The 'Shroom:Issue 174/Critic Corner

From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
Jump to navigationJump to search

Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Shroom2017 Anton.png

The scorching hot beach months are gone, and the blustery cool sweater months at here! Or, if you're in Florida like me, it's just more scorching hot beach months but now they're also wet and humid! Not much else is happening this month, as far as I'm aware of, so just kick back and enjoy our reviews!

Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as August'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!

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

Place Section Votes % Writer
1st Anton's Half-Baked Reviews 12 63.16% Hypnotoad (talk)
2nd Pokédex Power 4 21.05% Yoshi876 (talk)
3rd Super Ninelevendo Entertainment Reviews 2 10.53% Ninelevendo (talk)

Reviews / opinion pieces
It's a bird! It's a plane! It' arrow!
Immerse yourself in the peace and harmony that is retail.
Never too early to hunt for Halloween party tracks.
I wonder which country I'm a secret princess of...
Cute and good snake.
Summer Holiday review? Sounds better than Winter Work!
In a funk? Try some funk!

Character Review

Written by: Waluigi Time (talk)

Hey 'Shroom readers! Waluigi Time here with another Character Review. I hear some alien won Mach Speed Mayhem this month, so I decided it was a good time to talk about a way better F-Zero character! As a disclaimer I've never actually engaged with any F-Zero media outside of playing Smash and spamming Captain Falcon's neutral special to hear him yell "FALCON PUNCH" but almost never actually hit anyone with it because when do you ever land a Falcon Punch, but I read Mach Speed Mayhem every month so I'm pretty sure I'm qualified to write this. Anyway you've probably guessed who I'm writing about, that's right, we're going to talk about the greatest F-Zero character of all time, Super Arrow!


As I just said, Super Arrow is the greatest F-Zero character to ever exist. Forget that spotlight hog Captain Falcon or whoever else you want to think of, the best character is Super Arrow. Super Arrow's gimmick is that he's a superhero, great gimmick. Unfortunately, because this series is only about racing games, we never get to see what any of Super Arrow's superpowers are. Does he even have any, or is he like Batman and just relies on his own strength and/or gadgets? Clearly, we need a revival of the F-Zero franchise about Super Arrow so that we can answer these questions. (This isn't a point against Super Arrow by the way, this is a point against the F-Zero franchise as a whole. Super Arrow is perfect.) And just look at that costume, isn't it great? Cape and everything! He also has an owl sidekick which brings him good luck, and animal sidekicks are very cool. Unfortunately I don't think the owl has a name, which is also something that should be addressed in a potential Super Arrow-based F-Zero revival. And of course he's married to the other greatest F-Zero character of all time, Mrs. Arrow, who helps him with his races and money and stuff. He also has a cool theme song, which is important because you usually need a cool theme song to be a cool character.

Now being the best character unfortunately doesn't mean you get the best stats, otherwise Waluigi would have perfect stats in every game he appears in. But in F-Zero X, Super Arrow has one of the best machines in the game! I think. Perch said he does. (I haven't played the games, remember?) Unfortunately, F-Zero GX nerfs him because the developers hate Super Arrow or something, (just guessing on that one) but he's still viable! Again, according to Perch. (This is also a point against the developers, not Super Arrow.)

Unfortunately, the anime ruins Super Arrow, therefore the anime is terrible and you should never watch it. Ever.

Final Rating: Perfect/5

I hope you enjoyed my totally non-biased review of a character that I am definitely qualified to talk about. Now I know, I know, you're probably thinking "but wait WT, this guy sounds so great, I want to read more about him!" so I'll plug Mach Speed Mayhem from Issue 168 which talks about Super Arrow's greatness in more detail!

(Be sure to read this month's Mach Speed Mayhem over in Strategy Wing too, Perch worked hard on it and you get to read about the character who's been my nemesis for the past five months! Aren't you at least a little curious about that?)

Rose's Quarantine Reviews

Written by: Roserade (talk)

Greetings, beautiful ‘Shroom readers. Welcome back to another edition of Rose’s Quarantine Reviews. We are still in quarantine, and I continue to review.

This installment of Rose’s Quarantine Reviews has actually gone through a number of iterations in the past few months. Despite my absence from the ‘Shroom as a writer, this review has been sitting on my backburner for the entire summer, and it was even mostly written by the time July’s issue rolled around. Regardless, other circumstances led to me being unable to complete it, which might have been for the better anyway, as I’d argue this review has an even more well-rounded perspective now. If any parts feel stilted in the writing, I apologize; I’ve had to try and connect my thoughts from the last few months to my thoughts now, which will undoubtedly have been with different ideas in mind. I hope you’ll still enjoy what this edition has in store, though.

Unlike the last few installments, I’m not going to call into question the state of quarantine. With the recent and dramatic rise of the Delta variant in the United States, conditions with the coronavirus are just as bad as ever - in fact, infection and fatality rates are even worse now. Last month, I wrote that my state didn’t look to be requiring masks inside public places, nor did we seem to be moving towards a full vaccine mandate. Recent developments have proven that to be misjudged, however. My state reinstated a full mask requirement once more, and on August 10th, President Biden announced an executive order that any employers with at least 100 employees have to either have vaccinated employees or do mandatory testing every single week. It’s all great decision-making, I’d say. It’s about time the foot finally dropped.

So with that lengthy introduction aside, it’s time for the real meat and potatoes of this delectable ‘Shroom section dinner. Welcome in, ‘Shroom readers, as I describe my feelings towards a certain something:


A number of things have changed in my life since my June review, and one of them has been my employment situation. That’s right, I’ve gotten and left a job in these past three months. There’s two main reasons I got the job: one, I’m moving away for college this month (in fact, I’m moving into my college dorm the day this issue goes up!), and I need some more money pooled together for it; two, this gave me the opportunity to get experience in the general workforce, so I know what to expect whenever I get an off-campus job away from home. I’ll admit that a lot of my decision-making was my parent’s encouragement over my own will to get a job, but now that I’ve done it, I can understand why it’s an important step.

Real photo of me checking out customers

I worked as a checker at my local grocery store. For probably legal reasons, I won’t detail my location or which chain I worked for, but know that it’s a regularly busy store with a big name attached to it. I worked the job for approximately two months, and in that time I received enough insight for me to review my employment experience. Let’s talk about it.

This saga first began before I was even employed. I submitted my application online for the position, and probably within twelve hours they called me back. I can verify that this store is always regularly hiring, so in hindsight this wasn’t surprising at all. What was surprising for me is that when I walked in, the manager asked me a few questions, before she immediately set me up with a computer and documents to fill out. Apparently, they hire on the spot. I was unaware of this, and neither was my girlfriend, who was outside in the parking lot waiting for me to finish what was meant to be a quick interview. This process took over an hour. Thank you for waiting love, and I’m very sorry for making you nearly fall asleep in your car <3

I went through the whole hiring thing, and then I got asked about which days I would be available to start. I said that any day worked for me starting Monday of that week. My manager eyed the calendar, then said she’d start me on Wednesday. Checkers have to go through training, and that upcoming weekend was the 4th of July, so if she started me later in the week, I wouldn’t have to take on the holiday rush as an individual checker. Spoilers: this plan didn’t work out. But regardless, I accepted my offer, and I started work on June 30th.

June 30th rolled around, it was ten am, I had just bought four new black polo shirts at Kohl’s, and I was ready to train. I arrived at the store, but my manager had trouble connecting me to the online program, so instead of doing that training first, I was placed at a checkstand with a veteran checker who shares a name with a Dr. Seuss character. I quickly learned that her style of training new recruits is to throw them onto the checkstand and have them figure it out, like tossing a dog into water and hoping it will swim. This was both for better and for worse, because while I quickly caught onto the process from the hands-on experience, I was also an anxious eighteen-year old boy at his first “real world” hire. We traded out whenever the line was getting too long, and I discovered that she knows the name of just about every person who comes through her line. It’s very impressive.

Once my training day ended, she gave me a hug and called me “sweetie”, and I headed home. My feet and back were dying from the first day of having to stand and lug stuff around. As I laid in bed, I was still thinking about the one customer who was rude to me because I had forgotten to say “how are you today”. Wahoo.

Day two: July 1st. This time, everything was set up with my employee numbers, so I was able to do the online training. It. Was. Agonizing. Because I’d already learned half of everything I needed to know at the checkstand, all of the badly-animated simulations of checking were pointless, and everything else was just so slow. Their videos also have a wealth of misinformation, I’ve come to understand now. For example, they tell you to use the PLU numbers or the search screens to find produce, but doing that now impacts your numbers or something, and you’re always supposed to scan a barcode instead? I ultimately didn’t care about numbers because I was leaving in two months anyway, but that still feels like an important piece to update.

Real photo of me explaining a coupon to a customer

July 2nd. I was with a different checker in the morning, but by the afternoon I was on my own, in a separate lane. Thankfully, they had put up a sign saying that I’m new, and to please be patient with me. Still, I should’ve figured out what this meant, because that day, they scheduled me to work 4th of July. I didn’t have any plans for the day, but I knew that it was just going to be really, really rough with customers.

The next three days were easily some of the hardest days of the job. Swarms upon swarms of customers, all of them trying to get Frank’s hot dogs and twenty-pound bags of ice before it was too late. Saturday was probably the worst day (4th of July fell on a Sunday this year), because it was really when the day-before preparations kicked into high gear. All of this was happening while I was still trying to figure out how the hell checking works, and I definitely completely collapsed every time I made it back home. I came in everyday between Wednesday and Tuesday, meaning I had a seven day week for my first week on top of the 4th of July rush, and most of those days were about eight hours. It was exhausting, but somehow, by the skin of my teeth, which is a weird expression by the way, I managed to pull through.

I’ll let the dramatic retelling of events fizzle out there. I don’t have too much more to report on a narrative level. Honestly, everything starts to blur together when you’re working retail, and it’s hard to detail specific stories. I did get to manage the self-checkout once or twice, which was probably preferable to actual checking, because all you do is walk up to the screens with your magic scan card and fix problems with two presses of the on-screen buttons. My last week of work, I ended up grilling ribs by the front door for one of the days - which turned out to be my first experience with a barbecue, ever. I think I actually preferred the grilling to checking too, because at least I got to turn on my music when I was outside. I had a few days of even worse rushes than 4th of July, I had a coworker attempt to flirt with me, and I made a few good friends along the way. My last day was meant to be September 4th, but I woke up that day extremely sick, so my employment ended not with a bang, but a day in bed.

With all that aside, it’s onto the real important part of this: how do I review my experience with employment?

One of my favorite parts of the job was my coworkers. They were generally an inviting group of people, with plenty of fun with their interactions, be it because of their general optimism and conversational nature, or their pure pessimism towards having to work their jobs. It became admittedly easy to feel frustrated with them in the middle of working through heavy crowds, but in the slower moments or in the break room, they became a great treat. I’ve only ended up still connected with one of them, but the rest of you are pretty damn cool. Keep it up.

As for the checking itself, it was fine. I mean, it was just the same monotonous task every day of “Go to the checkstand. Scan items. Say ‘how are you today? Did you find everything okay?’ Help with coupons if they need. Pray you don’t get a constant line of customers for two hours.” The first week was absolutely killer on my body, though. My shoes were flat so my feet were being slaughtered, and my body was otherwise not used to those tasks for so long. Once I got insoles for my shoes and became accustomed with the job, my physical condition improved.

I’ve decided that working retail is simply a process of subtly hating your experience while just wanting to help customers so you’re actually doing a job. Like, there would be so many times where I’d be standing there bored, but I didn’t want a customer to come through my line, because one customer begets another, and I was too tired or annoyed to want to help another person. Plus, the clientele is so incredibly hit-or-miss. Sometimes, you get the couple who make an “Emperor's New Groove” reference in front of you and you get to talk to them about the subtle mastery of comedy that movie has, and other times you get the guy who shouted at me because other people weren’t opening extra checkstands, even though I had called for a crowd twice already on my walkie talkie. That’s just part of retail work, so if you’re considering getting a job that’s customer-oriented, be prepared for literally anything.

While we’re on the topic of customers, and because this doesn’t quite fit anywhere else, I now want to give my list of customers who live rent free in my head:

  • The customer who bought 120 bottles of Gatorade, and left with a cart as full as you can imagine
  • The older gentleman who assuredly takes steroids while skipping leg day, because he is built like a cartoon character. He was either with his wife or on a business call every time he came through my line, and he always called me “bud”
  • The group of definitely drunk middle-aged women who showed up at 10 PM on a Thursday getting ready to hit the town
  • The collective Renaissance Fair performers who all bought the same package of gum
  • The guy who dashed out of the store with a cart of liquor that probably totaled over $2000
  • The old woman who always had a massive macaw on her right shoulder
  • Fellow user and ‘Shroom writer Coffee, who also showed up with a bird but not a full-ass parrot
  • Probably many, many more interesting people I’m forgetting

I honestly don’t think I have much more to say. The job was certainly new and eye-opening, and I can definitely say that I had an enjoyable experience from time to time, but there’s a reason why every time I came home and my mom asked how work went, I answered with the same thing:

“It was work.”

Rating: The taste of lukewarm water/10

That's all I've got to review this month. Thank you for reading, and if you have any suggestions for what I should review next, feel free to let me know on the forums! Take care, and much love to you all.

'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

I have been even busier than last month so again I'm not gonna bother with all the formatting and just go straight into these albums.



I think it's fair to say that CHVRCHES are a pure synthpop band - they create fun, polished synth music and barely ever branch into other genres. Over their decade together, their sound has stayed fairly consistent, but Screen Violence tries to change up the band's generic aesthetics a bit from their usual "bright colours and shapes". It's definitely edgier than their previous releases - there's some inspiration from horror/slasher movies and other creepy imagery in their videos and supplemental material - this trailer being the most blatant example. This is mostly reflected in the song titles (and lyrics, sometimes) - take "Final Girl", a song named after and about being a horror trope, or "How Not to Drown" which really hammers in the atmosphere by adding in Robert Smith from The Cure. But outside of that, in terms of the band's general sound, not much has changed at all. There's a couple songs that veer a bit closer to the darker side of synthpop, and "Nightmares" is heavier than you'd expect from them, but otherwise there's nothing that'd sound out-of-place on thier previous albums. The opener "Asking for a Friend" is a good example of this, just feels like a generic CHVRCHES song - even songs like "Violent Delights" and "Lullabies" focus on being big and euphoric rather than working with the theme. I think it's a shame they didn't do more with it. Other than that, the only song I'd heard from this album before going into it was "He Said She Said". It's not good - nothing about it is catchy, the lyrics are boring and predictable, and the hook with the autotune effects on the vocals sounds awful. Thankfully it's by far the worst moment here, but still a lot of these songs suffer from being generic or unmemorable. There are some high points too; "Final Girl" is excellent and "How Not to Drown" is very atmospheric and well-crafted. And the synths usually sound good, and Lauren Mayberry's vocals are still as strong as ever, so if that's what you're here for you won't be disappointed. But unfortunately, Screen Violence promises a lot that it doesn't deliver, and often ends up feeling like the band are retreading old ground.


This is Tropical Fuck Storm's third album, following 2018's A Laughing Death in Meatspace and 2019's Braindrops. I enjoyed both of these albums a lot - the former a bit more than the latter, but they're both very good. Deep States is probably my least favourite of the three so far, but it's still a good album with a lot of strong moments. The band's albums tend to have this noisy and chaotic sound to them, and the opening track "The Greatest Story Ever Told" really throws you straight in with these loud, gritty guitars and Gareth Liddard's dry vocal performance. The levels of noise here might get a bit distracting but the melodies buried underneath it are excellent. It's fairly slow and steady Liddard's vocals gel really well with the style of the band's music and their misanthropic lyrics; the backing vocals from the rest of the group are excellent as well, especially when put together with Liddard's lead vocals. There's a few songs around the middle I don't really care for as much as others: stuff like "Bumma Sanger" and "The Donkey", solidly good but not much better than that. The second-to-last track, "Legal Ghost", is a huge change of pace: a lot more atmospheric and restrained, and considering it comes practically at the very end of the album it works really well as a wind-down from the rest of the album.


I get this feeling like there's something about this album that doesn't fully click with me when I listen to it, but still it's a good album. It's definitely interesting, combining heavy guitars and drums with all sorts of stuff that shouldn't work - dreamy synths, quirky percussion and other noises, slower guitars. Most of the songs here are very short, so you're constantly moving from one idea to another, and generally they do enough unique stuff to stand out from each other well. The key thing is, it's a lot of fun. The melodies are really catchy, the vocal performance is punchy during the louder parts of the album and melodic in the softer parts, and the instrumentation is really energetic (if not always as heavy as it could be). The one thing I do really dislike about this album is when the vocals are randomly pitched up/down - if you think that sounds a bit weird and out-of-place, you'd be right. It doesn't sound good, at all, and it happens enough times that it becomes a problem. As there's so many different ideas here it's not unlikely there'll be some you really enjoy, some you don't, and a few that'll just leave you a bit confused - but still, I'd say it's well worth giving a shot if you like loud guitars.

Further listening: Disclosure's Never Enough EP is just a very fun, exciting house project with superb production.

Either way, that's all for this month! I think these were all the big albums from this month. Can't think of any others. See you in October!!

Book Review

Written by: FunkyK38 (talk)

Tokyo Ever After
Author Emiko Jean
Release date 2021
Genre Romance, YA
Pages 336
Available From

Hello, readers, welcome back to a new Book Review! This month, I will be reviewing Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean!

I come from the generation that grew up watching the Anne Hathaway Princess Diaries movies, and I graduated to the original Meg Cabot books when I was in high school, so when I saw that this book was being billed as “Princess Diaries, but with a touch of Japan”, I was very interested. Let’s take a look to see how it stacks up against the lofty series.

Our main character, Izumi, is growing up in a small town in California where she is a typical girl- she has a tight-knit group of friends who share her experiences as WoC at their tiny high school, she likes to watch Netflix, and lives with her mom and a tiny, ugly dog she loves. Her father has never been in her life, until Izumi and her BFF find a book that has a message written to her mother with a name attached. They do some detective work to find out that this man, Izumi’s father, is actually the crown prince of Japan, and unknowingly, they set off a massive chain reaction that flings Izumi into the global spotlight. She’s whisked away to Japan, where she is introduced to not only her long-lost father, but the rest of the Royal family and also a gruff bodyguard who has been assigned to guard her safety. Izumi must learn how to live with her new circumstances and family as she tries to navigate the minefield that is royal life.

I like Izumi. She is definitely relatable, and although I felt there were times where she got on my nerves because she was being reckless or lazy, that didn’t hurt her too much. I liked how she steps up to take more responsibilities for her own learning and education, and how she butts heads with Japanese culture because American culture is all she’s ever know. Her struggle to find the part of herself that she feels like she has been missing all her life is handled well, and it’s good to see her react to the consequences of her actions, even if sometimes her good intentions get her in trouble. Jean is excellent with location descriptors- it was really easy to visualize walking through the royal palace, or walking through the forest in Kyoto, or even at home in Izumi’s messy bedroom, and it felt like someone is taking me on a tour of a place they know very well and consider home. I can definitely see the comparisons to Princess Diaries, but this book is fresh enough to stand on its own two legs without falling back on too many tropes or cliches. In fact, the setting of Japan gives a good way to spin old tropes, such as etiquette issues. If you’ve only read princess stories that involve countries that are more like medieval Europe than Asia, this book is great for a new viewpoint, where things that would be seen as ‘polite’ in some of those books are seen as rude in this one. It gave me a new perspective, and that’s something I’m always glad to have. It’s a great story, and I can’t recommend it enough. There is a sequel coming early next year, and I'm excited for it! I’d love to return to this story and see more of Izumi’s adventures in Japan and beyond.

If you liked The Princess Diaries, or if you’re a fan of rags-to-riches princess books in general, I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a fantastic story with a sweet romance and a good look at Japanese cultural elements, even if some of them may or may not be fully accurate. It’s a fun story, a great developing romance, and all around a fun story to lose yourself in. Definitely check it out, princess fans!

That’s all for me this month, readers! Tune in next issue for a special edition of Book Review where I will be looking at a book that I have been waiting to get my grubby hands on!

Pokédex Power

Written by: Yoshi876 (talk)

It's an Order Pokémon, and I swear these legendries have so much power.

Hello everyone, it's me, Yoshi876 again with a new edition of Pokédex Power, the section written by the person who is wondering why it was called the Sinnoh region, after the ancient times clearly giving it a different name and even some regional variants. And yes, like us all, I do believe that Hisuian Growlithe is a good boy, that needs lots of cuddles.

And this time that opening paragraph does have some tenuous link to the main body of this section, and no it's not that we're looking at a reginal variant, or even anything that is actually a part of the Sinnoh region, instead we're looking at one of the main legendries from the Kalos region, Zygarde. Why is there a link there? Because Zygarde does have differing forms, much like a regional variant.

As a post-game legendary Pokémon, I haven't really touched Zygarde, my main memories consist of me catching it in a Dusk Ball some years ago and then never thinking of it again until we got to this section. But does my lack on interest mean it has bad Pokédex entries? Let's find out…

Generation VI

Pokémon X When the Kalos region's ecosystem falls into disarray, it appears and reveals its secret power.
Pokémon Y It's hypothesised that it's monitoring those who destroy the ecosystem from deep in the cave where it lives.
Pokémon Omega Ruby When the Kalos region's ecosystem falls into disarray, it spears and reveals its secret power.
Pokémon Alpha Sapphire It's hypothesised that it's monitoring those who destroy the ecosystem from deep in the cave where it lives.

Given the 'Order' spiel of this Pokémon, I would've expected it more to be keeping order between Xerneas and Yveltal as opposed to focusing on environmental issues, but whatever really floats its boat. X and OmegaRuby maybe hint towards this a bit, without going into much detail about how disarrayed the ecosystem needs to get, especially given the Great War that we know happened within the region. But what is Zygarde's "secret power", I hope it's not the move Hidden Power, because that's not always the best one depending on what type it's up against? And out of curiosity, during my playthrough of Y, did I doom the entire ecosystem of Kalos to an inevitable collapse after I caught Zygarde, because I'm not sure how much monitoring of the region it'll be doing inside its new Dusk Ball. Although perhaps if I use it in battle, that is when I'll be subjected to its wrath.

Generation VII 50% Forme

Pokémon Sun This is Zygarde's form when it has gathered 50% of its cells. It wipes out all of those who oppose it, showing not a shred of mercy.
Pokémon Moon It's thought to be monitoring the ecosystem. There are rumours that even greater power lies hidden within it.
Pokémon Ultra Sun This is Zygarde's form when about half of its pieces have been assembled. It plays the role of monitoring the ecosystem.
Pokémon Ultra Moon Some say it can change to an even more powerful form when battling those who threaten the ecosystem.

Who looks at a legendary Pokémon and decides to oppose it? If Zygarde is rampaging around, you can be rest assured I will be as far away as possible from it, and what triggers this rage? I am going to go out on a limb here and presume that it is to do with the ecosystem, but it does raise the issue (which I probably should've raised in the preceding summary) of why does Zygarde care solely about the Kalos region? A bit like Palkia being the 'God of Space' from a few sections back, all regions have an ecosystem, why does Zygarde not care about theirs equally as much? I do like how Moon and UltraMoon hint towards the Pokémon having more power than what is shown, but divulging too much. As much as I harp on at Pokédex entries being a little bit vague, it can also be good when legendries do have a sense of mystery, given that it makes sense for researchers to not know too much about them.

10% Forme

Pokémon Sun Its sharp fangs make short work of finishing off its enemies, but it's unable to retain this body indefinitely. After a period of time, it falls apart.
Pokémon Moon This is Zygarde's form when about 10% of its cells have been gathered. It runs across the land at speeds greater than 60 mph.
Pokémon Ultra Sun This is Zygarde when about 10% of its pieces have been assembled. It leaps at its opponent's chest and sinks its sharp fangs into them.
Pokémon Ultra Moon Born when about 10% of Zygarde's cells have been gathered from all over, this form is skilled in close-range combat.

I almost see this as a bit of a baby Zygarde, in which it has boundless energy, evidenced by the speeds that it can run at, and perhaps a flash of immaturity with how aggressive it is, but given its dog form I'm not surprised that it's a biter. And given its sharp claws and teeth, it makes sense that it's great with close-range combat, I can really imagine this Pokémon sniping off at others from a distance. The only thing for this set of entries that I feel doesn't make sense is why it's not able to keep this form. This is a small dog, surely it'd be easier to keep this form than a giant snakelike being or a large golem?

Complete Forme

Pokémon Sun This is Zygarde's form at times when it uses its overwhelming power to suppress those who endanger the ecosystem.
Pokémon Moon This is Zygarde's 100% form. It has enough power to overwhelm Xerneas or Yveltal.
Pokémon Ultra Sun This is Zygarde's perfected form. From the orifice on its chest, it radiates high-powered energy that eliminates everything.
Pokémon Ultra Moon Born when all of Zygarde's cells have been gathered together, it uses force to neutralise those who harm the ecosystem.

Can I just say, that perhaps annihilating everything when trying to protect the ecosystem might do a bit more damage? Like, I can understand it obliterating the deforesters, but why finish their job and destroy all trees in the vicinity? I guess we just needed something cool for that cannon that's built into it. Other than that, this set of entries just keeps telling us that Zygarde is really really powerful. Like, it can even overpower Xerneas and Yveltal, despite a massive type disadvantage to the former. I guess Pokémon logic still has to Pokémon logic.

Conclusion There are good and bad points to the Zygarde's Pokédex entries, in that it still manages to keep a sense of mystery to it. With normal Pokémon, I expect oodles of knowledge based on the fact that we've had years to study them, but when it comes to a legendary Pokémon, research can be hard. The 100% form does seem to move into the so powerful it's likely a threat to all human life part that many legendries have, and it'd make more sense for it to struggle to hold that form together than it does when it's just a small pupper, but there's nothing in these entries that actually annoys me. Which given how the past few section have been, can only be a good thing.

K-Pop Album Reviews

Written by: Zange (talk)

[Editor's Note: This is a video-based section, so please take a look at the video below to enjoy the section!]

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)
Featuring art by: Toadbert101 (talk)

Actual photograph of me doing reviews.

Hello, and welcome to another issue of Half-Baked Reviews! Number 60 to be exact! I’ve been going at this now for five years, with my first installment being waaaaay back in September 2016 in Issue 114! A lot has changed since then, from the macro to the micro. Politics, society, our landscape, to education, experiences, access, development, simply time. The first few issues of my review lacked focus and, basically, passion. I was doing it to help support Critic Corner after becoming its Director, seeing a more lax and directionless section as the niche that was missing and desired. I started doing reviews based on pretty much anything, suggestions from friends and readers mostly, with an emphasis on things I’ve never tried before. I wouldn’t say I’m embarrassed by my earlier sections, even though they’re certainly not the type of writing I’d do now, because it was a kind of necessary adolescence; there’s no shame to be found in finding your footing, and the presumption that art and skills are innate or formed overnight are a fallacy, the idea that progress ceases more so.

It sounds weird to say, but writing Half-Baked Reviews unlocked passion in me, and gave me something to perpetually work on and work towards. It gave me happiness. In my life, food was never a happy or joyful thing, it was always the weapon used in punishment, or the focus of gatherings that would always turn sour, and I just never had a good relationship with it. I’ve been known in my family as the one who hates everything, doesn’t like any food, just peanut butter sandwiches since I’ve been 4 and that’s it, and it’s no wonder that was the case when I was simultaneously not allowed to explore, whether it was crippling restrictions or flat out poverty, not to speak of any of the abuse I faced that drove me further and further away from new things. With writing a section in which the entire basis was made on reviewing something I have never tried before, it put me in a position where I had to keep expanding outside my bubble so as to not run out of things to review. It is my hope with this section to introduce new things to readers, to give more background information than they ever would’ve considered relevant, to not be afraid to be critical as much as praising, and to just emphasize the joy in being adventurous.

To honor the spirit of this, this month I’m starting a new focus to go back and retry things every other month or so that I may not have given the full focus they deserved before just trashing them with negative reviews. Eggnog, gingerbread, taro, Turkish delight, sparkling water, nonhomogenized milk for starters, and of course more that I’ve logged and noted. Oh noooo, my trip to Paris was sooooo bad!! I definitely have to redo it and go back there, perhaps explore other places as well!

Let’s begin with one of the ones that led to my most negative experiences, of which has greatly expanded into the market between now and when I first reviewed it back in August 2017: kombucha.


So to start, what is it? Kombucha is a fermented tea, often made with black or green tea, and a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) which grows to become a thick biofilm and mat. Basically, brew some tea and then lob what appears to be a heavily degraded blobfish into it, and then let the magic happen. The SCOBY feeds off of the sugars and releases CO2, naturally carbonating the liquid. It is then refrigerated to halt the fermentation process, which can continue happening once it warms back up as the whole thing is pretty much a living organism.
HalfBaked 174 2.png
The fermentation process also, by definition, produces alcohol, and also creates acetic acid, lending to its sour and funky taste, as well as plenty of other organic acids like lactic acid, propionic acid, glucuronic acid and gluconic acid. The beverage is said to have originated in China thousands of years ago, but then traveled to Russia and Eastern Europe a couple hundred years ago to eventually become a homeopathic drink filled with probiotics, antioxidants, and all kinds of pseudoscientific dreams and wishes. This here is actually a pretty good article that goes deep into kombucha’s history and sudden market craze in the last couple decades.

Once a product for only the most crunchy of holistic spiritual people, it now stretches its appeal from its enlightened-white-person-who-won’t-shut-up-about-chakras sphere, to health conscious middle agers, to trendy young adults, up and down the economic spectrum, across all age classes. It’s very much seen and branded as a well-to-do liberal product, and as such is met with derision from people inclined towards conservatism and simple lifestyles. I wonder what ploy will help kombucha brands break into that market, but am afraid to find out. As the health benefits of kombucha hover in the realm of pseudoscience and anti-health quackery, such as claims it will help treat and resolve Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and various cancers, probiotic bacteria is often added to provide some kind of actual real accepted health benefit, a move that helps kombucha makers squeeze into a ripe market of people sick and tired of kefir and sauerkraut.
HalfBaked 174 2 2.png
Please take a gander at part of my original definition of kombucha from a few years ago and ponder its ramifications in our currently pandemic-ravaged world today: "The [KeVita website] has this huge banner of some white dude doing yoga in a bunch of mud or wet sand or something, which is an immediately red flag that this is a garbage product that’s overpriced just to appeal to well-to-do people who believe that just because they haven’t had a cold in 2 years that vaccines are no longer necessary."

All kinds of things can also be added, usually labeled as adaptogens, such as reishi, ginger, chaga, ashwagandha, all kinds of shrooms, roots, twigs, berries, and whatever, to get a leg up on the competition for just how much healthy nonsense they can pack into one funky drink. Plenty of them make claims that the kombucha is raw, a term meant to imply that pasteurization was not employed but otherwise has very loose definitions. The silver lining to all of this performative health pandering is that kombucha is often sold with unique flavors that you can’t really find in other drinks or products prepared for sale on the retail level, expanding quite wide and far in its range giving plenty of appeal for people to find the one that aligns exactly with what they like.

The website of one of the ones I’m reviewing later has a nice FAQ about kombucha as well. Rest assured that I’ll absolutely be diving into various aspects of kombucha in closer detail as necessary in each segment. I understand it’s not fair to review a product with purported health benefits without setting aside time and analysis for that, but also that’s not really my goal here, or what I seek for in items I buy, and I assume the same is for most people. Does it taste good? Is it worth what I paid? Does it interest me to buy it again?


This was the first kombucha brand I grabbed since my last review, pretty much entirely because it was buy one get one at my store and I combined it with a coupon to where I got both of them for like 15 cents. Like with pretty much every health-conscious brand that’s hit it big, Humm was founded by a couple white women who just decided one day to make a multi-million dollar corporation. Okay, that interpretation is a liiiiitle unfair, but come on, I’ve seen this story a lot now, but I’m curious what the spark was that turns all of these small hobbies and businesses that are effectively doing something literally anyone else can do into a massive success in a couple years.
Big fan of the fun and busy drawing design, just wish it was different on each one.
My suspicions align with reality, that people who care about flavor are a larger market than people who care about pseudoscience and hallucinated benefits. Realizing that appealing flavors and lower prices would create an entry point into the kombucha market for people who are curious, but not so daring enough to drink the repulsive products of other companies. Aggressive pushing of their product and just generally seeming like some nice people helps, too.

Strawberry Lemonade

Raw kombucha, natural organic ingredients, probiotic, antioxidant, gluten-free, alcohol-free, GMO-free, vegan, and with added B12 for energy. Tastes exactly like what it says, strawberry and lemonade. I do appreciate that it’s not that fake strawberry flavor and instead more bright. Not as much of that icky fermented trash taste, even in the aftertaste it remains sweet.

Ginger Juniper

Same virtues as before, but now also low in sugar. Not as bad as I was expecting. Actually, kinda good! Very carbonated once again, seems to be a hallmark of this brand. Still kinda tart, but sweeter than my last foray into this. VERY bubbly, very much the most immediate thing noticed, almost feels sharp before the exactly-as-it’s-labeled flavor kicks in.

After being pleasantly surprised by how amateur-friendly these tasted and felt, I believed I was ready to start sampling whichever other ones I felt comfortable actually paying for; a simple task as each brand seemed to rotate each week which one was BOGO or discounted.

Whole30 Approved Mango Lemon

Hard to think of many other food products that are explicitly compliant with a specific diet program. Keto maybe?
Whole30 is a 30-day diet program that has pretty strict rules, eliminating a lot of stuff from the menu to eat, and then after the 30 days slowly reintroduce everything to see what may have been causing problems. It’s infamous for being incredibly difficult to find food for, as well as just not being how nutrition works, and actually pretty problematic and potentially even worse for your long term health. As the diet program has gained massive popularity over the years, more companies seem to be acknowledging it, and are creating and branding products that explicitly say that it fits within the Whole30 diet, and what makes this particular Humm kombucha compatible is, for the most part, no added sugar. Looking at the ingredient listing on their respective pages also literally shows that the only difference between the Whole30 Approved kombuchas and the regular Humm kombuchas, aside from their own particular flavors and juices, is the regular has organic cane sugar and the Whole30 does not. This sounds pretty negligible, but sugar is what the yeast and bacteria need to even make kombucha in the first place, so some wonder of chemistry (likely just feeding off of the naturally present sugars in the fruit juices and purees) is what makes this product special, and currently the only Whole30 Approved kombucha on the market.

From the perspective of someone who has just removed added sugar, alcohol, grains, most legumes (beans, cranberries, peanuts, soy), dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, and even any attempt to recreate a banned food item with approved items (“a pancake is still a pancake, even if it’s made with coconut flour”), it’s pretty alright, but from the perspective of someone looking for something to drink at all, it’s lacking. It definitely smells like mango, but with each sip I’m not really finding much of it. The tea flavors are more at the forefront, if that’s what you like, and surprisingly the funky kombucha flavor is pretty minimal. Most importantly, though, is it’s like...shockingly dry. Like, I feel parched as soon as I take each sip, like it’s actively draining my mouth of moisture. I just don’t see the point of drinking anything that leaves me feeling more thirsty and just simply uncomfortable all for the sake of adhering to a diet.

Nothing can beat this review, though, from Utah business owner, Turnip. “Gross. Doesn't taste great as far as kombucha flavors. Definitely needs a sweetener.” In the act of completely missing the point of this product, Turnip has scathingly criticized the movement behind it.

KeVita Master Brew Kombucha

This is the brand I reviewed to much revulsion all those years ago, having chosen Raspberry Lemon and Tart Cherry. Based on that review, the most prominent aspect of them was the smell, from a simple “wet bandage” for the Raspberry Lemon, to the verbose “the smell you get after you stomp around in grimy pond water in socks, then continue wearing those socks while working in a hot kitchen for 10 hours until your feet rot and are replaced by the gunk similar to a fossilized tree stump, and then finally trying to air your feet out and in an effort to prevent the stench from destroying a nearby city you spritz a little store brand lemon air freshener on them and call it a day” for the Tart Cherry. Feeling a burst of courage, Tart Cherry is the one I chose to fully retry.

KeVita as a brand is very heavy on probiotics and digestive health, using a branded microbial bacteria as its main gut oomph. It’s also kosher, gluten-free, Non-GMO Project verified, and non-alcoholic. The alcohol content of kombucha is something that just is natural as a result of the fermentation process, but is still low, if present at all. KeVita also sets itself apart from other kombucha brands by using a filtration process to remove sediment that would otherwise be in other less processed kombucha teas, emphasizing a smooth taste. It also has added caffeine, likely to give you an energy jolt that you would mistake as being a pick-me-up from just how probiotic your gut is right now.

Tart Cherry

Cracking open the bottle and that first release of fizz and aroma smells more like cherry than like foot funk, so that’s a good start. Flavor is very similar to the smell, making apparent that the two are intrinsically linked. Cherry and fizz are at the forefront, but as it lingers in your mouth there’s just like..something there, some kinda funk, enough to remind me that yeah this is a fermented tea and not just some kind of saccharine soda. It’s not too tart, kinda just as if it was fresh homemade lemonade with the amount of puckering I felt. I can see how this could satisfy a soda craving while being arguably healthier, if only by just not being as actively unhealthy as name brand sodas, but other than the carbonation the texture is smooth and clear as advertised. The flavor and feeling it gives, I wouldn’t call addicting for sure, but definitely was interesting enough to pique curiosity and keep sipping to try and figure it all out. It helped that constantly taking sips would refresh the flavor in my mouth to stave off the bleh aftertaste.

Bold, yeah. Smooth? Ehh..

I didn’t want to chug the whole thing, so I closed it and put it back in my fridge which I thought was fine as it has a closeable twist top implying you can close it and return to it later. Worst mistake. First sip the next day immediately shot the physical specter of dead and rotted garbage juice straight into the back of my throat. The only thing I can compare it to is getting a big surprise whiff of a communal garbage dump that hasn’t been taken care of by property management in a week after sitting out in the sun during a musty and humid Florida heatwave, but in flavor form in your mouth. As such, my recommendation is to just drink it right away when you buy it, and commit to finishing the whole thing.

I’m really not sure why this happened, as many kombucha and brewing sites give the same information regarding storage and shelf life: that kombucha, unopened, has a very long shelf life if refrigerated, and once opened is good for about a week with the biggest risk being losing some of its bubbliness, and that only if left out in room temperature for too long will it begin to degrade by the way of continuing the fermentation process. I did what was recommended and should not have had the experience I had.

Probably the brand I noticed sediment the most.
Kombucha smelling like garbage, wet bandage, or feet, is not uncommon and really an expected occurrence in all kinds of brewing thanks to, in one part, a particular strain of yeast called Brettanomyces, or ‘Brett’. This yeast produces isovaleric acid, which is the same exact compound responsible for literal foot odor. This is something that can occur in any brew, rate of occurrence depending on the level of quality control and, well, any real concern that it’s actually a problem. I’m suspecting kombucha just tasting like sweaty feet is something people just come to expect and just grit through it, but I am here to say that it’s not necessary! It doesn’t need it!

Lemon Cayenne

I also got their Lemon Cayenne Sparkling Probiotic Drink, which is NOT a kombucha drink, I repeat, NOT KOMBUCHA. I did this specifically to just try a product from KeVita that wasn’t kombucha to see if the funk and flavor is across the board, or just an aspect of kombucha. The secondary reason is because when I bought it I didn’t realize it wasn’t kombucha, so, _. It still is fermented, but has water kefir culture, which is an alternative to milk-based and kombucha probiotic drinks. It’s not kefir, it’s not kombucha, it’s kinda like an in-between but not really, it’s just easy to think of it that way. Symbiotic clumps of stuff making gas and acid, same thing, different base. Either way the flavor is only kinda lemony, like if you have a lemon wedge resting in your glass of sparkling water, but with a very subtle dairy smoothness in the aftertaste and residual mouth texture. Getting absolutely no cayenne, though, in terms of a spicy kick. A little sweet, a little citrusy, a little bubbly, and allegedly good for you, so I’m fine with it. Nice of KeVita to make products that don’t trigger visceral disgust in me.

Mother Kombucha

Branding itself as the first Florida regional kombucha brand, despite being founded in 2014, well after a whole bunch of other regional kombucha brands who don’t feel it necessary to make any first claims, Mother Kombucha appears to be available throughout just the southeast United States, particularly Florida. This seems to be something you’ll notice with kombucha, that all but a few brands are regional, local, or small, operating within just their own city metro area or state. I can’t seem to find any direct information as to why, but my suspicions come from several angles: 1) while it’s an easy enough product to make on a small scale as a home project, it’s a lot more difficult to produce it with consistent quality that meets strict requirements (0.5% abv threshold, etc.); 2) like with alternative milks, the market has a new surge of interest that is resulting in everyone throwing their hat into the ring, and not enough time has passed to really start filtering out underperformers and pushing the winners towards full national embrace; 3) the nature of the market it’s appealing to being interested in local and smaller batches of basically anything to begin with. Their weird branding quirk that really bothers me aside, they practice ‘conscious capitalism’, which I guess means not being a bunch of life-sucking scumbags like other companies can be, emphasizing livable wages, solar power, responsible sourcing of its tea, and seems to back it up with actual examples instead of just declaring that they do.
I wonder what the total requirements are for the Women Owned tag; can a company become too big for it?

Hopped Passion Fruit

It has all the same stuff that pretty much every other kombucha has, like probiotics, B vitamins, organic, vegan, but has something I haven’t seen emblazoned on a package yet: adaptogens. It’s a herbal medicine concept that seems to be rather lax on actual evidence or a medical or scientific basis, making claims that they help stabilize physiological processes and promote homeostasis. It’s effectively just a buzzword that markets the product as something that’s good for you without really explaining why or how. In this particular kombucha flavor, the listed adaptogens are hibiscus and amla, very appropriately marked with a magic wand symbol.

The full list of ingredients are (all organic) raw kombucha (kombucha culture, water, green tea, cane sugar), hops, hibiscus, amla, and passionfruit flavor extract. It tasted simply like a fruity beer, but less of a huffing-a-solid-brick-of-yeast vibe than I get with actual beer. Actually tolerably tasty, with only a little bit of musty funk in the aftertaste if you remember you’re drinking soggy mold water. The flavor leans towards floral with a bit of tartness to it, sweet without feeling like a soda. I could see this working as a beer alternative or something to drink while laying poolside, sure.

Mother Kombucha also has a line called Agua Bucha, which is kombucha-infused sparkling water, which is uhhhhhhhh...yeah… I can understand this to an extent, it’s sparkling water with a bit more of a kick to it, bringing the unique sensations of kombucha to people who wouldn’t really be into the full thing, but I can’t help but think that this is just kombucha that was heavily watered down with the price kicked up. It really just seems like a crass attempt to cash in on the sparkling water craze, in a way that seems too fake to be real, but here it is. Plus, it’s shelf-stable at room temp, what about the live yeast and bacteria? What did they do with it? How was it infused? No added probiotics so what’s the point? Unfortunately the product is just simply too new, and only sold in areas currently too far from me--Tampa only, it seems--so I guess I’ll get back to it if I feel it’s necessary.

Big Easy Bucha

A proud New Orleans brand, Big Easy Bucha boasts its sourcing of small farmers in gulf coast communities and redirecting a portion of their profits into regional charities. They’re really big on their natural probiotics which aid digestion, nothing extra added. All organic, vegan, gluten-free. No additives, preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. They also partner with Strive NOLA, a program that helps provide jobs and livable wages to individuals with barriers to employment, a nice and PR-friendly way to say giving jobs and necessary skills to keep those jobs to former convicts, a wonderful goal to help reduce recidivism.

Florida Dreamin’

Orange is such a fun color.
Infused with Florida orange and vanilla and oak aged. Made with 100% Florida orange juice from Natalie's Orchid Island Juice Company, and is a Publix exclusive. A creamsicle is included with the imagery on the label so my expectations are absolutely set. I got really none of the flavors described, but still got that kinda funky aftertaste that seems to be the calling card of kombucha. Not really an obnoxiously foul flavor, but it just doesn’t hit the spot; the combination of the carbonation and the musty aftertaste just makes me feel even more thirsty. It’s one of those drinks that results in a phenomenon known to me and my brothers, that when drinking something that is undesirable, it just does not seem to deplete. You’ll feel like you got a couple big swigs out of it and glance back at the clear bottle hoping that you made major headway, only to see that the liquid hasn’t even dropped below the top of the label yet. Every other review I’m seeing on Big Easy Bucha and specifically Florida Dreamin’ are absolutely raving about how flavorful and tasty they are, leaving me sorta confused, and further cementing my belief that there’s basically no other food review out there besides me who actually samples the products they’re reviewing.

The bottle, as bright and fun as it is, includes a bible quote that basically means that every good thing in your life has come from the heavens, and, A relatively harmless addition to their branding, but enough of a choice that may put another product that has all the same good stuff, but not this, more in my favor. Someone else who vibes with this can continue buying this product, but that’s not me. It’s also certainly quite a 180 from the satanic panic kombucha stirred up in the 90s.

In a market where your product has little actual evidence and science, all you have to sell are your virtues.

Buchi Craft Brewed Kombucha

Buchi Kombucha is exactly the fashionably upper-middle class photogenic outdoorsy-adjacent hipster brand of kombucha that you’d expect to come out of Asheville, North Carolina. Just listen to how they talk about themselves:

Buchi is a community-centered, women-owned, value-driven business that was founded in 2009 out of dissatisfaction with the status quo nutritional standards that were being championed by conventional beverage brands. Determined to forge our own path, we began brewing kombucha—seeking inspiration from our ancestral roots, and tapping into the traditional practices and wisdom of those before us. Our vision of cultivating health led us to create a drink with uncompromising standards—one that was nourishing, nutrient-dense, and alive with probiotic organisms to support the complex ecosystem of our bodies. We were amazed to discover that something so real and simple could be so magical and complex - and that our community was as thirsty for it as we were. In 2016, Buchi opened the first commercial kombucha brewery in the Southeast, and expanded our offerings to include Kefir Soda. Now a subsidiary of FedUp Foods, we are proud to say we remain an independently-owned company who holds true to the belief that a drink can be more than a drink, and healthy guts lead to open minds.

For better or worse this is exactly the kind of thing people with RBG prayer candles but a visceral disgust of homeless people would be into, and I can say this because I absolutely am subtweeting some friends of mine who somewhat recently got back from their trip to Asheville.


That all being said, I’m not here to (solely) judge them on their reputation as a company and general trend-chasing perception, I’m here because I bought their Legacy flavor one day and drank it. Incredibly difficult to read the label as it’s highly reflective graphics with white text and a light background, and I gotta awkwardly angle it and bring it into shade just to attempt to read any thin strip that currently isn’t reflecting light. USDA Organic, raw kombucha, non-gmo, vegan, all that good stuff.
The encouragement to make my own kombucha by just letting the SCOBY grow is honestly tempting.
The actual flavor is Orange Mango Sea Buckthorn; organic mango puree, organic orange juice, and organic sea buckthorn. Wouldn’t be a true kombucha tea brand if they didn’t throw in a wildcard every now and then. Sea buckthorn is a shrub, in which its berries, leaves, seeds, and flowers are used in teas, oils, and concentrates to allegedly treat and relieve a whole laundry list of ailments, some of which can be seen in animal studies which is shockingly more than what most of this kinda stuff can boast. Their flavor is said to be tart and close to orange, mango, and pineapple, so I guess it makes sense in this batch. As far as I’m aware the sea buckthorn berries contribute absolutely nothing to the flavor, and while plenty of sources claim it’s fruit, sweet, tart, sour, every possible flavor you can throw a dart at, this source here says it smells like old socks, which fits in line with kombucha. But, dude, even their description of mango is pretentious: "Mangos originated in Southeast Asia and India, where references to the fruit are documented in Hindu writings dating back to 4000 B.C.E. Buddhist monks cultivated the fruit and consider it to be sacred because it is said that Buddha himself meditated under a mango tree."

So with all that judgment being thrown around, what does it actually taste like? Upon first sip I’m only getting a really faint hint of fruity citrus, hardly able to tell if it’s orange, mango or anything. Not necessarily bad, it tastes beautifully sweet and alright, just not a recognizable flavor. A bit of tartness to it, but nothing that makes me recoil or pucker. It smells very cheesy once it begins to approach room temperature, something that happens quite rapidly in the Florida heat, lending credit to that news article. Not bad, but not phenomenal, certainly an ok product, but there’s other brands that taste better, smell better, and don’t leave me feeling like I’m becoming a target of left-wing and right-wing twitter ire for purchasing.

Kombucha Wagon

Let's hope that sea buckthorn berries create a magic anti-covid forcefield around faces, like some kind of, I don't know, a mask or something.
I regularly go to farmers markets in the area, and one of them I pretty frequently go to has always had some metal camper-lookin’ thing set up selling kombucha, right next to the French baker I always get at least a muffin from. Never gave it much thought aside from being annoyed that the long line at it is getting in my way to the French baker, or old rich people thinking I’m in line for that and then cutting me, until I started writing this review and gave it a better look. Their steel wagon has several flavors on tap, and seem to cycle each week, and on a table right by they have a cooler that has cans for sale alongside their nitro coffee line and soap that seems to be part of a Zero Waste Project reusing their production scraps. Each can, about 12 oz, cost $5, which is enough to be concerned about, but when taking into context that it’s a specialty product, made in small batches, produced locally, for sale at a farmers market, appealing to a class and subset of the population that prioritizes real (and perceived) health benefits (and trends) over all else, it easily adds up. Aside from their mainstay spot at the farmers market, they also sell and ship online, and their Instagram indicates that they were sold at Lucky’s Market before they filed bankruptcy and shuttered pretty much all of their stores.
Would love to have more of the fun bear fursona can designs available.
Otherwise, it seems sorta hard to locate where they’re sold. Organic, raw ingredients, no sugar, GMO-free, no plastic used in any packaging, and very much a small local Orlando business.

Golden Pineapple

They have quite a few flavors in cans, but from what I saw in the cooler they had available only Golden Pineapple and Lemon Cherry, alongside the nitro coffees I’m very much not interested in, so I guess these are the ones I got! INCREDIBLY sour, but aside from the initial smell I’m not getting any of that pungent kombucha flavor, likely all masked behind the pineapple, turmeric, ginger, basil, and mint, all of which I can individually taste. I wish this was just a wee bit less sour because it was sorta undrinkable despite tasting pretty alright; maybe just dilute it a bit or use it in some kind of mixed drink.

Lemon Cherry

Smart of them to put bare feet on the can right next to ‘Lemon Cherry’ as that’s actually what it tastes like. Not getting any cherry, with only very little lemony sourness, which may actually be from the kombucha itself. I’m actually getting more ginger feel and flavor, the only other food ingredient, than anything else. Very tart, tastes a lot like a beer but with a pungent jab to the back of my throat that lingers. That said, I don’t hate it! Really wish it tasted like what it’s supposed to as those are both top tier flavors for me.

Root Beer

The carbonation felt pretty low, wondering if it has to do with it coming from tap.
After finally getting another Saturday off that allowed me to go back to the farmers market, I decided that this was the time I’d wait in line and brave the scourge of talking to another human being, with the goal of trying one of the kombuchas the Kombucha Wagon has on tap. Options were Root Beer, Watermelon, Spicy Mango, Pink Guava, and Strawberry, with options to add sea buckthorn berries, frozen blueberries, and blue/green spirulina drops. I was kiiiiinda feelin’ the Spicy Mango until I saw that the ‘spicy’ in it was scotch bonnet, an incredibly hot pepper, and fell back to a safer Root Beer. The Root Beer specifies that it has the adaptogens ginger, chaga, reishi, and rhodiola. The big russian guy, who I assumed was the owner/founder, told me it had dandelion, and I’m left to assume that the rhodiola was meant to be that. All kinds of immune-boosting promises, life-changing health nonsense, who cares, did it taste like root beer? Yyyyyyeah! Kinda! Recognizable! It was definitely some kind of root, certainly root beery, but it tasted a bit more like a watered down cough medicine tonic likely thanks to the ginger and rhodiola. Most notably, though, was that it didn’t have much funk. It was there! I got a hint of it that kinda made me go “oh no, I hope it doesn’t taste like a moldy foot” and then it listened to me and didn’t. No price was listed, and I assume was not necessary given the particular expected clientele in the center of this buzzword health trend and rich people area venn diagram, but I figured it to be $7 thanks to checking my credit card statement and being able to do math. I won’t say I’d be thrilled to spend $7 again on this, but I’m not, like, upset at it being an occasional thing when I’m feeling like I just have more money than I currently need.

I’m willing to give them more of a try, getting around to whatever other flavors I can get to, I don’t really see why not; worst case seems to be too strong of a flavor or too weak, and neither one of those being an ultimate deterrent. Plus, it just feels nice to support a small local place that seems to have pure interests in mind and having fun with it.

Brew Dr Kombucha

I’ve been trying a lot more kombucha teas than what I’ve done so far, and have been making cuts to this review before I go overboard, but made some room for Brew Dr as I found myself referencing their blogs for research pretty often. I wasn’t immediately aware that their blogs were even for an actual product they were selling because they seemed pretty frank, informative, and lacking all that kinda pseudoscience dribble and nonsense (although not totally free). They are pretty vocal about several social topics that I align with, and certainly found humor in their labeling integrity post mixed in with that bunch given their regularly recurring courtroom woes literally over the integrity of their labels. Seeing as they’re quite a major kombucha company, and also seem to be a positive force, I figured I’d lob them $5 to get two of them on sale at Earth Fare, reopened under new ownership.
I feel much more homosexual after having drank this.

Island Mango

I take back what I said about the other fruity kombuchas, THIS one is the fruitiest and most accurate in flavor to what is in it. Can hardly tell it’s even a kombucha tea as there’s just no sourness or vinegar flavor. No funk, no gunk, just sweet mango with a passion fruit twist, and ginger giving it that bright and refreshing kick. Ranks more points on its own scale on the bottle in fruity, with some in spicy, and it seems accurate.


One of their mainline flavors, but Pride edition, emblazoned with shimmering rainbows. Yeah yeah, rainbow capitalism, I’m with it and get the discourse, here’s a pretty good article on the subject that takes a level-headed and reality-based approach. I’ve seen plenty of hollow Pride marketing ploys, but along with the blogs I’ve already read from Brew Dr, they are supporting The Trevor Project through awareness and a monetary donation. The Trevor Project, “the world’s largest organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth”, has been quite a popular go-to LGBTQ thing to donate to lately, and while that is fantastic, I’d also like to start seeing more openly public support for politicians and legislation that can help prevent LGBTQ people from being marginalized and abused to the point of needing a suicide network in the first place. Not a critique of Brew Dr or The Trevor Project, just me kinda rambling, take that as you will!

Lavender, chamomile, jasmine green tea as the primary flavors, with also damiana and rose. On the tasting scale on its label it shows to expect more of a floral-forward drink with a bit of herbal flavor. Kinda hard to pin down the exact flavor in this, which might be due to a lack of familiarity with most of it, but it’s easily agreeable that it tastes like how it says it does, floral with some herbs. I’m also noticing it has a little bite to it, and more of that kombucha funk, likely noticeable without there being strong sweetness or masking citrusy tartness. I’m wondering why these flavors were chosen as the gay ones, but it doesn’t seem wrong. USDA organic, Certified B Corporation, gluten-free, non-gmo, 100% natural, kosher, raw, probiotic, and most uniquely from the ones I’ve tried is a specification for ‘alcohol extracted’. Carbonation is enough to make it feel crisp.

In a little bit of an experiment, I left half of it and put it back in the fridge to sit for a couple days to see if it turned into rotten foot trash like how the KeVita Tart Cherry did. After my initial sniff test and momentary 2021 panic of “I can’t smell much here, do I have covid???” I took a sip expecting the worst, and all I got was like...not much. It seems the flavor dissipated a bit, but was still recognizable and sweet, still just as carbonated, still perfectly fine

Incredible variety from store-to-store, not many things occupy this much shelf space.

I do appreciate kombucha for being a leader in the field of beverages to take wild and creative flavor paths, something that each individual brand tries to lay individual claim to but is something they’re all doing. I can’t really quantify the health benefits I may have received from having so much kombucha in a relatively short time span for someone who otherwise doesn’t drink it at all, but I can give you guys the wonderful news that I’ve been gassier, and I correlate and credit that to suddenly drinking a bottle of kombucha a day for like two weeks. My final comment, though, is that in giving this a fair shot, and expanding my scope to several brands, I was able to get a better feel for how kombucha could be good, neutral, or awful, and how to assess that, predict it, and avoid it, and overall has opened the door for me to just have another drink in my disposal that I may desire every now and then.

The 'Shroom: Issue 174
Staff sections Staff NotesThe 'Shroom Spotlight
Features Fake NewsFun StuffPalette SwapPipe PlazaCritic CornerStrategy Wing