The 'Shroom:Issue 192/Critic Corner

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Director's Notes

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

Shroom2017 Anton.png

The birds are chirping, the sun is shining, the grass is growing, the bugs are starting to crawl out of their holes and fly in your face, and there's still time for some snow storms to reset it and make the ground super gross. Welcome to March, well, most of the way through it! Before you know it it will be April! Then May! June July and then March again! With time moving so fast, with no help from Daylight Savings, there's no time to think, so just relax and let our writers do the thinking for you as you accept their opinions as facts, as all reviews wish to be consumed!

Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as February's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!

And now for my regular announcements: We've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!

As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to 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 23 71.88% Hypnotoad (talk)
2nd A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups 4 12.50% Mustard Machine (talk)
3rd All-Time Smash Merit Ranking 2 6.25% SonicMario (talk)
3rd Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls 2 6.25% Mustard Machine (talk)

Reviews / opinion pieces
Starring me, as the titular character, having just come home from work.
When's Lady Eboshi

'Shroom FM

Written by: MrConcreteDonkey (talk)

Wow, it does not feel like a month since I last wrote this section. Here's your albums.


Despite some fairly high scores from critics, a lot of the reaction I've seen to Cracker Island has been quite lukewarm. I didn't really understand it when I first started listening to the album - doesn't sound any worse than anything else they've released over the past few years. A few of the singles - particularly "Cracker Island" and "Silent Running" - have seen quite a bit of mainstream radio play here in the UK. I think they're both solid enough but neither of them have ever really excited me - "Silent Running" is just a perfectly fine synthpop song. "Cracker Island" does have some cool sounds but the verses feel quite clunky and awkward, doesn't click too well for me. Also, while Thundercat's guest vocals are superb, Damon/2D's vocals often seem bored and indifferent here. That's an issue that ran through the album for me, to be honest - even if there's some intention for them to sound a bit lethargic or detached, they're still not very strong, and at their worst can drain whatever's happening of its energy. Gorillaz albums tend to have quite a bit of lore behind them, with all of the production design and music videos etc. following some sort of theme or being based around some kind of idea. The lore for this one is that Murdoc (the bassist) set up a cult and... dragged the others into it? Sometimes it works its way into the lyrics nicely, but overall the presentation of it does feel a little weak. The album cover feels quite dull, too. While listening, I didn't dislike much of this - "New Gold" was probably my favourite track, the soundscape is nice and vivid, and Tame Impala and Bootie Brown work really well together in their guest spots. The final two tracks felt a lot weaker than the rest, though - a bit aimless and bland, though I do like the moment in "Skinny Ape" where all the synths come in towards the end. Ultimately by the end I'd just realised so little of this really had stuck with me, even the better songs did very little. There's definitely some cool ideas here but on the whole little that stands out and practically nothing I'm dying to go back to.


I can't think of much to write here, but this is definitely my favourite album of the year so far. Production here is really tight and the atmosphere is immense, very lush and smooth instrumentation. The pacing is great, too - in some albums I've found the flow from one track into the next is so subtle that I don't even notice where one ends and the other begins, but everything here flows so well. Kelela's vocal performance here is sublime, consistently engaging in both the more upbeat, energetic moments and the quieter, introspective moments.


An annoyingly straightforward album, I like it but I'm not sure I like that I like it, because - to be blunt - it is not very interesting. My knowledge of Paramore doesn't extend much outside of a few songs from After Laughter (and Hayley Williams' solo album, which didn't do much for me). I completely missed whatever they did before that, I have basically no knowledge of their biggest hits. But even despite that, I don't think it feels much like a Paramore album - beyond the expectedly angsty lyrics, it feels lacking in any sense of identity or anything that makes it unique. It really just feels like your standard post-punk album from ~15 years ago. That said, while the creativity here falls a bit flat for me, I can't deny that the execution is great. The songs are catchy, the production is tight, Williams' vocals and the instruments are all impossible to fault. Take "C'est comme ça", for instance - the riff in the intro sounds exactly like "Hard to Beat" by Hard-Fi, the chorus is just the title repeated three times and then 'la la la la', it doesn't do much over its runtime - but it's so fun and addictive that I can't dislike it, at all. Overall, This is Why isn't the most interesting or ambitious album out there, but if the music is good, does that matter? It might actually. I don't know. Ask someone else.


The run-up to this album has been quite long, especially considering Caroline Polachek's last album was released over three years ago - the first single "Bunny is a Rider" came out in July 2021, and then the other four had been slowly making their way out up until January. I didn't check out "Bunny is a Rider" straight away, but the second single, "Billions", absolutely blew me away. It's a really creative pop song, with gorgeous production and a ton of lush and glitchy sounds - which got my excitement up for the album, still about a year away at that point. The rest of the singles though didn't quite click with me as much - "Welcome to My Island" is catchy, fun and confident, but at the same time I didn't think it did anything too interesting. The extended, loud vocalisation at the start feels a little bit out of place - a bit too dramatic too early. Over time it's clicked a lot more for me, and it works perfectly as the opening track here, introducing not only the album's general ethos but also the title in the chorus. I think the first half is particularly strong - "Pretty in Possible" has a catchy beat and plenty of cool vocal moments, "Bunny is a Rider" builds up well as it progresses. "I Believe" is one of the standout tracks here, fantastic breakbeats and a nice 2-step inspired sound. The second half is a bit weaker by comparison, unfortunately - it's cool that both Grimes and Dido guest on "Fly to You" but the whole track just passed me by the first time I listened so I didn't even notice, then there's "Hopedrunk Everlasting" which is a bit pointless, and generally the other tracks here didn't stand out as much for me - still, it does end on "Billions", which is definitely the high point of the whole thing. It's not a perfect album but it's very diverse and imaginative, and the production and Polachek's performance are superb.

Further listening

Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls

Written by: Mustard Machine (talk)

The Blob
Genres Science Fiction, Horror
Release date 1958
Starring Steve McQueen, Aneta Corseaut, Earl Rowe
Directed By Irvin Yeaworth
Runtime 86 minutes
Streaming Crackle, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video

Good evening, dear readers, and welcome to another Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls. I'm your monster chronicler, Vincent Van Shoeul. Tonight, for just the second time, this month's performance won't feature man as the true monster (third time if you count the abstract concept of time as a monster). Instead, we'll be returning to extraterrestrial threats as we look at 1958's The Blob, a tale of a mysterious space goo that...

♪ ...creeps and leaps and glides and slides across the floor. Right through the door and all around the wall. A splotch, a blotch! Be careful of the Blob! ♪

...sorry, dear readers. That got musical for a second. Anyways, despite the upbeat theme song, The Blob is a true horror. It can't be hurt, its hunger can never be satisfied, and it can slip through even the smallest crack. For those of you that jump at the creaks of the night, read no further, but, for those of you brave enough to continue, I promise you that this will be a thriller!


Tonight's featured performers are: Olin Howland as Barney, an old man who has the misfortune to discover the blob; Earl Rowe as Lt. Dave Barton, the local police chief desperate to protect the town's citizens from the red menace; and, finally, we have Steve McQueen and Aneta Corseaut as Steve Andrews and Jane Martin, teenage lovers who must convince the town of the Blob's existence before it's too late.

Based on the mysterious "star jelly phenomenon," The Blob was originally given a 120,000 dollar budget, but the producers only spent 110,000 of that, making this the first and only film to ever finish under budget. Originally released as part of a double feature with the movie I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The Blob wasn't the original title of this film. Instead, there are two different accounts as to what the original title was going to be. The most commonly accepted version is that it was originally going to titled The Glob, but then the producers found out that a book in the long running Pogo series was going to be using the same title, and the producers mistakenly thought they couldn't use it. The other story is the title was The Molten Meteor, but then it was changed after the producers heard screenwriter Kay Linaker refer to the monster as "the Blob". In any event, the title change came fairly late in production, which is why the Blob is never actually called "the Blob" on screen.

This film would also be the first starring role of future highest paid actor in Hollywood, Steve McQueen. Though this start to McQueen's career would be a far cry from his future as highest paid actor. Steve McQueen was only paid 3,000 dollars for the role, an amount he chose instead of taking a smaller upfront fee and 10% of the film's profits because he needed money now and thought the film would never make money. He would come to regret that decision as the film went onto gross four million dollars. Other than Steve McQueen, the rest of the cast was primarily unknowns who wouldn't go onto have much of a career, with the notable exception of Aneta Corseaut, who would go on to have a steady career in television, most notably playing Helen Crump in the Andy Griffith Show. In addition, the veteran actors Olin Howland and Stephen Chase, who had already had long and successful careers, were cast in the bit parts of Barney and Dr. T. Hallen, respectively. The score was composed by Ralph Carmichael. The most notable thing about the score is that Carmichael had originally written a much more serious theme song, creativity titled "Violence," to be played in the opening credits, but the director decided to replace it with a novelty song titled "The Blob," written by Burt Bacharach and Mack David and performed by a studio band dubbed "The Five Blobs," with singer Bernie Knee providing the vocals. This would turn out to be a brilliant decision on the part of the director, with the upbeat and fun song becoming a national hit, reaching #33 on the Billboard Top 100 chart and becoming one of the most famous parts of the film.

Right off the bat, I love the Blob as both a concept and a monster. The Blob is such a cool idea. It starts off as this small puddle of space goo that ends up attaching itself to an old man's hand, turning red with blood. Once attached, the Blob dissolves its victims as it absorbs them, growing bigger and bigger after each meal. The Blob cannot be damaged, either. Throughout the film, there are parts where characters attempt to destroy it, such as a nurse throwing acid on it, a doctor shooting it with a rifle, and finally a character dropping a live electrical wire on it. None of these efforts harm the Blob, which only exists to eat and grow bigger, and, as a matter of fact, they really do nothing to it at all!

It's more blob than arm!

One of the coolest parts of the film is at the very beginning, when the Blob molds onto old man Barney's hand, slowly molding around his arm like a glove. It's a really cool effect, and it really shows how terrifying the Blob is. No matter what he does, he can't get the Blob off of him. Once the Blob is attached, it does not come off! The other cool thing is how the Blob can squeeze through even the smallest cracks, which makes sense, because it's, well, a blob! There's another really good scene where the Blob slips through an air duct in a movie theater and eats the movie projector's runner before slowly seeping out into the movie theater. I think the Blob is a really effective monster, because, not only does it kill in what I can imagine is an agonizing way, but also it can't be hurt! It's just a ball of goo that seems to only exist to eat, and each time it eats it grows bigger. It starts off as just a small little goo pile, but by the end of the film it's as big as a building!

Unfortunately, due to a combination of the logistics of the effects and money, we don't really see the Blob a whole lot. Part of that is because the Blob itself is made from silicone, with red vegetable dye being added as it absorbed people. It's actually a pretty neat little effect from special effects coordinator Barton Sloane, resulting in the Blob, for most of the film, being represented as a ball rolling around, with some pretty good-for-the-time-and-budget camera work when the Blob becomes as big as a building. Because of that, the Blob is unfortunately more of an offscreen menace, and there's not a whole lot of gore associated with it, due to what I imagine would be the difficulty of trying to simulate the process of people dissolving as the Blob gets bigger and bigger. But while the nature of the Blob and the difficulties you would have trying to show it dissolving people at a large size, the moments we do get to see the Blob in action, it's really cool! Like, take when the Blob is in its smallest form, slowly dissolving Barney before reducing him to nothing, or when it completely covers the doctor as he screams in the window. These are cool moments, but, sadly, for the most part, the Blob is reduced to an offscreen killer. Though this actually does kind of work in the context of the film, where, for most of the film, only Steve and Jane have actually seen the Blob. Even then, Jane only saw it when it was attached to the arm of Barney, and Steve only saw it through the window when it was killing the doctor. So it actually does help build the tension of the film that the Blob is rarely seen, since the characters know something is out there killing people, but only two of them definitely know, and they really don't know what it truly is and they have no idea how to stop it.

I do think the Blob not being able to be an active killer does also hurt the film, because it's a very slow movie. There's not a lot of action, and there's a lot of scenes of the characters just meandering around, either looking for the Blob or attempting to warn people about the Blob. In other scenes, police officers are just talking about whether or not the teenagers are pulling a prank on them. It's really not until the last third of the movie that we start getting some action and the Blob becomes a true threat, actively trying to kill the main characters. Until then, it's a lot of talking and a lot of nothing happening. It also doesn't help that, despite the fact that the actors playing them would go on to have long careers, the characters of Steve and Jane just aren't very interesting! They don't have a lot of flavor as characters. They're both just kind of generic hero characters. The two have decent chemistry with each other, and the scenes where they embrace as a couple are done well, but the characters just really aren't given a lot of personality, so it kind of drags when they're the only people on screen. In contrast, their friends are more flavorful characters. Their friends basically have that classic 1950s tough guy "gang" dynamic, with Tony Gressette (played by Robert Fields) as the gang's leader and "Mooch" Miller (played by James Bonnett) and Al (played by Anthony Franke) as the two meathead underlings. It's a nice little dynamic that provides some comedy and leads to some funny scenes. I will say this. While I don't think these characters are great, I do really like the fact that they're not morons! So many horror films only work because characters constantly do the dumbest things possible, but these kids are doing their best with limited information, and none of them die because they're just being morons. In fact, spoiler alert, but none of the main characters die! Even the two that are lunkheads still treat this situation with seriousness. One last note on the teenagers I have is that, like, obviously all the actors playing teenagers are adults.

How do you do, fellow teens?

That's fine. It happens all the time in films. But goddammit, Steve McQueen might just be the worst example of this in film. Steve McQueen is supposed to be playing someone in high school, and he legitimately looks like he's thirty-five. It's honestly a little distracting just how much he doesn't look like a teenager.

To me the real standout characters are officers Lt. Dave Barton and Sgt. Jim Bert, played by Earl Rowe and John Benson, respectively. To me, these are examples of contrasting characters done right. Both react to Steve's claim of the doctor being murdered completely differently. While Sgt. Bert thinks it's a prank and doesn't want to investigate it, Lt. Barton says they have to investigate it. Then, when they don't find any body (because the doctor was dissolved by the Blob), they come to the same differing conclusions. Sgt. Bert still thinks it's a prank, considering there's no body and the doctor is nowhere to found, but Lt. Barton, while not necessarily believing that Steve saw the doctor murdered, still believes that something happened, noting that the window was locked from the inside and that, while there is evidence that the doctor's gun was fired, there are no bullet holes. Then, comes further evidence supports the doctor not being dead, since they're informed that he was heading to a medical conference that night and that he often rides with another doctor. The doctor's maid mentions that the neighbors are constantly watching monster movies, which could explain the gunshots and screams Steve says he's heard, only further supporting the possibility that doctor could be alive. Lt. Barton still has Sgt. Bird interview the neighbors as he releases Steve and Jane to their parents. It's great that, while skeptical, Lt. Barton is still willing to treat the situation seriously. Then, when Steve sees the Blob in his father's grocery store and attempts to wake the whole town up, Lt. Barton orders his officers to investigate the grocery store, completely believing that Steve wouldn't do all this for a prank. Then, when the Blob attacks the movie theater, with people are running and screaming, both Sgt. Bird and Lt. Barton go to investigate, with Lt. Barton finally seeing the Blob and telling Sgt. Bird not to go in there. So, what happens? Does Sgt. Bird refuse to believe his superior? No, because he's not an idiot. Once his superior tells him something, he listens and doesn't get himself killed being an idiot. Both characters get a moment to shine during the climax, with Lt. Barton coordinating the efforts to defeat the Blob via electricity and Sgt. Bird shooting down the electrical wire needed to electrocute the Blob. While it doesn't work, it gets an A for effort! These two are my favorite non-Blob characters, because, though they might disagree with each other, they still work together.

Speaking of the climax, it's easily the best part of the film. After attacking the movie theater during the midnight showing of Daughter of Horror, the Blob, having now grown to the size of a building, exits the movie theater like a tidal wave.

I wanna touch it...

After that, it corners Steve, Jane, Jane's brother Danny, and the couple that owns the diner inside the diner. As it slowly oozes in, the police attempt to electrocute it. Sadly, they fail to kill it and only set the diner on fire. All looks hopeless until the Blob's weakness is finally revealed to be cold when the diner owner accidentally sprays it with a fire extinguisher while attempting to put out the fire inside the building. The cold of the fire extinguisher's spray causes the Blob to recoil, and Steve manages to just barely get to the phone and uses it to contact Lt. Barton, who then manages to get all of the C02 fire extinguishers he can and manages to paralyze the Blob by freezing it. There's a lot of really cool parts to this sequence, from the Blob being the full threat and just sweeping the town in its ooze to the characters coordinating their attempts and finally finding the Blob's only weakness, which was actually hinted at earlier in the film! At one point, Steve and Jane are attacked in the grocery store and are only saved when they take cover in the walk-in freezer, which the Blob recoils from when it tries to enter. Finally, while they defeat the Blob, importantly they don't kill it! Rather, they only neutralize it. In the end, after freezing it, the air force comes in and drops the Blob into Antarctica, making the world safe from this red menace as long as Antarctica stays cold... OH GOD!

Is The Blob a great film? No! It's a pretty standard B-movie of the era, a low budget, some kind of stiff acting, not a lot of gore, just standard low budget 50s horror. Where i think The Blob thrives is that it has one of the coolest and scariest (yes, both) horror monsters. There's just something about the Blob which is just a primal fear, this ooze that only lives to eat, gets bigger every time it eats, and seemingly can't be stopped. That just makes a really effective horror monster. So I like the monster and I like how intelligent the characters are. Would I recommend, though? I mean, it depends. If you don't like classic B-movie style horror films, no, I don't recommend it, because you're probably going to come away bored. Personally, though, I do like it and I appreciate what it does, so, if you like B-movies, The Blob is one the classics for a reason! But whether or not you like B-movies, one thing I can recommend is that goddamn theme song!

That concludes our little space opera. The moral of tonight's tale? Isn't it obvious? If you ever find goo inside of a meteorite, for, god's sake, don't touch it! That's all for this month's tale. I'd like to invite you all to join us next month for another frightful take in Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls.

Graphic Novel Review

Written by: FunkyK38 (talk)

Shuna's Journey
Author Hayao Miyazaki
Release date 2022
Genre fantasy
Pages 160
Available From

Greetings, readers, it’s time for a new Graphic Novel Review! This month, I will be taking a look at Shuna’s Journey by Hayao Miyazaki!

If you found yourself going “Wait, that Miyazaki?” after that first line, yes, it is the legendary animator behind Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki. Shuna’s Journey released late last year in English for the first time. Miyazaki created it in the 1980s originally before he found success with Studio Ghibli, but it’s taken this long for publishers to show an interest in picking it up and bringing it to the West. It’s been on my radar since summer of last year, and I received it as a Christmas gift last year. I am a huge Ghibli fan, so this was an obvious want for me. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Shuna’s Journey is based on a folk tale called “The Prince Who Turned Into A Dog”. That story tells of a prince who goes to take some grains from the gods to feed his starving people. The Serpent King finds him, though, and transforms him into a dog before sending him back to the human world. Once back, he meets a girl who comes to love him as a dog, and her love is able to change him back into a human. Shuna’s Journey follows a similar plot: Shuna lives in a village in a desolate place. He is the son of the village head, destined to take over one day. His people have just enough to live on, for the sun does not warm the village and the fields are nearly barren. One day, he finds a traveller collapsed outside of town, and the traveler gives him some seeds, telling him that if he travels west, he can find golden seeds that will bloom with crops that can feed the village and sprout again. Wanting to provide more for his village, Shuna disobeys the elders’ order to not leave the village and sets out on his travels to find the golden seeds.

I’ll start with the art of the book first off. First Second printed this in full color, which is the only way to enjoy it. Everything is done in Miyazaki’s signature gentle watercolors and it truly feels like a storybook from your dreams. If you’ve ever seen his concept art from films, it’s a lot like that. Vast landscapes, lots of emphasis on nature, with the humans usually being the smallest part of the page. Violence is kept low, except for a very short scene with some desert witches near the beginning of the book. The colors are soft and lovely, the characters are charming and grounded, and the story is just what you would expect from Miyazaki. I found myself just leafing through the pages to look at the illustrations. The only nitpick I have for the art is the narration. Text is usually black and in a very small font and shoved into a corner, and it can be very hard to see at times. I think I would have preferred if the book itself was a little bit bigger so there could be room on the page for the text so it wasn’t sitting on top of the illustrations.

Let’s move on to the characters next. First up, we have Shuna. He’s quiet and very stubborn. When he gets an idea in his head, he won’t let go of it, whether that is finding the golden seeds for his village or breaking up a slave trading caravan to rescue a girl he met and her younger sister in a town. His stubbornness is for good, though, he doesn’t ever make a truly ‘selfish’ decision in the entire story; what he does, he does for others and those around him, so it’s hard to be upset with him for his stubbornness. He’s got a good heart. The second ‘major’ character (and I put major in quotes there because she doesn’t really show up until about halfway through the story) is Thea. Her village was looted and burned by the manhunters, and she and her sister were sold into slavery. She meets Shuna in a bustling town, and he comes back to save both of them. Thea plays the part of the girl from the original legend, where her love is what cures Shuna of his ailments. Thea is quiet, but she is a hard worker and she never gives up. She reminds me of so many Miyazaki protagonists, such as Nausicaa from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Sheena from Castle in the Sky, and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. Her love for Shuna is deep, and you really get the feeling that they trust each other, even though they haven’t know each other for very long.

Shuna’s Journey is a delight to read, whether you’re a fan of Miyazaki’s other works or not. I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy stories or really anyone who loves graphic novels, as this is a lovely one to have on your shelf. Miyazaki is a master storyteller, and this story is one you shouldn’t miss out on.

That’s all for me this month, readers! Tune in next time for a new Book Review!

Anton's Half-Baked Reviews

Written by: Hypnotoad (talk)

HalfBaked 192 1.png


Here I am, in the height of people still caring about covid, minding my own business here in Florida inside one of the only blue bubbles where I won’t get hatecrimed for wearing a mask, when word of a perky beaver suddenly started boiling excitement in people who could not contain their desire to superspread at a gas station. Buc-ee’s, a Texan darling, delivered a one-two punch and opened its first Florida store in St. Augustine in February 2021, and then Daytona Beach a month later. Driving past the construction regularly enough, I, too, was vaguely curious, but waited another year for the covid dirt to settle some more before setting foot inside a store that filled me with wonder and awe at first, with the illusion dissipating soon enough.

Really provides that Disney World parking lot experience.

In our post-covid world, this massive store being open 24 hours honestly makes it a destination. Basically seems to be the equivalent of a truck stop on long road trips with an unreasonable amount of gas pumps, but for minivans full of families on vacation who are suckers for gimmick and kitsch. It’s a grocery store with full deli/bakery/prepared foods, gourmet specialty store, Rae Dunn-tier wine mom gift shop, all inside a gas station, with a massive amount of square footage also dedicated to what you’d otherwise see in Bass Pro and Hobby Lobby, including their respective Christian beliefs and conservative politics featured in their cheeky t-shirts and questionable endorsements. It seems to be more of a small format hypermarket that positions itself primarily as a gas station to further impress people, though when viewed through a different lens, such as in line with any kind of flagship Harris Teeter or any other big-box superstore, would seem pretty niche and limited. That's pretty much the same as Wawa, which Buc-ee’s is endlessly compared directly to for reasons I can’t fathom aside from just being gas stations that try to be something else, but this is just on a stupid-big scale as their primary selling point.

This all makes sense if you view Buc-ee’s less as the single institution that it actually is, and more a full-fledged travel plaza that you can find near basically every state border. Several restaurants, snack shops, bathrooms, gift area, gas pumps, all that’s missing are utilities like information centers and places to actually rest and sit down, which I’m absolutely flabbergasted with. For a place that seeks to be a destination rather than a quick stop, there sure is absolutely nowhere to sit down and eat other than your car.
I think it's important to show that Buc-ee's charges you for air pumps while Wawa provides it for free.
With the massive amount of land they have for these places, including a wildly unnecessary amount of gas pumps and parking spots, you’d think they could set aside an acre or two for a couple pavilions, picnic tables, and green space–very easily fit a standard roadside rest stop. I’m actually interested to see what design rules they followed, perhaps any laws and regulations, internal philosophies, loopholes they’re hopping through to determine why they need the space they do, but otherwise will be reciting incantations to bring about their demise alongside communities that don’t want them built nearby, postponed only by their concession of providing literally anywhere to sit.


Genuinely giving Mickey a run for his money.

Approaching this while driving up almost feels like pulling into the Disney’s Hollywood Studios parking lot around opening time, a vast amount of empty parking spaces because people would rather wake up early for Magic Kingdom and then park hop to ride the Tower of Terror a couple times before getting stuck in I-4 traffic. A sense of awe at the scale and wondering how this can sustain itself, with the answer coming to me swiftly as I walked in. Much like my experience with the World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s, this Buc-ee’s location was swarmed with gawkers who checked out their ability to sense the personal space of other people as they oohed and ahhed at the mind-neutralizing spectacle of some store branded shirts. I’m left unable to stand still in any location for more than a few seconds, no matter how far off the beaten path I am, as the hypnotic buckteeth of Bucky renders their gaze fixed upwards as entire drooling families shamble across every inch of available space to see what other items the logo could possibly be emblazoned on. None of this is technically the fault of Buc-ee’s, but nonetheless is the experience I had for every visit I had to both current Florida locations for nearly a year and a half, only recently slowing down to normal inconsiderate and selfish customer foot traffic you can find in any store. My recommendation is to visit them around 2am like I did on my way back from a long drive north, as the crowds are small and only populated with the people who really should be at something like this.

Attn: All Companies. If you stock Halloween décor you can guarantee that I will visit you at least 5 times a year.
The way I entered was into the gift side first, prepped for what I was about to see thanks to the mascot statue out front that people were waiting in lines to take pictures with, right no branded grills and pool toys. Walking in and I’m vocalized at by cashiers who give a canned greeting that, as a retail manager I understand is a key to helping customers feel like they’re being taken care of and not ignored, but, with no look up to meet me or variation in tone or phrasing just felt like the poor guys were being monitored for their compliance in protocol. Briefly grounded by that, I admittedly found myself entering the same trance as the others, taken aback by the enormous displays and dizzying abundance of the Bucky logo, snapping back to reality before my senses were completely nulled as I began having to dodge people barreling straight at me. Toys, books, cups, mugs, shirts, socks, shoes, beach gear, inflatables, just all kinds of nonsense with Bucky slapped on it, and I can genuinely see the desire for these if you view the guy as cute and the merchandise as endearing. I was there for their Halloween setups and those were honestly pretty cool, and it’s neat seeing them go all in on various holiday themes. After you get through all of the branded merchandise, there’s even more just…random kitsch. ‘Gifts’ is the best way to describe it all in one bundle, but it encompasses lots of themed dinnerware, kitchen gear, décor, fun little tools, decorative towels, cutting boards.
Pure horror.
Just lots of interesting things just laying around, really not much unlike a truck stop’s general shopping area that appeals to the long-haulers, but instead bereft of anything of immediate use. Through writing this review I discovered Texas Snax, a website where you can check out a lot of the store brand apparel that Buc-ee’s has (and the snacks, of course), but does not include anything that I assume are from 3rd party vendors and partners which is unfortunate as that’s what I’d want to see. I got some super cute Halloween decorative bowls and dishes, and honestly do plan on returning next spooky season to see what else I can get regardless of whatever other acerbic opinion I’ve already stated in this review and will likely continue to make.

I did not hear anyone scream anything, adding further incentive to visit late at night.
Making way towards the food area you come upon some various setups. Along the wall you can find an enormous deli-like display featuring all kinds of jerky, followed by some baked goods displays. To the side are some screens where you can order some prepared food, which I honestly had no desire to bother with because, again, there’s nowhere to sit, and also because of the sheer volume of other things you can get, namely the focus of the place: brisket. Brought to my attention by someone screaming something, followed by a terrifying echo “FRESH BRISKET ON THE BOARD” as some dude started to chop apart a huge slab of meat. Immediately weirded out by yet another display of cult-like droning, I knew something was suspicious, and what my hindsight validation clinged to was discovering that their brisket isn’t smoked on-site, but rather shipped in every day. Again, I understand the logistics of having one centralized production location that distributes product daily, but I really REALLY think that having some smokers set up at the store would just really drive in that whole Texan thing they’ve got going on and provide the New York tourists something to ogle with childlike wonder. Maybe there’s some regulations to not have a meat smoker on the same premises as gas pumps, but what do I know. At this same station are some warmers that hold some freshly prepared brisket sandwiches, among other things; looping around the other side of it nets you some old-fashioned fudge and roasted nuts, which I made sure to snag.

This just doesn't feel right.
Moving beyond these you finally get to some standard gas station snack aisles and refrigerated cases, where you can find some drinks, sandwiches, and several variations of what appear to be the same store brand snacks. Gummies, trail mix, your standard items you’d find, then rounding that case suddenly there’s a wine display. Pulled a big “..huh” out of me that really wasn’t warranted looking back at it, as pretty much every gas station store now has some wine racks, but then as I kept walking I got a real true “uh..” as I saw displays of gourmet sauces and dips. I’m not sure a gas station is where I’d think to go pick up some Truff but there it was, alongside other recognizable brands of luxury hot sauces. Finally, what I saw that surprisingly found offense within me were some typical general store finds. It just doesn’t feel right for any business that operates a chain of more than 3 locations to be selling pickled okra and muscadine grape jelly, items that you find from local and homemade roadside shops that add rustic flavor to back road detours. I think what Buc-ee’s does is bring a taste of road trip nostalgia to suburbanite DeSantis voters who have no real reason to have a pickup truck but want to feel like they need to make extra big turns in parking lots anyways, given their chance to feel large and important enough to ignore the stop signs and right-of-way as semi-trucks are banned from entering. It's a rest stop for people making a grocery run, not anyone actually haggard from 6 hours of driving. A taste of the trucker lifestyle with no commitment, a mindless indulgence that crumples under the simplest critical eye.

I never thought I’d see what I can only describe as the gentrification of rural Georgia pecan stands.


Was super awkward trying to photograph the bathroom.
You know you’re in Buc-ee’s territory driving on highways when the billboards quickly start to be less about adult lingerie shops and more and more giddy beavers hyping up clean bathrooms. It may sound absurd, but a clean bathroom is genuinely what many people who’ve been wiggling in their seats for the last 40 miles want to have, and Buc-ee’s actually won an award for it in 2012 and has not stopped using it for advertising since. It runs on a philosophy by one of its founders that I can agree with, that people driving on the road would skip an uncertain bathroom for one they could guarantee would be clean and safe.

Doing well to represent their primary marketing focus, and complete pride and joy, the bathroom was pretty nice. There’s a separate team whose job is to make sure the bathrooms remain clean, and they do a good job at it, with my special regards to how they didn’t feel intrusive, likely due to the sheer size of the place and design of it made the open areas feel open, and the private areas private. Only in Europe and dedicated truck stops have I seen bathroom stalls that have walls and doors that fully encase the toilet, from floor to ceiling, with no peering eyes looking between the frame to see what I’m doing or to aim at my feet. I was able to change out of my freshly sandy beach clothes without being worried my clothes would be swiped or someone would be watching. Aside from that, there’s nothing really exceptional about them. There’s no bidet, no fancy Japanese toilet technology, no awkward dude offering complimentary mints. Corporate messaging highlights state-of-the-art motion-sensing sinks, dryers, and towel dispensers, but at this point which places don’t have those? Go all in on the bathroom experience, toss in some gimmicks, let my butt get blasted with jets, my cheeks protected from chilly seats, perhaps sensors that tell you which people have not washed their hands to alert their poopa-oompa-loompas to scurry behind them to sanitize everything they touch.

I feel like I'm in Schiphol.
As an additional challenge to Buc-ee’s, it is my request that, if they show off their prized privacy of their bathroom stalls, to be rid of gendered sections and just have neutrality. If they’re as safe as they claim, what’s the worry?

Overall, there are several aspects of Buc-ee’s that make it stand out as a leader in the gas station field, but their grand scale is a large part of why I don’t think that this is a good choice for its perceived purpose. An opinion mirrored in this post here in exact language and ways that I feel whole now that there are other people out there like me,, conveniently within the same month as my own review:

“(...) size is also a detriment to the most important aspect of any business on the highway. You’ll spend way more time at a Buc-ee’s, and trying to get to a Buc-ee’s, and trying to get out of a Buc-ee’s, than you will at any other gas station. (...) Buc-ee’s isn’t something you just pop off the highway to hit real fast. It is not a quick trip. Buc-ee’s is a commitment. (...) It’s simply too damn big and crowded for anybody who’s just looking for a gas station. Buc-ee’s is a legitimate experience, and not necessarily one I want to have when I’m trying to get to wherever I’m going as quickly as possible.”

It has gone beyond Wawa’s ambitions to stand out as a convenience store that just happens to sell gas, overshooting the target to become a cosplay of a gas station.


Their complete lack of use of counter space combined with the horrid tiles and simplistic pictures makes this feel like a zombie apocalypse video game level.

While they do carry recognizable brands of drinks and snacks, a majority of what they offer are their own brand which offers up plenty of unique items. After reading dozens of food blogs, news articles announcing new store openings, and soliciting friends about what they recommend, I cobbled together a list of things to try and set about acquiring as many as I could reasonably stuff into a shopping basket before I looked like an absolute weirdo.

I definitely won’t be getting to everything I tried here in this month’s issue, and will need to make this a multi-parter, partially due to how many items I ended up collecting over the year or so, but mostly due to me not realizing how long-winded I’d be about the non-food portion! What I’ll focus on this month are items that I think are core to the Buc-ee’s mythos.


Before I dive deeper and wordier into big ticket items, I’m going to start with detailing some items that are just what they are, with not much to say about them yet felt they had to be acknowledged in some way as they are core items integral to Buc-ee’s.

There's like 4 of these walls just randomly placed wherever there's available space.

I will admit right away that I did not bother much with the jerky counter as it just did not appeal to me: long lines with no control or direction, curious onlookers who clearly had no idea what to do, a single worker staring out offering items that I can already grab from multiple other points prepackaged for my convenience. Full service deli counters in general are fading out as the newer generations prefer swiftness and ease over the personal connection with a smiling worker; both are alright, but this is not for me. With simply how huge it is, the jerky counter seems more like an excuse to beef up the square footage to hit different zoning quotas or records, as all of the same flavors appear to be available in the bags immediately next to it, at the same ehhh alright price ($8 for 4 oz) as the counter ($31.98 per pound).

I purchased two types, both of which had similar quality in the actual meat–not too tough, not too soft, right in the middle. Ghost Pepper Beef Jerky was pretty alright, the flavor is a bit fruity with a strong spicy kick, which is exactly what I’m looking for with ghost pepper. The Peppered Beef Jerky sure is beef jerky that’s been peppered. Not mad at this, and I’d be willing to try other flavors too.

The chunkier, the better.
Roasted Candied Nuts

Freshly roasted pecans, almonds, and cashews, with a cinnamon glaze coating, all served warm. What’s not to like? They are what they are, and I can’t find these anywhere else that’s not a county fair or farmer’s market, so these are just a nice treat to have. These are more of an attraction to me than any clean bathroom or 179 more gas pumps than I need to use, and would be a hard loss to suffer should I decide to avoid Buc-ee’s forevermore.

I appreciate the unique attempts.

Sure is fudge. If you’ve ever seen a fudge counter in your life you will be pleased to see that inside Buc-ee’s there is another fudge counter just like all the others you’ve ever seen. If you’re unfamiliar with fudge, it is a treat made from sugar, butter, and milk, formed into sweet slabs; their simplicity and ease makes it possible to mix in any flavor, snack, candy, whatever you can imagine for endless variation. Buc-ee's sees value in both, having available some standard flavors, regional fanservices, and unique offerings.

One to highlight in particular is the Tiger Butter, a highly recommended choice. Just white and milk chocolate fudge marbled with creamy peanut butter sandwiched between–key being that it’s not mixed in. That peanut butter aided the longevity as it kept the fudge feeling smooth even as it began to dry. I also enjoyed the banana pudding fudge with the unbroken vanilla wafers plonked right in, which I should’ve seen as an inevitability as I’m learning about the staples of southern living.

Sure is fudge.

The grease stains on the bags is how you know they're good.
Beaver Chips

Some homemade potato chips served in a paper bag, kept under a hot lamp, what’s there not to like? Just plain chips, a bit greasy, not as crunchy as they could be, but flaws that indicate to me that these are freshly made. Really missing the salt, which would be a nice flavor that would disguise poor fryer grease, but luckily it seems they have protocols in place to keep that fresh so I’m not upset with these.

More places should serve hot homemade potato chips.

Self-Serve Beverages
With how little this space was frequented even when it was busy tells me that they can afford a COUPLE benches at least, PLEASE.

What I was more impressed with than their bathrooms was their drink station; at least, until I got closer and the shimmering mirage fizzled a bit to reveal that rather than a magnificent fountain with an array of choices, it was just the same small setup copy/pasted like 4-6 times across the back wall. What got me initially was how clean the area was, as fountain stations tend to be an absolute disaster due to the existence of savage customers who have no regard for basic decency or garbage can aim. As I browsed around, noticing the apocalyptic prices on the drinks being 59/69/79 cents giving you basically no choice but to get the largest size to have for the ride back, I came up empty in what I always want from gas stations the most: hot chocolate. Icees, sodas, coffee, even Arizona teas out of a fountain, but no hot chocolate to be found at both locations I visited during any of the like 6+ times I went. Yeah yeah, I know it’s always super low quality, made with water and crappy mix, but the virtue of the coffee island available is an array of sugar, creamers, flavorings, and often now a chiller of milk bottles and even whipped cream. If we want to bring Wawa back into this, Buc-ee’s comes up horrifically short, as Wawa’s self-serve drink station is equipped with everything you can reasonably imagine needing. They’ve got big drinks for cheap, but who doesn’t have big drinks for cheap??

And, no variety in ice dispensers, despite there being quite a number of points to receive at? Cubed, crushed, crescent, nuggets, no choices, no selection. Ice eaters, this is not for us.

Texas Round Up

Big fan of forcing the cowboy hats in uniform, no matter the hair.

Here at this station, centrally located, is where you can find all of the grab-and-go freshly prepared hot foods, such as sandwiches, burritos, chips, as well as several people waiting for a ‘fresh’ sandwich as the one deposited in the case 3 minutes ago isn’t good enough.

Chopped Beef Brisket Sandwich
Perhaps this is why they want people eating them in the car, away from where people who have yet to purchase one can see what they actually look like.

It’s chopped beef brisket on a hamburger bun. In a show of solidarity, my whole family is upset that it costs $7.49 for a TERRIBLE sandwich. Authentic Texan smoked brisket, showed that the minimal effort was there, but effort doesn’t always translate to something actually being good. I will admit that I’m not a big brisket person, but my one brother is, regularly making it for us and having traveled around to more places than I have to have experienced real Texan brisket bbq, and even his stance is that. I guess that’s what you get for some reheated meat flavored with ketchup and liquid smoke, facts that I believe should make true Texans ashamed and cease spreading this filth across the country.

I wasn’t thrilled at having to eat this in my car, the prospect of getting even more stains on my seat when instead I could just wipe off a public table or bench that Buc-ee’s won’t provide for reasons I demand corporate reveals to me.

Hey David, the writer who wrote this article, titled ‘The Brisket at This Gas Station in Texas Is Probably Better Than the Barbecue Where You Live’, you are wildly off-point, mistaken, horribly presumptive, and honestly sad if you think the Buc-ee’s brisket is even anything better than premade goop you get at a grocery store next to the Kraft and Sargento shredded cheese bags, your decades of cross-country food journalism revealing itself to be paper thin and superficial at best being tossed aside to drive deceived clicks to an article that peddles untruths.

Shame. Shame shame shame.

Club Melt
Subpar fast food for restaurant prices.

Smoked turkey, peppered bacon, spicy mayo, and a sundried tomato pesto sauce. I just think these were wrong choices. The turkey is way too thick which gives away how tough and springy the meat is, and the condiments used just feel like they belong to another sandwich. All strong flavors that compete rather than synergize, and I’m the unfortunate innocent bystander who lost $8.99 on this. Lose the condiments and add a couple pickles, go ahead and even slap on some guacamole as I can see that adding a welcome flavorful kick that can take the place of some greens that would otherwise wilt in a sandwich kept under hot lights. A pretzel bun would’ve been a better choice, as well. Basically, replace this product with something entirely different and maybe I’d like it.

Bacon Egg Cheese Croissant

Bacon was burnt and crumbled off the sandwich as soon as I looked at it. Too much egg rendered too fluffy placed haphazardly on the croissant bun, also falling out with ease. I don’t even want to bother with this anymore, all this is worth to me is as a warning to you all.

For a place where this all is a source of pride and a focal point of marketing, it’s just sad how disgusting these all were, how poorly they were made, how expensive they’re trying to sell them for, and most of all how people will still buy it all and shout to the heavens untruths regarding its alleged quality.

Overall, yeah, the food is hot, and sometimes that’s all you want to have, but at this price level you’re better off just going to the McDonald’s attached to the Pilot Travel Center to get more food at the same cost without also losing an hour of your travel time and quarter of your budget on other impulse buys.

Beaver Nuggets


The bag is pretty big, like physically the size of an actually full large chip bag, so I’m not so sure why so many articles say they’re great for cupholders unless it’s just a bunch of people writing nonsense without actually trying it for themselves and using misdirection press releases to fake themselves an article to slap ads on, or if it’s because they didn’t even try to fake doing their own research and reworded the information from an incorrect article. This is probably their most iconic item, most recommended, the one that Buc-ee’s holds most dear to them, and the one every single person I know who is aware of them says is a step above mythical ambrosia, with one key exception being my sister-in-law.

Huge fan of all of the oils in the ingredients.

I’ve gotta hand it to her for being the only correct person on Earth as these are NOT good. They’re actually pretty gross, to the full extent of the word. Puffed corn snacks, as if we don’t already have enough of those, but this time these ones are coated in a glaze. It has the experiential start of caramel popcorn, but as it’s just a corn puff it just has a disappointingly soft texture. I’ve seen people liken them to Corn Pops, going so far as there being a “hack” of people eating these like cereal with milk, but their larger size also scales up the amount of sugary glaze and flavor on each one. What’s key is that it’s not just a basic sugar glaze with neutral sweetness, but brown sugar with flavor that teases you with the heavier taste of molasses, but then leans more towards vomit. More annoyingly, they stick really bad to your teeth, only useful for pulling out a loose tooth, and discouraging me from trying my hand at growing with them and getting used to them.

I’ve seen other reviews claim these are super delicious, and much better than caramel popcorn because they do not stick in your teeth, which I’ve learned is a misdirect and white lie as the Beaver Nuggets get stuck on and around your teeth. If you see any reviewer that peddles these lies, know and trust that they’re a sham and fake, at best just blinded by hype.

Like, let’s just take one of the reviews I’ve found that feels more genuine:

Beaver Nuggets are delicious. They’re like carmel popcorn with none of the side effects: They don’t get stuck in your teeth. They don’t have any potently concentrated nooks and crannies to accumulate tacky, cloying carmely sugar. They don’t have any tooth breaking kernels lying in wait, concealed to ambush zealous chompers. Warning: these are highly addictive due to their crunchy, light sweetness.

It’s just…none of what he said is what I experienced, literally none of it. Not delicious, maybe not stuck between my teeth but absolutely stuck on them, definitely had some pieces where the coating was thinner or more accumulated, not so much crunchy as they were like a stiff piece of styrofoam, and the sweetness was awkward and strong. Did I just get a bad batch? Did I perhaps trigger a very rare disgust receptor within me similar to those who can’t stand cilantro? Is it worth upsetting me for me to try another bag?


Regular Beaver Nuggets, but now with cinnamon! It adds a familiar flavor to mask whatever disgusting nonsense the original one was, at least long enough to convince you to swallow and put a second piece in your fingers. The more I eat these, the more they seem ok, which I think is the trap people fall into for the regular Beaver Nuggets. The amount of heavy sugar glaze on these gets tiring fast, and that’s ok, I’m fine with just having a single handful of these and moving onto something else. An ok product! I have nothing more to say about these, congratulations.

Buc-ee’s Nug-ee’s

HalfBaked 192 43.jpg

Returning to form, these are puffed corn snacks that are dusted with cheese flavoring. These are intended to be the savory version of Nuggets, complete with a different name that signals to the buyer which one is covered in a sickly glaze, and which one is normal.

White Cheddar

Free from a solid crust of sugar glaze, the true Beaver Nugget comes through to reveal itself as a softer Cheetos Puff. The same exact corn puff thing as the Beaver Nuggets, revealing to me that what disgusted me entirely about the Original was the coating, it was all just the coating. There’s no frills with the White Cheddar Nug-ee’s, and that’s what I was hoping for, just a light cheesy puff that gives just a little crunch. Did its job.

That’s it for this month! There’s a lot of Buc-ee’s food that’s been recommended that I did not get to, but I simply got way too much stuff for me to fit in this one single month in a way I’d be satisfied with, so look forward to the drive back later on down the line!

Oh, to live in a world where Gasquatch is the one to have attained cult virality.

The 'Shroom: Issue 192
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