The 'Shroom:Issue 188/Critic Corner

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Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Shroom2017 Anton.png

January, February, March, suddenly November is here!! In this penultimate month we gather here together to celebrate family, kinship, and the ceremonially thawing of an Elusive Chanteuse whose banshee cries spell doom for retail workers. Before (and after!) the smell of freshly baked pumpkin pie lifts you by your nose to carry you into a stuffed state of bliss, join us here for another round of freshly baked reviews!

Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as October'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

Place Section Votes % Writer
1st Anton's Half-Baked Reviews 15 62.50% Hypnotoad (talk)
2nd All-Time Smash Merit Ranking 6 25.00% SonicMario (talk)
3rd Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls 2 8.33% Mustard Machine (talk)

Reviews / opinion pieces

'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Blue Rev

Hello! I have been extra busy this month so I haven't had much time to listen to albums.


Big fan of Alvvays so was very excited for this, and it didn't disappoint at all. It's quite a bit noisier than their previous album, and the production is a bit heavier, which really accentuates all of the big moments here, and that's not necessarily easy as there are tons of them. Everything here sounds superb, particularly the guitars and synths, and Molly Rankin's vocal performance here is excellent. The only real criticism I have is that the last few songs don't stand out as much as the rest; but overall it's very bright, very energetic and immensely fun.


Didn't immediately strike me in the same way E•MO•TION and Dedicated did, but this is another album full of very solid and catchy pop songs. Admittedly the title track hasn't clicked with me yet, which is strange because that seems to be one of the favourites. One thing I do find a bit grating about this is the presence of other vocalists - Rufus Wainwright is good, but 'Beach House' is more what I'm referring to because there's like 10 guys on this who aren't Carly Rae Jepsen, and who aren't as engaging as she is. That's not what I signed up for. Also, it's unfortunate the bonus tracks aren't fully part of the album, because they're some of the absolute best songs here. What's the point of bonus tracks in the streaming age anyway?


Very nice, autumnal feel to this. I'd gone for a long walk right before listening to this and was disappointed I'd only just discovered it after. Vocals are very ethereal and calm, instrumentation is soothing too. Really solid indie folk with quite a few ambient and atmospheric moments which I found really interesting.


Bit boring. The production here in particular feels stale and unadventurous; it feels like an album Taylor could have released 8 years ago, like 1989 if it was just 'Out of the Woods' 13 times. I'm not really sure what the character she's going for here is - she keeps talking about being an "anti-hero" and a "mastermind", and that she's planning her "revenge", but it's not clear what for. Is it just a less dramatic Reputation? Wait a minute, I don't even like Taylor Swift's music that much, why do I know so much about it?


This is a covers EP from Asian Glow, if the name doesn't imply. I was drawn to this because the first song here is a cover of one of my favourite songs of all time, 'Huddle Formation' by The Go! Team. It was the only song I recognised going into this, turns out one of the songs is from that Bladee/Ecco2k album I didn't like, but only realised that after I'd listened to it. The Go! Team cover is pretty good, I guess. It starts out with a cool, kinda lo-fi synth sound but then after that it doesn't deviate much from the original. The next few songs after that I didn't really like; particularly 'I Hate Sports' which is a bit annoying, and sounds pretty much exactly like the original. But the second half of this EP - headed up by 'The Flag is Raised', the Bladee cover - really turned things around, including covers of Fishmans, Supercar, and... Asian Glow? These last four songs are great both instrumentally and vocally, and definitely change up the original tracks enough to be worthy covers. Despite a couple of weak moments, this is a good EP.

Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls

By: Mustard Machine (talk)

Bimbo’s Initiation
Genres Horror/Fantasy
Release date 1931
Starring Little Ann Little, Claude Reese
Directed By Dave Fleischer
Animated by: Grim Natwick, Jimmy Culhane, Al Eugster
Runtime 6 minutes 27 seconds
Streaming YouTube, Tubi, Public Domain

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. After last month's little production snafu, I am glad to report that we're back to our regularly scheduled program. For this month's production, we're going to be looking at something a little different. Tonight, for the first time in our program's history, we bring you an animated short film. From the early days of the golden age of animation, we present Bimbo's Initiation, a tale of a man (dog?) driven to near madness by a mysterious underground cult. For those of you that think cartoons are for children, I can assure you that you are wrong, and that this will be a thriller.


For tonight's featured performers, we only have one, that being the star of today's show, Bimbo. An early era cartoon mascot from the 30s, Bimbo is the prototypical everyman cartoon character. Unfortunately for him, he has found himself trapped in an underground chamber run by the mysterious group known as The Mystic Order of The Koo-Koo-Ma-Hatcha, who are determined to put him through tortures unimaginable. Will Bimbo escape, or will he be driven mad by the torture put in front of him?

Created by Fleischer Studios, who were one of Disney's main rivals during the golden age of animation thanks to their popular characters such as Popeye, DC's Superman, and Betty Boop (who was originally created as Bimbo's girlfriend!), Bimbo was created to basically be Fleischer Studios' equivalent to early era cartoon stars such as Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse. For the most part, Bimbo, much like a lot of early cartoon characters, doesn't have a fleshed out personality. Created to star in Fleischer Studios' Talkartoons series, which was kind of their version of like a Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies series of theatrical cartoons (i.e. cartoons that would be featured before a film), Bimbo is a lot like contemporary characters such as Bosko the Talking Ink Blot or Mickey Mouse. He doesn't really have any character. Instead, Bimbo is an everyman who can be thrown into whatever scenario the animators want him to do. Because of this, Bimbo himself, like a lot of really early cartoons stars such as Bosko, Buddy (who is just white Bosko), or Flip the Frog, just isn't very memorable, because there usually isn't a whole lot special about his cartoons. In fact, within two years, Bimbo was regulated to playing sidekick to Betty Boop, who was originally designed as: A: a dog and, B: Bimbo's girlfriend. But among a kind of bland catalog, there are two cartoons that really stand out, those being 1930's Swing You Sinners! and 1931's Bimbo's Initiation. These two are notable because they're just super dark and super weird. So Swing You Sinners! is a musical cartoon about Bimbo being tortured by a bunch of ghosts for the crime of stealing a chicken, and Bimbo's Initiation is about Bimbo being tortured by a cult because he refuses to join them. Now, of the two, I actually think Swing You Sinners! is the better cartoon, because I think the music pairs perfectly with the animation, but I let Hood pick between the two and he likes Bimbo's Initiation better, so that's what we'll look at.

Right off the bat, the intro to this cartoon is amazing. It starts with a little chorus that's supposed to represent something like a college glee club, coming before the title screen, singing a song that really kind of sets the town for the cartoon. I mean, look at these lyrics: "We are the members of do it or die / Watch us break Bimbo as easy as pie". You hear those and you know shit's about to go down. The first sequence of the cartoon is great, with the cartoon starting with Bimbo just happily walking down the street and stepping over some manhole covers while whistling.

I knew we couldn't trust that mouse...

But then he steps over one without a cover and falls in, and then a character that's clearly supposed to Mickey Mouse locks the cover onto the hole. Bimbo slides down a slide before being literally spit out in front of just a bunch of weirdos.

Who wouldn't wanna be a member?

A group of people with full-body suits, with beards, carrying pieces of wood with nails in them, their asses twitching, and wearing what appears to be candles on their heads stand before Bimbo. An eerie, just weird song plays every time they're onscreen, and they ask Bimbo if he wants to be a member. Bimbo obviously refuses and the order looks like they're letting him go, but then the exit rolls up and Bimbo runs right into a brick wall, and then the cartoon gets weird.

So the rest of this cartoon is just Bimbo being tortured in a whole bunch of different ways! They're all pretty creative, too, because it starts off with a room that's basically a big treadmill with a knife at the end, and every time Bimbo gets too tired, he's stabbed in the butt. Then the music starts picking up and the knife comes to life and is literally chomping at Bimbo in an attempt to stab him. Bimbo attempts to escape, jumping onto a top and hanging over a pit, but then the knife extends out and cuts the rope.

Looks like ass is on the menu!

This is just the first sequence of torture! The next one's just great dark humor, because Bimbo is trapped under a big spiked platform with a rope keeping it in place. There's a candle with a flame that's literally alive, jumping back onto the wick every time Bimbo attempts to blow it out. Then the candle gets on the rope and begins to dance as a version of "Turkey in the Straw" plays. It's just this great little dark humor, because, like, no matter what Bimbo attempts to do, the entire fabric of this building is against him.

Speaking of things being against Bimbo, possibly my favorite thing the short does is it really conveys Bimbo's fear. Bimbo is constantly shivering from the horrors he experiences and he's constantly making sounds of fear. Every time he encounters something new, like clockwork, there are more fearful sounds. The short doesn't have a lot of dialogue, but the little background character noises such as Bimbo's whimpers and the cult leader's grumbles are just fantastic. Speaking of The Mystic Order of The Koo-Koo-Ma-Hatcha, the cartoon is great at making you feel like Bimbo is being watched. Whether it being them literally laughing at Bimbo as he crashes into the wall, or the fact that, a few times during the cartoon, they return to ask Bimbo if he wants to be a member, there's a sense they're just always seeing his torture unfold. My favorite example of this is that, after the spike trap, they appear, but this time the music is faster and the leader is clearly angry that Bimbo refuses to join. Another thing that's great is the music. The score is brilliant and is perfect at setting the tone, cycling between haunting dark music when the situation calls for it and fast-paced, exciting music when Bimbo is desperately running from a trap. It's honestly probably one of the best scores I've heard in a non-musical-based theatrical cartoon.

The torture Bimbo goes through isn't just physical, and the short has some pretty creative ways to psychologically torture Bimbo, such as a pool of water turning solid the second Bimbo attempts to jump in after his butt was set on fire by a self-propelled spanking machine (it makes sense in context?). There's also the part where Bimbo comes to face four doors, each with a different symbol on them. One door has a mirror where a reflection of Bimbo points at the next door, which, obviously, contains a skeleton that's on the phone. Then there's a door that has a boxing glove on a spring, which punches Bimbo in the face. This is all followed by Bimbo finally escaping the area, only to end up on a self-propelled spanking bike. Then Betty Boop just shows up and lures Bimbo to a door, beckoning him to follow her, but each time Bimbo opens the door, there's just a smaller door behind it, then another door, then another door, then even more doors, each small than the last. Then, finally, the doorway swallows Bimbo whole.

Personally, I'd go with the hand turkey.

This leads to our ending, which, in keeping pace with the cartoon, is a total mind fuck. Bimbo is forced down a gauntlet of different tortures, such as running down stairs with each step slapping his ass, and psychological stuff like watching his shadow be decapitated, only to have it still follows his moves, just without a head. Finally, Bimbo ends up in a great little sequence where he's narrowly avoiding metal doors that are shutting behind him.

I've heard of "eat your heart out", but this is ridiculous!

There's a great little detail where he literally spits out his own heart in fear before just barely escaping the doors and coming face-to-face with another cult member. Still defiant. Bimbo refuses to join, but then the member rips off his clothes and reveals that he's Betty Boop! Betty Boop then does a sexy seduction dance to entice Bimbo to join. One of the best details about this is that you can literally see Bimbo just break psychologically, and, finally, he can take no more and he agrees to join The Mystic Order of the Koo-Koo-Ma-Hatcha...

I, uh, don't know what to say...

...who then reveal that they're all clones of Betty Boop, which, to me, just raises more questions! Is one of them the real Betty Boop? How did they form? Is this like a parasitic thing and is Bimbo going to turn into a Betty Boop? The cartoon, of course, answers none of these questions, and instead ends with Bimbo and Betty Boop taking turns spanking each other while triumphant music plays. Then the cartoon just ends!

Bimbo's Initiation is a goddamn weird cartoon. It's just so dark, because it's literally just a character being tortured by a force that he neither understands nor wants to understand. All Bimbo wants is to escape, but, for some reason, the order refuses to let him. From what I've seen, there's really only one cartoon like this, that being Swing You Sinners!, but at least in that one Bimbo is being punished for his sins. In this cartoon, poor Bimbo is being tortured simply for refusing to join a gang of weirdos. Bimbo's Initiation is not only a standout of the Bimbo library (which, while a low bar, is a bar nonetheless); it's a standout in the entire golden age of animation. It's a fantastic dark cartoon that fully embraces not only weird and dark theming, but also some super creative different tortures.

As a character, Bimbo would continue to appear until 1933, primarily appearing in cartoons as either the boyfriend of Betty Boop or as a side character in her cartoons. These cartoons would obviously be more musical in nature to go along with Betty Boop's flapper persona. Unfortunately for Bimbo, he would find himself phased out of the cartoons in 1933 due to increasing scrutiny from the Hays Code guidelines, which for some reason frowned upon romance. Because of that, he was no longer allowed to appear as the love interest for Betty Boop and, because he was never a super popular character in his own right, Bimbo was phased out, not only disappearing from Betty Boop, but from the golden age of animation in general. For the most part, Bimbo has remained in mainstream obscurity, and, while he would begin making appearances again in the 80s, such as playing a role in the TV special The Betty Boop Movie Mystery as well as appearing off and on in various Betty Boop comic books and assorted merchandise, Bimbo has mostly been relegated to obscurity. It doesn't help that, while Betty Boop herself is a well-known character, she's known less for what she actually was in and more for the fact that she's an iconic character, so there haven't been many projects for Bimbo to appear in. Perhaps if Fleischer Studios has produced more dark and surreal pictures such as this, Bimbo would have been able to escape the obscurity that plagued so many mascots of the time. But alas, Bimbo has fallen to the wayside, just another talking animal mascot in an era full of talking animal mascots.

And so, dear readers, another tale comes to an end. Many people believe that cartoons are for children, but as this story shows, that just isn't the case. The moral of this month's performance is simple. Always make sure you're paying attention when walking over a manhole cover, unless you want to take the risk of being trapped by an evil spooky cult. That will be all for this month. Join us next month as we continue our trek into madness with Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls.

Graphic Novel Review

Written by: FunkyK38 (talk)

The Complete Maus
Author Art Spiegelman
Release date 1996
Genre biography, history
Pages 296
Available From

Greetings, readers, and welcome back to another edition of Graphic Novel Review! This month, I will be taking a look at The Complete Maus written and drawn by Art Spiegelman.

Earlier this year, a school board in Tennessee decided to ban Maus due to “nudity, violence, and language” in the book. Many thought that this was a sign of Holocaust erasure, a way to present a “nicer” version of the Holocaust. Me personally? I had to read a lot of books in school when I was growing up, and a handful of them have stuck out to me 10-15 years later for how violent they were. Books like Where the Red Fern Grows exposed us to some really gory scenes, and thinking back now, I’m shocked that parents think THAT book is OK for fifth graders (the age I was when we read that book) to read. I don’t agree with Maus being banned- if it makes you uncomfortable, that’s good- it should. If you’re uncomfortable with something, whether that’s the Holocaust, the Civil Rights movement, the current struggle of the Uigher Muslims in China, whatever it is, you should be doing what you can to make sure that something like that never happens again. That’s just how I feel, and I believe it’s important for kids to learn about these dark times in history so they can learn from it. But, that debate is neither here nor there, this is a review of Maus, so, let’s jump in and review Maus.

Maus is both a story about the Holocaust and a story of the author’s relationship with his father. I say “story” but it’s more a biography, really. Art Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, was a Polish Jew who lived through the Holocaust. Now living in New York, Vladek tells Art of his story, and the writing of the graphic novel you hold in your hands is the framing device that the story sits in. Chapters are divided up into sessions Art has with his father, where he goes over to Vladek’s house and helps him with small chores, such as going to the bank or maybe just taking a walk. During these visits, Vladek tells Art more about his time during the Holocaust, and readers are exposed to the scenes of the Holocaust that colored Vladek’s life, how that traumatic experience changed him as a person. If you’ve never read a book about the Holocaust before, this one is a good place to start- the violence is not excessive (there are a couple scenes of violence but on the whole it’s mostly off-panel), and it’s a perfect window to see how quickly things spiraled out of control during the Holocaust- within a few years, Vladek and his wife Anja go from seeing their first swastika in a bigger city to being caught and sent off to a concentration camp. Vladek uses his ingenuity and skills to get him and Anja out alive, through trading goods, working many jobs, and

The other half of the book is Art’s relationship with his aging father. Vladek is in poor health in his old age, having to count out a multitude of pills and vitamins to take every day, and he is guarded with money- he returns opened food that he can’t eat to the store to get his money back, he picks up pieces of wire on the street and takes paper towels home to avoid buying more, and he refuses to hire outside help to fix anything, such as the leaking roof. He resents his second wife, Mala for always talking about money, when she (a Holocaust survivor as well) is miserable with his miserly ways and poor treatment of her. He and Art clash regularly in the book over disagreements usually stemming from money, and things are especially tense when Art finds out his father burned his mother Anja’s journals from the Holocaust. During the second half of the book (in the Complete Edition, this is part 2), Art is starting to get discouraged during writing and illustrating after his father dies. He is swarmed with offers to turn Maus into a movie (no thank you, he says), requests for interviews asking probing and plying questions, and he’s just burned out. A chat with his therapist, who is also a survivor, helps him to break through his guilt of trying to write the book about his father, who had to live through so many terrible things. These few pages at the beginning of part 2 are a good look at survivor’s guilt, and I would recommend it for anyone to read.

The art of Maus is black and white, except for a handful of cover pages that are in color. If you don’t know the metaphor behind Maus, the Jews are mice and the Germans are cats, and other nationalities are various other animals (pigs, frogs, dogs, etc.) It’s simple and easy to understand, and the art is excellent as well. Linework is thick but clear and easy to read, and the art itself is beautiful in its simplicity. It can be a little tricky to keep all the characters straight, as every mouse looks fairly similar to every other mouse, but if you're paying attention, you should have no issues. Spiegelman makes expressions pop with extra linework, and you can really feel the emotion in each character as they go through hardship or happiness.

The Complete Maus is an important book that I believe everyone should read. The themes and content inside can be heavy, but they are heavy without being graphic or gory, so this is a good book to read if you are just starting to learn about WWII and the Holocaust. Even if you're not a student in school, it's full of lessons and experiences to learn from, such as learning to work with survivors' guilt, and I highly recommend it. It's important for everyone to learn from the past so we can make sure terrible atrocities like the Holocaust never happen again, and Maus will help you learn and experience what the Jews in the Holocaust had to live through.

That's all for me this month, readers, be sure to tune in next time for a new Book Review!

A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups

Written By: Generalissimo Shoe (talk)

At ease, troops! Welcome back to another intelligence briefing. For this month, I've got a special report fresh from Donkey Kong Island. Stand at attention and receive your briefing on the Animal Buddies Rattly the Rattlesnake and Squitter the Spider.

First, I'll give you a little bit of an explanation as to what an Animal Buddy is. An Animal Buddy is something exclusive to the Donkey Kong series. Most of them act similarly to Yoshi, being something that the Kongs can ride that gives the Kongs both a free hit and special powers (they even run off if the player is hit while riding one, just like Yoshi). Not all of them can be ridden; some of them, mind you, like Clapper the Seal and Glimmer the Anglerfish, instead make it easier to progress through levels. The ones that can be ridden tend to come in two forms gameplay-wise. Either they come from crates where they can be ridden up until a "no Animal Buddy sign" appears to turn the Animal Buddy into a reward for the player for bringing their Animal Buddy all the way to the end of a level, or they come from an Animal Barrel. When entered, Animal Barrels turn the Kongs into the Animal Buddy and the player will then play that level as said Animal Buddy. The main differences between the two are that, in levels with an Animal Barrel, you have to play the level as that Animal Buddy. Animal Buddies found in crates essentially mean that the player can have a max of three hits since the Animal Buddy counts as an hit, but with the barrel, since the Kongs are turning into the Animal Buddy themselves, you can only have a max of two hits, making levels with Animal Barrels slightly harder then ones with crates.

Rattly the Rattlesnake

First up, we've got the rebelling rattlesnake, Rattly the Rattlesnake. First appearing in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, Rattly essentially serves as the replacement for Winky the Frog from Donkey Kong Country. For his main power, Rattly has a significantly higher jump than Diddy Kong or Dixie Kong, allowing him to clear jumps and reach targets that the Kongs cannot. Rattly also has a special super jump activated by holding the A button, causing Rattly to charge up his jump before launching an even higher jump! In some ways, Rattly has a bit of a double jump, because if you fall from a platform without jumping, you can jump in midair with him. In addition to having a super high jump, Rattly also has the ability to defeat Zingers by jumping on them, which the Kongs cannot do. Also, just as all the other rideable Animal Buddies, Rattly acts as a free hit, meaning the Kongs can now have three full hits when riding him!

Rattly and Dixie fight through an enemy ship.

I like Rattly a lot because there's just something that's a lot of fun about just bouncing around like a spring. I think the superjump is a little bit of a waste since it's primarily used to collect hidden objects or find bonus barrels, but it's still a neat little trick you can use. Of the Animal Buddies, I'd say Rattly is one of my favorites thanks to his cute design and fun gameplay mechanics. One thing I will say is that he feels a little bit slick to control, because, instead of running, he does short little hops. This can mean that avoiding enemies with him can be a little tricky because you have a small amount of delay with each hop. The biggest con to Rattly is that he's just not in very many levels since he only appears in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Land 2, with Donkey Kong Land 2 being a kind of weird port-but-not-port of Donkey Kong Country 2. Even then, he only appears in six levels and is only required in four of them, so he feels like a wasted opportunity, because not only does he not appear after Donkey Kong Land 2, but they don't even replace him with a similar Animal Buddy!

Squitter the Spider

The next Animal Buddy we're going to look at is the shoe-wearing, flame-colored spider, Squitter the Spider. Also first appearing in Donkey Kong Country 2, Squitter the spider has a few interesting gameplay mechanics. First, he shoots webs from his mouth that can be used to defeat most enemies. These webs can also be aimed, with holding up on the D-Pad sending them up and holding down sending them down. As a tradeoff, however, in Donkey Kong Country 2 and Donkey Kong Land 2, Squitter doesn't jump as high as the Kongs and he cannot defeat enemies by jumping on them, which really isn't a problem since the webs are so strong and so easy to use. The other main power Squitter has is that, by pressing the A button, Squitter shoots out special webs that, if the player then presses A again, will stop and turn into platforms that the player can use to traverse levels. These platforms cannot be used to kill enemies, but they can be fired out while jumping. These mechanics make Squitter one of the more unique Animal Buddies and one of the most fun to use. Squitter also returns in both Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble! and Donkey Kong Land III, where he acts much the same except now he's even better because now he can defeat enemies by jumping on them. This change honestly puts Squitter amongst the strongest Animal Buddies in the whole franchise!

Squitter makes a bridge over the TNT.

Squitter is probably my favorite Animal Buddy in the whole franchise. I think his goofy design, with the flame-based fur and sneaker-wearing feet, has a lot of character. I mean how can you not love him? Then you factor in that his webs fire fast and can be used to clear most enemies as you run through enemies with him, and you've got one of the best and most offensively-inclined Animal Buddies. His platform mechanic is also pretty cool because it can be used to make bridges over gaps and is usually found in levels where you have to quickly form platforms to avoid some sort of ever-advancing obstacle. Appearing in four total games, Squitter is one of the most commonly used Animal Buddies, but sadly he hasn't made an appearance since Donkey Kong Land III, which is a shame because he's one of the most fun and most unique Animal Buddies in the entire series!

The Animal Buddies are one of the best parts of the Donkey Kong Country series, being cool and well-designed animals that usually have neat power-ups. They brought a lot of character to the games and it's a shame that the modern Donkey Kong Country games haven't really brought back the classics or made their own. But that will be all for this intelligence briefing. Join us next month as we look at more tools in the fight against evil!

All-Time Smash Merit Ranking

Written by: SonicMario (talk)

Welcome back to Smash Merit rankings! Our non-shroom sections this time were Joker, Isabelle, and Cloud. But as for our Top 2 there’s actually something of a theme we could consider them. For we have none other then the first female character in Smash history, and the most recent one. Today’s issue has thus been voted to feature two of Smash’s featured female characters.

We shall start with the latest one!

Pyra's official render in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Categories Fighter Info
Fighter Number 79
Fighter Group Ultimate Newcomers/Fighter's Pass 2
Franchise Xenoblade
Game of Origin Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Nintendo Switch, 2017 (US, JP, EU)

I guess technically Mythra is more so the most recent female inclusion and we’ve already gotten to her. Though the game does establish that while Pyra and Mythra are different personalities, it’s fair to say that Pyra is the one that’s front and center.

The important thing though about Pyra is I can actually talk a bit about Xenoblade 2, as it didn’t feel right talking about it as much when Mythra had been chosen to go up earlier. Just like with the first one, I didn’t play the game. As once again as I’ve made it perfectly clear, I’m not an RPG guy. I instead saw an all cutscenes video to get a feeling for the game’s world and story. I will say that I was…. not quite as invested as I was with the first Xenoblade’s story. It had interesting moments, but I never felt as compelled as I was with Shulk’s game. It’d be hard for me to explain why that is off the top of my head here. But you could say I'm one of those who prefer Xenoblade 1's universe more.

Back when I was ranking Pyra/Mythra among just the Ultimate newcomers. I made the comparison that the blades of Xenoblade 2 are like a mix between genies and the gems from Steven Universe. Like a genie, while they don’t exactly grant wishes. They wait for someone to awaken them, which that person becomes their driver. Even having a form of vessel via these blue cubes, or if they’re a specifically special kind it may take another shape. They are also immortal, though there is a catch that if they’re reverted back to those cubes they lose all memory they had with their driver.

I think one issue with this setup is that it feels like it treats the blades as if they’re Pokemon when Pyra and Mythra show that they are just about as human as actual humans (Or well Homs in Xenoblade 1, and Leftherians in Xenoblade 2) like Rex. While I’ve also noted there’s nothing that goes so far as to lean on that unfortunate implication it’d still probably seem concerning from the outside that you’re collecting mostly women characters (Male and ambiguous gender Blades do exist, but they’re rare compared to the amount of female blades) as if they’re Pokemon. Probably doesn’t help the game’s reputation that many designs including Pyra’s are considered pretty over sexualized for um… pretty obvious visual reasons.

Probably one that that would be pretty obvious is that if Pyra had gotten in Smash in the base game. There’s a strong likelihood she would have been paired with Rex in some way. Would Pyra still have Mythra in that scenario? Who knows. But Pyra and Mythra together being the reps of Xenoblade 2 certainly meant that unfortunately for many hopefuls that Mii Costumes were generally a death knell for possibilities of characters when even Sakurai can’t decide to put Rex in despite Xenoblade 2 being a game he obviously really liked. I do think the Pyra/Mythra duo probably somewhat misses the point compared to what Rex and Pyra could have been as a duo but I understand that Pyra/Mythra still works to represent an important part of the game. And sometimes that’s just enough

Strangely, Xenoblade 2’s world seems to be the only one in the trilogy where the swords/weapons also have some personality attached to them with a humanoid character attached to it. Shulk certainly didn’t have a lady of the Monado, and Xenoblade 3 even went back to blades being just literal blades and/or other weapons. Maybe they just wanted to leave that exclusive to Xenoblade 2’s world, maybe they were made aware of some potential connotations of this idea of the relation between Drivers and Blades. (Probably doesn’t help that there’s a certain… minor spoiler in Xenoblade 3 that has it’s fair share of controversy. Don’t click if you want to keep Xeno 3 completely blind for your first play through though I don’t think this is a major detail. I’ll just say… that it’s something alright.)

So all-in-all, the most recent female inclusion has a fair share of controversy for her from her design and some potential views on some connotations within Xenoblade 2 itself. Though while Pyra and Mythra aren’t universally loved, the former at least has the endorsement of Sakurai himself… as just a fighter… right? Right?! RIGHT?!?!''

And now… not just our very first female character in Smash. But our final Original 12 member

Samus from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Categories Fighter Info
Fighter Number 4
Fighter Group Original 12
Franchise Metroid
Game of Origin Metroid (NES, 1986 (JP), 1987 (US), 1988 (EU)

Our last Original 12 member is perhaps technically the one who arguably stands out the most in the game. While later in the Smash series it seems like Anime and/or more realistic Humanoid characters outnumber the very stylized cartoon characters. Back in Smash 64, a majority of the roster was actually more cartoony stylized characters. And while Link and Captain Falcon were also some of the more humanoid-inspired. Both of those games brought from fantasy and/or comic books. The Metroid series very much clashes with many of the more kid-friendly franchises. The Metroid series designers were very much inspired from the Aliens series of films where in both the Alien movies and Metroid you have deadly aliens with scary designs threatening humanity.

Samus is thus the Ellen Ripley of Metroid. Although, Samus isn’t just some normal citizen that just happen to become the main survivor against an alien threat. After her parents were killed by Ridley, she grew up under training from the Chozo. A bird-like species that allowed Samus to become stronger, flexible, and more athletic then any human. And she doesn’t just protect where she lives. She goes straight to the homeworlds of many parasitic and deadly enemies and blows them to kingdom come. Samus is very much the original badass female character in video games. Predating such characters like Lara Croft, Bayonetta, and many more.

Of course, with that armor. And without having read the instruction manual back in the early days, it could be hard to tell if Samus was a woman unless you did well enough in the game to see Samus in a rather… revealing set of wear. It’s much more easier to know Samus is female now obviously, though in Smash it can kind of feel like she’s more like a robot as outside of Zero Suit Samus. You only hear some robotic sounds, even when Samus is KOed. Knowing that the purpose of Zero Suit Samus probably does very much help get across then Samus is in fact female and she can kick ass as any other fighter. She doesn’t need to be rescued by a red plumber nor a man in a green tunic. She has all the skills and weaponry herself to get out of tight situations. And that’s what people love about her.

And for the most part the Metroid series plays it that way that Samus is simply this badass bounty hunter. Though there ere was one game that did attempt to sort of “humanize” Samus a little more in Other M where she’s haunted by the loss of “The Baby” and has PTSD facing down a clone of Ridley even though at that point in the chronological timeline she has faced and killed her parents murderer. Though obviously that paled in comparison to the story’s biggest problem, in that Samus in Other M is at the every whim of a man named Adam Malkovich. Listening to him even when Samus obviously very much disagrees. Leading to situations in gameplay where Samus is burning alive when Adam has not authorized you to use the suit that lets you survive high temperatures. While that\s arguably just Samus being a good soldier following orders. It still comes off as a pretty uncomfortable power dynamic that even having left the planet’s military and becoming her own individual, she still lets Adam’s authorizations get in her way that can put her in dangerous situations she’d otherwise be fine in. Adam’s part of the story of Other M just aging worse and worse as the game goes by as unfortunate current events have had authority figures legitimately take down, and are actively trying to make things even worse for women in the US. Given this issue came out not long after the midterm elections. If you’re of voting age and reading this section, I hope you did your darnedest to get your vote out 4 days ago or earlier to make sure that future generations of women will not have an Adam Malkovich to tell them what they’re authorized to do.

Pardon the rather sudden political turn, but it is important to recognize Samus as an important figure in gaming in allowing girls to imagine they can do the same things as the much more predominantly male cast of characters. The name of the game may be Super Smash Bros., but the Smash Sisters are just as important. There is no doubt that Samus is the original Smash sister and will have the highest merit out of any female character. As even besides Samus herself, Metroid has it’s fair share of influence in gaming history. Maybe not Top 5 big, but with Metroid Dread a resounding success after a somewhat lull period since Other M. The franchise still has a strong place, and many others are looking forward to the eventual Metroid Prime 4 and whatever else is in store for the Metroid franchise.

So on Samus’s rank, She’s above all Mario characters sans Mario himself. She is however lower then either Donkey Kong or Kirby still. But I’m sure there won’t be too many who will complain about being 6th out of 60. Pyra's are as I hinted just above where Mythra is. Since she is more front and center then Mythra, even if in the context of the game Pyra's actually "younger" so to speak.

1. Mario 21. King K. Rool 41. Captain Falcon
2. Link 22. Zelda 42. Robin
3. Pikachu 23. Ganondorf 43. Jigglypuff
4. Donkey Kong 24. Mr. Game & Watch 44. Duck Hunt
5. Kirby 25. Sonic the Hedgehog 45. Greninja
6. Samus 26. Cloud 46. Steve
7. Luigi 27. Sora 47. Lucas
8. Wario 28. Bowser Jr. 48. Pyra
9. Yoshi 29. Olimar 49. Mythra
10. Bowser 30. Fox 50. Joker
11. Peach 31. Rosalina & Luma 51. Sheik
12. Mii Fighters 32. Marth 52. ROB
13. Mega Man 33. Zero Suit Samus 53. Min Min
14. Pac-Man 34. Toon Link 54. Byleth
15. Diddy Kong 35. Isabelle 55. Ice Climbers
16. Banjo & Kazooie 36. Inkling 56. Wii Fit Trainer
17. Simon Belmont 37. Snake 57. Chrom
18. King Dedede 38. Shulk 58. Dr. Mario
19. Mewtwo 39. Pit 59. Dark Pit
20. Ridley 40. Ness 60. Piranha Plant

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Welcome to another November, where a tradition has formed where I review food from the UK in some shape or form, in a limited capacity to allow me to cool down from other large-scale reviews. Please enjoy while I take a well-needed nap and prepare for the next one! 🦃

Nestlé Damak

Big fan of the package designs.

Catching my eye with an entire display stand at a nearby international food store is Nestlé Damak. The Damak apparently was created in 1933 by Nestlé as a Turkish-inspired product for the European market, not even making its way into Turkey until three decades later. By 2016 it launched in the US, with very little fanfare, as a premium chocolate brand that combines with real Turkish pistachios to create something they claim offers a taste experience not found in other chocolates (just ignore the Ülker ones flanked next to these). Damak, translating from Turkish as ‘taste’, sets itself up with a high standard, and promises a one-of-a-kind experience. While I have not found these in any standard grocery store yet, I’ve found them featured in several specialty Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European grocery stores around the area where you can likely find all kinds of other brands and regional items you’d otherwise have to fly overseas to get.

Fine Chocolate with Pistachios

One of the first two (the other being Dark) to be released in the US is Fine Chocolate with Pistachios, which I’m interpreting as just milk chocolate. It tastes incredibly normal, but clearly with pistachio flavor rather than typical almond, but otherwise tastes and feels exactly like every other chocolate bar with nuts in it. Smells sweet and milk, lending towards the taste, and feels like a genuine chocolate bar and not some bit of manufacturing miracle work. What makes this stand out more than other chocolate nut bars is the respectable amount of nuts within it. I was pretty surprised that there was so much in there; not exactly like I’m eating a fistful in each bite, but maybe my standards have been lowered lending this one an easy hurdle to jump. Moreover, I’m not quite sure I believe this is Nestlé, as the base chocolate tastes and feels so different from their other ones, very creamy and smooth, warm and nutty, just exactly what basic milk chocolate should be.

I’m not too familiar with how pistachios should taste, so I went out and bought some actual pistachios. Aside from them being limited to just one brand, Wonderful, and being very expensive for what they are, they have an incredible lack of flavor! I can see why there’s so many varieties of flavor dustings for these because they sure taste like just salted wood, if anything at all. Maybe Turkish pistachios are just different from California ones, or maybe the ‘Natural Flavor’ ingredient is doing a lot of legwork.

This one, along with the rest, uses sunflower lecithin as an emulsifier, which compared to soy lecithin people tend to view as a healthier and more natural alternative. They say they use no additives in this, or any of their products, and the ingredient list does look nice enough.

Dark Chocolate with Pistachios

Sitting at only 55% cocoa, the dark chocolate still makes itself known. In typical (subjective) style, the dark chocolate just seriously ruins it, overwhelming the flavor entirely so it’s just dark chocolate. If you’re a dark chocolate lover, great, I’m not, but great for you, regardless it should not be the shining element here, which is where my subjectivity becomes objectivity as the pistachio flavor is completely lost as the more stronger bitter flavors take hold, leaving the buttery nuttiness something you need to placebo effect yourself into getting. What’s the point of getting this if that’s the case? Just get one of the other billions upon billions of specialty dark chocolates with their endless flavors with no care given to people who prefer milk chocolate, but at least this revalidates a feeling I continuously voice and adds another example to my repertoire. I’ll give it some credit, it felt smoother than other dark chocolates I’ve had that just feel too dense and rigid, but that is no reason for me to ever consider getting this one again as it missed the whole point.

White Chocolate with Pistachios

It’s alright, certainly white chocolate, certainly pistachios. I’m not mad at it, it’s something different that I can see as something good but something that wouldn’t stand a chance in the American market, in no small part due to how this is actual white chocolate and not white crème. It holds the classic velvety and buttery feel and flavor that I remember white chocolate from years past having, retaining the soul that has been drained from modern crème fakes; a butteriness that lends well to the natural pistachio flavor. A solid choice even if you’re not a white chocolate fan.


New as of Spring 2022 is Damak Baklava, a deeper dive into Turkish food-far superior, the phyllo adds a unique and necessary crunch. Takes the basic white chocolate version and just makes it something more. I don’t think I’ve had such a viscerally and involuntarily open positive response to something in a LONG time. Struck me in my core as a reminder of why I do this, why I search for more, search for what’s out there, for experiences I could not have found if I stayed safe and comfortable. The little bits of baklava pastry give such a pleasant wispy crunch that make this peculiar and interesting, making me want to have more to re-experience it. Something so little adds so much, and I believe is one of a few things that is heightened with using white chocolate rather than milk chocolate, mitigating chocolate’s own nutty smooth flavor to allow the pistachio and phyllo to shine.

Proud I got these back home in Florida heat with minimal damage.

Every review of this so far seems to be Turkish YouTube Shorts, and my limited understanding of what they say mostly hits on how people like it, that it tastes accurate, but are shocked that it costs so much at ₺14 (about 75 cents USD), compared to the $2.49 I paid.

Overall my stance on Nestlé Damak is that it’s shockingly good chocolate for it being a Nestlé chocolate bar, and it’s a shame that its push into the American market has mostly floundered in all but Mediterranean specialty import markets and apparently some Ralph’s locations in California. We must not be satisfied only with gas station garbage that I can’t even call cheap anymore, or the high-end pretentious stuff that can’t lay their hands off the sea salt and dark to give anything else a different flavor profile for a minute; there is space out there for some cheaper chocolate that is still good, provides a gimmick that’s not too heavy-handed, and make available a flavor among a generous swath of cocoa percentages. There remains another new Damak variety that I have yet to see and I’m sure is limited given its name as First Harvest, utilizing the first batch of pistachios implying a higher quality, and I’m curious how much this would impact the overall product. I’ll be keeping my eyes out, and likely learning some Turkish in the process.

Nestlé Munchies

Something about this design just seemed a little goofy and boring to me.

Created by Mackintosh's in 1957, and scooped up in a merger by Nestlé in 1988, Munchies hold an iconic place in UK candy culture. Milk chocolate with soft caramel and crisp biscuit center, it’s not a single bar but a collection of little cubes (well, trapezoidal prisms) that do all the bite-size work for you. In a staggering feat of innovation in the last few years, Munchies are also available in (limited edition, mostly) White, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cookie Dough, Gingerbread, and Salted Caramel Fudge varieties, with secret menu option Mint.

Seems pretty low-tier, the crisp middle never seems to be quite in the middle and is just so minor and forgettable that it’s not even worth it. To call the milk chocolate ‘creamy’ at all is a complete joke. The chocolate just tastes old and bad, too thin to even attempt to get some adequate texture. The caramel is soft, and I appreciate that it’s not tooth-achingly thick and sticky, but I’d appreciate it more if I could sense its presence for more than half a second. Apparently it hasn’t always been this way, with many faithful Brits discovering disappointment and lost childhood pleasures. If you want to feel like you actually just consumed something just get some Rolos and take pleasure in their mouth-gumming density. This is a shame because that little hint of crispiness is so good, teasing you with something new and exciting, something different, but it’s also just so weak that it leaves me feeling disappointed. I feel that their recent foray into flavor varieties just isn’t enough, isn’t ambitious enough, doesn’t do enough, and should take inspiration from American Reese’s and Snickers and utilize a pretty standard iconic candy that nostalgia will never allow to disappear and just start filling them with whatever you can, sizing them in whatever mold your factories have available, and making them with whatever gunk your chemists can get their hands on. Pretzel bits instead of biscuit with peanut butter instead of caramel? I’d give it a go!

Nestlé Smarties Buttons

Still boasting proudly their lack of artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, all while in a recyclable paper package, are Smarties in a new form as my perception that British candies are just a handful of core items with endless trivial derivatives, however unfair that view may be given the state of American brands, continues to hold true–Smarties Buttons! Buttons are simply a circular disc of chocolate that appear to be rather popular in the UK and Commonwealth countries, but really have no foothold in the United States aside from vintage novelty shops that still sell nonpareils, or in the bastardized form of melting chocolate. To make these Smarties Buttons, Smarties are simply embedded within standard Nestlé chocolate. Also available are white chocolate and orange-flavored milk chocolate varieties, the latter of which does sound interesting, but it is the regular milk chocolate that I was able to get my hands on.

Biggest complaint I've see is they just don't look good, and, well, look at them.
I first tried Nestlé Smarties three years ago with the final stance being that they taste like off-brand M&Ms with a stale Easter candy sensation, and I can tell you that these still evoke that, just to differing degrees. The Smarties are much smaller, at M&Ms Minis proportions, which I believe is the optimal size and ratio of candy to chocolate. The flavor of the chocolate is definitely classic Nestlé, leaning a bit on the not-sweet-enough side you’d expect to get from off-brand gift packs of Santa-shaped chocolates from HomeGoods. The lower quality chocolate taste gets somewhat of a pass as it’s not the focus, the Smarties are, and the bit of crunch they give is a nice enough sensation and the candy shell brings in enough sweetness to bring it back to American standards that will probably be the scourge of Brits. You do lose a bit of the distinctive flavor of the Smarties, though, as it’s drowned out by the surrounding chocolate, leaving this all just in a kinda meh territory. Despite all of this, it’s extremely easy to eat a bunch, and I don’t mean that as the compliment it sounds like and instead mean it more as it’s kind of a trashy candy that you have to gorge on to feel some kind of value. It feels like I’m eating an ingredient, a product that is meant to be joined with something, but without that salacious pull at your darker desires that shotgunning half a bag of bittersweet chocolate chips carries. Overall just a pretty big shrug, not bad but I wouldn’t say they were good either. I liked where they were going with it, but when the major flaw is the unappetizing taste of the actual chocolate, I can’t really get behind the base concept of Smarties Buttons; instead I would just like to try a bag of Smarties Minis.

The ones I have don’t look nearly as roughed up as they do in all of the reviews done in the UK right when these came out in 2020, which may be due to better formulation over time after feedback, but I still can’t say they’re very attractive. No glistening buffed chocolate exterior, but instead a craggy and pitted gob that looks a bit dusted up. I get why it may have been a choice to allow the tops of these to look a bit unfinished and broken, as it provides a window to see the colors and candies within, but it just looks kinda shoddy and I’d prefer they either just had them sitting on top like a macro nonpareil or just entirely encapsulated in chocolate. Mostly, what I’m upset about with these is that they’re super cheap over in the UK, at like £1 per bag, whereas I spent a couple bucks more on this at a local British goods store thanks to various forms of inflation like import and novelty, actual price unknown as no item had a price tag applied and the receipt was not itemized, something that left me nervous to pick up too many items to try and avoided things that looked too dazzling or large.

Perhaps there is another way…

The 'Shroom: Issue 188
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