The 'Shroom:Issue 187/Critic Corner
That time of year is finally here! Spooky scary Halloween! 👻🎃⚰️🧙🍬🦇😈 Tricks? Treats? We got it all here at Critic Corner! So, put on your haunted mask that turns you into a demon beast that hopefully still has some critical thinking skills, and join us for a long dark night of potions, brews, emotions, and reviews, where maybe the scariest thing tonight might not be a media flop.
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as September'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 Meta Knight on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
|CRITIC CORNER SECTION OF THE MONTH|
|1st||Anton's Half-Baked Reviews||9||56.25%||Hypnotoad (talk)|
|2nd||A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups||7||43.75%||Mustard Machine (talk)|
Look! It's 'Shroom FM!
THE BETHS - EXPERT IN A DYING FIELD
BJÖRK - FOSSORA
COURTING - GUITAR MUSIC
DEATH'S DYNAMIC SHROUD - DARKLIFE
MAYA HAWKE - MOSS
JOCKSTRAP - I LOVE YOU JENNIFER B
SUDAN ARCHIVES - NATURAL BROWN PROM QUEEN ⭐
Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls
|A Big Hand for the Little Lady|
|Starring||Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards|
|Directed By||Fielder Cook|
|Streaming||Prime Video, Apple TV|
Good evening, dear readers, and welcome to another haunting Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls. I'm your guide through the darkness, Vincent Van Shoeul. Do you feel it, dear readers? The time, it's almost here. All Hallows' Eve, the time of year where the spirits of the night roam amongst us, where ghosts and ghouls return to wander amongst the living. To celebrate this special time, I have a special story for you all, but be warned, dear reader, this tale is the most horrifying of them all. For this, the most sacred of months, we shall be viewing 1966's A Big Hand for the Little Lady!
…Excuse me one second. I have to make a call.
Hey, what's going on!? This isn't what I wanted! The tapes got mixed up? So where did ours? Western Monthly!? What do you mean "just go with it," this isn't even a scar- Okay, okay, I'll make it work! *sigh.
That's right, dear reader, for this month we shall be telling you the story of a poker game played once a year by the richest men in the west. For those of you with weak stomachs, I suggest turning back now, but, for those of you who can brave the depravity that is gambling, I assure you this is a thriller.
Featured performers in this month's performance include: Henry Fonda as Meredith, a recovering gambler who risks his financial future in this game of poker; Joanne Woodward as Mary, the long suffering wife of Meredith who is forced to learn poker on the fly to defend her family's future; Paul Ford as C.P. Ballinger, a tightfisted banker who is offered an interesting business proposition; Burgess Meredith as Doc Joseph Sully, a local town doctor who wishes to escape the boredom and poverty of being a small town doctor; and, finally, Jason Robards as Henry P.G. Drummond, an abrasive cattleman who abandoned his daughter's wedding in order to play this game.
Based on the television play Big Deal in Laredo, A Big Hand for a Little Lady tells the tale of a poker game played once a year by the five richest men in the Laredo territory. The five players in this game are: Henry P.G. Drummond (played by Jason Robards), a cattleman who, as mentioned, abandoned his daughter's wedding when he found out it was time for the game; Otto Habershaw (played by Kevin McCarthy), a lawyer who abandoned a trial in the middle of defending his client; Benson Tropp (played by Charles Bickford), an undertaker who is the one who summons the players to the game (he also hates women, like, a lot); Dennis Wilcox (played by Robert Middleton), a businessman who serves as the rulesmaster of the game; and Jesse Buford (played by John Qualen), a businessman with a strong belief in keeping your word. His belief is best shown at the beginning of the film when he cancels a deal with some cattlemen because they arrived at 12:30 PM, not 12:00 PM as was agreed upon.
One thing I really like is how the movie makes sure you know this poker game is very important. People are crowding the bar where it takes place, and minor characters constantly ask for updates as to who is winning. As the game is taking place, a family arrives in town, needing a blacksmith. Upon hearing about the game, Meredith (played by Henry Fonda), immediately becomes interested, and, upon meeting Habbershaw, he begins asking how he can get into the game. Having sent his wife Mary (Joanne Woodward) to the blacksmith while he looks after their son Jackie (played by Gerald Michenaud), Meredith learns that he can enter the game if he has one thousand dollars. Meredith, a recovering gambling addict can't resist the chance at this big score, quickly enters the game using the money his family was planning on using to buy a farm in San Antonio. It quickly becomes apparent that the other players are taking him for a ride and, after losing hand after hand, much to his young son's frustration, Meredith finally gets what appears to be a good hand after breaking out a new deck. So, this is probably the smartest thing the movie does, because the movie never actually shows you what the hand is, so the viewer is left wondering if he's bluffing or not. In probably the most interesting aspect of the movie, as far as the poker game goes, the game is being played under what they call western rules. This basically means that, during a hand, if you don't have enough money to match the raise, you forfeit the hand. That's exactly what ends up happening, because Drummond decides to call his bet and, even after getting the rest of their savings (four thousand dollars), Drummond continues to raise it, even mocking Meredith as he gets desperate.
Henry Fonda knocks it out of the park as Meredith, playing the role of the desperate gambler to perfection. The constant nervousness, the sweating, the desperate begging, he's just fantastic in this role. His best scene is after Drummond raises the bet past what Meredith can afford in cash. Meredith attempts to hock his watch and wagon just to afford to keep in the hand because his cards are that good. Finally, the stress is too much for him, and he ends up collapsing and tells his wife to finish the hand. Despite not knowing how to play poker and over the objections of Tropp (because hating women is genuinely the only trait he has), she's allowed to play, but she still doesn't have enough cash to play out the hand.
Joanne Woodward is phenomenal as Mary, which makes sense, considering she's a one-time winner and four-time nominee for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Despite not knowing how to play poker and despite not having any money, Mary refuses to be intimidated by the other players. She then hatches a very crafty plan, and something I just think is so different for this kind of movie. She goes to the banker, played by Paul Ford, who obviously laughs her out of the building, thinking this all a big practical joke, especially when Mary tries to use her cards for collateral. Returning to the table, everything looks hopeless until the banker shows up at the table and, upon being fully convinced that it's not a joke, immediately offers to loan Mary five thousand dollars at 6% interest while being completely clear that he would be willing to keep going. Shocked by the sight of the cautious-by-nature banker give the loan with the cards at collateral, the players fold. Mary and her family win the entire pot, all twenty thousand dollars (which would be over four million dollars adjusted for inflation), but here's the thing. Even after they all fold, you never find out what cards Mary had. It's brilliant, really, because, despite the movie focusing on this hand, you never learn if they are bluffing or not. With this, the game ends with Wilcox, who was established to have not seen his wife in months, deciding to go home to her, having learned a lesson about the strength of family. Tropp, the woman-hater, also learns a lesson and congratulates Mary on her play (they say his hate for women shrank three sizes that day).
I can't stress how good I think the drama here is and how much not knowing the cards makes enhances it. You figure that, if they were going through all this effort, it has to be because they have really good cards, but you just never learn. I think this movie gets so much out of this one hand because of all the desperate things that Meredith and Mary do to keep in this hand, so you're just so invested in seeing how this hand plays out. There's so much drama and so much focus on this hand that the payoff feels immense when the banker gets in the game and causes everyone to fold. I've never quite seen anything like it and it's just unique and so different.
The ending, though, is one of the best endings I've ever seen from start to finish. The ending starts with Drummond, who was established to have abandoned his daughter on her wedding day and also doesn't have a great marriage (which was established when he commended Wilcox on not seeing his wife in months). He returns to his daughter's wedding and pulls his soon-to-be-son-in-law into a room and basically tells him "look, my daughter is homely and a bitch, and you're only marrying her because your father thinks it'll help him get my land. Here's some money. I want you to slip out, take my horse, and ride the hell out of here and find a woman who will really love you." It's so great, because it's clear that he was touched by the relationship that Meredith and Mary had and he doesn't want to see this nice young man make the same mistake he did. It's a great bit of character development because, outside of Tropp, Drummond was by far the meanest member of the game, going out of his way to kick Meredith while he's down and showing no sympathy when Meredith collapses and it looks like Meredith cost his family their future. It makes it so clever to see this guy now go out of his way to help somebody he has no loyalty to, even though it will raise hell with his wife and will prevent him from offloading his horrible daughter.
But that's not even the best part, because it turns out everything that happened after Meredith and his family came to town was a setup. Meredith, whose real name is Benny, and Mary, whose real name is Ruby, aren't even married. It turns out that, years ago, the five players screwed the banker, Ballinger, out of a large sum of money. So Ballinger and his girlfriend Ruby decided to get his money back by cheating the game. Benny is really just a conman (Jackie is Benny's son though) and Ruby is an expert card shark. Even Doc Sully, who tended to Benny after his "collapse," was in on it, having joined the conspiracy so that he could escape the life of a small town doctor. The film ends shortly after the gang splits the twenty thousand, with Ruby deciding to enter another poker game despite promising Ballinger that she wouldn't play any more if she got a big score. I can't stress how great this ending is, because it completely flips the move on its head once you realize that everything was planned out. The best part is that at no point in time is this even hinted at. There isn't a single point in the film that implies the characters are working together and that Meredith isn't just a man with a gambling problem and that Mary isn't just a long suffering wife. It's such a great twist because, not only is it unexpected, but it's so well executed that it completely changes how the movie is viewed on a second watch.
You know, it's funny. Despite my all-time favorite show being the western Lawman, I actually don't like westerns that much. I usually find them to be overly long, especially when compared to the tight and fast-paced nature of Lawman, but A Big Hand for a Little Lady, with its focus on characters and psychology, is one of my favorite movies. With a star-studded cast (all three leads had one Academy Award and just about every major actor in the film had been nominated for at least one), it's clear that everyone was giving it their A-game. Nobody turns in a bad performance and nobody hams it up despite this being, you know, at the time, another western in a sea of western films. Everyone gives a great performance and all the characters feel real. All in all, it's a great film and one that I think anyone interested in westerns should check out. Or, honestly, even if you aren't interested in westerns, it's still a great little character drama.
Thus concludes our little presentation. The moral in this tale? Always make sure you check on your production staff in advance. Next month, we will hopefully return to our standard programming, but until then, this has been Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls. I'm your host, Vincent Van Shoeul, inviting you to join us next month as we resume our journey through the darkness.
All-Time Smash Merit Ranking
Welcome back to another issue of Smash Rankings! After today, there will literally be only 30 total slots left of this thing. We’re ever so gradually reaching the end of this list! Our non-shroom sections this time were Princess Zelda, Simon Belmont, and Marth.
For Spook month, we have a disguised character and an example of the scariest thing to a Smash fan. So let’s begin!
|Fighter Group||Melee Veterans|
|Franchise||Legend of Zelda|
|Game of Origin||The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64,1998 (US/JP/EU)|
Sheik is probably one of the earliest examples of Smash spoiling something that’s supposed to be a twist of the original game. I won’t go into listing the others in case there are people who read this who somehow aren’t aware that what Smash has shown is a spoiler. But in the case of Ocarina of Time, and how unavoidable Smash has made it not to know. The Zelda of Ocarina of Time is Sheik. Sheik in Ocarina of Time serves mostly as a mysterious helper to Link but for those who played OoT when it first came out it must have still been a decent surprise to find out it was the Princess herself helping you.
It definitely gives something of a more “badass” layer to Zelda that she can also be this master ninja along with her usual magical powers as the Princess. And in Smash, Sheik quickly gained the reputation as… Zelda’s “best move” in terms of becoming a much more viable character. Since Smash 4 though, they’ve been made completely separate. And while in both Brawl and Smash 4 it sort of did a “What If Sheik was in Twilight Princess”. It could be said that Smash Ultimate technically returned Ocarina of Time Zelda just as Ocarina of Time Ganondorf returned. Just that of course, we don’t see Ocarina of Time Zelda in her Princess form. Perhaps she took to heart all the comments about her transformation Down special being her best move!
Though outside of Smash, Sheik’s a relatively minor character in the grand scheme of the Zelda games. Not really making many appearances outside of Ocarina of Time and the spin-off Hyrule Warriors.
Sheik being this minor has some asking if maybe Sheik should be replaced with another recurring Zelda character, that being Impa…. no I don’t mean the old lady Impa from the original, CD-I, Breath of the Wild, etc.. I mean the Ocarina of Time and/or Skyward Sword incarnation where just like Sheik she’s very much a ninja-like warrior quite capable of bringing foes down. Impa being one of the few outside the typical trio to reappear and pretty much has a larger role in the entire franchise then Sheik’s ever had. But as it stands, Sheik hasn’t missed a game since Melee and not sure if it will ever change. It’s true that Sheik outside of spin-offs haven’t had a major role since OoT. But the thing is that Ocarina of Time is such a landmark game in the franchise that it’s kind of hard to just remove any representation of it even as the game is reaching closer and closer to being 30 years old. Thanks to Smash’s legacy, people who have played a Smash game but not many Zelda games knows Sheik much more than Impa despite the former being less recurring.. It does at least put a bit of a damper on her merit, as our rankings don’t give bonus points for being carried by Smash to gain popularity and recognizability. But that certainly doesn’t mean Sheik hasn’t carved her slice of Nintendo history. She still is a Zelda after all. And every Zelda, has a legend. That is the franchise’s name, no?
And now we get to the spooooooookiest thing for any Smash fan… A FIRE EMBLEM CHARACTER! MUA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
|Fighter Group||Smash 4 Veterans|
|Game of Origin||Fire Emblem Awakening (Nintendo 3DS, 2012 (JP,)/2013 (NA, EU)|
…Though all jokes aside. Robin’s probably one of the more accepted choices in the history of Fire Emblem inclusions. Awakening was huge, it pretty much singlehandedly saved the franchise. As despite getting popular enough to release the games world wide after their debut in Melee, the Fire Emblem franchise actually entered a pretty bad rut where the franchise could (It nearly got so desperate that they considered bringing Fire Emblem… into SPACE for Awakening) have gone the way of F-Zero and/or Star Fox if Awakening did not succeed to Nintendo’s expectations. It was a shoe-in that Awakening was going to be represented in Smash 4.
The only question as to who would the character be. And the usual answer was Chrom, being as blue-haired and featured heavily even if he wasn’t actually the playable character in the game. Others may have mentioned Lucina, though there was a sector that wanted Awakening to be represented by it’s player character even if it was a little unorthodox at this time since Robin was an avatar character. While there is a default option, Robin had multiple hair colors, styles, and even choice of gender. We still gotta keep in mind that early Smash 4 speculation may have not expected gendered alts to be a thing. Naturally Villager, Wii Fit Trainer as well as the Miis brought down any possible barrier like that for Robin. But people were still so sure that Chrom was going to be the Awakening rep. Only for, as I mentioned in the very first character I covered. Not only did his daughter get in before him, but either his best friend (If Male Robin) or his wife (If Female Robin) got to be playable in Smash while he became a meme.
Though as tragic for Chrom fans as this was, this was actually a pretty rejoicing moment for everyone else. As Fire Emblem got to be represented by someone who wasn’t sword, sword, and nothing but the sword. Robin had actual magic to their moveset. Robin still had a sword naturally. But this was a Fire Emblem character with projectiles and unique moves. There wasn’t even a counter to be seen on Robin! This was fresh new territory for Fire Emblem. The only bummer perhaps comes retroactively as now ever since Robin’s inclusion, the player character has been the one destined to be in Smash. After Robin came Corrin in Smash 4’s DLC, and then Byleth. Each with far worse reactions to their reveal compared to Robin despite the unique movesets they also brought in. Robin’s was unique at first, but it has now reached a point where as I said in Marth’s section… we’re already preparing for the next Fire Emblem protagonist. The one with the “Pepsi hair” to be our next new Fire Emblem representative in the next Smash game.
The next Fire Emblem character has become as predictable as Pokemon getting a rep, and Fire Emblem does not have the luxury of being the highest grossing media franchise of all-time. People groan at a new Pokemon but at least admit it’ll bring in something unique. But Fire Emblem characters tend to add vitriol by once again being a character with a sword. And regardless of how unique their movesets are, it’s enough to make Smash fans go nuclear in anger that yet another Fire Emblem character has made it in Smash. Sometimes the Fire Emblem fans themselves getting on the bandwagon when the “boring” avatar character is chosen over perhaps more interesting characters.
Robin’s is the best inclusion of the three characters of these type for sure. Because it made sense, there were no other characters like them, and Awakening had been a huge success. Corrin and Byleth didn’t get the same treatment because they were placed in Smash either before the Western audience could get a hand on the game or they had been planned before their game even came out. Robin briefly tipped the scales in favor of a positive reception for Fire Emblem characters, but have since brought Smash fans on a downhill ride for future inclusions that we’re unsure if it gets broken. Robin’s inclusion made Chrom into a meme, that has eventually snowballed into Smash fans themselves becoming the Fire Emblem related Smash meme. Perhaps in that way (And that’s not even getting into the fact a literal demon lives inside him/her), Robin IS truly the spookiest character in the roster.
As for the rankings, both characters are on the lower end in some way. I said OoT was a landmark game, but let’s not make that enough to give Sheik a big leap when outside of Hyrule Warriors she has not made a major spotlight return since. I think she should at least be above ROB the Robot but I have a hard time choosing Sheik over another character who’s also a form of another character. I in fact think Mythra (And Pyra by default) currently hold more merit already then Sheik just for how major they are to their respective game.
As for Robin, I think they are in a similar tier to the SSB64 secret characters outside of Luigi. Below Captain Falcon and Ness for their longtime legacies of their franchises. But above Jigglypuff. As Robin set out a new direction for the Fire Emblem franchise that still continues to this day, while Jigglypuff has fallen quite a bit from the Gen 1 Heyday.
|1. Mario||21. Zelda||41. Duck Hunt|
|2. Link||22. Ganondorf||42. Greninja|
|3. Pikachu||23. Mr. Game & Watch||43. Steve|
|4. Donkey Kong||24. Sonic the Hedgehog||44. Lucas|
|5. Kirby||25. Sora||45. Mythra|
|6. Luigi||26. Bowser Jr.||46. Sheik|
|7. Wario||27. Olimar||47. ROB|
|8. Yoshi||28. Fox||48. Min Min|
|9. Bowser||29. Rosalina & Luma||49. Byleth|
|10. Peach||30. Marth||50. Ice Climbers|
|11. Mii Fighters||31. Zero Suit Samus||51. Wii Fit Trainer|
|12. Mega Man||32. Toon Link||52. Chrom|
|13. Pac-Man||33. Inkling||53. Dr. Mario|
|14. Diddy Kong||34. Snake||54. Dark Pit|
|15. Banjo & Kazooie||35. Shulk||55. Piranha Plant|
|16. Simon Belmont||36. Pit|
|17. King Dedede||37. Ness|
|18. Mewtwo||38. Captain Falcon|
|19. Ridley||39. Robin|
|20. King K. Rool||40. Jigglypuff|
Bad Halloween Candy
It might not be fair, you think, to render a judgment on these candies before I formally try them, but you must understand where I’m coming from with this. Halloween is just absolutely the perfect holiday for me and has finally been getting round respect and proper year-end holiday treatment with stores marketing it three months ahead. Spooky stuff available everywhere and not just at cheap party supply stores, but quality decor that I can fill my house with.
What I must contend with, though, are a vast amount of excuses that candy companies are putting forth to explain Halloween candy shortages, such as supply chain issues, cocoa bean shortages, worker shortages, rising costs, things I would generally see as reasonable to some degree but are being used to explain away decisions they’ve already been making for years as somehow not their fault. Look at what they’re considering ‘innovation’, Snickers and Twix with some green dye but absolutely nothing else changed, and a mix of already-existing common and popular M&M’s. I’m not sure where they’re getting the phrase ‘inspiring moments of happiness’ when there’s clearly no inspiration to begin with at all. I have no intention of buying these, adding a single sale to their datasheet that would support this, but luckily I have at my discretion many other Halloween-branded products that have already existed or at least change SOMETHING with the formula to create something new.
M&M’s Cookies & Scream
Something you need to know about me is that, as a kid, I was traumatized by Chocolate Skittles and their inclusion of vanilla, resulting in me not trusting candy flavored like other candy, and candy that’s flavored at all when I’ve personally decided it shouldn’t be. A horrible, rotten, miserable bunch of flavors, increasingly sickening with each bite, missing the point that chocolate isn’t just a flavor, but a texture, and one that shouldn’t be chewy coupled with the sour end of sweet. Likewise, I don’t think M&M’s need, or should have, any flavoring. Inclusions, sure! Inclusions are different and separate, as they are not a poor mimic but rather the actual thing. It’s not a hard and well-thought rule, it’s more a gut feeling, and much like our world and the spirit world, the barrier between my acceptance and disgust of weird nonsense food becomes thinnest on Samhain.Creepy Cocoa Crisp flavor but ended up finding this, and having already put the header ‘stupid m&m flavors’ in my notes I simply had to commit. Physically, they’re large, not the standard size of regular M&M’s but rather like the peanut butter filled M&Ms. Other reviews will say they’re ‘almost spot-on to eating an Oreo cookie’, which everyone knows that this is the point of anything that’s ‘cookies & cream’ flavored. My take, though, is that it’s nothing like an Oreo. Their website also kind of ease the reader into how distant the flavor is with these, stating that they “(...) may even remind you of your favorite creme-filled cookies!” I don’t want to be REMINDED, I want to be TOLD and SHOWN. I think what I’d want to see, instead of a trick of two chocolates to simulate something else entirely, for it to be more like the Peanut Butter M&M’s that have a creamy inside, but instead actual Oreo-esque cream gunk, perhaps with some cookie crumbs.
Critically important for their elevated status as a limited edition Halloween flavor is that they come in spooky tones of black, white, and orange, but for those who are looking for their candy-coated chocolates to be thematically colored without also having a disinviting flavor and also don’t have nearby access to one of the M&M Store’s candy walls, you can get a 2-lb bulk bag of black, white, and orange regular M&Ms but also with super cool jack-o-lantern and bat designs. For an actual decorative treat to finally make use of stylized bowls on my dining table, I think I may be better off with the mix of already-existing and common flavors I talked down on earlier.
Tootsie Roll Apple Caramel Pops
Despite existing since 1995, far longer than most of the other things I’m reviewing this month, I can’t ever recall seeing it before, likely because I’ve never cared to waste my time with a non-chocolate Halloween candy. I’m seeing some reviews out there that praise the crunchy candy exterior with a soft chewy caramel interior, which leads to two paths: they’ve created two similar but slightly different products, or people out there aren’t even bothering to look at the candy they’re writing a fake review for before lying about it, as these are a lollipop consisting of green apple candy coated with caramel.
The package itself is hard to get open, with no easy tear portion so you have to rely on how shoddy it is with the caramel leaking out of the bottom to pry your way in. Obnoxiously wide, as it seems to be flattened and not in a spherical shape that you’d think they’d try to create to evoke a caramel apple. The caramel is way too hard, and never gets chewy, only somewhat soft so it deforms its way off of the stick leaving you with an irritatingly obtuse mass of slightly sticky sugar stuck in your mouth in a way that’s difficult to roll around and get much flavor, instead leaving you a drooling mess unable to adequately swallow. After sucking on the thing for about 15 minutes, I finally got a sudden zap of the green apple flavor, which was certainly pleasant, but the lollipop itself hadn’t really decreased in size and was still awkward to have in my mouth, with the caramel still not being chewy yet. With regular caramel apples it’s the juicy apple inside that helps you bite into it, and provides some needed moisture to help turn that mass of sugar-glue into something you can chew and swallow, and while the flavor with these Tootsie Roll pops are certainly evocative of that, it just isn’t the textural sensation that’s required to truly enjoy this. Eventually, I just discarded it, as I got bored with tasting it and did not want to wait any longer to be chewing on crunchy candy and caramel. It’s likely cheaper, tastier, more fun, and ultimately better in every way to just make some regular caramel apples. If I got this while trick-or-treating, this would definitely have been something I swapped with my brother who’s allergic to chocolate for one of his Reese’s Cups, but unfortunately I am now an adult who is stuck with these. Hopefully some innocent children come to my door this year and I can dump these on them.
The true trick to this year’s treats, as has been creeping up for some time now, is an inundation of white crème products, whether fully or partially replacing chocolate within each product. White Crème is definitely not White Chocolate, much to the dismay of people who mistakenly believed ‘White’ meant White Chocolate and subsequently sued, with Hershey’s responding to the lawsuit with ‘wellllllll….it doesn’t TECHNICALLY say ‘white chocolate’, it only says ‘white’ :)’. The difference here is that white chocolate is made from cocoa butter, but lacks the cocoa solids that provide the brown color and signature bitter and sweet roasted nutty flavor. Legally, to be white chocolate, it must contain “at least 20 percent cocoa butter, at least 14 percent milk solids, at least 3.5 percent milkfat, and a maximum of 55 percent in sweeteners.” Meanwhile, white crème has absolutely no cocoa solids, cocoa butter, anything to do with cocoa at all, and is just a hunk of vegetable oils and corn syrup, feeling incredibly spiritually antithetical to Hershey’s at all but likely a huge boon on the corporate level because they’re selling products that people still think are chocolate but without actually being chocolate. It’s a pivot they’ve been making for well over a decade, with several candy bars no longer being able to be referred to as ‘chocolate bars’ as they no longer contain any chocolate as a self-confessed mean to cut rising costs. It’s a remarkable innovation that allows for feats such as playing with flavors and colors, but to use it on its own is something else. Noticeable differences to me are that white crème has a lower melting point, that it holds almost no flavor but a subtle and forgettable sweetness, and that it provides limited texture and weight; just nothing, an empty vessel, leaving behind expectations of more, something, anything.
Pumpkin spice is in the air, leaves are turning brilliant hues of warm colors, night seems to be falling earlier, and the candy aisle is filled with chocolate bars that are now green. Yes, Halloween is near, and joining the slew of uninspired candies that do absolutely nothing other than degrade the quality of the ingredients just so they can be dyed green is Reese’s Franken-Cups!
Reese’s has certainly been expanding their library over the last couple of years, with variations of add-ins (potato chips, pretzels, Reese’s Pieces, peanuts, peanut brittle), sizes, shapes, thick/thinness, flavors, more chocolate, less chocolate, and soon I’m expecting there to be alterations in the peanut butter filling just to see how far they can stretch. Many of these alternates are limited time options, whether they’re holiday varieties, or true limited editions like the Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers. The Franken-Cup is your standard Reese’s peanut butter covered with milk chocolate, but now with half of the cup being green colored white crème. Much to my surprise and disdain, the green part is simply and only colored white crème, opting not to do what KitKat does when they make unique items by adding an accompanying flavor to the dye. No longer to my surprise, the Franken-Cup tastes mostly the same as a normal one, providing no festive joy outside of the bottom looking like rotting zombie flesh when it gets partially stuck to the package. Of great importance, though, and the point I feel must be made loud and clear: the white creme doesn’t provide the same texture as the milk chocolate does, which throws off the whole balance and idea of a perfect Reese’s Cup. I’m not sure about you guys but I like the original Reese’s cup shape because of the firm edges that snap when I bite into them, and the white creme just isn’t solid enough for that and it’s absolutely horrible and bad. My one brother’s boyfriend–who I’ve ended up using as the dumpster for all of my food I buy to try but can’t finish–liked them, so I gave him the bag since I did not want it anymore.
I will definitely hand it to them that the design is unique and certainly does fit the theme accurately, but it still comes off as a form of lazy a cost-cutting measure for the company has turned into a future cost-cutting measure for me as I will never buy these or any other flavorless white crème product again (unless I can manipulate it for review content, of course). Splitting the milk chocolate with white crème here isn’t the first time they’ve done it, nor will it be the last, but it’s just simply the least creative or exciting version of it which is highly disappointing when it’s the Halloween version they phoned in. Flavoring the white crème with marshmallow, as they did in the Easter version, is not necessarily the way I’d prefer however appropriate it actually was for Easter, given how they can flavor the white crème with ANYTHING, but at least it was something new, something cute, something different, something at all. Perhaps if Frankenstein’s Monster is the theme, fuse a Reese’s Cup with another candy entirely, and go ahead and dye part of it green if it makes you happy.
Reese’s White Ghosts
Joining us this year alongside the traditional Reese’s Ghosts are the Reese’s White Ghosts, a justified thematic use of white crème. They taste fiiiiiiine, begrudgingly, and I admit that it is a cute design that is appropriately white, but despite being in the form of a spirit it just simply had no soul. What you usually get with the shaped themed Reese’s like the pumpkins, eggs, and ghosts is a heavier serving of peanut butter relative to the chocolate, skewing it away from sweetness more into savory, and rendering the texture to be smoother as there’s no firm ridges or shell. With the Reese’s White Ghost the peanut butter was certainly the most forward aspect, but the white crème doubled down on this with its oiliness. This reinforces to me that it really needs to be chocolate, actual chocolate, real chocolate, milk chocolate. A major difference between a regular and this is that this felt really slimy and slippery, more oily and greasy than milk chocolate that would just simply melt; maybe you’d be a fan of this but I’m really not. For the same price, I could’ve got a bag of regular ones, and it’s times like these where I regret my critic drive that persuades me to take the gamble on new items rather than cozy up with confirmed favorites. My one brother who is allergic to chocolate liked this, saying all that he could taste was the peanut butter, and that the white crème added absolutely nothing to it. I gave him the bag since I did not want it anymore.
I think what’s happening here is some kind of psyop, where every reviewer on the internet assumes it’s just white chocolate, saying how much the love white chocolate, doing a complete disservice to real white chocolate. Anyone who actually discovers that it’s not chocolate is then barreling in at 400 mph just to say “wow it tastes the same!”, only for the company to see that and go “yes, yes, now we can be rid of genuine and true chocolate and replace it with a nonsense blend of oils; you all said it tastes the same, right?” I implore you all, if you are a lover of chocolate, do not settle for white crème, and do not let chocolate companies slink by with now being candy companies, calling their chocolate products candy bars. Insist on real chocolate!
Pumpkin Pie Kit Kat
More on the Christian Girl Autumn side on the season, with the cozy warm tones of falling leaves, is the Pumpkin Pie Kit Kat. Simply pumpkin pie flavored white crème, but I’m not too bothered by it because Kit Kats have taken this form for a long time now–is this the brainwashing at work? Their package design provides a cute touch to a candy dish, but I wonder if the wonder ends there.
Let’s get one thing straight, first: I’m OVER everyone complaining about pumpkin spice not containing pumpkin flavor, because it shouldn’t, it just absolutely should not. Pumpkin spice are the spices used in pumpkin pie, so what you should be getting are cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger, absolutely no pumpkin at all because it is ‘pumpkin spice’. Meanwhile, this Kit Kat is ‘Pumpkin Pie’, which is a phrasing that is inclusive with the spices and pumpkin, it is the entire pumpkin pie as the name is 'Pumpkin Pie’, and to my complete and singular frustration there’s no pumpkin to be found. The flavor is overwhelmingly cinnamon and nutmeg, powerful and strong, evocative of seasonal candles, a sensation I can create better myself by instead having a regular Kit Kat while standing in the kitchen where my brother just sprayed Spiced Apple Febreze on a cockroach he found.
Overall, though, these are not too bad, outside of me demanding that they be named something else entirely like ‘winter spice’ or something abstract like ‘front lobby of a grocery store when it starts getting cold outside and they display cinnamon brooms and firewood’. Pumpkin pie, to me, is something that is subtly spicy, soft and creamy, with a dry crumble, and a lightly floating aftereffect of whipped cream, and Pumpkin Pie Kit Kats deliver something else entirely. I’m aware that my gripe with this is entirely in the name, which can be quickly overlooked once there is an understanding to just ignore it, so don’t take my stance here as too critical of the quality of the flavor. Pumpkin spice is a flavor that has been so overdone over the years that people have become complacent to how good it tastes and more enjoy that it exists and is available, with no care over how fake it tastes because it’s not out for long enough for that judgment to enter the zeitgeist. That concession being made, though, it just was not what I expected or really wanted to have, and if I’m gonna go out and buy an expensive bag of a limited flavor I sure hope that the flavor given is the flavor received.
My brother’s boyfriend liked these, so I gave him the bag since I did not want it anymore.
Witch’s Brew Kit Kat
Joining the slew of white crème Hershey’s candy that has the presence of always having existed despite only being released in, at earliest, 2019, is the Witch’s Brew Kit Kat. What makes this one special is that it’s dyed green, of course, but also that it actually has a flavor! Something more has been done to it! I feel like Kit Kats have become reliable with this, thanks mostly in part to the worldwide allure and success of Japanese Nestlé Kit Kats and their unique and interesting flavors, and I’ve been interested to see how Hershey’s progress with coming into their own to take advantage of and provide for this drive. Unfortunately, that flavor is Marshmallow.
I’d be a little more impressed that they gave a flavor in addition to coloring if it wasn’t a flavor that they’ve already done in a more appropriate scenario. Why is something called ‘Witch’s Brew’ just a meager and mild marshmallow flavor and not something more aligned to traditional cauldron and potion ingredients? Lemon zest? Mint? Maple? Gingerbread? Generic tutti-frutti candy flavor? Eye of newt, and toe of frog? Heck, I’d totally go for a general floral flavor with like lavender and hibiscus, but hidden behind the name as a mystery flavor. Sweet cinnamon is already used for a winter holiday flavor. Regardless, the flavor is accurate in name, I guess, but leans more into the toasty flavor. I think I would prefer this flavor reworked and renamed as like ‘Toasted Marshmallow’ for a winter holiday flavor. Actually, I sorta take that back, it doesn’t taste like any marshmallow I’ve ever had, but it tasted like every other marshmallow-flavored product. I’m not sure who decided one that that marshmallow tastes like this, at least banana flavor has a reason to not taste like bananas, but this just feels like gaslighting. Just call the flavor ‘Extra Sweet Vanilla’ to provide some base of consistency and stop people from thinking marshmallows taste like anything more than sugar; and what gets me even more is that the whole allure of marshmallows are their unique soft and springy texture, and ability to be flavored like anything, aspects that are completely missed when the flavor of the marshmallow itself is what’s being given. I guess a comparable flavor and texture would lean gently towards a Rice Krispie Treat, but I would much prefer a real one. What would greatly benefit this is take the Kit Kat Duos approach to still give it a chocolate taste and perhaps elevate the psychosomatic food influencer ‘oh wow!’ shock judgment of it tasting like s’mores into something that genuinely works. More companies should let me in on their boardroom meetings.
In summary, a totally serviceable Kit Kat flavor completely undone by poor thematic placement and misfired context that just comes off as lazy and cheap–perhaps things that other people won’t care about. Almost everyone else I gave one to hated it, with everyone thinking it tasted weird and agreeing with my winter holiday idea, providing me with the validation I require to sustain continued life. My brother’s boyfriend absolutely loved this (he claimed, even though we could all tell he was just trying to be polite and lying), so I gave him the bag since I did not want it anymore.
|The 'Shroom: Issue 187|
|Staff sections||Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight|
|Features||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner • Strategy Wing|