds.
    • The beginning of The Lost Chapter has a spider laugh with the same sound as Muffet from Undertale. Once you get to the final song of the chapter, its boss fight is against a giant spider with a remix of Muffet's battle theme.
  • Sinister Geometry: Circles, triangles, saw blades. Lots of pink shapes and all of them want you dead.
  • Slasher Smile: The Big Bad gains one after absorbing the power of a corrupted triangle. This, along with his Twitchy Eye, tells you he's... not quite there anymore.
  • Spanner in the Works: After the Big Bad seemingly destroys the player for good and everything looks hopeless, the blue cube friend uses the two MacGuffin triangles he was wearing to help put the player back together and give the player an 11th-Hour Superpower that is capable of beating the Big Bad.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Aside from being pink, anything coated in spikes tends to be trying to kill you. The Big Bad himself is of course no exception, gaining more and more spikes with each of his forms. During "Annihilate" he achieves a final transformation which eliminates any trace of roundness in his face, among other things.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: The first half of the level "Try This" invokes this, having "spotlight" hazards that move around and periodically "flash", turning hazardous. The second half is essentially trying to evade the security system gone berserk with Laser Hallways and even more spotlights.
  • Symbol Swearing: The helicopter does this when the corruption machine grabs the sad blue square, and again when your rescue of said square sets off the alarms. The player character does it near the end, when the helicopter uses them to hit a switch (and it's heavily implied to overlap with What the Hell, Hero?).
  • Tears of Blood:
    • When your cube friend gets corrupted, he appears to be crying out the pink stuff as it starts taking over him, making it look like this trope.
    • The second part of the Final Boss has some of these in its first half.
  • Teleportation: You have short-ranged teleportation as a means of getting past walls of pink.
  • Trick Boss: The Final Boss counts. After what appears to be an epic chase sequence and a rather... underwhelming-for-a-final-boss battle, you beat the villain. Then, just as you're about to get the last giant triangle, the Big Bad knocks the player shape away and jams it into his head, resulting in his One-Winged Angel form.
  • Twitchy Eye: The villain's eye gets much more twitchy as the game goes on, indicating that he's slowly going mad.
  • Unexpected Shmup Level: The final part of the final boss fight is this. After two of the three triangles rebuild and empower you, you gain the ability to fire lasers and a Wave-Motion Gun at the villain to actually hurt him. During which, you're invincible too.
  • Unwilling Roboticization: The pink, corruptive stuff appears to have this effect on the inhabitants as well as your square friend, who gradually turns mechanical and uses several mechanical attacks after being corrupted.
  • Videogame Dashing: The player has a dash move which allows them to temporarily pass through enemies.
  • Villain Ball: If the Big Bad didn't toy around with the player and leave two of the three MacGuffins alone without trying to reclaim them while the player got to them, he wouldn't have been beaten by the player's 11th-Hour Superpower provided by the two MacGuffins they collected.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • After the player foils most of his plans, the Big Bad's motive changes from "take over the world and rule over everyone" into "destroy the player no matter what". He's grinning smugly and confidently for most of the game as he toys around with the player, but once he transforms into his final form his face turns into a very angry looking and spiky one and is now completely hell-bent on the player's destruction.
    • During the last third of the final phase of the final boss where he's badly broken and exhausted pretty much everything like his Orbiting Particle Shield trying to kill you, all he can do is try to smash the ground at the player's position angrily and cause a shockwave, lacking any projectile attacks.
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp: As "La Danse Macabre" is the leitmotif for the ghostly Specter Knight, the boss for that song takes the form of one of these that can summon scythes, among other attacks.
  • You Are Already Dead: When the Big Bad uses the last MacGuffin on himself and hatches into its One-Winged Angel skeletal face form, the music for the stage screams "YOU HAVE BEEN DESTROYED!", with accompanying text appearing below the boss. He's also right about it too, since it ends with him utterly destroying you in a Hopeless Boss Fight.
    • This applies to the final boss himself as well, once you obtain your 11th-Hour Superpower. At this phase, no matter how much attack you take from him, you take no damage while his spiky orbs and attack methods slowly run out, and all he can do is slam the ground with his head until he is inevitably defeated.


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