The 'Shroom:Issue 180/Critic Corner
Welcome to March! When spring season starts to show up, and then suddenly winter comes right back and hits us with one more snow storm that surprises everyone year after year. At least for me here that means it's now time for the rainy season, where the day starts out extremely hot and humid, and then suddenly the entire atmosphere transforms into liquid and electricity and the temperature drops 30 degrees immediately. While the weather may be unreliable, Critic Corner stays its course, giving you yet another month of thoughtfully written content!
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as February'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
|Critic Corner SECTION OF THE MONTH|
|1st||Anton's Half-Baked Reviews||14||77.78%||Hypnotoad (talk)|
|2nd||All-Time Smash Merit Ranking||3||16.67%||SonicMario (talk)|
I told you there was a lot of interesting stuff coming this month. You should have listened!
BEACH HOUSE - ONCE TWICE MELODY
BIG THIEF - DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU ⭐
BLACK COUNTRY, NEW ROAD - ANTS FROM UP HERE
CAROLINE - CAROLINE
CULT OF LUNA - THE LONG ROAD NORTH
CATE LE BON - POMPEII
CAROLINE LOVEGLOW - STRAWBERRY
MITSKI - LAUREL HELL
K-Pop Album Reviews
This month, Zange reviews (G)I-DLE's I Burn! This may end in flames...
All-Time Smash Merit Ranking
Welcome back to Smash Merit Rankings! The non-Shroom sections voted on this time were Duck Hunt, Dark Pit, and Byleth. Click the name hyperlinks if you haven’t seen those already. But as for our Shroom section characters. We have 2 members of the Original 12. Both have the distinction of both being the first characters to be a 2nd representative of their franchise. Our #2 character needs no introduction, as he’s the most iconic Player 2 of all time.
|Fighter Group||Original 12|
|Game of Origin||Mario Bros. (Arcade, 1983 (US/JP), (NES, 1986 (EU)|
When the very site these rankings are on is called MarioWiki, there’s hardly any need to explain who Luigi is. There’s an entire Luigi article, and many of Luigi’s biggest fanatics are bound to be in the community. In the MarioWiki awards, Luigi has been unstoppable in the Favorite Character award. As of the 2021 awards he’s officially had a decade on top. There’s only been a 3-year span where Luigi did not win favorite major character. When we had a repeat of Mario in 2008 and 2009 and a year Yoshi won it in 2010. But aside from that, Luigi’s been designated the favorite Mario character with 11 wins in that award. And I’m sure we can’t count out #12 coming later this year. (That is if the Awards Committee doesn’t decide to just nix the award because of Luigi’s utter dominance)
So we can point out the obvious. Luigi is pretty much the most popular Mario character. And it’s actually easy to say why. While Mario himself is a lovable character in his own right, he very much seems like a blank slate in most games. As fans of the franchise, we love Mario. But it’s kind of hard to relate to Mario, as aside from exuberant happiness that he exudes in his WAHOO!’s we rarely get a look into Mario as a character. And even when Mario is an actual character in stuff like comics, cartoons, and movies there just isn’t that oomph to his character.
But Luigi on the other hand, has developed more actual character traits then his brother and that underdog status that makes everyone want to root for him. He’s Player 2 in-universe, but in many Mario fandom circles. He may have very well overshadowed Mario. I’m not exactly against the grain as Luigi is my very own favorite Mario character, he’s my default character in most Mario games he’s playable in. (Though perhaps one big exception is I’ve used the Sonic suit for the Miis ever since that was put in Mario Kart 8 ever since that was added. I love Luigi, but if I have the choice of representing the Blue blur in a game. I’ll take that chance! I did use Luigi the most before that costume was included though). He’s my default character in Mario Maker 2, Mario Kart (Aside from MK8 since the aforementioned Sonic suit came out) I played as Luigi, Mario Party I play as Luigi, the Strikers games (His theme in Charged is an absolute jam) and more.
Despite Luigi being my favorite Mario character. I haven’t delved into a majority of the Luigi’s Mansion series as I’ve only done a play through of the first game. And the first game is a pretty short game when you’re not painstakingly going for the highest scores. Luigi is also a good half of the Mario and Luigi series. But I haven’t ever completed a single game of the franchise. The farthest I’ve probably gotten is Joke’s End in Superstar Saga. (On a side note, I wouldn’t be surprised if the M&L series also very much contributed to Luigi’s current popularity given he has some of the funniest moments. Not to mention how he becomes the butt of jokes and is always talked down to by Starlow, so you have fans hating Starlow in defense of Luigi). There is at least Super Paper Mario which I did complete, where Luigi certainly had... an interesting role. Whatever you feel about Super Paper Mario's story.
Now as for the Smash series for what this merit ranking is for. Luigi’s never been my #1 used character. As I gravitated towards Pikachu in SSB64 and Melee. And then of course Sonic ever since Brawl. Though Luigi was a solid #4 in Brawl and is still among my many mains/secondaries. He started off as the very first clone of the series, and then each Smash game since has decloned him further. Melee adding the missile, in Brawl he keeps the spinning down+B when Mario got FLUDD, and in Ultimate he’s given a more longer-range grab with the Poltergust G-00. The term for a character that is a clone of some fashion but has enough moves that are completely different and/or similar but with a different function is even named after Luigi. We call those kind of characters “Luigified” which aside from the main man himself. Lucas, Isabelle, Falco, Wolf all probably qualify as such. It’s a type of clone most people don’t complain about, they share moves with the base character but trying to play the character the same as the base character won’t tend to work, where as other clones that are more similar (Especially echo fighters) can skip no beat between switching to them. Between a missile that has a random chance of becoming a devastating misfire, a Super Jump Punch that sort of functions similar to the down special of our next character coming up soon, and other different attributes from Mario. It probably takes more time to master Luigi then it does Mario, but when you do. Luigi can be a devastating force to be reckoned with.
Luigi may be regarded as the eternal second banana to Mario within the games, but his enduring Player 2 status and more noticeable character traits over the years makes him #1 in our hearts.
And now, on to the 3rd of 4 hidden characters from the Original Smash Bros.
|Fighter Group||Original 12|
|Game of Origin||Pokemon Red/Blue/Green* (Game Boy, 1996 (JP), 1998 (US), 1999 (EU)|
*In Japan, Pokemon Blue debuted as Pokemon Green
Jigglypuff has an interesting place in Smash history. Of all the original 12, it could very well be said she’s the "black sheep". The one character that if there had to be a time where Smash breaks the tradition of bringing back the Original 12. She’s usually the one that people would say they’d choose to cut (Though in this day and age for games, even if that were to happen in a base Smash game. I feel like they’d just bring Jigglypuff back in DLC anyway) whether that’d be reluctantly or if they’d personally press the button to delete Jigglypuff from Smash depends who you ask. All the original 8 are of different and unique franchises that were relevant at the time. Luigi was a no-brainer, and both Captain Falcon and Ness are characters that were quite relevant at the time and were unique franchises, even if both characters would end up not making a major appearance outside of Smash for close to 2 decades. And while the immediate aftermath of Gen 1 was a literal cultural phenomenon, it just seems to many Jigglypuff’s time in the spotlight has been long passed.
Though we should have some more context about Jigglypuff. She was one of the most popular Pokemon in Japan at the time Smash 64 was out. She had some significant episodes in the early seasons of the Anime where Ash and others would get menaced by one particular Jigglypuff, getting their faces drawn on by a Marker whenever they fell asleep due to Jigglypuff’s song. Jigglypuff also benefitted from being relatively easy to build off fellow pink puffball Kirby, Though despite this, it’s arguable that Jigglypuff’s sort of supposed to be the joke character of SSB64. A relatively weak and light fighter that for most people playing Smash 64 for the first time will unlock the very first time they play the game’s classic mode. Jigglypuff also has a really fatal flaw in that if it’s shield is broken. It results in an instant KO, and that weakness has stood ever since. Jigglypuff players as a result have to be extra careful when shielding. Though that part of the “joke” in that popping Jigglypuff’s shield makes her pop like a balloon.
It’s that joke status from the original that has gotten people to wonder why they bother bringing her back every game. Though sometimes it’s hard to believe, there was a time where Jigglypuff was almost cut. Jigglypuff was given no role in the Subspace. She was among Toon Link and Wolf as characters you unlocked in that mode afterward, suggesting all 3 were late additions. While even if Jigglypuff did get cut in Brawl, maybe she’d just simply return in Smash 4 or failing that, certainly Ultimate. It does tell us that the Original 12 maybe wasn’t as invincible as we thought, though one thing’s for sure, is that it stayed strong despite that. A weird thing about Smash 4 is Jigglypuff is not listed with the Original 12 if you looked at the character order in the trophy section. Jigglypuff’s mistakenly put with the Brawl characters for some reason. Poor Jigglypuff got forgotten as an original 12 member by Smash itself. Luckily, Ultimate rectified that.
Perhaps what helped Jigglypuff keep up its place in Smash history, is the competitive scene where players like Hungrybox mastered the character in Melee making them a force to be reckoned with in the right hands. (Though Jigglypuff is not a character most competitive players tend to root for, since Jigglypuff usually depends on a method that isn’t as exciting to watch compared to characters like Fox, Marth, and Captain Falcon.) While I don’t think Jigglypuff will be as competitively viable as she was in Melee ever again, it provided a slice of Smash history that helped give Jigglypuff some relevancy even as Gen 1’s hey day had long past.
That said, probably a part of the reason some have ire with Jigglypuff still having been in is the hyper-focus on Gen 1. Genwunners is an infamous term on the internet. The kind of fans that only focus on Gen 1 (Though I’d argue Gen 2 at the very least tends to have some fondness with most Gen 1 fans). The mentality that the original 151 Pokemon was the best and no generation of Pokemon has surpassed it since. It’s a narrow view, but they do cite some important things such as that it took until the launch of Pokemon Go for Pokemon to ever get back some of the worldwide recognition that Pokemon was in the late 90s and early 2000s. That’s a peak that Pokemon is unlikely to ever reach again. Because there’s an sheer advantage to something being new and a quick pop culture icon of its time. At the very least Pokemon did become pretty much one of the highest-grossing pieces of media of all-time. As combining the games, the TV shows, the trading card game, the merchandise, and more it’s been a constant goldmine for Nintendo and Game Freak ever since its inception.
Though because the moments after Gen 1 was at its most popular got the biggest spike in the franchise. It means that many future games will have something that nostalgia baits. Heck the Gen 6 games allowed you to choose one of the Kanto starters at a certain part of the game. There is also the fact that Gen 1 Gyms, and Areas has been remade by far the most times. You have the Gen 2 post-game, FireRed & LeafGreen, HeartGold and SoulSilver’s post-game, and finally Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee. So as much as genwunners might annoy people, there’s that feeling that they get pandered to a lot by Pokemon games trying to remind them of their favorite parts of the franchise to keep them hooked even as they’re trying to push new Pokemon.
It just doesn’t help that in Brawl. You had 6 Pokemon playable. With 5 of them being from Gen 1 (Even if 3 of those are within one character via the Pokemon Trainer). It’s somewhat made better in Ultimate with 4 non-Gen 1 Pokemon. Though one of the Non-gen 1’s are a baby form of the mascot of Pokemon. And when you put into considering that’s probably at least a good amount of Gen 1 fans that probably look fondly on Gen 2. It may not even really count as being outside the Genwunner mindset. That’s 8-3 in terms of Gen 1 & 2 compared to Gens 3-8. It probably would be much more fair to have Pikachu and the Pokemon Trainer at the very least as they both most represent what Pokemon’s been about from the start. Both of them will get a majority of the credit for the highest merit. Though there’s also the very popular Mewtwo who was the ultimate prize for completing the Gen 1 games and had a major role in Pokemon’s first feature film. Which then leaves Jigglypuff who’s generally left behind in comparison to the likes of Pikachu, the starter trio, and Mewtwo. It could very well be said that Jigglypuff has been maintained past most of the other Gen 1 Pokemon thanks mostly to Smash at this point. So when the discussion ever gets to what to do with Pokemon should a Smash roster ever got with a heavy cut for the base game. Is to at least leave out Jigglypuff despite her perfect attendance record. So it feels like there’s at least some room to give some of the other generations (Though that usually tends to be the NEWEST generation)
However, while it’s true that Jigglypuff has less merit at this point than any of the Original 12 characters. As well as all the other playable Gen 1 Pokemon. Jigglypuff still played some part in one of the fastest cultural phenomenon there are. Jigglypuff certainly at least partly to Smash and the Anime should at least get some credit that most of the other Pokemon in the 151 didn’t. I personally can’t say I’ve ever advocated for Jigglypuff to be cut despite knowing Gen 1 gets a lot in its favor in Pokemon representation in Smash. I kinda like the tradition as shaky as it’s felt sometimes that the Original 12 has perfect attendance. If you were to force me to say what’d be the one character to remove if it HAD to happen, I’d also say Jigglypuff. But it would still be rather reluctant. Like it or not, Jigglypuff’s face has graced every Smash roster to date. And we’re at that point where it wouldn’t be surprising if every one of the first 12 come back even should the next Smash start with a very heavy amount of cuts. (Or failing that, any Original 12 members are to be surefire candidates for DLC at some point).
So I’m sure that there will be many more years where players fear Jigglypuff clipping into them, and getting rested to oblivion.
I think naturally, Luigi stands above all others for the exception of Link. Luigi is older then Link, but Link is the protagonist of every Zelda game while Luigi is a 2nd player/option in most Mario games. Luigi’s probably going to have one of if not the highest merit for a 2nd representative. But I couldn’t on good conscious put Luigi over one of the enduring Nintendo protagonists of all-time. As for Jigglypuff, the status as Gen 1 Pokemon shouldn’t be understated but the merit probably certainly has waned from what it could have been. I think I will put Jigglypuff over the retro Duck Hunt. But below cult-classic Ness. Where Jigglypuff is one of many Pokemon, even in the most well-known generation. While Ness has inspired indie game creators.
|3. Banjo & Kazooie|
|4. King K. Rool|
|5. Sonic the Hedgehog|
|6. Rosalina & Luma|
|12. Duck Hunt|
|16. Wii Fit Trainer|
|18. Dr. Mario|
|19. Dark Pit|
|20. Piranha Plant|
Graphic Novel Review
|Genre||Greek mythology, humor|
Greetings, readers! Welcome back to a new issue of Graphic Novel Reviews! This month, I will be reviewing Punderworld vol. 1 by Linda Sejic!
2021 gave me a lot of graphic novels based on the story of Hades and Persephone from Greek Mythology, and although I can't review all of them for this column due to adult content, I'm happy to review this one here! I’ve been interested in Greek Mythology since I was a child, and Hades is my favorite of the Greek gods, so last year I was spending my time waiting on my preorders for the last half of the year when they were all scheduled to come out.
Punderworld was tossed at me by Amazon one day in my recommended items section, and I immediately recognized it- when I was active on DeviantArt, I stumbled upon some of Sejic’s gorgeous art for this comic. Back then, I didn’t know that it was a full webcomic, I had just found some of her art for it. But I’m so happy that she was able to get it published like this- I loved her art back then and I love her art now! Let’s dive in, shall we?
Volume 1 covers the basics. We meet our players in the story- Hades and Persephone, obviously, but other gods, goddesses, and other divine beings such as Demeter, Zeus, and Charon, and watch the story start. Hades and Persephone have met, but only in passing, and a spark of attraction has blossomed between the two of them. Persephone is kept away from him by her overprotective mother, Demeter, and Hades is a bit too shy and introverted for any sort of grand gestures of love and affection. He eventually gets to talking with Zeus, and everybody’s fav playa sets him up with a little… surprise, to get the ball rolling with Persephone. Indeed, the two of them come crashing together, although in the worst possible way. If you can’t tell by the title already, this book sits in the romantic comedy category, but I’d say this first volume is more laughs than romance. It’s mostly mutual pining. Throughout the story, we are given little hints that things are not right in the land, and if you know this myth, you know where this all is going. Currently, volume 1 is the only "season" of this webcomic available, but hopefully we will get some more in the future.
The art in this book is really lovely. Colors are vibrant, and although a lot of it is dark, taking place in either the Underworld or at night, it’s not gloomy or depressing. I love Sejic’s art style, her anatomy is lovely and all of her characters look so unique. I love how she uses Persephone’s crown of flowers as a visual representation of her emotions, with the plants gradually blooming and dying along with Persephone’s mood changes. Not that you really need a representation of her emptions- Sejic’s art is extremely expressive, and the characters need no extra help in showing how they feel.
The book is well-constructed and will match other standard-sized graphic novels (such as DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse’s offerings) on your shelf. Included are bonus drawings, sketches, and an extra little short comic from Sejic, featuring characters from her husband’s comic as well. It’s been quite some time since I’d added a book of this size to my shelf, but it’s nice that it’s not a weird size like some of the other books I own.
If you enjoy Greek myths, have played Hades and liked that, or if you’re a fan of the best Greek myth OTP, Hades and Persephone, you ought to give this one a look. It’s funny, sweet, and well-drawn, and it’s a book you won’t regret adding to your shelf. Additionally, you can also find this first volume on Webtoon, where Sejic has also posted concept art and some hints for season 2.
That’s all for me this month, readers! Tune in next time for a fresh Book Review!
It wasn’t that long ago that I reviewed a bunch of Canadian snacks and stuff, but I am back here again because I simply had more things! Big thanks to tfp for being exceedingly generous with his time and money, going out shopping to find these items for me, then shipping it off in a big box across the entire continent!! True meaning of bro.
Nestlé Big Turk
Big Turk has been around since 1974, and is a peculiar addition to food items unique to Canada. The name ‘Big Turk’ refers to how it’s a large Turkish delight, a candy that’s usually smaller and more square. It’s a fairly simple bar, just Turkish delight coated in milk chocolate. I didn’t have a good experience with my last chocolate-covered Turkish delight, so I’m already a little skeptical going into this, but will try to keep an open mind.
It tastes more like bubblegum than it does a Turkish delight, for better and worse. There’s absolutely nothing in it that’s rosewater (which isn’t even a required flavor or ingredient to begin with) or anything close to making it loukoum, and I’m a big BIG fan of a bunch of other food reviewers praising Big Turk for its delicious floral rose flavor that doesn’t actually exist and proves to me they’re bullshitting the entire thing just to avoid saying that the candy bar is bad and not good. The answers on the Big Turk brand page clearly states that there’s just simply no rose flavor, and is instead black carrot. Even the biggest fans of Big Turk can’t deny that the jelly inside doesn’t really mesh well with the chocolate, and that the inside is a bit too chewy in general. The chocolate still splinters all over, but the inside is chewier and a bit more firm than your standard gummy candies. The chocolate itself dissolves pretty quickly while chewing, and once that’s gone so is really any of the pleasurable sweetness or flavor, leaving you with just this weird kinda gummy mass loitering in your mouth tearing away at your enamel. The one thing I do appreciate about Big Turk is that it takes a while to chew, adding to the longevity of the actual candy experience, something that I feel lacks with Reese’s Cups and how easily I vacuum a whole sleeve up.
The whole boast of ‘60% less fat’ I think is actually quite a detractor, and that the milk chocolate should be fattier, thicker, and creamier, giving it some more lasting power and presence to at least attempt to balance with the gummy-jelly interior.
Ruffles All Dressed Chips
“A perfect combination of salty, sweet, tangy, and savory. Ruffles always brings the crunch and flavoring to the table, this chip you will be pleasantly surprised with the amount of seasoning layered on for ultimate snacking satisfaction!”
The bag describes these as ‘salty, savory, and sweet all at the same time’; “think salt & vinegar, ketchup, and BBQ all rolled together.” Ingredients, among other things (‘spices’, ‘natural flavors’), include onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika, indicating to me that it’ll indeed be salty, savory, and smoky. The flavor is made available by pretty much every chip brand in Canada, including Old Dutch, Yum Yum, and various store brands (ex. President’s Choice), but Ruffles in particular seems to be the go-to. After enjoying 15 years as a cult hit in Canada, Ruffles made this product available in America in 2016 after a successful limited trial in 2015, complete with the front of the bag being emblazoned with a Canadian maple leaf, ‘#1 Flavor of Canada’, and a visual of vinegar, bbq sauce, and paprika(?) indicating what to expect. There’s also some really awkward marketing, all in the name of pursuing market trends of uncommon and unique snack flavors. Of course, the ‘all dressed’ flavor precedes Ruffles’ version all the way back to around 1978, but the origins are mysterious and subject to simple claims. None of my research comes up with finding a reason why exactly Canadians like this so much, or what makes it Canadian other than it’s just being a region-locked flavor, but those are always fun and neat.
Ruffles in particular offer a ridged chip, kinda thicker and a slightly different texture. It’s ok, one ridged chip isn’t that different from another. Notable that each chip is very well-coated with the flavor seasoning; looking at you, Trader Joe’s Ghost Pepper Chips. They taste alright, but they also don’t taste like much. Each alleged sensation can certainly be felt; the sharp tanginess of vinegar is there, smoky savory bbq, the telltale tomato sweetness of ketchup, the salty potato chip. They’re all there, but all muted enough to taste all of them at once, and I think that is a detriment, as with no one single strong flavor, the only aftertaste really left is a vague and generic umami. Regarding the claims of salty, savory, and sweet, which yyyyyyeah I can feel that, but is that also not what a dozen other different bbq flavors provide in a much stronger way? After all, aren’t the separate flavors here--vinegar, ketchup, bbq--all just basic components of, or actually are, bbq?I think I’m quite literally the only person who is putting a review of these on the internet (barring the ever-unsatisfied denizens of Influenster) that is anything less than pure ecstatic exuberance, absolute joy, mind-blown spastic excitement, which once again brings me to wondering if I’m even tasting the same food everyone else is or if I just have no underlying sense of blasting things out of proportion to generate an exciting review. a mysterious flavor that Americans can’t wrap their head around, but I don’t know dudes, is it really that hard? Garlic, onion, paprika, what else you got; it tastes like vinegar, bbq, and ketchup, there’s pictures of it, the bag tells you, the ingredients say it, what mystery is there? Overall, they’re not bad! They’re fine! They taste alright! If what you want is a mild and non-descript bbq chip, then here you go, but there’s certainly better ones out there.
Pretty similar to Dirty Chips Funky Fusion, if just a bit more savory, which is also flavored with vinegar, garlic, paprika, and onion. The Dirty Chips actually had more of a kick of flavor, so honestly I’d just recommend getting these if you manage to actually find them somewhere.
Maynards Swedish Berries
Maynards, originally and primarily known for wine gummy candies, is another one of those UK candy companies that got absorbed by and merged with other companies before inevitably ending up as part of Mondelēz. Under that same umbrella they also produce and/or distribute candy like Fuzzy Peach and Sour Patch Kids.
Basically an identical experience–vague berry taste, rubbery texture, everything–to Swedish Fish, with the only tangible difference being the shape. Conveniently, Swedish Fish is also distributed by Maynards Bassetts. From the only factor I can judge in difference, I thiiiiiink I prefer the Swedish Fish shape than I do the Berries, and this is because the particular type of gummy candy that this is is sorta more tough and dry rather than chewy and gummy, not as shiny or squeaky, and a thicker shape doesn’t feel as nice and novel as the thinner fish. I really don’t know what to say, there’s nothing more to it, I guess if you love the taste and texture of Swedish Fish but hate that they’re in a fish shape, perhaps go to Canada and you can get the same candy but instead in the shape of a berry.
Pretty much tastes exactly like what it says it is, a dark toffee peanut chew. It’s a strangely chewy and stretchy toffee bar with peanuts and chocolate, and is nothing more or less than that. Noteworthy, though, is that it looks kinda gross. It’s limp, looks greasy, and just seems more like a mess. I couldn’t get through more than half the bar before getting exhausted with the flavor, not bored or tired of it, but exhausted. The chocolate wasn’t sweet enough to overcome the smoky peanut flavor nor the dark toffee, and came off to me as more of one of those conglomerate oats, seeds, and nonsense health bars that are high in fiber and protein. The chewiness also didn’t last long, as it was less stretchy and more dry and crumbly, and felt more like a no-bake brownie. It seems to be at the halfway point for several different ends of taste and texture, and just doesn’t seem to quite fall on any side enough to feel like anything but another task I have to weather to get on with my day. Maybe someone likes all of this, but certainly not me. Another check on the lesson that uniqueness doesn’t lend to enjoyment.
Mackintosh's Toffee and Soft Caramel
Mackintosh’s is a British candy company–initially famous for its much-loved candy that blended brittle British toffee with soft American caramel–that fell to the same fate as basically every single other British candy company: merged with Rowntree’s and then gobbled up by Nestlé. What I tried for this review isn’t the iconic tooth-breaking jaw-rending smashable brick of toffee that can be used as a topping in baking recipes. Instead, I tried their little bite-sized chews: Soft Caramel, and Creamy Toffee Pieces (which has absolutely no difference in package design than the bricks do).
I tried both products, risking it all as I’ve recently had a temporary dental crown put in and was explicitly told to not eat anything chewy or sticky, and, normally, I’d split this into two mini-reviews and then make an overall statement, but they both taste and feel the same. There’s no way to tell which piece is which once you’ve taken them out of their color-coded wrapping unless you look at them really closely in good lighting to notice the subtle SUBTLE difference in shade. They’re a bit more firm than the caramel cubes you’d find in transparent packaging primarily used for melting down and baking, but they’re still chewy. The flavor of Mack’s is also a bit more mild and creamy, and not quite as sticky. You could argue that the toffees had a little bit more richness and buttery flavor to it, but I found that completely negligible and could hallucinate the same experience with the caramels.
What even is the difference between soft caramel and creamy toffee when they’re both soft and chewy? The real difference between caramel and toffee is the ingredients (caramel being sugar, water, cream/milk, while toffee is just sugar and butter), and temperature (caramel cooler at the ‘firm ball’ stage, toffee hotter at the ‘hard crack’ stage), leading to texture and utility being what sets them apart. Toffee also tends to have a more warm and savory sweetness, while caramel is just sweet, so I suppose what I’m supposed to be discerning between these two is that subtlety, and I’m just really not finding it. They’re both good, but I don’t understand why there’s two.
Tim Hortons Granola Bars
Inspired by signature Tim Hortons donut flavors, these granola bars promise to bring the Timmy Hos all Canadians (and Buffalonians) love into the grocery store. Unfortunately, these only are available in Canada as Tim Hortons’ spread through the US is concentrated almost entirely in just New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and otherwise just isn’t as ubiquitous as Starbucks or Dunkin’. The boxes make sure to note that these are prepared in Canada with real Canadian oats. It is with these boxes all lined up in front of me that I realized a true tragedy regarding Canadian products: bilingualism. Don’t get me wrong!! Please!! Having both French and English being commonly used in infrastructure and advertising is pretty neat, but it means that all of the required postings on boxes is double what would otherwise be on monolingual American boxes. If I couldn’t solve some puzzles on the back of my cereal box, I don’t know if I’d even want to live.
Much like the pie that the donut is based on, this granola bar has cream flavor and has chocolate on the bottom. The flavor is pretty accurate, the chocolate is obviously there, but there’s also a specific sweetness to it that rings true for the cream part. Very much the eggy custardy cream that was shockingly accurate. Definitely chewy, the best kind of granola bar.
Made with apple pieces, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Incredibly strong apple taste, with an unsubtle hit of cinnamon that makes this recognizably apple fritter.
Chocolate pieces, cocoa butter, chocolate powder, chocolate covered granola, chocolate chocolate chocolate. It leans more towards being a candy bar if not for the telltale chewy granola crumbly bits, and I genuinely hope that no one is eating these with any intent that they’re supposed to be healthy. Good chocolate flavor, but not as sweet as I’m used to chocolate being; not a point against it, but more a visceral reminder to me that these are Canadian.
Absolutely tastes like salted caramel. Makes me feel thirsty, as salted caramel does.
The takeaway from all four of these bars is that the flavors are exactly what they say, so if you like exactly what that flavor is while also liking the texture of a chewy granola bar holding it, then you will love it, but if you even just passively accept the respective flavors then it’ll probably just taste weird and overpowering; a very polarizing granola bar. What I appreciated most about them was that they’re genuinely filling in a way that quick holdover lunches like granola bars should be; enough to sate an appetite to keep your stomach from making embarrassing rumbles before you can get on your actual lunch break. There being only five bars in a box, while pretty standard, just absolutely is not enough when I can go to Costco and get a box of 60 of the nasty Quaker granola bars, so the Tim Hortons ones being flavorful and filling promotes the product value towards being worth it.
Maybe next I can figure out how to get Tim Horton’s new (as of February 2022) ice cream flavors.
Post Timbits Chocolate Glazed Cereal
Chocolate glazed Timbits are my absolute favorite donut. I don’t care that they come in frozen, that they’re often mishandled by underpaid and overworked wage slaves, that the manager of the one I went to all the time was a known monster who terrorized worker and customer equally, I would CONSTANTLY order a 40 pack of chocolate glazed Timbits whenever my delivery drivers at the pizza shop would be heading that way. Every time they were bewildered, amazed, questioning if I really want all that, and I certainly did, and I’d certainly finish the entire box before the end of my shifts.
Quite literally Cocoa Puffs (or Nesquik Cereal if you wanna go full Canadian), from the look, taste, everything; more likely it’s the Malt-o-Meal equivalent since the overarching company is the same. If not literally Cocoa Puffs, they, at the very least, were a bald-faced attempt to mirror them. The only thing that was markedly different was, straight from the bag, they smelled more like that fake hot cocoa candle smell than puffed chocolate cereal, but once the milk was poured there was absolutely no difference. Even the cereal milk is rendered, looks, acts, and tastes the same. No, not just mirrored Cocoa Puffs, but it tasted and felt like the ideal that a perfect memory and vision of Cocoa Puffs from your childhood is. Maybe it was that subtle sugary glaze that coated all the pieces that gave it that extra oomph, that extra bit of sweetness and crunch that kept the pieces from getting soggy and losing their flavor for just enough time for me to calmly enjoy it?
|The 'Shroom: Issue 180|
|Staff sections||Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight|
|Features||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner • Strategy Wing|
|Specials||The 'Shroom Mafia 4|