The 'Shroom:Issue 176/Critic Corner
Welcome to November, the month that's not quite December but still has seasonal holidays and Mariah Carey! And just like her, all I want for Christmas is youuuuuuu to read Critic Corner!
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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||9||60.00%||Hypnotoad (talk)|
|2nd||Pokédex Power||4||26.67%||Yoshi876 (talk)|
Welcome to 'Shroom FM. Don't think I disliked anything here, which I guess is good if you're into positivity. If you're not then you may as well skip this month.
ZACK FOX - SHUT THE FUCK UP TALKING TO MEan episode of Kenny Beats' webseries The Cave, where Mr. Beats lays down some [as the name suggests] and a guest rapper freestyles over it. Out of Fox's episode came "Jesus Is the One (I Got Depression)", which is not only very catchy but also everything Fox says in this song is very, very funny - and it serves as a perfect introduction to his unique sense of humour. Now, two years later we have shut the fuck up talking to me. In comparison to that song, it feels like the comedy aspect has been sidelined a bit to put more focus on the beats, and as the result the songs here feel a lot more conventional and sensible; there are plenty of funny lines but, especially in terms of his delivery, it feels surprisingly toned down in comparison to Fox's usual persona. Despite that, there's a lot of fun and creative beats, and Fox's delivery while not as funny is still charismatic and engaging. Highlights include "get off my dick", very catchy retro-sounding beat, and "fafo", with a cool synth beat and catchy chorus. It's only 20 minutes long but it does a lot of fun and enjoyable stuff during that runtime.
JPEGMAFIA - LP! ⭐
PARQUET COURTS - SYMPATHY FOR LIFE
M. SAGE - WANTS A DIAMOND PIVOT BRIGHT
- Magdalena Bay - Mercurial World
- Fun and inventive, rarely great but consistently good. Best track is "Dawning of the Season".
Graphic Novel Review
|Kirby Manga Mania|
Greetings, readers, and welcome back to another edition of Graphic Novel Reviews! This month, I will be looking at Kirby Manga Mania, which is sort of a companion to the Super Mario Manga Mania I reviewed back in July.
This book was released back in June of this year. I had purchased the Mario manga and Amazon chucked this one at me in my recommendations, so I figured I’d review it here as well. Will there be a Zelda Manga Mania next? How about Metroid? Either way, I found the book at my local bookstore and took it home expecting cuteness and fluff, y’know, the standard for Kirby?
Y’all. What I got was so far away from my expectations it was like whiplash. Seriously. This manga, I think, is cursed, and I think I might be cursed now after I’ve read it. I know that we all joke about “Oh Kirby is cute and pink and the best boy but he’s actually a killing machine who destroys capitalism and eats everything” but this is just on a whole different level. It feels like the person who made the decisions about the Zero Two fight from Kirby 64 made this manga as well, and I’m seriously not sure how to feel about this thing. Both on the story direction and the art style.
Let’s talk about the story directions first. Like Super Mario Manga Mania, this book is a collection of strips published by Shogakukan in Japan. They’re not related, and there’s no plot running underneath everything, so you can read each story separately. The very first story in the book is about Kirby getting absolutely PLASTERED at a town picnic. All the villagers and King Dedede don’t want to invite him, because he’ll eat all the food. Understandable. But Kirby gets super drunk, comes to the picnic, and pretty much ruins the whole thing. His karaoke is horrible, he EATS people ALIVE, and he kills the cherry blossoms that the townspeople came to watch bloom. When he finally does manage to sober up, he feels bad about ruining everything and manages to replace all the cherry blossoms he destroyed and the picnic is salvaged. A good chunk of the stories in this book go this way- Kirby is a terrible person, does something selfish, and then learns his lesson and makes it right. I’m not sure if this is meant to be like a PSA for children, “Don’t be a glutton!” or the author just wanted to make Kirby as unlikeable as possible, but that’s what they have managed to do. At least a couple times I was honestly thinking to myself, “Wait, is Kirby the villain here?” and the story doesn’t do much to convince you otherwise. Like the Mario manga, however, it seems like they’re playing this as a joke- Mario was kind of a jerk in that manga and Kirby is really a jerk in this one to make a few jokes that kids would laugh at, like a Saturday morning cartoon. It reminds me of old Looney Tunes cartoons, honestly. If you come into this book expecting it to be cute and delightful, you will be sorely disappointed.
We’ll move on to the art next. Pages are generally full of action, a good mix of black and white ink on the page. Like SMMM, this feels like a manga that’s geared towards kids. Lots of action, the text in the speech balloons is large and minimal, and there are a lot of exaggerated expressions. Generally, the art style is very appealing. However, there are a handful of panels that are just cursed. I’ve included a couple of them around the sides here so you know what I mean, just because I can’t do them justice with words alone. These panels are like a pitfall trap- they spring up on you and are a good startle, definitely. Some of them feel straight out of a horror manga. There aren’t too many that are this bad, and I think the worst of it is in the first half of the book, so once you’re past the first three or four, you’re in the clear for the rest of the ride. I’m not sure why they decided to put all of the weirdest stuff up front, but that’s what they did, so there’s your warning.
This is one of the weirdest manga I’ve ever read. This collection, and in a way, the Super Mario manga as well, feels like that cheesy 90s Nintendo style, like the Super Mario Bros. Super Show, the Donkey Kong Country Cartoon, and even the CDi games. The flagship Nintendo characters have been moving in sort of an arc, I think, in terms of characterization. In the 90s, they were cheesy, in the 2000s and early 2010s, they were typical heroes, and now they’re allowed to be a little more funny, awkward, and relatable. This feels like that 90s Nintendo style, although these comics are recent. Like I said before, it’s refreshing to see the heroes with some depth to their character, but in this case, though, I think it goes a little too far making Kirby so awful.
This one is an interesting recommendation. If you like to think of Kirby as a cute hero who can do no wrong, then you can skip this one. But if you want to go into it like I did, now armed with the morbid curiosity, go right ahead. This is a weird one that will stick with you for a couple days after you read it, and hopefully you won’t have Kirby’s horrible drunk face in your dreams for days to come. This book is also set to get at least three more volumes in the next couple of years, so if you liked this one and want to read more, there will be more coming. As for me, I think I'll leave it at this one, unless you all demand more from me on this series.
That’s all for me this month, readers! Tune in next time for a new book review in the New Year!
Welcome to my annual “explicitly review something that’s not from America” review! I’ve been coming to appreciate more of what Thanksgiving means as I get older, moving on from all the horrible drama and family gatherings of just people I completely don’t want to be around, and moving towards realizing I can just curate my own small gathering and make a bunch of food and make people eat it under the lubricated premise of it being a holiday! For now, though, I’m going to honor a request from Ninja Squid (talk) from, well, several years ago back (specifically January 2019) when he was LudwigVon, and try to tackle his list of Canadian goodies!
To serve as a glossary of sorts, his original list, marked for reference, is:
- Lay's Ketchup chips - This month!
- Nestlé Smarties - Already reviewed
- Nestlé Kit Kat - Bigger plans
- Nestlé Aero - Already reviewed
- Hershey Oh Henry! - This month!
- Cadbury Caramilk - Already reviewed
- Cadbury Crispy Crunch - This month!
- Crush Cream Soda (normally Pink) - This month!
- Hostess Hickory Sticks - This month!
- L.B. Maple Treat's Maple Syrup cookies - This month, kinda!
My journey flashes forward to the Before Times, November 2019, when I was visiting back home in Buffalo and forced everyone to come along with me across the border into Fort Erie, Ontario, so I can collect a bunch of nonsense. We went to a bunch of stores, such as Sobeys, No Frills, and Real Canadian Superstore, all so I could lurch around the candy aisle. I could probably find a way to ramble on for about 4000 words about each particular grocery store, but I think all of our time would be much better spent on me not doing that, and I’d likely spark more joy within myself if people suddenly approached me probing my thoughts on No Name.
My favorite part of this trip was the Sobeys cashier being absolutely tickled when I dumped a basket full of chocolate on her conveyor belt and said I’m an American just picking up some snacks; a moment rivaled by our border crossing interrogation, asking us what we were doing in Canada, and I said “getting candy I can’t get in New York” and the officer just being like, well, ok, have fun.
Lay’s Ketchup Chips
How ketchup chips came about is slightly contentious, it’s more accepted that Hostess, a Canadian chip company that later became part of Frito-Lay, introduced a tomato chip in a line of other fruit-flavored chips like orange, cherry, and grape in the 1970s. Herr’s Snacks, based in Pennsylvania, quite solidly not-Canada, was also making a ketchup chip around that same time, but doesn’t seem to care about credit. It’s safe to say, though, that ketchup chips are widely loved by Canadians and coveted as their own, and elevated towards being a national dish. They are wholly a Canadian thing, and more importantly, not an American thing.
Lay’s isn’t new to having regional flavors, and most certainly in the US is very proficient in the limited edition game where they regularly try out riskier and more adventurous flavors like this year’s Chile Mango and Game Day Chili. They’ve even already had ketchup chips in the US, albeit for a shockingly limited few weeks in the Summer of 2018.
A sickly bright red hue that one would expect more from paprika or something noxiously spicy. In short, I hate them. The reason why is because they absolutely do taste like ketchup well beyond a reasonable doubt, and I hate ketchup! Just because I hate the flavor, though, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Though it is recognizable as ketchup, it is quite sweeter than what you’d get on a burger or something, and I was kinda expecting more of a savory flavor, but there’s more of a vinegar tang, and aligns more with fresh tomato. Given their start as a tomato chip in a line of fruit flavors, I think my sensory experience is more accurate, as it seems everyone has their own thoughts on how it tastes with no agreement between much of anyone. Believe me, would I have any reason to sway you wrong? I think what’s wrong with this chip is that it’s just ketchup flavor, and not paired with something else; it tastes like eating straight ketchup, and quite simply no one does that; maybe if the chip was thicker it would provide some more potato flavor to at least hallucinate that it's just like dipping fries in ketchup.
I’m honestly not sure why the concept of ketchup-flavored potato chips is so jarring to many Americans, it just seems like a logical progression of the merging of a food item and its chosen champion condiment. Ever heard of salt & vinegar? Dill pickle? BBQ? Honey/spicy/yellow mustard? It’s been an observation of mine that ketchup is one of, if not the, last condiment to be truly gentrified and splintered into an enormous variety of craft and specialty products. Go ahead, next time you’re shopping, take a look at mustard, how many varieties there are, how many flavors, how many of them are basically artisan. Check out the mayonnaise and aioli. Salad dressings, vinaigrettes, oils, honey, syrup, hot sauces, everything in the condiment aisle has successfully gone upscale, except ketchup. Maybe it’s spicy, maybe it’s raw, maybe it’s organic, but I’d argue that once you alter ketchup enough it just becomes a barbecue sauce. Plenty of people and companies are certainly trying, and I don’t doubt that one day it will break through, but it’s a sign that ketchup is just something that Americans are fine with being just the base product, unaltered, and thus a ketchup chip is just not an appealing item. Perhaps it’s more the texture of a soft solid pasty pourable ketchup that’s desirable, and when made into a powdered dust it loses the appeal.
Ketchup chips are absolutely available in the US, but they’re not that easy to find, mostly made by smaller craft foodmakers in Canada-adjacent regions, and are not widely available or in many stores, likely to the extent that you could just say they’re not available in the US. I wonder if it would still be pegged as a Canadian item, with their pride and all behind it, if it became available here?
Cadbury Crispy CrunchNeilson, around 1930 as the result of an employee candy bar contest,
it was sold to Cadbury in 1996, along with all of their other chocolate brands. Crispy Crunch is a rather stiff chocolate bar, with a core of flaky hardened peanut butter, not unlike a Butterfinger, but skinnier.
Has a bit more of a caramel toffee flavor than a Butterfinger does, almost masking any sense that it’s supposed to be peanuts. Upon further inspection, this is because there literally is a layer of toffee underneath the chocolate that otherwise goes unmentioned, which is odd as it’s quite a game changer here. Is it toffee? It sure is something different than the chocolate and peanut flake, and certainly gives it that cooked butter flavor.
The amount of each particular inclusion is adequate; I’ve seen some people complain that the amount of chocolate is lackluster, but it’s really fine and all that’s needed to provide a smooth and creamy backing, and I can’t imagine how any more would make it appealing. Compared to a Butterfinger, I think the relative thinness works in Crispy Crunch’s favor. It snaps quite cleanly, whereas my experience with Butterfingers is that it’s just so dang thick that the peanut flake nonsense inside just starts splintering everywhere and makes a mess. Both equally stick to your teeth, though, something I’m becoming more keenly aware of as I get older.
Hostess Original Hickory Sticks
Now merely produced by Frito-Lay with the actual Hostess brand being discontinued, Hickory Sticks are a widely loved Canadian snack; evident by having survived the brand merge. Self-described as “thin, lightly seasoned, delicious”, Hickory Sticks are thinly julienne sliced potato chips, flavored with paprika and other spices to evoke a hickory smoked flavor. This seems to be quite unique in the world of chips, and even snacks; I’m only able to really think of like Andy Capp’s Hot Fries as something even comparable in shape, but these are much smaller, maybe averaging about an inch in length. No, actually, thinking about it now, these absolutely do already exist, we have Pik-Nik here, and potato sticks are available from brands like Utz and French’s, but they all tend to come in cans and shoved towards the Pringles end of the chip aisle. Maybe my poor recall of similar products anecdotally speaks of why Hickory Sticks aren’t available here.
I struggled, at first, to figure out the proper consumption method. I meekly grabbed a single piece and felt silly, then just started grabbing larger amounts, until it graduated into just ramming fistfuls into my mouth at once. Perhaps the best method is just pouring the whole bag into your mouth as if they were the broken pieces at the bottom of the bag. The flavor didn’t seem cumulative, though, as it was just as strong and smoky with one piece as it was with 50. They taste quite bacon-y in a way, salty and savory. I appreciate that the smoke flavor seems genuine, rather than the same fake smoky flavor that seems to be all the rage at upscale brewpubs. There’s a nice crunch to them, and they’re a bit thicker than regular potato chips despite the smaller size; they got stale sitting in a bowl next to me after only an hour or two though, not sure what that’s about.
The shape kinda reminds me of fried onions so I’m just imagining making casseroles with these, and with Thanksgiving around the corner that’s probably not too bad of an idea.
Hershey’s Oh Henry!
Emphasis is placed on the ‘Hershey’s’, as with KitKats, Nestlé makes a different version, too, with Hershey’s in Canada. The details of this are a little convoluted. The Oh Henry! bar was created in 1920 by the Williamson Candy Company, dubious origin stories withheld, with rights to produce it going to Lowney’s in the 1930s. The recipe was sold to a company called Warner-Lambert in 1965 and then Terson, Inc. quickly after. Somewhere in this mix Nabisco got their hands on it, and they produced Oh Henry! for the US market. Hershey’s then bought out Lowney’s in the late 1980s, while Nestlé acquired it in 1984 through buying out Nabisco. By 2018 Nestlé sold the rights to its US confectionary products to Ferrara Candy Company, and their version of Oh Henry! disappeared from American shelves. Hershey’s no longer makes any chocolate in Canada, and simply exports their version of Oh Henry! to there, while they sell the same bar under the name Rally in the US on a limited basis. Sourcing for this information is really spotty and unreliable, but basically the main takeaway points are: Hershey’s now makes Oh Henry! (in the US) for sale in Canada, while Nestlé’s different version that sold in the US is now gone.
The Candy Blog offers a good comparison between the two. The US Nestlé version is a caramel based layer with peanut-filled fudge and coasted in real milk chocolate; the Canada Hershey’s version has a fudge center with caramel layered over it with peanuts embedded, covered with a ‘chocolatey coating’, as it is made with modified palm oil and thus not ‘real chocolate’, and qualifying not as a chocolate bar, but a candy bar. The differences sound minimal, but the execution of it means the Hershey’s version is much more nutty and lumpy, and more of a log wrapped in stuff than stratified layers.
Simply put, it tastes like a Payday, but chewier, less salty, and covered with chocolate. Snickers-y? Snickers has a bit more of an unnatural sweetness to it, while the Hershey’s Oh Henry! seems to just be the sum of its parts in a way I’m ok with. The fudge and caramel provide nice support for a good chew that backs up its promise of satisfying an appetite, and the crunchy provided by the peanuts leads you to believe you’re actually eating something instead of just scarfing down a sleeve of chocolate, a sensation I value quite a bit.
Crush Cream Soda
Crush Cream Soda is just for some reason exclusive to Canada, despite the United States having a good market for cream soda, and has cream soda flavors that are similar to it despite not being the norm. I guess creating some level of exclusivity generates brand hype, pride, and loyalty, but is that worth more than just opening up the variety? More importantly, though, it’s pink! Pink!!!!!! A lot of the lore and mystique surrounding Crush Cream Soda is that it’s pink, a factoid that seems to be a source of both Canadian pride and American (and Québecois) confusion. I’m personally not so sure why this even matters, as plenty of other cream sodas have plenty of other colors,
The ‘cream’ in ‘cream soda’ used to be from egg whites whipped in, or perhaps the cream of tartar used to stabilize the eggs, but that has changed to a Jedi mind trick via vanilla, wherein the perception of creaminess is heightened by simply flavoring an item with vanilla. Crush Cream Soda is flavored with orange and French vanilla, which isn’t that different from America’s reddish cream soda counterpart, Big Red, being flavored with lemon oil, orange oil, and vanilla. With that combination of flavors I’d expect something more along the line of a creamsicle bar, but that’s not what I got. The exact flavor first comes to mind is name-brand bubblegum, likely subliminally gauged with the bright reddish-pink hue, but teeters back and forth towards tasting like a fully-homogenized ice cream float. Quite sweet and creamy for what is just a carbonated soda, definitely not as much of a bite as the American Crush flavors have, and remarkable only about ⅔ of the amount of sugar. I’m not sure if this is something I could drink regularly as it tastes more like concentrated sugar candy, but I did like it for what it was.
Okay, so these aren’t the exact ‘L.B. Maple Treat's Maple Syrup cookies’ that was specified in the recommendation to me, but I contend that I went to several supermarkets in literally Canada and the only maple cookies they had were Dare brand. Maybe had I gone to a more upscale location, or some kind of boutique, but I’ve been assured by real-life Canadians that the brands are comparable and the differences mostly negligible.
These are assuredly a Canadian product, but I’ve definitely seen them available here in the US in sporadic contexts, mostly stocked around the Q4 months for the kickoff of autumn and the explosion of holidays at places like Christmas Tree Shops. This makes me wonder why there’s just not much of a market for Canadian snacks in the US despite being our neighbor; is it just not ‘exotic’ enough? Is it just not a marketable thing if it’s not maple syrup, a national product we share?
First impression is that they look exactly like they do on the box, which is an important truth in branding that the Lay’s Ketchup Chips also hit on. Nice subtle maple flavor, not overly sugary or sweet, and doesn’t taste fake. You can actually taste the crème filling as actual crème filling; no shade to oreos but their white gunk filling is just bland frosting in comparison. The texture is about what I expect from a sandwich-style cookie, as in it feels heftier with the layers, but this one in particular is noticeably crumblier..? Not like...falling apart crumbly, but that it’s not just flat and crispy. It has body, crunchy but still chewy, just overall something that just feels good.
My biggest gripe is actually the miserable industry standard packaging that dooms the entire contents to spoilage as it’s just a big crate with a flimsy plastic covering that needs to be absolutely destroyed to access the cookies, thus exposing them all to air with no ready-made way to reseal them. Sure enough, despite my best attempts to close it back up, they were stale within three days, losing all of the texture I liked and instead became disconcertingly soft, and I had to toss the remaining half of the box. I get that it’s more expensive, time-costly, and competitively risky to produce and would result in customers incurring the increased prices, but this is a marketing revolution that needs to take place. These cookies are too ehhh-alright enough to waste.
|The 'Shroom: Issue 176|
|Staff sections||Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • Awards Director Election|
|Features||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner • Strategy Wing|