Have You Played… Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

By which I specifically mean ‘have you played the first level of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire?’ Though the bulk of this 1997 game was a humdrum shooter, the opening mission was a then-astounding recreation of the battle of Hoth, almost two decades before Battlefront was a pixel-shaded twinkle in anyone’s eye.

I played that first mission again and again, thrilled to manchild pieces to be amongst the AT-ATs, felling them with well-timed tow cables to a soundtrack of movie-familiar noises. What followed was forgettable, sometimes irritating third-person action starring a character based on 90s comics bad-boy excess – dated almost as soon as it was released. But man, that first level.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but this level – along with the contemporaneous Heir To The Empire novels – was stealthily transforming the gathering nostalgia of 70s and 80s kids into new commercial force, and indirectly led first to the special editions of the movies and then those woeful prequels. The impending Force Awakens has put popular culture into a similar mindset, a sect of people – now older – all praying that the gung-ho innocence of their youth can somehow be recaptured.

Shadows of the Empire, or at least its first level, was the first time that Star Wars nostalgia was blended with superior technology and repackaged for an audience convinced that George Lucas’ original myth-making was as good as popular culture was ever goign to get. All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. And, like Battlefront after it, Shadows of the Empire is yet more proof that the AT-AT was a phenomenal piece of industrial sci-fi design.

75 Comments

  1. Cinek says:

    Random fun fact: Heir To The Empire novels along of all the canon stuff that happened during the era in which Shadows of the Empire took place are not canon any more.

    F*** you, Disney.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      2nd fun fact: that’s a bit of a relief in some respect to my mind. I appreciate there are plenty of people invested in that canon but although I enjoyed the Heir to the Empire series, I found the extended universe to be of variable quality and enshrined an awful lot of pap in canon, along with the cool stuff.

      My only regret is that the prequel trilogy was not also consigned to the same obscurity. I may be somewhat placated if we see zero pinball ninjedi in the new trilogy and we all just pretend that never happened.

      • Cinek says:

        “I found the extended universe to be of variable quality” – it’s no different from the Disney Canon. I hear that argument from the EU opponents (which suddenly turned from nearly non-existent margin to surprisingly abundant group since Disney stepped in, lol) over and over again and it never really holds a candle.

        “My only regret is that the prequel trilogy was not also consigned to the same obscurity” – Wonder if people going to say the same after a new trilogy.

        • garythehobo says:

          As someone that has read every part of the Disney canon I have to disagree. For the most part it’s pretty good, nothing really gets better than the best of the old EU (though ‘Lost Stars,’ ‘Twilight Company’ and the Darth Vader comics come close). The only really bad things in the new canon were Aftermath (which I’d still recommend, but only in audiobook format, it’s awful to read) and the princess Leia comics. Which were pretty meh. Still nothing that comes close to the awfulness of the old EU, Darksaber, the Crystal Star and anything involving the Sun Crusher. (Just thinking of that monstrosity pisses me off)

          • Cinek says:

            Not a fan of Anderson’s novels, I see? Well, fair enough. The bigger the universe, the easier it is to find something you don’t like. Only a matter of time till you’ll get some stories you’ll hate – doesn’t mean I’ll dance around like an idiot if they’d be erased along with all the glorious stuff.

            I for one don’t care much about the bad and medicore stuff in the EU when there are dozens of amazing storylines, many of which were better than anything done in the Star Wars movies.

          • garythehobo says:

            Don’t get me wrong, I adore a lot of the old EU. But you have to admit it was all over the place in terms of quality and consistency. It was a huge mess. Disney seem to be keeping a tighter hold on the new canon, meaning retcons and clashes are going to be much less likely to happen.

            I will miss a lot of the old EU characters though, Thrawn and Karrde and Mara Jade. Still, there have been hints of Thrawn, or at least a very Thrawn-esque character returning. So I still have hope.

          • gunny1993 says:

            Personally I don’t think it mattes, the only ‘important’ canon to the universe that was changed was the Yuuzhan Vong war, everything else has such little effect that it’s removal or lack thereof changes nothing on the large scale. Which to bolster your point I guess, why bother removing it in the first place?

            For my money I want a new central EU series done in the style of the Horus Heresy series with good quality writers and a nice tight global storyline that still allows for the writers talent to show on the detail.

          • Cinek says:

            EU was relatively easy to track once you grasped few concepts of how canonity in SW was resolved, sure, some big issues popped from time to time, but nothing truly major. And current, Disney SW canon already contains retcons, so putting them as a disadvantage to the old EU is rather silly. This illusion of Disney holding tight grasp is there only because of how little canon exists now. They have next to nothing to test their handling of a problematic situations. And a f***-up with they way they handled canonity of the Battlefront (2015 game) is a very bad prophecy for the future.

            Thrawn was great as a character, but what made him truly special were the novels, so Thrawn without all that background is just a blue dude with red eyes, as far as I’m concerned. Might have been a Pluto just as well.

          • wwarnick says:

            Personally, I think it’s a good time to start over. I personally think they came up with the Yuuzhan Vong when they’d run out of ideas. “How about an alien invasion?!”

        • SanguineAngel says:

          Sort of true. There’s just such an abundance of EU material so the quantity of dross if quite high. From the Disney canon, a lot of the Clone Wars and Rebellion stuff I have seen sits poorly with me but a lot of it is also good so it’s a similar position. There’s just less of it over all, which is fine by me.

          I actually have recently started player Star Wars RPG and really I’m just going to be picking and choosing bits of the EU that appeal to me. I’d just prefer the films remain self contained.

          Obliviously, the new trilogy may well be as terrible as the prequel but I think, personally, that ejecting the vast web of EU stuff just gives it a slightly better chance of not being so.

          • Cinek says:

            The quality of a first two prequels got next to nothing to do with EU. In fact – it reconnected several major things from the EU, often to worse.
            And the quality of a new movies won’t really matter, IMHO. People are going to call them much better than “the old trilogy” (where IMHO throwing all 3 films into one basket in terms of a quality is grossly unfair for the 3rd episode) no matter what, simply because of a psychological effects:
            – Including old actors in. I can’t recall one big Hollywood movie in last several years that would flop after including back an actors from some old prequels that weren’t there in previous N-th sequel.
            – Generation of people with a desire to have their own “classic trilogy” – by the time Episode I was released majority of viewers were the old-timers, now majority will be a generation that did not remember a New Hope.
            – Different cinematography – while Episodes I-III stayed linked with the old trilogy – new Episodes look more like another Avengers movie, and that formula pretty much guaranteed a success and positive reviews of every movie released that used it.

      • ThetaReactor says:

        The EU gave us the Rogue Squadron series, though. And with it, my realization that my favorite bits of Star Wars generally have fuck-all to do with the Jedi. The Thrawn trilogy, too, relegates Luke to a largely secondary role.

        It’s why I’m more excited about the Rogue One side-story than Episode 7. And I would kill for a Wraith Squadron movie, or even, say, a Netflix series.

    • Sweetz says:

      Another random fact: That story being declared non-canon doesn’t change your enjoyment of it in the past or your ability to enjoy it again in the future.

      Seriously, I don’t understand the indignation over the EU being made non-canon. It doesn’t invalidate whatever entertainment value you got out of it. It just provides them the opportunity to tell new stories without having to worry, in an anal-retentive manner, whether they are conflicting some dumb piece of history established by a novel 20 years ago.

      • Cinek says:

        It means that I won’t get to see more stories and further expansion of the great and amazing universe that was created above and beyond crippled Disney-cut version.

        • Sweetz says:

          Yes, you’ll get different dumb stories instead of a continuance of old dumb stories. I love Star Wars, but any amount of “serious” reverence for that universe is akin to taking comic book lore too seriously.

          Star Wars will still be fun without Dash Rendar, Kyle Katarn, etc. I’m confident they can invent other boiler plate nerd fantasy stand-ins ;)

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Also the Outrider is canon as it appears in the Star Wars Special edition and has been mantained through alla subsequent editions.

    • Spuzzell says:

      The thing IS.

      Timothy Zahn wrote Star Wars novels that were actually decent and would have been perfectly readable on their own merits if they hadn’t been in the Star Wars universe.

      Every single other EU media I’ve read, listened to or watched, ever, has been awful. And that’s not exaggeration, I have genuinely put down books while filled with awe at the depth of rubbish contained within.

      Having to work with a million plot threads and superheroes piled onto you by other authors will do that to any writer.

      They did the right thing by taking the whole mess outside and shooting it in the head.

      It’s unfortunate Disney seem determined to just build a whole new pile of crap in its place, but starting afresh was teh only possibly way.

      • Spuzzell says:

        -standard edit button plea-

      • thelastpointer says:

        I would even go so far as to say that Timothy Zahn’s novels were the best thing in the entire SW universe.
        (I was a bit afraid to type that out publicly, but let’s see what happens.)

    • TheTingler says:

      Funner fact: Shadows of the Empire isn’t canon, but Dash Rendar’s ship the Outrunner IS. It was added to Mos Eisley in the Special Edition of A New Hope. Prince Xizor and Black Sun are also canon.

    • Rindan says:

      I think Zachary Weiner put it best when he said worrying about Disney fucking up Star Wars is like worrying a second ice burg will chase the Titanic under water and hit it again. As far as I am concerned, Disney has done the only real job it needed to do; keep Lucus the fuck away from Star Wars. If they are going to take the time to prune the Star Wars cannon a little, all the better.

      Disney is doing it exactly right. They are raiding EU for material worth saving and lighting the rest of fire. Sure, some cool stuff is being tossed onto the EU bonfire, but the whole point of that bonfire is to re-open the Star Wars universe for movies, shows, comics, etc. If they had not trashed the EU, it would have mean that there would be no new Star Wars; just remakes of books, much of which sucks. Trashing the EU means they can start fresh and build a cohesive and coherent franchise.

      I’ll give Disney the benefit of the doubt. Lucas reportedly offered to consult on the Star Wars movies and Disney flatly told him to fuck right off. If that isn’t good stewardship of the Star Wars franchise, I don’t know what is.

    • E_FD says:

      Eh, the EU will survive, if only because the sort of people who’ll be making and consuming ancillary Stars Wars spinoff products are the same demographic they’ve always been. The big Disney movies for a wider audience aren’t going to be tied down by that (nor should they), but that’s no different than the prequel films overwriting chunks of EU backstory. Which they did, and everyone just wrote around the most glaring holes, looked the other way, and left things as unaltered as possible.

      Give it a year or two, maybe less, and various Star Wars tie-in products will start sneaking in references to the old EU. By the time this cycle of movies is over, I’m willing to bet we’ll be back at every single thing from the EU that isn’t explicitly contradicted by something from the movies being “canon” again.

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      Phasma Felis says:

      Anybody remember Dark Empire? That was the comic where it turns out that Vader didn’t actually kill the Emperor, because he totally had a zillion buff, roided-out clones that he could respawn into any time he wanted, and he keeps them on board his special Super Duper Eclipse Star Destroyer, which compares to a Super Star Destroyer as a Super compares to an Imperial, and has a mini Death Star laser in the nose and is painted black. Also he can summon a Force Storm that is powerful enough to wipe out an entire battlefleet, or wreck a planet, or–alternately–teleport people across the galaxy or through time, instead.

      This is explicitly one single force power. He’s never used it before because of reasons, shut up.

      Anyway, he kidnaps Luke and talks him into going over to the Dark Side without much difficulty, and then probably attacks something or other, I forget, but Leia shows up and talks Luke into going back to the Light Side, and he attacks Palpatine so he loses control of his Force Storm and it eats his Super Duper Star Destroyer with him on board and this is certainly the final end of Palpatine, because everyone agrees that he definitely wouldn’t have kept any spare clones anywhere else.

      You’ll be surprised to hear that there was a sequel. And then another sequel, in which, IIRC, Palpatine has developed a terrifying new weapon that has the power to DESTROY A PLANET. Everyone is shocked.

    • SomeDuder says:

      Even more random fun fact – Episodes 1-3 are goddamn terrible and pretty much ruined Star Wars. We’re lucky that episode 5 was so very great and still holds up well…

  2. RedViv says:

    The quality of music on the N64 blew my miiiind back then.

  3. geisler says:

    One of my favorite N64 games.

  4. garythehobo says:

    I always disliked Shadows of the Empire, mainly because Dash Rendar is pretty much an exact clone of Han Solo, only better. It was such lazy writing. The very fact that they retconned his death in the game pissed me off to no end. Thanks to the disney acquisition he no longer exists as a character though, so there’s that at least.

    • drinniol says:

      Hate to break it to ya, but he’s in the movies. The Outrider was shown in A New Hope and they added an extra snowspeeder in Empire. He’s named here; link to starwars.com

      Dunno if this means that Shadows is canon or not, but Dash sure is.

      • garythehobo says:

        I don’t mind so much Dash being a character, as long as he isn’t a lazily written 1-up of Han. Currently all we know of his character is that someone called Dash Rendar flew rogue 12 at the battle of Hoth, that’s about it. For all we know he could be a bright pink Besalisk with roller skates attached to his feet. Though I somehow doubt that.

        And we don’t know that ship is the outrider, we just know a YT-2400 took off from Mos Eisley sometime in 0BBY. I did always like the 2400 design, not my favourite, but it’s a nice looking ship.

      • wwarnick says:

        There’s also a potato in the asteroid field scene. Therefore Mr. Potato Head is canon.

        If Dash Rendar is canon, then so is Shadows of the Empire (game, book, and comics), which is not so. The Outrider is an easter egg, no more. In my opinion, now that Disney took over, we can erase all additions to the movies since the originals.

        • Bluestormzion says:

          Dash Rendar being canon doesn’t necessarily mean that everything he was in is canon. By that same reasoning Luke Skywalker is canon, therefore all of the EU novels he is in or even mentioned in is canon, and the new Disney stuff is also canon, therefore Star Wars Multiverse confirmed.

          Also, everyone needs to calm a bit. It’s ALL fake.

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        Phasma Felis says:

        And E.T. is in the Senate scenes in the prequels. Easter eggs don’t really count.

  5. ezzler says:

    Ahhww..Jim…Robot Camels

  6. mukuste says:

    I… either never knew this game existed, or have completely forgotten about it. Doesn’t ring a bell at all. I mean, this was the year Jedi Knight came out.

    • Elliot Lannigan says:

      It was, as far as I’m aware, the only time in modern history that a book was published with a corresponding video game AND a corresponding soundtrack album (not the game’s soundtrack, mind, but one composed as an accompaniment to the book). This would have all been a lot cooler and more memorable had the actual story been anything to write home about, rather than such errs as using Vader’s gloveprint as a plot point (as if no one else in the galaxy wears the same gloves?) and having the climactic scene of the book’s story focus on another instance of the sexual harassment of Leia Organa. *facepalm*

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        Didn’t it come with a load of promotional garbage about how this was different from all the previous EU stuff, ’cause for the first time George Lucas was properly involved in writing it?

        I don’t think I played the game, presumably because I didn’t have a good enough PC. I have no memory of reading the book either, though I must have, as I preordered all of them from my local bookshop back then.

  7. Renton says:

    I had the demo version that came in some magazine’s promotional cd. It only had the first level. I played it over and over for months.

    I guess I didn’t miss much, huh?

    • wwarnick says:

      It was fun at the time because full 3D was so new and exciting, but it was quickly surpassed. Rogue Squadron took the best level of SOTE and made a full game out of it (a great one, I might add). And Jedi Knight was a much better shooter (as was Dark Forces). I would still play SOTE today if I had it, but only for nostalgia.

      • Laurentius says:

        What ? No! SOTE is a video game that stand both of its own and as a SW franchise. It’s not perfect by any streatch but enjoyable for many and fun romp for Sw fans. It has Hoth level, a bit of FPS, a bit platforming, on rail space shooting, it gets around nicely. Rouge Squadron is terrible game, difficulty is all over the place, awkward combat camera makes feedback really hard to read, missions are boring, as a aracde game it doesn’t hold up at all, as a SW game ? Well, maybe if you didn’t play X-Wing or Tie_Fighter it has soem fun in it, generally this game makes impossible, flying X-Wing a dull expereince.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          I always played Rogue Squadron from the cockpit and didn’t have any problem, the difficulty wasn’t really that bad though I still can’t get the gold medal for the Battle of Hoth unlocakble level.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          I also add that I came from all the X-wing and Tie Fighter titles that had come out until then, even at the time I knew that they were a completely different genre, SOTE and Rogue Squadron were spiritual successors to the Rebel Assault games, trying to have a similar arcade approach without being on rails.

  8. Stense says:

    I played the demo of the game, which was the Hoth level and so all anyone ever bothered with. It has the distinction of being the first game I played with 3D acceleration. The graphics drivers for my computer’s in-built ATI Rage II weren’t officially supported and so produced a ridiculous number of artefacts that made the game look like Star Black And Purple Box Wars. Still, the level was fun.

  9. Laurentius says:

    Yeah, I like this game a lot. It’s pretty sweet and one of the better of SW games. (way better then these Force Unleashed crap).
    First , who gives a shit about N64 version with its tiny cartridge, PC version was a way better. Second I can’t make this game to work on Windows 7 (works on XP) which is really sad. Go Dash !

  10. yaktaur says:

    Is there any way to actually play this game these days short of having a N64?

    • mukuste says:

      Wine seems to be an option, if this appdb entry is to be trusted:

      link to appdb.winehq.org

      Ironically, it slowly seems to become the case that Linux has better support for playing old Windows games than modern Windows versions have…

      • TheTingler says:

        For a moment there I thought you were suggesting drinking yourself stupid until you imagine you’re playing it again…

        Additionally, it’ll for sure be on GOG soon.

    • ansionnach says:

      Don’t have this one, but as usual, there are ways of getting it running:
      link to play-old-pc-games.com

      While this game seems to pose more of a problem than most, the legend that modern windows can’t play older windows game is once again over-stated.

    • ansionnach says:

      Maybe the filter doesn’t like the link but there is a site that provides support on how to run this one in windows. Most old windows games work in modern windows…

      • ansionnach says:

        Site is play-old-pc-games dot com. It doesn’t feature that many games, but it doesn’t need to since most work fine.

  11. Wowbagger says:

    I came for the farting Robot.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      I was just about to comment that that’s a missed, alt text opportunity. Something about boxdogs and curry.

    • Turkey says:

      They only fart in the special edition.

  12. Turkey says:

    Shadow of the Empire was the first game I tried with my 3DFX Voodoo card. I remember being blown away(IGN.com) by the graphics. In my mind’s eye it looks like SW: Battlefront. I guess it still does… if your monitor got completely smeared with a thick layer of butter.

  13. Alfius says:

    Look, I get that it’s cool to pretend to hate the prequel movies. Thing is, they were literally fine for the most part, and most of the cringe-worthy stuff was no worse than that crap with the Ewoks in Jedi.

    Anyway, everyone knows the Auralnauts versions are the real canon, the plot may actually be slightly less absurd than the original Lucas works.

    link to youtube.com (for the uninitiated)

    • wwarnick says:

      I don’t know. Say what you will about the ewoks, but they’re still better than Jar Jar Binks…and hearing Darth Vader as a kid yelling ‘Yippee!”…and hearing Darth Vader as a teenager saying “I hate sand.”

    • ansionnach says:

      The original films did well when it came to showing and not telling. They had ropey dialogue and acting but it took a back seat to everything else. Along with the explosions there were plenty of silent scenes where the mysterious world was shown to us. The prequels wouldn’t shut up trying to explain everything to us. There wasn’t the same self-assured show, don’t tell approach anywhere. They were largely special effects and dialogue, both of which were entirely obnoxious. None of them were any good. The ewoks are in no way the film-killers that make up most of what the prequels are. They’re silly and there for comic relief. Jar-Jar is different because he never shuts up and is about as obnoxious as many a 90s game mascot.

  14. somnolentsurfer says:

    this level – along with the contemporaneous Heir To The Empire novels – was stealthily transforming the gathering nostalgia of 70s and 80s kids into new commercial force, and indirectly led first to the special editions of the movies and then those woeful prequels.

    I don’t think it was even that indirect. LucasFilm put out a bunch of stuff to slowly test the water and determine the commercial viability of a new film trilogy. You can trace the way LucasArts changed from an interesting, creative studio to a Star Wars tie-in factory as they became more committed to it.

    I bought into it wholeheartedly at the time, of course. Despite never having even seen the original films. X-Wing was my first experience of Star Wars and, not getting a VHS player till much later, I think I read Heir to the Empire before I saw Jedi.

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    Aerothorn says:

    Next up: Rogue Squadron 3D! Admit it, Alec, that was goods stuff.

    • ansionnach says:

      I have the PC version. Installed it recently when verifying backups of my discs. It’s still as hopeless as it ever was – one of the worst gaming purchases I’ve ever made. Might sound melodramatic but I’ve rarely bought bad games.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Rogue Squadron 3D bad!?
        It’s no Tie Fighter but I enjoyed it (and still do) greatly, played it with a Joystick or I guess any kind of analogue control of course.

        • ansionnach says:

          I didn’t go as far to say that it’s bad, merely that mediocre was about the worst I ever bought seeing as I tried to avoid the bad ones. Maybe it is bad, though. Thought there was something cheap and messy about the game’s design. It’s not just that it wasn’t as “good” as X-Wing – I’ve enjoyed the odd rail shooter like Rez in my time and these are much more limited. There is something inspired in its design and execution, though. Rogue Squadron really didn’t convince me. I can understand why it was popular on the N64 (Nintendo had starved their owners of games and beaten them, too) but I think it was generally seen for what it was on PC – uninspired and mediocre. I did like the not completely dissimilar Terminal Velocity, but I probably only played the shareware version before moving on to the next freebie.

          • Det. Bullock says:

            I wouldn’t say it was uninspired, it had a great cinematic feel (especially when played from the cockpit) and while the N64ish nature of the title was apparent (the sinth music in particular, I was used to CD and MP3 audio by then) it was still a great arcade style space shooter.

          • Det. Bullock says:

            I also add (damn the lack od EDIT function) that Terminal Velocity had a completely different feel to it, I didn’t even link the titles before you did.

          • ansionnach says:

            It’s funny that Terminal Velocity is a lot simpler… and yet I liked it. For me, Rogue Squadron is an example of a game where a lack of (a lot of) polish spoils it. I have the two GameCube sequels, and even though I still haven’t played them much, they seem to deliver on a lot of the promise the first game had. In the third game you can play (most of) the second one in co-op.

  16. amateurviking says:

    Wow this came out on PC too? I remember the first time I played it, on a demo N64 in the Virgin Megastore at the bottom of the Wellgate in Dundee. Saved up for months and bought it, and an N64. I remember having a lot of fun with it. But I can only remember the first and last levels.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Yes it did, it also had CGI cutscenes, full voiceovers and CD audio soundtrack on the N64 version.
      Also, the first level is a blast played with a Joystick.

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    Phasma Felis says:

    The first level of Shadows of the Empire is indeed fantastic. Unfortunately, it is quickly followed by the second and later levels of Shadows of the Empire.

    Fortunately somebody figured this out, and the next Star Wars game was Rogue Squadron, which was essentially an entire game’s worth of the first level of Shadows of the Empire, and it was awesome.

  18. WJonathan says:

    Is that snow or did those Walkers die and go to heaven?

  19. thelastpointer says:

    Yup, Hoth was only level I played too.

  20. Det. Bullock says:

    Oh, boy I remember buying this for my Pentium II and being disappointed in finding out my Matrox G100 couldn’t handle it, it crashed after 10/20 minutes, mostly enough to complete a level once you knew where to go but I was able to play it properly only three years later when I got a TNT2 M64.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      Wait, I remembered it wrong: my parents brought it to me after a “supply run” to the big city, unfortunately they didn’t know my computer wasn’t quite adequate to run the thing.

  21. Ranger33 says:

    Am I the only one who thought the rest of this game was pretty good, not just the first level? I mean, I know I’ve got nostalgia goggles on, but I still remember enjoying the entire game. There was the level with the swoop bikes, the train level where you fight IG-88 in a junkyard, the wampas, and the last level where you could put in a cheat to fly an X-Wing around in a space battle. Good stuff, don’t care what anyone says.

  22. DOHrps2015 says:

    It’s very late and I am exhausted. So. That walker looks like it stuck it’s butt up in the air to facilitate a massive flaming fart. “Hey, see my behind? Watch this.” Boom. Just saying.