The 'Shroom:Issue 160/Critic Corner
Alright July, my birthday is already past and I've had enough of temperatures reaching easily past 100F every afternoon cooking me alive on my drive back from work. I've had enough of y'all, so I'm declaring it officially winter, the southern hemisphere can take summer back and deal with the absolute sweat-dripping misery. While you get all snuggled up in your coats, longjohns, and blankets, we have here an ACTION-PACKED Critic Corner this month, with six whole sections, including a special Countdowns return!
Also as it's now into mid-July, our Anniversary polls have closed and presentations have begun! If there are still spots left to fill, and you're interested in grabbing one, please feel free to sign-up and ask me any questions you may have! Presentations are due by August 7th so we can have everything ready in time for the ceremony basically all day on August 14th! Be sure to keep an eye on the Awards Board for further updates as the next issue of The 'Shroom won't be out until after the awards are all over with.
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as June's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote! Also, the first 'Shroomfest was a resounding success, mostly because the team of amazingly cute and talented angels such as Bowser defeated the heroes! Thank you to everyone on both sides who took time to participate on the forum, and hopefully next one will be just as fun!
And now for my regular announcements: We've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!
As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to Ninja Squid, our Stats Manager on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
|Critic Corner SECTION OF THE MONTH|
|1st||Anton's Half-Baked Reviews||10||35.71%||Hypnotoad (talk)|
|2nd||Paper Mario: Color Splash Review||9||32.14%||PowerKamek (talk)|
|3rd||Flip or Flop||6||21.43%||HEROWALUIGI (talk)|
Hello fellow wikians! It's me, Luigi 64DD, returning to the 'Shroom on this auspicious Dr. Mario-themed occasion to present to you all a special one-time edition of Countdowns! It sure has been a while since the last one, so I hope you enjoy this more light-hearted one. In keeping with the theme of this issue, I am going to be talking about the characters from Dr. Mario World. To be more specific, Nintendo's 2019 puzzle mobile game has a number of characters that quite clearly demonstrate that the Mushroom Kingdom does not have very high standards when it comes to who they give a doctorate to. Today, I am going to be counting down the Top 10 Strangest and Most Concerning Dr. Mario World Doctors. The factors that put a character on the list are how concerned I would be if I had to receive treatment from this doctor as well as just how weird their addition to the game is. With that said, let's perform an examination on these quack doctors!
10. Dr. Luma
Starting off our list, we have a diminutive luminescent fellow who has been deemed worthy to be given the title of doctor. Now, I have full respect for the Luma species and I'm sure they mean well, but... how exactly is a Luma supposed to perform medical procedures with those little stubby arms? You see, there are many tasks that a doctor must do that require a great deal of precision. These include giving shots, examining the inside of your ears, and... open heart surgery. I fear that a Luma would not even be able to pick up the instruments required for these operations, much less administer them properly! I'm sorry, but I would prefer if the Lumas would just assist Dr. Rosalina in her medical duties rather than be doctors themselves so I can remain safe from the thought of being approached by a Luma with a scalpel.
9. Dr. Wario and Dr. Waluigi
Next on the list, we have two mustachioed men who have put off their usual schemes in order to take up the medical practice. Unlike the last character on this list, these two doctors have all the digits and opposable thumbs necessary for standard procedure, so I'm not worried about their physical abilities. What concerns me more is their moral character. Wario and Waluigi have been known to perform a number of unscrupulous acts throughout their careers, be it for personal gain, revenge, or just plain meanness. Are these the type of men who have a selfless care for all of humanity? Call me prejudiced, but I have my doubts. If anything it seems like Wario in particular loves money more than the good of mankind, leading me to suspect that he may charge exorbitant prices for his "services". Lastly, I want you to picture sitting to the examination room. Wario walks in putting on his gloves and tells you it is time for your physical examination. Is this a situation you want to be in? I believe that question answers itself.
8. Dr. Bowser
This next character is an individual whose problems are quite similar to those of the last entry. Except worse. Much worse. Bowser is not just a shady character; he is a person who is actively and unapologetically evil. Time and time again, he is kidnapped and attacked innocent people without a shred of remorse. On the contrary , he brags about his villainous exploits! Frankly, I am appalled that someone as malignant as Bowser was even considered for the office of Doctor. I am shocked his license wasn't immediately revoked! Clearly, there must be corruption in the system for the literal king of the Koopas to be able to practice in the Mushroom Kingdom. Do I smell a Toad mutiny? Regardless of all that, I also have some doubts about his physical qualifications for the job. I mean, he literally has spikes on his fingers! I feel like I'm going to come out worse than I went in with this guy as doctor! Overall, I feel that Dr. Bowser turns the Hippocratic Oath... into the Hypocritical Oath! Thank you, I'll be here all night.
7. Dr. Donkey Kong and Dr. Diddy Kong
Next up, we have two literal apes. And no, that is not an ad hominem, as these hominids are in fact not human! The Mushroom Kingdom wants us to trust two Kongs from the jungle who spend their days swinging from vines and consuming wild bananas to have advanced knowledge in such areas as biology, anatomy, and medicine. Look, I understand that Kongs are smarter than your average real world ape, but is it unreasonable to be slightly skeptical that they have gone from their simple simian lifestyle to that of a highly educated medical professional. Just look at their equipment! It's made from vines and bark, and I refuse to believe that conforms to proper safety standards. Now before I get some angry letters, I just want to say that I have nothing against the Kong family. They're a nice bunch of primates, and I don't mean to insult their intelligence, but... yeah, that's exactly what I'm doing. Sorry.
6. Dr. Babies
This entry is taken by several characters, specifically all the baby characters (except one that I have chosen to separate due to that case being even more egregious). To be quite honest with you, I am not even angry about this one. I am instead sorrowful. What kind of world is this, where mere infants are forced to work to maintain the health of the kingdom? As soon as they are delivered from their mother's wombs, in a cruel twist of fate they are enlisted to take on the very role that assisted their entrance to the world: the role of doctor. They receive no time for proper development and learning of life before they must be responsible for the development and life of others. Taking up the stethoscope and needle, they must provide for others when they themselves have not-- wait, what? Those are toys they're holding? They're not real doctors? They're just playing pretend, you say?
I think this would be a good time to move to the next entry.
5. Dr. Dry Bowser
Next up we have a character that is quite similar to number 8 except with one key difference. You may ask why I put Dry Bowser here when he is fundamentally the same as normal Bowser. Yes, most of the same criticisms of Bowser's medical qualifications apply here. He's still evil and he's still physically hazardous, possibly even more so than Bowser for the latter. However, there is one huge, glaring reason why Dry Bowser would make an even worse doctor: he's literally DEAD! Doctors are supposed to help you stay alive, and yet they want you to go to see one who very clearly failed at that himself! Look, if I go to the doctor's office with a life-threatening condition and I see that an actual skeleton is my doctor, then I am not going to be thinking it very likely that I survive my ailment. If anything, I might think I've already died and that this is the Grim Reaper playing a cruel joke on me! Suffice it to say, let's please leave the corpses in the morgue and not have them inadvertently causing others' deaths.
4. Dr. Dolphin
At this point in the list, we get to characters that aren't so much concerning as just plain weird (though some are still pretty concerning). So, real talk for a second, what was going through Nintendo's mind when they decided to add a Dolphin as a playable character? They're such a obscure Mario species to use. Oh well, I suppose anything goes in a gacha game. Anyway, aside from the strangeness of their addition, I don't sea, er, see them making the best doctors. I'll concede that they are mammals (which means they are at least somewhat related to us) and they are pretty intelligent. But I can't help but feel like their aquatic nature would prevent them from performing procedures on the more grounded residents of the Mushroom Kingdom unless you wanna get soaked during your routine checkup. How would they even hold the instruments? In their mouths? Furthermore, they may be smart animals, but they're still animals. The only treatment I can see them giving is telling you to take a few dead fish and call them in the morning. But... I do have to admit they look mighty adorable with those little pill bags hung around them... Maybe we can make an exception just this once?
3. Dr. Fire Rosalina and the other Fire Doctors
Okay, I admit, these guys aren't terribly concerning, but they're just weird additions. All those memes about the clone characters with an overabundance of adjectives affixed to the name come to partial fruition here. These guys are part doctor, part fire, and all inexpensive to develop. But out of all of them, Dr. Fire Rosalina really takes the case. Rosalina has appeared in her fire form in a grand total of one game and they decide that this form makes sense as a character. Frankly, I didn't even realize that any of these guys existed aside from Dr. Fire Mario until I started researching for this list. Now I have a degree of confidence in the standard forms of these characters to be good doctors (even though they most likely don't have a degree themselves), but I feel like having fire powers would hamper them in their duties. What if when they're giving you your prescription, they also accidentally hand you a fireball as well? Then you'll need a whole lot more medical treatment! All I'm trying to say is that it might conform to safety standards more to have a doctor that is not also a pyromaniac.
2. Dr. Baby Wario
Now we get to the one baby character I did not include in the list earlier, Baby Wario. Let's be honest, there are so many things wrong with the term "Dr. Baby Wario". Besides combining multiple factors to become the being with possibly the worst handwriting on the planet, this character has all the problems of babies, Wario, and magnets combined. And that is not something you can say about many characters. Firstly, Baby Wario cannot possibly have the required experience to perform medical procedures because, well, do I even need to repeat this? He's a baby! Secondly, even at this tender young age, Baby Wario already exhibits the greedy and selfish traits of his older self while having no common sense or social etiquette! Well, not that Wario has those things either but you get the point. Both of these traits combined with a very strong magnet create a situation that may seem innocent at first, but let's just say that things may become grisly very quickly if he receives a patient with a pacemaker or similar *ahem* metal implant. So while Baby Wario's return may be momentous, returning in this way is bound to cause some lawsuits.
1. Dr. Goomba Tower
This. Dr. Goomba Tower. Three Goombas stacked atop each other wearing a labcoat. After all the progress we as a species have made throughout the eons, it has all led up to the invention of this tower of mushroom creatures that form a single doctor in this puzzle video game for mobile phones. Now, would this Goomba Tower be able to grip the tools and understand the knowledge necessary for this job? No. Would they all come tumbling down and blow their cover as soon as they even tried? Probably. But would it be justifiable to say that this is the best character introduced to the game and pretty much the greatest thing to come out of Nintendo's modern gacha-infested mobile games?
Yes. Yes, it would.
Well, that's it for this special edition of Countdowns! I hope you enjoyed seeing this section return, even if it's just for this one time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get out of here. I've got the entire Kong family, several infants, a few disgruntled men with mustaches, a barrage of fireballs, and the entire Mushroom Kingdom Medical Board coming after me. A little piece of advice before I go. If you're going to sue for medical malpractice, don't do it in a kingdom where the court system is run by a bunch of oblivious Toads and your opponents are fully capable of causing pain to you in a variety of colorful and visually appealing ways. I hope you aren't feeling ill, by the way, because this is not a good time for that. Good luck and sayonara!
Agency in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Hello there! Let's begin with some context. For school, I had to write an essay on agency in interactive media as part of the minor I was following a few months ago. I… didn't like the minor and dropped out of it before the halfway point, but I did like writing this essay somewhat, and think it would be a waste to not publish it elsewhere, even if I don't think this is my kind of thing.
What follows is this essay, translated into English and expanded upon a little bit to fill some gaps.
Note: this essay contains some minor spoilers for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I don't feel like there are huge plot points discussed here, but if you want to go into the game blank, feel free to stop reading.
Games with an open world are developed to give the player a feeling of freedom. Go anywhere and discover the world. But how does this work with the story of the game? With lineair stories, you are forced to visit specific locations in a specific order, which takes the freedom from you. Does this make it impossible to combine freedom and story?
Agency is the power to freely go about within your surroundings. It allows something or someone to make their own choices and change the course of events. This fits fairly well within the events of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is set in the kingdom of Hyrule. The playable character, Link, wakes up in the Shrine of Resurrection. Gravely wounded, he was brought into here 100 years ago to heal, but in these years, he has lost his memory and cannot recall what has happened back then.
The story begins the moment he wakes up in this shrine. The story first sends him outside in a straight line, to the Great Plateau, where an old man helps him on his way with the basic workings of the game, such as the use of weapons and the cooking of food. At this point, we have little agency over the events, and why we are even doing this is also unclear.
At a certain point, after all the basics have been explained, Link, and with him the player, discover what happened a century ago. With dark powers, Calamity Ganon has taken over Hyrule. With mystical powers, princess Zelda has managed to keep Ganon captured within Hyrule Castle, but after 100 years, her powers have nearly depleted. It is up to Link to save Hyrule from a certain demise.
This event marks the point that Link is free to leave the Great Plateau. He is pointed to the village Kakariko, where the story will be further explained. While most players will do so, this is the point that the introduction is over, and the player can go wherever they want. It is not mandatory to go there.
This is where Breath of the Wild shines. There are few limits for where the player can go, the world now open in its entirety. You can go to Kakariko, but also the other way.
The story in Breath of the Wild is build up in a few ways. The game world is in the present, where the story will be told through main quests. These quests start as soon as you leave the Shrine of Resurrection, and will guide you to Kakariko. Here you will be told about the Divine Beasts, four gigantic devices modelled after, powered by Sheikah magic and controlled by the champions of the four people from Hyrule. During the calamity, Ganon corrupted the animals and killed the champions, but because Zelda is holding Ganon in the castle, they are not an immediate danger for now. Link has to free the Divine Beasts, and is being aided by the champions' relatives.
The past, the cause of the story and the downfall of Hyrule, are being told through memories Link finds throughout the world. He lost his memory in the last 100 years, and these memories make him remember, and shows the player, about his job as Zelda's guard and what they have gone through. While the memories have an order, they are scattered throughout the world and will not be told in the right order. As memories are regained, they will fall together as a puzzle.
The memories show a conflict between Link and Zelda. Zelda is researching the Divine Beasts, while Link follows her as her bodyguard to the king's orders. Zelda disagrees with this and finds it unnecessary. The events preceding the calamity are also shown.
The player is free to follow the quests or to ignore them. It is entirely possible to not free the Divine Beasts, or to free them before the quest to do so is even given. This does have an effect on the final battle against Ganon, as freeing them all makes this battle easier.
Following the story, most players will start with Divine Beast Vah Ruta, modeled after an elephant and controlled by Mipha, champion of the Zora. This quest can be found by further following the path after Kakariko.
Besides the main quests, there are also side quests. These are not required to complete the game, but give further filling to the world. Side quests are given out by characters that live within the world, and vary greatly in their contents. Some are simple quests where you collect an item or take a photo of an object or animal, but there are also side quests that form a story of their own, involving building up a new settlement and marrying people. This gives you more the feeling that this world is being lived in, and wasn't completely destroyed in the calamity a century ago. This further strengthens the goal of destroying Ganon.
It is possible to complete quests before a character gives them to you. This usually provokes a surprised reaction from them. It also happens that you come across a part of a quest's goal before it being needed, which can be subtly hinted at at the time.
All of this openness gives the player a great feeling of freedom within the story. Yes, the main story of Zelda and Ganon starts closed, and ultimately has one goal, but everything in between is for the player to fill in. They don't have to follow the entire story to reach the end, nor in the 'right' order. It is even possible to walk straight to Ganon the moment you leave the Great Plateau.
So that's freedom of movement in the story. Besides the freedom of whether to or not to follow the story, this world has consistent and realistic, albeit simplified physics. This can be seen in gravity, weatherly elements as temperature, downfall, wind and lightning, materials as wood and metal, and a few cases of magic. Wood can be used to make fire, metal attracts lightning (this includes metal weapons you might be using), warm and cold climates require appropriate clothing.
These elements make it so that the player sometimes has to overcome problems in creative ways. If the player doesn't have good weapons and there are lots of enemies in a camp, pushing a neary boulder from a ridge might solve the problem. Hiding in high grass to get close without being seen is also a good way to attack efficiently. It is even possible to combine various elements: it is possible to bind a bomb to a balloon, use a big leaf to blow this towards enemies and then remotely detonate the bomb. This creativity gives the player a lot of room to experiment and solve puzzles this way.
It is clear that the player has great agency in this world, but does that affect the story in any major way? Does it mean that by giving the player agency, they affect the story to go differently? No, it doesn't. The story will only have blanks in it, both major and minor, depending on how the players goes about their game. There will occasionally be a line of dialog that is different if the player has already done something, or did it in an unexpected way, but the story will not change. The story was written in such a way that the player does not miss out on critical information when the various parts are played in any order.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a completely different experience compared to all other games in the Zelda series because of the way this open world is constructed, and the possibilities the player has within it. The player is free to go wherever they want, can choose to what extent they want to follow the story, and can be creative in their problem solving. This offers them a great deal of agency, at the cost of a expansive story. Does that make this a bad game? No, not at all. You just don't need to expect to be one writing the story.
Welcome back to 'Shroom FM, your monthly look at some albums. Oh, look, here's some albums!
|PHOEBE BRIDGERS - PUNISHER|
|Coupled with the cover and mellow, relaxed production, Punisher feels like a really nocturnal, ghostly album. You could argue this interpretation is based on the fact that the photo on the cover is taken at night and Bridgers is dressed as a skeleton, but trust me. I think Punisher hits harder with multiple listens, there's so many subtle moments here that didn't stick out to me as much on my first listen, such as the flute in 'Halloween' or the way the guitar jumps around a bit in 'Garden Song'. All of this makes every moment on the record feel like it's important, and keeps it engaging beyond the first listen. Bridgers' tone here is often fun and also often melancholic, with lyricism that feels very personal and unique. Overall, this album has a gorgeous atmosphere, and Bridgers' personality elevates her already-stellar songwriting to a whole new level.|
|Best tracks||Chinese Satellite, Halloween, Kyoto|
|CHLOE X HALLE - UNGODLY HOUR|
|The vocals really are at the centre of this, and they're flawless for the most part: the leads in the verses are smooth and powerful, with these immaculate harmonies in the background and choruses. Production here is also a treat, the synths and strings in particular stand out, and everything blends well. Unfortunately, the album drops off a bit in the second half, starting from 'Catch Up': Swae Lee's guest performance isn't terrible, and you definitely can't blame everything on him, but there's just not much interesting about it. He's also the only guest vocalist present here, as if his sudden appearance wasn't jarring enough. The few songs after - 'Overwhlemed' especially - don't feel as interesting or energetic as the opening run. But for an album that lies to you twice in its title, it's very good!|
|Best tracks||Baby Girl, Ungodly Hour, Forgive Me|
|HUM - INLET|
|I'd never heard of Hum before they released Inlet, which happens to be their first album in 22 years. This seems like a pretty big blind spot for me, as they're pretty similar to a bunch of other stuff I listen to - shoegazey, post-hardcore stuff from the 90s. Inlet is a good album, by the way. It has a huge, immersive atmosphere that you get thrown into from the very start of the first track, with these massive guitars and drums, and it all feels heavy and vivid, plus the tracks are long enough to give you time to take it all in. I think nearing the end it does run out of steam a tiny bit on tracks such as 'Cloud City', and two eight-minute tracks right at the end can get a bit exhausting as a result. I also love the moment where the heavier guitars are stripped back in 'Folding' and it's all really dreamy, and kinda wish that sort of thing would've happened more often. All in all, Inlet is a good record with a heavy atmosphere - if you're into loud and sprawling guitars then you've got nothing to lose here.|
|Best tracks||Waves, Folding, Desert Rambler|
|KHRUANGBIN - MORDECHAI|
|Look. I have nothing against vibes. Vibes are fine. Sometimes they can be good, and sometimes they can be bad. A good vibe can - for me, at least - elevate an album with maybe a few problems in the songwriting. But Mordechai is just vibes. That's it. Nothing else of substance to this. The songwriting just barely feels like it's even there, with just about no progression within the tracks and little variation between each of them. The production feels so distant and uninterested in what's going on, there's some alright moments in the vocals and percussion especially but they never really jump out at you in the mix. It's not the worst album out there, I guess it's fairly easy to listen to, but it gets boring very quickly.|
|Best track||Time (You and I)|
|MIKE - WEIGHT OF THE WORLD|
|The production here is TIGHT, based heavily on these otherworldly and dreamy samples that loop and glitch around in the background, with many tracks edging close to vaporwave. The tracks here are generally pretty short, many clocking in at under two minutes and only one substantially longer than three, so the record's constantly jumping between these different samples and ideas, with slick transitions between each track. MIKE's delivery is pretty downbeat, and often this gels really well with the haziness and laid back nature of everything else, but there's some tracks where his presence doesn't really feel as strong. I think there's a few tracks here that feel a bit filler-y, or not as polished as some of the others. Nonetheless, the sampling and production here is super inventive and hypnotic, and for the most part MIKE's bars play off this really well. There's also two really solid guest appearances here from Jadasea and Earl Sweatshirt.|
|Best tracks||Weight of the Word*, No, No, Coat of Many Colors|
|KLÔ PELGAG - NOTRE-DAME-DES-SEPT-DOULEURS|
|Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs is a stellar example of a modern chamber pop album, blending a wide variety of different instruments and styles. The pop bangers here contain catchy synth lines and big choruses while also making use of these beautiful strings and piano chords, whereas the slower, more emotive tracks are centred around the piano and strings but include electronic elements, and these styles blend almost seamlessly to create this deep and ethereal atmosphere. It's not the only thing that makes the album interesting - the songwriting is really sharp, too - but it definitely carves a unique place for this. This is all held together by Pelgag's excellent vocal performance, as she adapts perfectly to each style and keeps the album fresh. There's quite a few slower tracks around the middle, which can disrupt the momentum slightly, but the album definitely brings it back by the end. Overall, this album handles its biggest and smallest moments well, and it's a fun, deep and unique listen.|
|Best tracks||Mélamine, Où vas-tu quand tu dors ?, Rémora|
|RUN THE JEWELS - RTJ4|
|It'd be hard to disconnect RTJ4 from the recent protests regarding police brutality, misconduct and systemic racism, though it was all recorded before the events of the past few months. If you’re interested in more of the context behind it then check this interview out for starters. Killer Mike and El-P both feel like they're at their best here: their flow throughout is pretty flawless, and this really accentuates the directness of the social commentary, and the anger and power behind these lyrics. There's also plenty of creative and engaging lyricism at play here, including references to other hip-hop albums and musicians, and to the duo's respective rises to fame. Production here is also superb, there's a lot of beats that feel heavy and complement the lyrical content perfectly, plus some inventive sampling. There's a couple of moments that feel a bit awkward - the chorus of 'Ooh La La', for instance - but, on the whole, it's a really slick album with a lot of emotion behind it, and it's well worth a listen.|
|Best Tracks||A Few Words for the Firing Squad (Radiation), Walking in the Snow, Out of Sight|
|Armand Hammer - Shrines|
Thomas Beeston - Boat Lifter Way
Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure?
Flip or Flop
Vroom Vroom Here we go. Ah, Mario Kart DS. The one game many fans praise as the best game in the series and it made many a kids childhoods. But, Does the game stand the test of time? Let’s find out.
First off, The music. The music in this game is killer. A good example of this game’s great music is in the menu. It is some of the best music I have ever heard, especially for the DS. Then their is mission mode. A series of challenges for you to do if your board and are playing solo. There hard but they are really fun. This game’s graphics hold up, for a DS game. Yeah, the DS was really pixelated. The game provides a great challenge unlike other entries and that challenge does not come from rubber banding, good job Nintendo.
Oh Boy. This game has some uh, issues. First off. The controls. The controls are flat out a decroded piece of crap. My hands often cramp when playing. The models are bad. They are bad for the DS. The DS can do higher quality than this. DK is the roughest one, Yuck. The items are unbalanced as hell. I could go on and on about how unbalanced they are, but I don’t have time for that. The fact that you can’t use each cart with each character is stupid as heck. Nintendo WFC is broken. Drifting sucks like crap. When you drift you make no distance and go flying to the right. The voice clips definitely show their age. The ads that Mario Kart is known for, Bland as hell. A lot of stuff is 2D, This means they could have done a little better with the models without sacrificing performance.
Overall, Mario Kart DS was pretty rough around the edges but it was the first actually ok Mario Kart on mobile. I will give it a: 2/10 Thanks and have a nice day.
Graphic Novel Review
|W.I.T.C.H.: The Twelve Portals|
|Author||Elisabetta Gnone, Art Direction by Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa|
Greetings, readers! Welcome to a new issue of Graphic Novel Reviews!
This month, I’ll be taking you back to a series I remember from my childhood, one that I’ve recently reconnected with. This series is ‘’W.I.T.C.H.’’!
‘’W.I.T.C.H.’’ is an Italian-based series of graphic novels that were picked up and localized by Disney. The series revolves around five teenage girls who discover they have magical powers and have to fight off some supernatural bad guys. I’ll get into the plot more later. The series started in Italy with comic books, and the localizations here collect the books into chunky graphic novels that follow the arcs of the story. Disney did a printing of the graphic novels, a TV series, and they also printed chapter books that had inserts from the comic books at the beginning and end of each book. These are what I remember from my childhood, collecting these chapter books, trying to find them at my local bookstore, and trying to get lucky enough to find the later books in the series at my local library. The first arc of the comic books spanned at least 25 of these chapter books, and as anyone who has read a series of books with 15+ installments can tell you, finding books past the 13-book mark can be a real challenge. This was before we had the massive juggernaut that is Amazon as well, so you couldn’t just go online to order the next book in the series and have it delivered to your door the next day.
Anyways, recently, Disney has started a reprint of the graphic novels, releasing one every 4 months or so. I believe the series spans 31 books’ worth, so I’ll be collecting for a while now. For now, this review will deal with the first arc of the story, “The Twelve Portals”.
Our story follows a group of five girls: Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia, and Hay Lin. Will is new to the town of Heatherfield, and she meets the others on her first day of high school. The girls grow closer as friends, but their bond only strengthened when Hay Lin’s grandmother tell them that they have been chosen to become the new Guardians of the Veil, a group of fairy-like protectors who can harness the power of the classical elements in the name of Kandrakar, a sort of realm that lives alongside our own. You can think of them as some kind of tribunal that governs their powers, and can only interfere in their lives when things go out of control. The first mission this new group (dubbed W.I.T.C.H., using the first initials of their names) is to stop the evil Prince Phobos, who is trying to take control of an adjacent world called Meridian. The girls have to balance their duties as Guardians with their home lives, which are full of typical teenager drama, and unsurprisingly, things get messy in later chapters.
The story can be confusing if you have big gaps between chapters, like I did when I was reading the chapter books. But it pulls you in. Each new arc adds in new stakes, and the status quo is always changing. If you’re a person who really liked watching 4Kids series (especially Winx Club and Mew Mew Power), you’ll fit right in here. The comparison to Winx club is especially fitting considering both involve a group of teenage girls that can transform into fairies, and hey, both series are originally from Italy.
A complaint that I’ve heard from other readers is that the order of panels can be confusing, and I do agree. Although the books read from left to right, a lot of times it feels like they take inspiration from manga and put panels in an odd order. A lot of comics have you reading a row of panels left to right, then you move down to the next row and continue reading from left to right. But ‘’W.I.T.C.H.’’ will often have a first panel in the top left corner, then you need to read a vertically-aligned panel all the way to the right, then another smaller panel back to the left, and then one final panel running along the bottom. It’s not a huge deal to me, but I can understand why it frustrates people.
This series looks great! Colors are always bright and vibrant, anatomy is consistently good, and action scenes feel appropriately fast-paced and fluid. There are a handful of different artists working on the series, so once you get more exposure to all of their styles, you’ll find you have favorites, but there isn’t one single artist whose work I can honestly say is “ugly”, in my opinion, and the changing in art styles can be refreshing. The books are good quality, and the only real problem that I have with them is that they are a bit big for reading. You won’t be able to read the book with one hand, these book require you to hold them down with two hands. Kind of a pain but what can you do?
The ‘’W.I.T.C.H.’’ books are a hallmark of my childhood that really helped shape my interests to this day. I’m happy to have another opportunity to collect and read them all, especially since I never got past the first arc when I was a kid, and I can’t recommend them enough. You don’t have to collect them all if you don’t want to, but I’d absolutely recommend that you read the first arc, as it’s my personal favorite of the series so far.
Thanks for tuning in, readers! If you're interested in reading this series, or if you'd like me to review the other arcs, let me know on the forums! See you next time for a new Book Review!
France - Paris - Shopping
This month is about shopping again, but this time it’s food! Getting closer to what this review section is usually about, I can feel it! A special thanks this month to Gabumon (talk) who has graciously drawn me looking fine, fresh, and fabulous while my own means of drawing are still out of commission.
If you’re going to Paris, you’re either guaranteed to be staying for a week or more if you’re not a jet-setting celebrity just making a quick appearance, and I just don’t think it’s sustainable to live off of restaurants for more than a day or two. A disclaimer, I can’t speak for the presence of these stores, nor their scale, anywhere in France outside of the handful of arrondissements of Paris I visited; but honestly if you’re from outside of Europe, or even outside of France, you’re visiting almost exclusively to visit Paris. The one I visited the most due to there being one mere steps away from the entrance to my hotel is Franprix, aided by the fact that there seems to be a Franprix mere steps away from any other Franprix. After that, Monoprix due to its significant presence at higher volume shopping areas, then Carrefour and G-20 which I kinda had to hunt down and dip into really quick just to see what they were all about. Simply due to the heatwave we ended up visiting Franprix before every trip out from the hotel to stock up on cheap bottles of ice cold water for the day, and again for the same reason every couple hours being out.
Their size is comparable to a really nice gas station shop, like a Sheetz or Wawa, just a little larger. The diversity of what’s in stock comes nowhere close to even small American grocery stores. I’m mostly talking about Franprix regarding this and the rest following as that’s what I went to the most and was by far the most accessible, noticeable, and prevalent, but Carrefour and G-20 seemed similar enough to compare. As I work in a grocery store I can see the differences pretty quickly, big one being that it’s really hard to find any worker or help if you need it, and interaction is minimal to none, whereas in American grocery stores having immediate access to an all-knowing associate brimming with a desire to pleasure and serve is expected to such a degree that it’s in corporate policies to shove it on customers whether they actually appreciate it or not. Only time I saw someone working in a French grocery store was them hurriedly pushing a cart of items out to restock all without making eye contact or even acknowledging that there are customers in the store to the extent that they were a hazard simply to be around, or just the cashier who speaks only to respond to a courteous ‘bonjour’, an interaction completely avoidable as every store seems to have a couple self-checkout kiosks that have English options if necessary (and, if not, are intuitive enough as the process is the same here). This is neither praise nor critique from me, it’s just simply the difference. Personally I like to not be bothered at all, but at least have the availability to ask someone a question. Parisian supermarkets seem to put function well above form, performing the job rather than entertaining and luring in customers. You’re not going to find many gimmicks or innovative concepts, you can find those in any of the plentiful gourmet and specialty food shops, but you will find what you need.
The basics are all there, though: grocery, dairy, meat, bakery, I guess I didn’t see any in-store delis but there’s enough of those outside, pre-packed grab-and-go items, housewares, cleaning supplies, everything you’d expect out of your basic everyday supermarket; shouldn’t be a huge surprise as we’re all still modern people needing the same things. It also feels smaller, more personal, feels like they’re family-run and not a huge all-seeing corporate behemoth even though they still kinda are. The fresh foods looked kinda scary, along with the meats, but I’ll leave that up to arguing about preservative use and excessive processing. If you’re looking for fresh fruits and veggies you’re better off looking for an open-air market or street vendor, which are relatively commonplace. One thing I’ve seen other people say about Parisian grocery stores is just how good their bakery departments are and I just...I don’t know...I wasn’t impressed? I mean, to what comparison are they good? They’re absolutely not bigger than the ones I go to in America, they’re not as varied, they don’t have such customizability. Even Walmart has in-house bakeries so I don’t get the big deal. Paris has a bigger culture of standalone bakeries, though, and those are supreme. As you could expect, the regional food differences are apparent. Baguettes are commonplace, Nestlé is ever-present, lots of regional brand and snack specialties; my brother said he loves all the different gummy shapes that are in France that aren’t here. Lots of shelf stable milk. One thing that upset me greatly was seeing just how cheap all the cheese was without all of the import rates knowing that I wouldn’t be able to consume it all in the little time I had, and couldn’t reasonably take it all home. A small wheel of brie is easily a sixth of the price, and is also a little bit larger I guess because it’s easier to say 250g for them and 8oz for us.
The outlier in the supermarkets I went to is Monoprix, which I guess qualifies more as a hypermarket, reminding me more of a Super Target with priorities more in housewares, electronics, and cosmetics, but still with an extensive selection of food and groceries. They had some fruit juicing machine there that was in some travel blogs as a MUST TRY, so, I tried it; sure was fresh fruit juice that tasted good, but was nothing that shocked me much as I’m a spoiled American also living in the fresh squeezed orange juice capitol of the world. What got me with that, though, was the process of paying for it wasn’t as intuitive as I kind of expected it to be, put in distress by nothing being in my native language, making the self-checkout process a bit embarrassing and stressful. Luckily, like American grocery stores, they had workers hovering around asking if you need help, and I absolutely did. Monoprix does have a small-format shop like the rest of the Franprix around, called Monop’. Monoprix does feel a bit more expensive, though, and I felt like it functioned more closely to how American supermarkets ran, complete with that blast of air conditioning in the doorway. Definitely more hustle and chaos that the rest of the city doesn’t have, but that’s what heightens the spectacle. Franprix is comfortable. For what it’s worth, though, I did visit the Monoprix location at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées first and foremost, which is an enormous and luxurious show-offy locale, which kinda branded my vision of it, but the other sites at least gave a similar vibe.Picard is a grocery store that specializes in (almost) exclusively frozen food and frozen prepared meals. At least for the store I went into, the layout was almost similar to an Aldi where it was basically a one-directional path leading all customers through all of the aisles throughout the store until you get to the register. The entire format is just all chest freezers filled with boxes of whatever food you can imagine, but frozen. It’s not just frozen pizzas or crappy TV dinners, but all kinds of fruits, veggies, meats, sauces, breads, drinks, desserts, anything that you can imagine coming from a gourmet restaurant. Picard had literally no use to me as our hotel was not outfitted with kitchen gadgets that could cook or heat whatever I could’ve purchased, but it was at least a neat concept to check out. If you ever visit and are shacked up in a hotel for the night and happen to have a microwave or an oven in your room or suite, consider getting something from Picard in lieu of take-out. Who knows, it could all taste like absolute crap, but given its apparent popularity I kinda doubt that. Let me know!
There’s also Dia, Lidl, small chains, family grocers, and a bunch of ‘bio’ organic stores that I would’ve liked to go check out, but they were either too much out of the way, or had weird hours rendering them closed in the middle of the day while the other more ubiquitous stores were more readily available and present. I did end up wandering into some other grocery stores, the names of which I unfortunately don’t remember because they were more hole-in-the-wall. Lots of little side-corner and alleyway cracks that are more like humble little bodegas and gas station shops; nothing wrong with them, but can easily sketch out a coddled American afraid of a cobweb or two. I’m sure at least one of them was an Alimentation Générale.
Never got the chance to get too many pictures of the supermarkets even though I REALLY wanted to, because you already stick out in American markets for taking pictures, I didn’t really want to draw much attention to myself as an awkward gawking tourist. If you are traveling abroad, whether to Paris or elsewhere, I really highly recommend doing research prior on how their stores function on blogs like this that are more matter-of-fact, because even some slight differences in customs and expectations can lead to big bumps and pile-ups of problems that you might not be able to navigate away from easily if you can’t speak or understand the language.
Les Épicerieslast month, so be sure to check that out for more context about those businesses, but tl;dr “Both Printemps and Galeries Lafayette did not seem like places you could actually do some shopping, but rather where you can cash in on some self-care and get a fancy item or two to try or indulge in. Even if the price range is astronomical you still might be able to find some kind of knick-knack or unique item that may be worth it, or at the very least it’s one of the best places to window shop and pretend that you’re staying within your tight budget.” This remains true for each of their respective food areas; both had sections that featured brands, often being staffed by employees of those companies with their own little checkout area like some 1% upper echelon flea market. Fine food and gourmet stands, delis, cheese cases, all kinds of different chocolates and renowned chefs operating stands. I guess it’s closer to the food hall phenomenon sweeping America’s foodie cities, but this is just so much more luxurious and extravagant. Truffles everywhere and in everything, foie gras from floor to ceiling.
Le Printemps du Goût
The gourmet grocery section of Printemps is fresh and new, opening just in January 2018, and is near the top of the Men’s building, on the 7th floor for the deli, groceries, and wine, the 8th floor for the fresh food and restaurants, and the 9th being entirely a restaurant. My goal here was to find some unique foods and snacks to pad out some reviews here, as well as to just experience some level of gourmet and finerie that I just don’t have regular access to otherwise.
The grocery area doesn’t feature the standard staples of a supermarket, but instead has a large collection of the finest French brands and epicurean foodie delights. Rather than aisles for cereal, chips, and frozen pizzas, there were aisles and areas for honey, tea, oils and vinegars, champagne, mustard, confitures, high-end artisan chocolates and nougat, spices and seasonings, sardine tins, and of course all of the above with truffle. The setup almost felt more like a modern library. Also of note, all of the products are 100% French made. Around the perimeter of the grocery aisles and displays were a bunch of standalone counters and kiosks that offered all kinds of restaurant-tier foods and goodies. This setup is where the deli displays were manned, and featured little bar-type setups for fine chocolates and macarons, breads, cheese, wine, champagne, and all sorts of pastries and desserts. In a way they felt sorta isolated, and I didn’t see nearly as many people at them as I felt there should’ve been; maybe I was there too later in the day for Parisians to do their fresh food shopping, and maybe sipping bubblies at a grocery store is more of an evening task. The fresh produce area seemed just as sparse as any regular small health food’s produce section, so I really didn’t pay too much attention to it. I highly suggest clicking this link to look through a very thorough gallery of the entire grocery area while you casually ignore the written content because I completely disagree with their opinion. In total, what I got here were some little boxes of biscuits for €1.10 each, some fancy nougat bad for €1.25, some Edmond Fallot mustard for €4.55, and more even fancier Maison Clarance mustard for €9.85, totalling €17.85. Like, I absolutely did not get much there, but I got stuff I wanted to try as well as getting a luxury impulse treat-myself purchase without breaking the bank; you just gotta control yourself and know what you want. I easily could’ve spent more by getting some sit-down food and some of the more opulent prepared foods and cheeses, but I just really didn’t need to.
The whole place was meticulously organized and made it easy to explore what’s all around, and the workers there gently acknowledge that you exist should you need any help translating which jarred soup is which. It just felt really comfortable and welcoming, lubricating purchases even though I could feel just how expensive everything was rapidly adding up to.
Galeries Lafayette Gourmet
Along with the home goods, Galeries Lafayette Gourmet is located in a separate building across the street from the main Women’s store. At five total floors, bottom up it has a marketplace, then gourmet French gastronomy, wine and spirits, then perfumes, kitchen, and home goods.Prêt à Manger, a UK-based sandwich shop with an international presence, including a significant number of shops open in NYC, DC, and Chicago, giving me the immediate indication that it does not hold the same standard of genuine French products as Printemps du Goût; a fact which is neither praise or critique, it just is. After sitting down and having a canelé de bordeaux and failing to attempt to center myself with how overwhelmingly busy it was on top of the fact that I was alone in Paris with no contact to anyone I know, I got up and staggered on through the store. Because I was kind of in a daze, I can’t really remember the layout, and maps online don’t exactly help, but what I at least remember it as was a central area that served as a fresh produce section with displays of what seemed to be a general assortment of fruits and veggies serving more as ambience than an actual market as people walking through were just ogling it all and not really touching it. To the right and downstairs was a general grocery section, and to the left was a vast and open food hall overflowing with enticing sounds and aromas, luring me in that direction first like a cartoon character floating towards fresh pie.
So, what’s in the food hall? A big cheese case, lots of hanging meat, fresh bread, pastries, desserts, prepared foods, a shocking amount of terrines which to me just looks like obnoxiously chunk and extravagant meatloaves, and, of course, truffle. All kinds of high-end chefs manning their own stations 1% flea market style like I explained above, probably bearing all kinds of famous and well-known names that I didn’t recognize or have any intention on absorbing. One particular display that was mesmerizing in its precision and craftsmanship as well as the horror of a subtle breeze and touch-happy clientele was La Route des Indes, a traditional-themed spice shop with conical towers of open spice, certainly not as towering as  and instead more sensible mounds, but you get the idea. It was definitely flashy and certainly added to the international vibe that Galeries Lafayette seems to have intended. I stopped by Pâtisserie Sadaharu AOKI because they had quite a large and colorful display of macarons that were only vacation-expensive and not my-grandfather-was-an-oil-baron expensive, as well as staff that seemed warm and welcoming instead of pretentious and standoffish. Got a set of macarons in whatever kind of flavors I recognized with my child level French skills, and as I went to cash out the nice lady helping me out went to offer me a sample of some kind of chocolate from a dish that looked like imperfect scraps, and she accidentally knocked the whole thing over scattering bits of it everywhere. She looked absolutely horrified and like her life was about to end, but I helped her scoop it up while telling her “c’est bon, c’est bon, it’s ok, really, it’s fine, c’est bon!” while she was profusely apologizing. I felt like I did my good deed for the day by showing a food service worker some basic human compassion, and more people need to do this beyond a ‘good deed for the day’ and instead make it a compulsory activity because it was painful seeing how stressed she was about it, knowing that there were similar scenarios in the past in which whoever witnessed the error lacked basic compassion.
For all the crap Europeans give Americans for our sweet milky diluted filler chocolate, at least here I don’t have to take out a small loan to afford half a dozen little teeny tiny chocolate truffles. Don’t get me wrong, artisan chocolatiers exist all over America, too, and the same kind of chocolates exist, but there’s just something magical about rural America’s fascination with rustic gift shop chocolate attractions. I’ll just never get the appeal of spending so much money for such little chocolate, because no matter how high quality the ingredients are, nothing will simply ever compare to a 2lb brick of chocolate peanut butter fudge you got at a state line welcome center.
After leaving the food hall side with mostly empty hands and an empty stomach because there was just nothing I could really imagine being able to either consume in the few hours I had left in Paris or could fit in my suitcase to take home without losing substantial quality, I wandered on over to the grocery side. The food hall aspect was much more impressive than what Printemps du Goût had, but the grocery area of Galerie Lafayette Gourmet was just sorta sad. It really just kinda felt like a 2 star hotel lobby that had some shelving installed, and just honestly wasn’t very impressive with its stock. While it did have the same categories as Printemps du Goût--sardine tins, honey, luxurious chocolates, a deluge of truffle, etc.--it sorta felt cheapened by the setup and variety. They really had nothing that I couldn’t find in a better display across the street. I think it had a wine cellar but I was too poorly dressed and my credit card weighed only 13 grams. I would say it’s worth checking both stores out if you’re going to that area at all so you can get the best experience each one has to offer while still covering what they don’t.often treated with pure revulsion; a British friend of mine here didn’t even know what a Reese’s was and that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate was just mind-blowing and disgusting (at least, until he got forcefed some became addicted).
Ultimately, I did not come to a French gourmet grocer to get Lucky Charms.
Go ahead and check out this guy’s blog again for a bunch of photos. Curious that he has conveniently not taken any photographs of the grocery area and instead just the market area. My biggest regret coming here is that at the time I didn’t know as much about cheese as I do now, and I definitely missed a huge opportunity to try all kinds of specialty and artisan cheeses, as well as meats, I may never see again, at least outside the whims of Whole Foods’ Specialty Cheese Buyer. Additionally, with proper foresight I would’ve liked to have been able to cook and use some perishable items instead of just looking at them and saying ‘neat’.
To summarize, here are what I think are the most important things to know about grocery shopping in Paris, based on my trip’s tactile and material needs, as well as just how to not look like a total dweeb. You can absolutely Google up a hundred lists that have a bunch of things you should know, but here’s the ones that stuck out for me:
- Bring your own shopping bag, or a shoulder bag you intend on carrying stuff with, as no store will offer you one for free. You can always just purchase one at the counter, or elsewhere, though. I got a really cute canvas bag with an octopus print from the science museum.
- Check on what hours they are even open. Many stores operate from 8am-8pm, give or take an hour, and are just simply not open at all on Sunday.
- Be aware of a few key French phrases. You can’t go 10 steps without being bombarded with huge “SOLDES” signs, indicating sales, and any store or product emblazoned with “BIO” is some kind of organic and natural intention. Also, please be aware of basic greetings; a simple “bonjour” (hello), “merci” (thank you), s'il vous plaît (please), “oui” (yes), “non” (no), and “excusez-moi” or “pardon” (excuse me/sorry) will get you through 90% of interactions that can’t be shifted in your favor with a “je suis désolée, parlez-vous anglais?” (I’m sorry, do you speak english?). Greet everyone!!!
- Worry about getting fresh produce from a street market or street side stall, fresh baked goods from genuine boulangeries and pȃtisseries (bakeries and pastry shops), and leave all the boxed goods and brands to the stores. You can find a boulangerie basically every third storefront so it’s not like you’ll have to hunt.
- Bring a credit card as it universally makes transactions quick and seamless, and make sure that it allows for foreign transactions and that your bank is aware you’re traveling so it doesn’t signal fraud and lock your account while you’re out shopping for the day. If you absolutely need cash, use an ATM and not a currency exchange location as the ATMs don’t hike up the rate with commission, and are generally safer and faster. Just make sure your bank card will refund those ATM charges. As true pretty much everywhere else, Visa (with a chip) is almost guaranteed to be accepted, and MasterCard not so much. Optimally, this credit card will be a new one with a spending requirement for a huge point bonus or something, like a ‘spend $3000 in 3 months for a free $500 back in points’ like I did, because you absolutely will be fulfilling that if you take this trip.
I’m sure there are a couple dozen more I could rattle off, but instead just come and interact with me about the things I write here because nothing would make me happier to be given approval to infodump more and more to an interested party!
Je vais prendre un uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh... Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
|The 'Shroom: Issue 160|
|Staff sections||Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • 'Shroomfest Highlights • Poll Chairperson Address|
|Features||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner• Strategy Wing|