The 'Shroom:Issue 182/Critic Corner

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Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Shroom2017 Anton.png

Welcome to May everyone! April's showers may not have brought flowers yet, but May still brings you a new Shoey Critic Corner section along with our classics!

Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as April'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 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
Place Section Votes % Writer
1st Anton's Half-Baked Reviews 15 60.00% Hypnotoad (talk)
2nd Super Ninelevendo Entertainment Reviews 5 20.00% Ninelevendo (talk)

'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Hi! Welcome back to 'Shroom FM. Check this out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music

FONTAINES D.C. - SKINTY FIA

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I listened to Fontaines D.C.'s first album, Dogrel, back when that came out in 2019 and thought it was pretty good, nothing too groundbreaking but very solid. They released another one a year later but for some reason I just didn't bother checking it out. They released "Jackie Down the Line" in January as the lead single for this album, and right from the first time I heard it just really clicked. It's just got such an infectious sound to it, particularly the guitars and especially how they build with each chorus. Grian Chatten's delivery here is also perfect, really accentuates every word, makes every line stand out. I could go on and on about this song, never tire of it. I liked the other singles too, so I checked out the full album. It's very good! There's a few parts I didn't care much for, "The Couple Across the Way" for instance, you could say it's well-written lyrically, but it's a bit of a chore to listen to and grinds things to a halt. "Bloomsday" is also a bit weak, feel like maybe the only reason it exists is for the pun. Still, just about everything else is really solid, very catchy and well-written.

HATCHIE - GIVING THE WORLD AWAY

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Fun, catchy, lush dream pop. What's not to like? I've enjoyed everything I've heard from Hatchie and absolutely no exception here. Great atmosphere, well-written songs, big big fan of this.

KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD - OMNIUM GATHERUM

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This is the best King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard album ever. I've only heard two of their other albums and didn't like either, so I have the authority to say this in full confidence. Omnium Gatherum is a very long and difficult album with a very forgettable name, but there are plenty of rewarding moments along the way. The first track is eighteen minutes long - feels like a bit of a risky move to put it right at the start; if you're not enjoying it, you have a whole hour of the album left once it's done. But King Gizzard's confidence isn't misplaced, "The Dripping Tap" rocks. Throughout the whole 18 minutes it's constantly throwing new sounds and ideas and endless, sick guitar solos at you, I particularly love the bit where the harmonica comes in, then the main song itself sort of starts again about eight or so minutes in. They really hit it out of the park on this track, and those that follow it are also really cool. "Magenta Mountain" is really cool, "Kepler-22b" is sublime, very jazzy. They cover a huge range of genres here - heavy psych, thrash metal, Beastie Boys-esque hip hop, fun spacey pop songs about goblins and sorcerers and whatever. I'd say towards the end it does start to wear thin a bit, and there are some elements of their sound that still don't really click with me personally, but still Omnium Gatherum is the best album I've heard from them.

MELODY'S ECHO CHAMBER - EMOTIONAL ETERNAL

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There are plenty of nice melodies in the songs here, though unfortunately I there were very few songs that stood out much as a whole, and there were a lot of points where it felt lethargic or just lacking in energy. Also, Melody's vocals often feel kind of static here, like they're doing essentially the same thing on every song. I spent the entire runtime waiting for a really vibrant and interesting song to pop up, so I was really glad when "Where the Water Clears the Illusion" popped up, because man does it deliver on that front. Huge energy, very lush, exactly what I was waiting for. It's not that the other songs are bad, just this one blows the rest away completely. Then again, it took me a while to come around to Melody's last album Bon Voyage but now I love it, so who knows, I might warm up to this.

HARU NEMURI - SHUNKA RYOUGEN

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Shunka Ryougen is a very wild and unpredictable album, hard to think of a single song here (not counting the smaller interludes) that doesn't swerve off into something big or something different partway through, so almost every idea here feels fresh and interesting. The blend of electronic instruments and post-hardcore guitars works really well as per usual. Nemuri's vocal performance here is really strong, and it's especially cool on the tracks that showcase her range - for instance, take the title track, where she's providing both the lush harmonies in the background and the screams in the chorus. I would say there's a few songs, particularly towards the end, which establish a cool idea but don't end up doing that much with it, and sort of fade into the background. But that said, I think the penultimate two tracks are the absolute best here, and overall it's a lot of fun even if it's not her best work.

KELLY LEE OWENS - LP.8

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Longtime 'Shroom FM fans (anyone? any of you out there?) may remember that I really enjoyed Kelly Lee Owens' 2020 album Inner Song. Well Kelly Lee Owens has pulled a Mario Kart and now we have LP.8, except this isn't even her 8th LP so who knows what she's doing. This is very different from her usual techno/house style, an often experimental, quite minimalist ambient album. Unfortunately, there are a few songs here that don't really work - don't really end up feeling atmospheric or soothing, mostly just boring. Owens' vocal performance is pretty good here at least, but unfortunately there's not much of interest here.

PUSHA T - IT'S ALMOST DRY

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I hadn't really been keeping up with the stuff Pusha T's been putting out recently, but It's Almost Dry really impressed me. Half of the tracks on this album were produced by Pharrell, and the other half were produced by Kanye - both of their styles are quite distinct, Kanye uses a lot of interesting samples, Pharrell has these low synths and loud, booming drum loops - some really classic stuff from both of them here, particularly like the opener "Brambleton" and "Neck & Wrist" from Pharrell, and "Diet Coke", "Hear Me Clearly" and "Dreamin of the Past" make really interesting use of their samples. Despite the differences in Kanye and Pharrell's production styles, it never feels jarring when the record shifts between the tracks, and this is largely down to how much command Pusha T has over these tracks. There's plenty of superb bars in just about every song here, "Diet Coke" in particular feels like the most fun he's having here. Every track feels unique, and even the weaker tracks have plenty of solid and likeable moments, so all in all I had a great time with this.

DANIEL ROSSEN - YOU BELONG THERE

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This is Daniel Rossen's first solo album. He's probably best known as the lead vocalist/guitarist in the band Grizzly Bear, but I'm personally more familiar with his other band, Department of Eagles as I'm a big fan of their album In Ear Park. Rossen is really just phenomenal here, the guitarwork is ridiculously intricate, and his vocal performance suits both the quiet, contemplative moments and soaring crescendos perfectly. The instrumentation here is also sublime, everything just sounds so rich and vivid, and it creates this really dense, bright atmosphere which you can just fall right into. There's also a lot of very cool, dynamic and progressive elements in the songwriting. I first listened to this on a bit of an uncomfortable train journey and one or two tracks passed me by a bit, but going back there's a lot more that stands out. Big fan of this, all in all.

WET LEG - WET LEG

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Ever since I first heard Wet Leg's first single, "Chaise Longue", last year, I have absolutely despised it. It is one of my least favourite songs ever - bland, wanky lyrics, mostly consisting of "quirky" jokes or statements, leading up to the weakest hook known to man. It's got the same deadpan delivery you can get from any other Bri'ish post-punk band going at the moment, and as per usual it just makes the whole thing intensely boring. And yet so many people seem to think it's brilliant, and it's been getting a ton of airplay on the radio and on TV, and acclaim from critics. But I listened to the album out of morbid curiosity, NOT because I just wanted to complain about that one song. This album did take me by surprise, though - nothing else here really sounds like "Chaise Longue". They do actually sing on the other tracks, and the vocals are fine I guess? - their sound is much closer to indie rock than Dry Cleaning/Shame/Squid/etc-esque post-punk, so it didn't bug me anywhere near as much as I was expecting. There were even a few songs I thought were alright, the opener was fine, "Wet Dream" is catchy. That doesn't mean it's a good album, and it's not. It's a very average album. The majority of the songs are uninteresting and by-the-numbers, and the lyrics are largely annoying, but it is far from the worst album I've heard this year.

A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups

Written By: Generalissimo Shoe (talk)

At ease, troops! Welcome to a new section. Following the success of the campaign in the Zeteginan Empire and my work whipping Strategy Wing into shape, I, the Generalissimo, have been moved from active field work and given a new assignment. My new assignment is to review the effectiveness of power-ups in the Mario series, looking at them to see how useful they'll be against the Koopa Kingdom in the coming war.

For our debut section, we'll be first taking a look at the Goomba's Shoe. First appearing in Super Mario Bros. 3, where they only appear in level World 5-3, the Goomba's Shoe is the epitome of taking the fight to the enemy. While the shoes are found originally worn by Shoe Goombas, hitting a Shoe Goomba from below allows the player to knock out the enemy unit and seize the equipment for their own use. The Goomba's Shoe's main benefit is that riding inside one makes the player immune from Spikes and Munchers, allowing Mario to safely travel across them. The Goomba's Shoe also has a few other more obscure benefits.

Munchers are no match for fashion!

For starters, if you have the Fire Mario form when you jump into the shoe, you retain your ability to shoot fireballs, with being in a Goomba's Shoe giving Mario the ability to take an extra hit, too. You lose the shoe when you're hit before you lose other power-ups. In Super Mario Bros. 3 the Goomba's Shoe is a really cool power-up that feels wasted because it's only in one level and you can't take it with you after said level. Luckily, the Goomba's Shoe would reappear in both Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2 as one of the power-ups you can use. While the shoe is only found in the Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 styles, these games also introduce a new design for the power-up and expand its functionality. This alternate form of the Goomba's Shoe is a stiletto shoe. The game also allows you to use a Super Mushroom on a Goomba's Shoe to make a big Goomba's Shoe. The big Goomba's Shoe has a new ground pound attack, allowing it to defeat enemies that it could previously only traverse on, with the enlarged stiletto variant getting a more powerful attack that can even break blocks. The Goomba's Shoe is one of my favorite power-ups because of how weird it is compared to other Mario power-ups. The ability to take another hit while also using other power-ups you already had is really useful from a gameplay perspective. I think the Goomba's Shoe should absolutely be used in future games.

The other power-up we're going to be talking about, and also from Super Mario Bros. 3, is the Frog Suit. Found mostly through Toad Houses and in a few hidden Giant ? Blocks, the Frog Suit grants you better swimming controls. When wearing the Frog Suit, Mario is able to easily swim through the water, no longer forced to mash the jump button to keep swimming. On land, the Frog Suit gives Mario a much higher jump at the cost of no longer allowing Mario to run, instead forcing Mario to make small hops. I'll be honest. This power-up is kind of a dud.

Mario leading an amphibious assault

It allows for much easier swimming controls but it has no offensive capabilities in the water, so, unlike, say, the Fire Flower, you won't be able to defeat any of the enemies. Then, on land, the power-up is almost worthless because while you get a higher jump that doesn't really offset the worse-feeling controls of trying to navigate on land. The Frog Suit should really only be used in levels that are either exclusively underwater or when you're running desperately low on reserve power-ups. In Super Mario Bros. 3, the best part of the Frog Suit is that, if you beat an airship while wearing it, the king will ask you "Oh me, oh my! You've been transformed! Shall I change you back with this wand?" The Frog Suit also returns in Super Mario Maker 2, again in the Super Mario Bros. 3, style where it functions mostly the same as it did in Super Mario Bros. 3 with one exception. In Super Mario Maker 2, you can now run on the bottom of an underwater floor if your P-Meter is maxed out. Like I said, the Frog Suit is a bit of a dud power-up that's been completely replaced by the Penguin Suit from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, because not only does the Penguin Suit allow you to swim better underwater but it also allows you to shoot ice balls. I don't really think they need to bring back the Frog Suit because they've already replaced it.

With that, our first report is done. The Mario series has a lot of power-ups for us to review, so I'll be back next month, continuing this important assignment.

Book Review

Written by: FunkyK38 (talk)

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor
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Author Xiran Jay Zhao
Release date 2022
Genre Chinese mythology, sci-fi
Pages 352
Available From

Greetings, readers, and welcome to another Book Review! This month I will be reviewing Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao!

The author of Iron Widow returns, and this time it’s with a book for middle school readers! Around the time that Iron Widow released, Xiran announced their next book would be coming as well, a book aimed at younger readers that was a mixture of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Chinese Percy Jackson. I thought it sounded pretty cool, although I was a little apprehensive about it being for “middle grade readers”. So, how does it hold up as a book? Let’s check it out.

Zachary Ying features a twelve year old protagonist, Zachary Ying, obviously. Zack and his mother have moved to the US to escape the Chinese government’s persecution of them for their religion (Muslim) after Zack’s father is executed for speaking out against the government. Zack is ashamed of his Chinese heritage at school, how his mother packs food in his lunches that make his classmates wrinkle their noses, how he doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere, how his “friends” tease him about being Chinese. He meets Simon, another Chinese boy, who talks to him about Chinese history and Mythrealm, an AR game that everyone is playing with VR headsets. When Zack returns to his friend group, the boys discover from looking at Simon’s game profile that his monsters are max level and Exalted, and they all want to “borrow” his dragons. When Simon firmly refuses, the ringleader, Aiden, seemingly becomes possessed and lashes out at them. When a voice in Zack’s head seemingly thunders through his AR headset, he is helped through the battle with his possessed friend. It turns out that the spirit of the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, has possessed his gaming headset instead of him. After his mother’s soul is snatched away by another person possessed by a spirit, Zack teams up with Simon, who is possessed by Tang Taizong, another emperor, to travel to China to seal an entrance to the spirit realm that is close to breaking open. If he fails, his mother’s soul will be consumed by a demon and will be lost forever.

I adore this book, honestly. It was a FUN ride. The settings weave between cities and provinces in China and mythical locations in the spirit realm, and Zhao’s descriptions of the settings are lively and detailed, from the smoggy cities to the ethereal palaces. Zack is relatable- he’s a little bit of a coward at first, but he’s just trying his hardest to find a place where he belongs. He has to grow into this journey that he’s been thrust into, and it’s a satisfying character arc. Action scenes are fast paced, and the book keeps moving from start to finish, never getting boring. It’s a book for younger readers, so it’s not as dense as some of the other books I’ve read this year, but I had a lot of fun with this one.

There are a few moments where cultural issue are pressed- oppression of Uighur Muslims by the Chinese government being the main one, but there are also a few very gentle hints that Zack might be non-binary (if not that, then part of the LGBTQIA+ community for sure.) I felt that some of the messages were a little heavy-handed at times, but I also think these things are important and should be talked about, and if this book starts a conversation that leads to change, that’s a good thing. While this book is nowhere near as dark as Iron Widow, there are some dark moments (mostly Zack’s dad being executed by the government.) All in all, there’s no talking down to the audience here. If you’re hesitating because you think this book is too young for you, it’s not.

I do want to geek out about how the book looks for a few lines, though, because this book is one of the more gorgeous books I will be adding to my collection this year. The cover art was done by Velinxi, an artist that is currently doing art for another series I’m following and loving, and the whole jacket sparkles with a gorgeous cerulean shimmer. Jacket off, there’s a deep imprint of the symbol behind the title on the jacket on the front cover and the binding tape is a different color than the rest of the book (which I love, same color tape and cover are boring!) The publisher did not skimp on this book, and I’m psyched that it looks this amazing. Also, Xiran’s author photo features them in cosplay, and that’s something I can get behind- more authors should take their pictures in cosplay.

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor is a fantastic book that takes you on an adventure through present and past. It’s a fun opportunity to learn about a few figures in Chinese history, and maybe start an interest in Chinese history and folklore? I can definitely see kids enjoying learning about the emperors featured in this book. Xiran Jay Zhao is a new voice that I look forward to following, especially the sequels to this book and Iron Widow. That’s right, the adventure doesn’t stop in this book. I can’t wait to see where Zack will go next. If you have a young reader in your life, or maybe you’re intrigued, definitely pick this book up. You won’t regret it.

See you next time, readers, for a new Graphic Novel Review!

Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls

By: Mustard Machine (talk)


Day of the Dead
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Genres Horror
Release date 1985
Starring

Lori Cardille, Terry Alexander, Joe Pilato

Directed By George A. Romero
Runtime 100 minutes
Streaming Peacock, Youtube, Tubi (VHS Copy)

Good evening, dear readers, and welcome to another horrifying tale in Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls, hosted by your guide through the darkness, Vincent Van Shoeul. This month's featured performance is 1985's Day of the Dead, the final part of George A. Romero's Living Dead trilogy. A terrifying tale of isolation and zombies, I can guarantee that, by the end of our tale, you'll be sleeping with one eye open. But for those of you brave enough to join me in the darkness, I can promise you this tale will be... a thriller.

The final part of the original Living Dead trilogy, Day of the Dead centers around an isolated military outpost located in an abandoned mineshaft in the Everglades and those within it. Their mission? Find the cure that will end this zombie apocalypse. The principal characters of this mission are: Joseph Pilato as Captain Henry Rhodes, the new commanding officer of this outpost, determined to bring order by any means necessary; Richard Liberty as Dr. Frankenstein, a researcher who has found a peculiar solution for the zombies; Terry Alexander and Jarlath Conroy as John and Bill Mcdermontt, the outpost's helicopter pilots who only wish to stay out of the fray, and, finally, Lori Cardille as Dr. Sarah Bowman, a researcher desperately trying to keep the outpost from falling apart while she looks for a cure.

Day of the Dead was originally intended to be a much grander movie, with George A. Romero saying it was going to be the Gone with the Wind of zombie movies. Originally slated to have a 9 million dollar budget, that budget was cut in half to 3.5 million dollars after Romero decided to keep the movie unrated rather then tone it down to an R rating. This caused Romero to have to cut a lot from the film, with the script going from 122 pages to 104 pages to, finally, 88 pages. The film was shot in only three locations, with the opening scene being filmed in Fort Myers, Florida, the aboveground compound scenes filmed in Sanibel, and the bulk of the film shot in an unused mineshaft in Wampum, Pennsylvania. Filming was hard on the cast, who had to take B12 injections and breathe in dust from the abandoned mine. It was also difficult on the production crew, because the high humidity damaged a number of props and electrical equipment.

Set sometime during the zombie apocalypse, the premise is that, in an underground compound in Florida, a special government operation was put into place to find the cure to end the zombies. But it's also clear that this operation was put together quickly and, for the most part, the team is dealing with sub-par equipment, with radio operator Bill Mcdermontt saying that the radio equipment he's using has been rotting in this compound since WW2. Even the soldiers assigned to this unit don't appear to be regular soldiers in the US military; instead, they appear to be reservists, since Captain Henry Rhodes wears the insignia of the 99th U.S. Army Reserve Command. Finally, the scientists themselves don't appear to be united in what they're doing, with Sarah Bowman and another scientist named Fischer looking for something to stop the zombies while head surgeon Dr. Matthew Logan (most often referred to as Frankenstein) instead looks for a way to domesticate the zombies.

Day of the Dead primarily takes place in an abandoned mineshaft. For some, this setting is a turnoff, especially since 85% of the movie takes place in it. The abandoned mineshaft is dark, cold, and bland and, when compared to the vibrant mall setting of Dawn of the Dead, it can seem quite boring, but, personally, I think it's the perfect fit for the movie's main theme of isolation. The movie makes it clear just how isolated this crew is from the very first scene, that scene being a failed attempt to find survivors in Fort Myers. Despite it being the biggest city in 100 miles, the helicopter team doesn't find any survivors on the ground nor do they find anyone through radio signals despite traveling more than 200 miles (100 miles each way up the coast). Another scene has the crew (consisting of soldiers, scientists, and a helicopter pilot and a radio operator) discuss how they haven't heard anything from Washington in months and how the crew has no idea if there are any survivors or if they're the only people left. We get one further example of just how isolated they are from a comment by Frankenstein, who says that, by his calculations, humans are outnumbered by zombies 400,000 to one.

This isolation, combined with the lack of progress in their mission, has caused the crew to completely fracture and to break off into their own groups. It's really interesting how the movie manages to make it so each group has a point in their own way. The scientists feel that what they're doing is important and could save humanity. They also feel that the soldiers' lack of professionalism is hampering the mission, with Dr. Fischer bemoaning the fact that the soldiers cause half their work to be flushed away. The soldiers, led by Captain Henry Rhodes, who has just taken command following the death of Major Cooper, think the scientists are wasting their time. They can't understand what the scientists are doing and they're frustrated by the seeming lack of progress. It's also implied that the soldiers are in charge of the most dangerous job, wrangling up zombies that are to be used in the scientists' experiments. They also are stated to have taken the heaviest losses, with Rhodes saying that the scientists have lost one man but that the soldiers have lost five. Then, finally, you have the technicians. They stay out of the fray and don't contribute to the main part of the mission. Instead, they solely work the radio and fly the helicopter. They also live in a separate part of mineshaft outside the main compound. When called out for not helping despite taking supplies, John, the helicopter pilot, outright says that he doesn't believe in this mission and that he thinks they should just fly away and find somewhere else and start a new society. It's really interesting because, unlike in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the people in this compound aren't really threatened by the zombies. They're in a completely secure fortified position, they've got plenty of food, and they've even got a helicopter in case they need to get out of there quick. But, despite that, the hopelessness of the situation, the not knowing if there is anybody else out there, is what drives the crew apart.

A jump scare done right!

In many ways, Day of the Dead is a character drama. Sure, there are zombies and the zombies are a central part of the plot, but they are, in a lot of ways, less prevalent then they were in Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, simply because they aren't really a threat to the outpost in its current position. The outpost even has a corral where they store living zombies, wrangled up so the scientists can experiment on experiment. Instead of the zombies, it's the human element, the resentment between the teams and the hopelessness of the situation, that sparks all of the drama.

The entire cast is fantastic. I'll give the first shoutout to our star of the movie, Dr. Sarah Bowman, played by Lori Cardille. Unlike Barbra from Night of the Living Dead, who was completely useless and Francine from Dawn of the Dead who at least learned how to fly a helicopter, Sarah is a badass through and through. Whether it be standing up to Rhodes to defend Miguel's life or helping the soldiers wrangle zombies, Lori does not play Sarah as horror movie eye candy; rather, she's a strong, intelligent woman who, for most of the movie, is the only one trying to keep the crew together. Richard Liberty, who plays Dr. Frankenstein, gives a great performance as a stereotypical mad scientist who is completely convinced that his work is so important it will revolutionize the zombie outbreak. He nails the performance of a man who has completely lost his sanity and is clinging to the belief that he'll be able to domesticate the zombies. This craziness is probably best shown in a scene where Sarah and Bill find a recording he made of his own ramblings about his long-dead mother while experimenting on a zombie. It's a very good performance of the mad scientist, a man doing his work no matter what anyone thinks and with no regard for the opinions of others. Speaking of zombies, Sherman Howard, who plays the domesticated zombie Bub, gives a tremendous performance. Originally intended to be in a minor role, Romero was so impressed with Howard that he greatly expanded his role. You see Bub's naivete in the way Howard gives Bub a sort of childlike innocence when he remembers how to use a razor during Frankenstein's experiment or when he salutes Rhodes and become upset when Rhodes doesn't salute him back. It's a real good role, and you get a full range of emotions from Bub despite the fact that Bub can't even talk!

But the absolute standout in this film is Joseph Pilato as Captain Henry Rhodes. The "villain" of this movie, Pilato plays Henry Rhodes as an unhinged military commanding officer., prone to yelling and prone to threats (including threatening to have Sarah executed for being insubordinate during a meeting). Henry Rhodes is best described as an asshole. But it's strange, because Rhodes is supposed to be the movie's villain and, by the end, he definitely it, but for a lot of the movie he's actually making really good points. He's correct in stating the that scientists haven't made any progress and that his men are doing the most dangerous jobs. Most importantly, he's correct in stating that Dr. Frankenstein's big breakthrough of domesticating a single zombie just isn't a big deal because Dr. Frankenstein has only domesticated one zombie and, by Frankenstein's own calculations, they're outnumbered 400,000 to one. The thing that's supposed to start his complete turn to darkness is his killing of Dr. Frankenstein, but he only does this after finding out that Frankenstein has been feeding his star pupil Bub human flesh, and that that flesh has been coming from the bodies of the dead soldiers, so it's really weird to see the story try to portray that as some heinous crime when, really, given the situation, it's completely understandable. Now, granted that sympathy for Rhodes goes right out the window with his killing o of Fischer, who was innocent, and his attempt to kill Sarah and Bill by trapping them in the zombie pen. Even his supposed love for his men disappears when zombies invade the compound (courtesy of another soldier, named Miguel, committing suicide via letting the zombies in), where Rhodes immediately abandons his men, taking the only golf kart and leaving them to die. This act of cowardice naturally leads to him meeting a grizzly demise, which we'll talk about later. So, yes, by the end of the film, Henry Rhodes is an undisputed villain, but that doesn't change the fact that, despite attempting to portray him as the villain throughout the film, the film doesn't do a great job of that until the very end.

Legendary special effects coordinator Tom Savini returns to the series after being the coordinator for Dawn of the Dead. Let me tell, you his work here is a masterpiece of practical effects. The zombies in Dawn of the Dead, while decent looking, have a tendency to appear overly-blue due to the makeup used, but, in Day of the Dead, Tom Savini and his team have perfected the art, with the zombies looking fantastic throughout the film. Then there's the gore, oh god, the gore! Day of the Dead is by far the bloodiest Living Dead film. Whether it be zombies that Dr. Frankenstein has taken apart (complete with the zombies guts coming out when the zombies break his restrains and sits up) or Major Cooper, whose head has been stripped down to just the brain, being controlled by an electronic shock board (to prove that, as long as the brain is intact, the zombie will still be alive), the effects just look great. There's so many cool visuals in this movie and the fact that they're all practical effects is just amazing. It's a wonderful job by Tom Savini and his team, a team that happens to have Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger, both of whom would go to work on The Walking Dead. Taking all the lessons he learned from working on films such as Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th, Savini outdoes himself.

Not exactly what you want to see when you enter a room

You can't talk about gore without talking about kills, and, man, does this movie have some great ones. For most of the movie, there aren't a lot of notable kills, with the best one before the climax probably being Dr. Frankenstein killing a zombie by sticking an electric drill in it, causing blood to spit everywhere. But the climax, oh the climax, makes it all worthwhile, with three of the four soldiers' deaths that come after the compound floods with zombies being all time classics. First, you have Torrez, whose head is ripped off, causing his vocal chords to stretch, which makes his screams go higher and higher before they're snapped off. This is followed up by Rickles, who alternates between screaming and laughing as the zombies rip into his skull. They even manage to rip off one of his eyelids, forcing him to watch as they take him apart. The movie saves the best for last, with Rhodes' death probably being the best I've ever seen in a movie. After losing a shootout with educated zombie Bub and being shot multiple times, Rhodes attempts to escape, only to open a door leading to a horde of zombies. Rhodes attempts to flee, but Bub fires one more bullet into Rhodes, sending him into the horde. Bub then sarcastically salutes Rhodes as the zombies literally tear Rhodes in half, with Rhodes screaming "Choke on 'em!" to the zombies as they eat him. The guts for this kill were actually pig guts and, unfortunately for Joseph Pilato, somebody accidentally unplugged the refrigerator the guts were being stored in, and since they didn't have time to get new guts, they were forced to use the rotten guts. Even more unfortunately for Joseph Pilato, the shooting of his death lasted for four hours, with him having to smell the rotting guts the whole time.

Day of the Dead is my favorite movie in the non-Perfect Blue category. The things that some find boring, such as its slower pace, lack of intense action (until the end), and isolated setting, I find to be perfect. The tension between the groups, where everyone is making some sort of logical point, and the fact that there's such an understandable human element to the characters, where they're not just assholes because they're assholes, makes the movie a compelling character drama. Rather than seeing a bunch of assholes be assholes for the sake of the plot, you understand they're assholes because they've completely lost all hope, because they don't know if there's any hope for the world to be saved (the ending implies that it's not, with Sarah, Bill, and John escaping the compound and flying the helicopter to a deserted island). It's the perfect end point to the series, with Night of the Living Dead being at the beginning, where it looks like the zombies are being taken care of, Dawn of the Dead, where things are starting to go bad with most of the major cities breaking down but places remain where the zombies are being taken care of and not all is lost yet, and finally Day of the Dead, where everything is hopeless and humanity has broken down if not gone completely extinct. The ability to weave in its themes of isolation and hopelessness while having characters that are understandable make this movie my favorite of the trilogy and my favorite non-Perfect Blue movie of all time.

Wasn't that a terrifying tale, dear readers? Has this tale caused you to jump at every shadow? Don't worry, dear readers, zombies aren't real... yet. But when the day comes, when Hell fills up and the dead walk the Earth, just remember this story's moral. If you kill a scientist who managed to domesticate a zombie. make sure you also kill that zombie, lest it learn how to use a gun and shoot you down. That's all for this month. For those of you with hearts as strong as an ox, I invite you to join us next month as we continue to peer into the eyes of madness with another Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls.

All-Time Smash Merit Ranking

Written by: SonicMario (talk)

Hello once more for the 6th edition of Smash Merit Rankings. Our non-shroom sections this time around were Kirby, Bowser Jr., and Donkey Kong. But as for our Shroom sections, we've got two characters that are pretty major for one reason or another. Up first is the oldest character in the Smash roster

Mr. Game & Watch from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
MR. GAME & WATCH
Categories Fighter Info
Fighter Number 26
Fighter Group Melee Veteran
Franchise Game & Watch
Game of Origin Ball (Game & Watch, 1980 (US/JP), 1995* (EU)

*On Game Boy as part of the Game Boy Gallery collection

In every Smash game, there is at least one or even a few characters that literally no one sees coming. I’ve noted before that in Smash 64, the closest to a WTF character was Ness. Who no one would have guessed to be added to a roster among big names like Mario, Link, and Donkey Kong then what was at the time a relatively obscure RPG with a rather terrible advertisement line. Brawl had ROB, the toy from the 80s that suddenly got a surprise appearance as a major player in the game’s story mode. Smash 4’s was Wii Fit Trainer, a character that certainly no one would have ever requested but was part of one of the most successful casual games of all time on the Wii. And… ok… I’ll admit that Ultimate’s WTF was pretty much Piranha Plant in it’s entirety.

But as I wrap around back to Melee for obviously the character I’m covering this time. We have to recall that there’s a big difference between the days of Melee and from Brawl and onwards. And that’s obviously that the internet had not taken the world by storm as much as it has these days. Once Brawl was out in Japan, the forums speculating on the game finally got the word of the full roster. And those who had been spent the speculation period could know now if a character they like be it a newcomer or a veteran made it into the game. There were probably some that were able to resist going on the internet so that some characters ended up as secrets. But otherwise if you were a Nintendo fan and spent time online a lot. You probably were shown the full roster pretty quickly once the game was out in Japan. For Melee, the Internet was still in it’s relatively infancy. It was more then likely then not that the people buying Melee did not know the full roster. Before you even get to the character I’m covering in this section. Perhaps people would think Marth & Roy, the swordsmen from a Japan only series were the WTF character of the game. And they could certainly still count. But this character is meant to be the ultimate reward as he is the final character you unlock in the game. You either get him through playing through Classic Mode with every other character, or after 1000 vs. matches. And this character is a deep cut in Nintendo’s history.

Mr. Game & Watch is naturally the generic LCD character you see in nearly every Game & Watch game. He’s technically the star of Nintendo’s first foray into video games. Now, the Game & Watch games aren’t really as advanced to either the arcade or NES games. But it was certainly the beginning of a momentous shift as Nintendo was changing from a toy company in the 70’s to the Video game giant they are to this day. Mr. Game and Watch is the oldest character in the Smash roster. He and Pac-Man came out in the same year, with the game Ball outdating the original Pac-Man by just a month.

However, it should be noted that because Game & Watch was in the transition between toys and video game. They started as systems that could play that game and ONLY that game alone. Before the Game Boy, you had to buy another Game & Watch to get the game. And depending on the kind of Game & Watch. During the 80s they could go for around $25 all the way to $45. Adjusting for inflation to today's rate. That'd make the Game & Watches range from over $70 to nearly $140. Not that it isn't worth being wary about paying full price for games now. But it's still a little mind blowing to think these simple games went for that much

The Game & Watch probably certainly got Nintendo on the road to where they are today, but they still needed to make their big hits like Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda. The Game & Watch was not going to get them there alone. Even though Game & Watch technically is older then Pac-Man, the yellow guy has more impact having been a part of the boom Arcades had in the early 80’s and Pac-Man’s still going decently ever since where as Game & Watch generally has been relegated to compilations, some re-releases of the Game & Watch, cameos, and most recently special edition Mario and Zelda Game & Watches. If there’s anything Game & Watch does have a legacy of outside of Nintendo. Is they did provide a blueprint for companies like Tiger electronics to make simple, cheap, easy to produce monochrome LCD games that only play that particular games. Where it’d even get a point eventually where games like that were released as happy meal/kids toys at fast food restaurants. (Do you remember this weird Sonic commercial that made rounds on the web? Those were LCD games being advertised)

Back to his appearance in Melee though, even if I’m stressing that the Game and Watch was the sort of transition. I don’t mean to pull away from the fact they pulled perhaps the most WTF character ever, but also a very merited character at the same time simply because he was the humble roots of Nintendo’s foray into video games. While the Game and Watch did get a re-release through the Game and Watch gallery games. Most people who bought Melee likely had no idea what the Game and Watch was. So this flat character with quirky animations and sounds very unique to the cast appearing had to have had people wondering what they just unlocked.

Mr. Game and Watch’s inclusion in Melee sort of cemented the fact that the Smash series wasn’t just a fighting game with Nintendo characters in it. It’s a sort of Nintendo museum, where even characters long past their prime can make a return in full glory. The status of Smash being a sort of Nintendo museum (Which was also likely helped by the trophies and their descriptions, where you could learn a lot about Nintendo’s history) would even extend for the most part once 3rd parties started being brought into the series. There was a feeling that the character had to have been generally worthy of being “inducted” into a special place in the museum as characters not owned by Nintendo but were otherwise worth featuring.

Of course, going into the museum logic for Smash Bros does have it’s downsides in having a fanbase that’s brought to toxicity as there’s characters they may feel don’t “deserve” a spot and/or they get upset that their favorite doesn’t make it in the end. That’s the double edged sword of having a roster everyone cares for, it provides a special air for Smash that no other fighting game series not even other games that are also crossovers between multiple franchises. The idea of there being merit for Smash is very much tied into this kind of idea, and I can understand if that concept might have its controversy in treating Smash more seriously then it should be. I’m just pointing out that the inclusion of Mr. Game & Watch feels like the source behind it. Where as many Nintendo All-Stars made it in before Game & Watch to sort of build that up it’s the deep cuts in Nintendo’s history that gives it the museum feel. And it’s not even just the roster that makes it feel like a museum, the aforementioned trophies, the stages, and the soundtrack is often a source of that sort of vibe too. Some people are happy enough if their franchise gets some music in the game even if they can’t get a character. There’s so much love for much of gaming history in all of the Smash games that feels like it really culminated with a Nintendo character that predates Mario and Donkey Kong.

It’s a special surprise that will never happen again in Smash history, not just because of the internet allowing less people to not be spoiled on the roster before they play the game. But the fact to outdo Mr. Game and Watch you’d have to get into making the paddles of Pong a playable character (Though technically they are an assist trophy), or a Hanafuda playing card. And either of those might be a bridge too far. Ha ha ha ha..

...Unless?


And now, none other then Mr. Video Game himself. The very character we owe the existence of the very wiki and community for...


Artwork of Mario from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
MARIO
Categories Fighter Info
Fighter Number 1
Fighter Group Original 12
Franchise Mario
Game of Origin Donkey Kong (Arcade, 1981 (US/JP), 1986* (EU)

*On NES

Well, look who we have here. Quite honestly, I probably could get away with simply ending this off right now. Just putting up the list and crowning Mario as he will be for the rest of the list as the #1 Merited character. Because come on, it was pretty obvious that’s where he was going to be. He is Nintendo’s flagship character and the video game equivalent to Mickey Mouse. Like the famous mouse, he was not the first character in the industry, but he ever so effectively became a household name. Ask anyone, even those who don’t normally play video games what they think of when you say the words video game to them. There’s a good chance an image of Mario appears in their head. That’s just how entrenched he is in popular culture.

Take a look at Mario's article on this very wiki if you actually want a look at his character (or more likely a re-look). It's Mario, we all know who he is. I feel like I shouldn't have to offer you too much about Mario given what kind of site The Shroom is for.

But what I can offer is my own personal experiences with the Mario franchise. With how long and diverse the Mario franchise has been in more then 3 decades you’d be hard pressed to find two fans who had the same exact experience with Mario. I’ll start by saying that a Mario game was likely the first video game I ever played. It was Super Mario World on the SNES, it was owned by my babysitter who graciously let me play it. Though it was the Nintendo 64 era that probably really put the Mario series in my heart. The Nintendo 64 was my first ever video game console. From what was at the time a pretty mind-blowing 3D experience with Super Mario 64, the crazy fun of Mario Kart 64 in which I’d play so much of it with my Dad, and the other kinds of Mario games that I owned or at least rented like Mario Golf, Tennis, and the first 3 Mario Party games. Paper Mario 64 and Thousand Year Door was one of the few times I ever completed a turn-based RPG.

The Gamecube era entrenched more love for Mario at around the same time that Sonic was introduced to me through Sega going third party. While perhaps I have more fond memories of the Sonic Adventure games over many of the Mario games at the time. It was still enriching for me personally to have both those and the many Mario games on Gamecube to bolster my Gamecube game lineup. As the Gamecube brought over Super Mario Sunshine (A game my Mom in particularly really loves) along with follow-ups to the games that were on N64 with Mario Kart Double Dash, Power Tennis, Toadstool Tour, and of course Mario Parties 4-7. Though the Gamecube also introduced perhaps my favorite of the Mario sports series in Mario Strikers. Who is set to have a new iteration for the first time since the Wii era next month. And I most certainly plan to get it.

The Wii era was actually something of a weird period for my Mario experiences. There was Mario Galaxy and Strikers Charged that were amazing though there was also Paper Mario taking a different direction (Though would in hindsight be preferable to what became of the franchise in the 3DS era) and while Mario Party 8 would also be somewhat rectified on what came to Mario Party up until Superstars. The awkward motion controls for the mini games still didn’t leave it as much of a place in my heart like most of the earlier Mario Parties. And while Mario Kart Wii is fun, I felt like maybe it went a little too overboard with the item frequency plus how the bikes have an inherent advantage over karts with the ability to wheelie. And a few courses I just outright didn't like such as Shy Guy Beach and the Ghost House remakes. The only time I dislike a course in Mario Kart 8 is when some particular ones show up in 200cc (Ex: New Bowser City and Mario Kart 8's Rainbow Road)

With the 3DS, the Mario experience started with Mario Kart 7 which I actually liked much more then I did Wii though in part that MK7 had a good amount of nods to N64. Mario Kart 8 would soon make MK7 pretty much obsolete, especially now that Mario Kart 8’s going to now have more then 90 courses by the end of 2023. But it was Mario Kart 7 that started the trend that would become MK8 what with the underwater and gliding sections added to tracks. Sticker Star a bit of a black hole in the franchise, although while I do own the game. I haven’t touched it ever since I stopped playing in the 2nd area. I think most Paper Mario fans would probably say it’s not worth attempting to finish.

I think Wii U’s main legacy for Mario was the debut of Mario Maker that allowed everyone to make their own Mario stages. Continuing on over to Mario Maker 2. Although it is a shame that the sequel didn’t carry over some of the quirks of the first such as the mystery mushroom that allowed Mario to become many other characters. And now with the switch something of a resurgence with Super Mario Odyssey. Although the Mario Sports series seems to have unfortunately has hit a rather stale point at least for me personally. I tried to rent Aces but it just wasn’t for me like Power Tennis and the N64 one was. I haven't played the new Mario Golf, but there seems to be a fair share of disappointment with that. With that it does leave something of a worry about the new Strikers especially as it’s roster is pretty barebones at least for the base game, though Strikers is being still developed by Next Level Games who generally did a fantastic job with Luigi’s Mansion 3 from what I hear.

I could probably go in more detail if you were to ask me for particular experiences of my own. But we may be hear all day if I went into everything. So let’s ends things off with talking about Mario in Smash. As the flagship character, Sakurai likely knew Mario would be many people who buy Smash for the first time play as first. Which is why Mario’s moveset to this day is meant to ease players into the way Smash works. It’s also why he tend to be in the middle-of-the-pack. A really good Mario can still wreck the battlefield, but he’s not meant to have a skill ceiling that gives him an edge at top play. He’s the jack-of-all-trades character to help new players learn how to play the game.

Though in a sense may make sense since there’s probably a lot of people where a Mario game was their first video game ever. Mario easing you to the world of video games. Even for fans that have since drifted away from Nintendo consoles whether that’s to PC gaming or even Nintendo’s competitors. There has to be some part of their gaming experience that involved the famous red plumber. Our very wiki and the community we share all have come about so we can share our personal experiences and the laughs we share in the many multiplayer Mario games. Super Smash Bros. would not be as huge as it was without the flagship to title it. It wouldn’t even be called Super Smash Bros. without Mario. Given Super and Bros. comes from the landmark title for Nintendo in the 80’s. While technically Mario probably owes some debt to Pac-Man in terms of just being a mascot, it’s no doubt all characters that came after Mario owe him so much. I have to imagine Mario has something to do with at least 80 of our 85 characters if not everyone but Mr. Game & Watch and Pac-Man. For that, it should be obvious where Mario permanently rests on the list.


Now despite Game and Watch being the oldest character in the roster it might actually be… a little difficult to think of where he belongs. Yes he predates Mario, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man. But he just doesn’t have the legacy of any of those 3. That said, we can’t ignore that he is technically Nintendo’s first video game character. If he was as important, he wouldn't have been forgotten as he was. I think it’d be fair to at least put him above Sega’s Sonic but below all of the Rareware developed characters. It honors that he’s a Nintendo icon, well longer then Sonic’s been on the Nintendo scene though definitely does not have the resume that Banjo or the Donkey Kong Country characters have in the general outreach. Or at the very least Mr. Game & Watch weren’t a popular request on the level of Banjo and K. Rool. I feel that’s a solid spot that does honor the occasion of the transition from toys to video games while also making sure I don’t over do it on making Game & Watch out to be bigger then Pac-Man just because his first game came out a month before.

And as for Mario… I don’t think I even need to explain more then I already have. Maybe I even already explained too much. But regardless, Mario takes his permanent #1 spot on the list.

MERIT RANKINGS
1. Mario 21. Steve
2. Link 22. Lucas
3. Donkey Kong 23. Mythra
4. Kirby 24. Min Min
5. Luigi 25. Byleth
6. Bowser 26. Wii Fit Trainer
7. Pac-Man 27. Chrom
8. Diddy Kong 28. Dr. Mario
9. Banjo & Kazooie 29. Dark Pit
10. King K. Rool 30. Piranha Plant
11. Mr. Game & Watch
12. Sonic the Hedgehog
13. Bowser Jr.
14. Rosalina & Luma
15. Snake
16. Shulk
17. Pit
18. Ness
19. Jigglypuff
20. Duck Hunt

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

In what I now will likely turn into an annual tradition, welcome to my Spring Cleaning Special! As I do research for reviews I typically end up trying out easily double the amount of items that actually make it into the published review, and often enough there are themes and concepts that don’t come into fruition, or meet quality and fulfillment I feel happy with. These notes and things clutter up a lot of space in my writing document, so it’s time to clean it up!

Yancey’s Fancy

Yancey’s Fancy is a New York-based artisan cheese producer, a Western New York brand that has been able to spread their product into an astounding amount of retailers nationwide. You can find it around $7, give or take some quarters depending on which store you go to and the current state of inflation, but it regularly goes on BOGO at Publix, Sprouts, and Winn-Dixie, and I can safely assume elsewhere, too. They have an astounding amount of flavors that basically boil down to ‘we put some stuff we found in our pantry into a basic pasteurized unaged cheddar cheese’, with varying difficulty of actually finding more flavors than just Champagne, Bergenost, Smoke Gouda w/ Bacon, and Horseradish.

BOGO cheese is my reason to live.

Ghost Pepper Cheddar Cheese

One day I saw their Ghost Pepper Cheddar floating around figured now’s my chance to puff up a ghost pepper review and ended up not actually including it in that review. The reason for that is because the only way it’s remarkable is not very remarkable! It tastes exactly like what it says, ghost pepper and cheddar. The cheese is soft and smooth, almost creamy, slightly springy, and seems to be only a vessel for surprising ghost pepper heat. I shouldn’t be surprised because the ingredients, aside from what makes up the actual cheese, is pretty much only ghost pepper and ghost pepper flakes, and what’s surprising is that no one else does this. I suppose that the swift pain I felt in my mouth is exactly why genuine use of ghost pepper is not as prominent of a flavoring, and may also be why I haven’t seen this flavor of Yancey’s Fancy again in stores. The sweetness of the peppers still comes through, combining with the heat and creaminess to make it a manageable burn, if just initially surprising. It’s a pretty good snacking cheese, and could provide a unique pairing with some crackers, but it’s ultimately quite processed, which somewhat unfairly lobs it into more lowbrow markets. Its thick black wax and frightening proposition makes me think it would be a good addition to a Halloween party, but otherwise lacks a place.

How smoothly it cut was slightly off-putting.

Buffalo Wing Cheddar

In a similar stroke as the Ghost Pepper, the Buffalo Wing Cheddar is a processed cheese that is just the basic cheese ingredients with its nominal flavors dumped in, but this time it’s jalapenos, hot wing sauce, habanero peppers, red pepper flakes, capsicum, and annatto. I’m pretty much at a loss of what to say that would differ from a rephrasing of the Ghost Pepper cheese; it tastes like what it says–for better or worse–and has a place as a gimmick cheese on a lowbrow cheeseboard. The website proposes using it to give a hot kick to dishes like potatoes and mac & cheese, but for how expensive the Yancey’s cheese you can just use much cheaper Velveeta or Kraft and just drizzle in some cheap buffalo sauce. Only worth it if you get it BOGO to try out something different. Yelling at myself “I’m not a hater, I’m not a hater!!” but maybe I am, it’s not a bad cheese, but you need to accept it as a gimmick and utilize it as such with no more or less expectations.

Ultimately what trying this has done for me is provide a window into their other flavors, which are treated in a similar manner, to safely assume that whatever Yancey’s Fancy cheese you get you can surely bet that the flavor on the label is what you’re going to taste.

Spindrift

A couple years ago or so we all saw the birth of the carbonated water kick in trendy food nonsense. The popularity of one brand led to the market space for several more, and then more after that, more and more until the entire market became diluted and shifted towards kombucha and alcoholic sodas. Seltzers and sparkling waters are still bubbling to the surface pretty strongly, but after trying some out and after a few years, I just couldn’t bring myself to develop a whole review set on something I couldn’t find much personal enthusiasm or inspiration in. I was truly hoping to make it into one of my redo-reviews where I give something I gave a bad review years ago another chance now that I’ve had time to grow and develop as a real person who exists in society with at least a tangible grasp on nuance, and not as a slimeball struggling to mature at my mom’s house making forced one-liners that still wake me up at night with spine-shattering cringe.

🍋

The first one I tried with intent to document was Spindrift, and while I continued on after that I really didn’t find anything that provided me with anything more to say than what I can about this one. Their whole gimmick seems to be bucking natural ingredient trends by dismissing the smoke-and-mirrors definitions and just using real fruit–and nothing else. While this may fly in the face of people scouring aisles for anything that says 0 calories, it appeals to people wanting genuine simplicity. You may think, “huh, I can also squeeze a lemon into a glass of seltzer water,” which is absolutely true! You can! You can even pick out an organic or locally-harvested lemon if you want to out-virtue Spindrift! But what they also market this as is pre-made and portable, which yeah, it sure is! Several other reviewers I’ve seen praise Spindrift also highlight that the color of each flavor is naturally vibrant thanks to actual squeezed fruit juice being the only other ingredient, and that just has me calling bullshit on the whole thing because if you’re pouring it out into a glass to ogle the timid tint then really just go squeeze your own lemon into some bubbly water.

Lemon

First impression upon opening is that it smells really lemony. Just carbonated water and a little bit of lemon juice, and its own description of tasting ‘like if you ordered “sparkling” at a restaurant and squeezed several lemon slices into it’ is 100% accurate and true. Maybe because it’s coming out of a can rather than a frosty glass that’s perspiring more than me waiting at a red light with my car’s air conditioning still not working, the first sip tastes like dishwater. It gets surprisingly more tolerable after a few more sips, after the shock dissipates and you realize what you’re drinking isn’t Sprite. Only 3 calories for effectively the same feeling as drinking fizzy soda, really isn’t that bad likely thanks to the little bit of lemon juice taking the revolting bite out of just regular fizzy water. If I were to get it again I’d probably focus, and recommend, flavors of fruits you can’t so easily squeeze just to at least justify your purchase, though the ingredient lists do become a bit more lengthy and diverge from their “yep, that’s it!” slogan in a way that’s technically fine.

What’s disappointing to me is that, while I tolerated it, I didn’t really actually enjoy it, and if this is what is a top contender and hitting #1 on a lot of ‘best sparkling water’ lists, then it can only go down. Maybe I’m just not a sparkling water person? Maybe someone who knows a brand or flavor that’s worthwhile to try can offer a suggestion? Maybe what I need is a gimmick I can buy into long enough to waste $2? Maybe what I actually want is Sprite?

Treehouse Originals Mocha Drinking Chocolate

I think the discovery of the phrase 'drinking chocolate' was the beginning of the end.

Despite my already overwhelming backstock of different hot cocoa brands, I bought this single-serve packet because it was sitting on the markdown rack for a considerable discount. In a review that’s ultimately no different than in January 2021 when I tried their Sea Salt Drinking Chocolate, the Treehouse Originals Mocha Drinking Chocolate is an exercise in doubling down on the worst aspect of your food because people brainwashed themselves to believe that the worse it tastes, the better it is. I tried with 6oz water because I thought that maybe last time my insistence on milk was a detriment and contributed to the inability to dissolve the chocolate powder properly, but I thought wrong. It remained rather stubborn to dissolve, instead kinda just melting into sticky gobs that refused to budge off my spoon. Again with the 72% organic dark chocolate with no preservatives or refined sugars, it could’ve fooled me as I’ve had higher percentage dark chocolate bars that felt lighter, the bitterness worsened as there was no sweet cream to take off the edge, with the coffee used to make it mocha likely to blame. I did what I could to save it by adding a LOT of milk and a good chunk of sugar, which did help, but never found a way to persuade me to enjoy it and consume more.

-Creaminess ------- 1/5
-Chocolatiness --- 2/5
-Comfort ------------ 1/5
-Quality ------------- 3/5
-Value --------------- 1/5

Total: 8/25

Firehouse Subs

Founded in Jacksonville, Florida in 1999 by two former firefighter brothers, Firehouse Subs has spread to 1200+ stores in nearly every state and into Canada. Very much firefighter decorated, first responders, they absolutely don’t want you to miss the opportunity to know that they were founded by firemen and support first responders. As I have a mother, as one does, who is in the tail end of being middle-aged, I can see how effective this decor would be at gaining an audience.

Opening a sub always makes it look worse.

Because these were set to be used as several meals, I got some subs that I felt I would already probably like, and I felt that was more appropriate anyways so I could focus my energy more on the quality of the ingredients rather than a preconceived stance of not liking ham all too much. Out of their what genuinely felt like limited options because I’m both blessed and cursed with plentiful variety and availability at other places, I got the Spicy Cajun Chicken (‘Grilled, Cajun-seasoned chicken breast, jalapeños, melted pepper jack cheese, lettuce, onions, deli mustard, and our housemade Cajun mayo’) and Turkey Bacon Ranch™ (‘Freshly sliced smoked turkey breast, crispy bacon, melted sharp cheddar cheese, onion, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and creamy peppercorn ranch dressing on a toasted sub roll’), complete with the mysterious trademark. I guess what made it feel limited is that the ‘Build Your Own’ tab doesn’t have many meat options, but just clicking over to their hot specialty subs tab shows you just what their company focuses on.

The queue was a little funky, like, I guess I was expecting a Subway-type setup, but what they had me do was just tell one guy what I wanted, then I walked through the whole queue line past everyone who was working on the subs so I could sit on a stool in a frighteningly vacant end of the store with another guy who just would not stop staring at me, for them to put my subs on a pickup rack. Is that just the state of food shops now, designed for DoorDash and pickup seemingly exclusively? I kinda felt like I was transforming into a boomer when I had to endure the person at the register overacting just how much they hated working there, rolling their eyes, and just overall being kinda useless, but my experience in that kind of job was the thread that helped me escape that dark labyrinth. The subs are put into a box and then into a paper bag sideways, instead of mummified in a tightly wrapped sheet and form-fitting paper bag. It felt kinda novel at first, but it quickly gave me carrying-pizza-sideways vibes. Realization set in that boxes can’t wrap down to size as you eat more, so there’s limited refrigerating value purely by space used alone. Resealability is pretty limited, and the boxes aren’t nearly as tight of a seal as they need to be as right away there were pieces of lettuce and stuff pushing out of the openings. Whoever made that logistics decision should be destroyed.

Death death carnage destruction.

It took just over 10 minutes to make both subs, but it seemed like the crew was new, and it seemed like they put everything together right there in order instead of using pre-packaged or sorted kits. They at least had the foresight to place the pickle they provided in a little baggie so it didn’t soak the box and compromise its integrity; the sub itself already does that enough. Not a bad flavor, but it's very meh. I couldn't tell I had bacon on my sub until a piece of one fell out. Could just be the type of sub I first tried, but it felt like it could've been any cold cut and still tasted the same. At least, the rolls are very soft, and the ingredients feel and taste fresh. Strangely unfilling, much like Subway, but it still at least hits a craving. The quality is almost entirely in the bread with the rest being in how the toppings were layered, which is a textural effect that actually matters a lot; thin slices are better slices. The prices very much reflect the quality, not a place for the frugal, and I feel that this translates poorly into their pricing structure, as it feels almost necessary to add extra meat and toppings to provide something that would stand as more than an in-between-meals meal.

I honestly think I would go back anyways simply because the bread is good.

In a testament to just how long information sits and collects dust here as my will and desire rapidly fluctuates to what I want to review relative to a single themed monthly release, I tried these subs way back in February 2019. Additionally, I have yet to ever go back to Firehouse Subs after that time, partially because the one easily accessible to me shut down, and the other closer one is embedded in a corner of a college campus and I just kinda feel weird going to it. I guess if I’m feeling the urge to get takeout, maybe I’ll remember my words in this review and try out another Firehouse Subs sub instead of getting sesame chicken for the 40th time this month.

The 'Shroom: Issue 182
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