The 'Shroom:Issue 184/Critic Corner
Welcome to July! The worst month for the air conditioning in my car to still not be working! What better way to cool down than to have your laptop that's currently overheating resting on your belly while you lay under three blankets in bed to enjoy our easy-breezy lemon-squeezy reviews!
And now for my regular announcements: We've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!
As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to Ninja Squid on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as April's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!
|CRITIC CORNER SECTION OF THE MONTH
|Anton's Half-Baked Reviews
|All-Time Smash Merit Ranking
|A Report on the Effectiveness of Power-Ups
|Mustard Machine (talk)
Welcome to July's edition of 'Shroom FM! Here's some albums from June. That's it. That's all you're getting.
XÊNIA FRANÇA - EM NOME DA ESTRELA ⭐
ANGEL OLSEN - BIG TIMEthis interview where she discusses coming out to her parents and then both suddenly dying not long after, among other important things happening in her life, which does contextualise a lot of the moments on Big Time quite well. Thankfully, I ended up finding the album very enjoyable - the songs are well-written and engaging, there's plenty of highlights, and the whole thing has a really relaxing and mellow vibe which I really appreciated as I was quite tired when I listened.
PERFUME GENIUS - UGLY SEASON
Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls
|The Masque of the Red Death
|Apple Tv, Youtube (Multiple free videos), Vudu
Good evening, dear readers, and welcome to another chilling tale in Van Shoeul's House of Ghouls. I'm your guide through the darkness, Vincent Van Shoeul. It's that time of the year, dear readers; Awards season is finally upon us. There are games, votes, and, most importantly of all, a party where all the stars come out with their most creative of creations. Keeping with the spirit of the season, for this month's performance, I have chosen The Masque of the Red Death, a story about a rather delightful party. But I must warn you that this party is only for those of a special class of people. But don't worry. While this party may be the most joyous event of the season, I can promise you it will also be a thriller.
For tonight's featured performers we have Skip Martin as Hop-Toad, a dwarven jester who seeks revenge on those who torment him; Hazel Court as Juliana, a woman madly in love with Prince Prospero who seeks to be his only love by any means necessary; David Wetson as Gino, a peasant who is in a relationship with a maiden named Francesca, brought to the castle as part of Prospero's cruelty; Jane Asher as Francesca, a maiden from the village where the plague first started and a devout Christian who Prince Prospero attempts to convert to his own twisted ways; and, finally, the one the only Vincent Price as Prince Prospero, the lord of the land who has invited his closest noble friends to party while the country descends into the mysterious Red Death.
Based on the short story of the same name, The Masque of the Red Death is the seventh movie in an eight-movie series of Edgar Alan Poe stories adapted into films by famed horror director Roger Corman. Unlike some of his other Poe movies, such as The Raven and The Pit and the Pendulum, this is an fairly faithful adaptation of the story The Masque of the Red Death with only a few notable exceptions that will be covered later. Interestingly enough, this was actually Roger Corman's favorite Edgar Alan Poe story and he was originally going to use it as the follow-up to the first in his series of Poe movies, 1960's House of Usher, but he couldn't find a screenplay he was satisfied with. Finally, he decided on part of a screenplay written by Charles Beaumont and finished by R. Wright Campbel after Beaumont was too sick to help Corman finish it. As part of the additions to the screenplay, an adaptation of the Poe story Hop-Frog was added into the movie as a subplot.
Set in an unspecified part of Italy, a terrible disease known as the Red Death has begun sweeping the land. Those who are infected suffer sharp pains, dizziness, and finally bleeding from the pores of one's face, followed by death. The disease arrives on the same day that the cruel Prince Prospero arrives at a local village to collect his tribute. Upon finding out that the village is contaminated, he orders the village burned to the ground and orders the three healthy villagers, Francesca, her love Gino, and her father Ludovico, taken to the castle with the intention of making Gino and Ludovico fight to the death for his own amusement. He also sends messages to all the local lords telling them to come at once to a party he's going to throw, while also warning them not to pass through the village. At the castle, Prince Prospero finds himself fascinated with the devout Christian Francesca and becomes determined to convert her to his own religion. What is that religion, you ask? Well, we learn early on that Prince Prospero is a devout Satanist who has made a pact with the devil and wishes for evil to triumph over good.
The major theme of the film is Prince Prospero attempting to break the spirit of Francesca and turn her to the side of Satan. Prince Prospero (played by horror legend Vincent Price) is by far the star and is by far the most interesting character. Prince Prospero is a man who loves depravity. When the guests for his party arrives, he humiliates them by forcing them to act like animals as he laughs on. When his right-hand man Alfredo is burned alive in a gorilla costume by the jester Hop-Toad as revenge for Alfredo striking Hop-Toad's love Esmeralda, Prince Prospero tells his guard to give the jester gold for providing such an amusing jest. Prince Prospero is a thoroughly and unabashedly evil man who is not ashamed of his evil. Early in the film, he's accused of only providing the villagers scraps and treating them like dogs, to which Prospero confirms that's exactly what he's doing. Even his acts at the beginning of the film, his saving of three villagers, was not out of kindness but rather out of cruelty, with his desire to break Franseca's spirit and make Gino and Ludovico fight to the death for his own amusement. It's also stated that, in addition to worshiping Satan, Prospero comes from a family that's just plain evil. With Prospero recounting the time his father locked a friend of his in a yellow room for three years and how, by the end of it, the friend couldn't look into the sun without going mad.
But at the same time, his guests are no better. They delight in his cruelty, gleefully joining in at laughing at the guests Prospero humiliates, Juliana willingly converts herself to Satan in an attempt to regain Prospero's love (only for Prospero to kill her), and Alfredo is probably the cruelest of them all. striking the dancer Esmerelda for the crime of accidentally spilling wine on him (it's also implied he lusts after every woman in the castle). Even the shocking deaths of Juliana and Alfredo, the latter of whom the guests watch burn alive, does little the dampen the party. The most telling scene of this depravity is during the death game between Gino and Ludovico, who, after refusing to fight to the death and after pointing out that if Prospero simply tortured them to death they'd be the winners, are forced to play a game by Prospero that is designed to kill one of them as well as mock their Christianity. The two are brought to the dining hall and before them are five daggers, one of which is dipped with poison. Each one of them is to cut their own skin with a dagger as a mockery of the concept of martyrdom. While this is happening, guests are eating and making out with each other, just enjoying the whole show. The game ends with Ludovico attempting to stab Prospero with the final dagger, but Prospero is not a moron, so he sees it coming and stabs Ludovico to death before having Gino thrown out of the castle into the wilds where the Red Death awaits, mocking him and telling him he's giving him another chance to "test his fate."
Despite his cruelty, Prince Prospero is not without some limited form of morality. When a friend arrives late to the party and is refused entry (he had driven through the village), Prospero kills the noble himself to spare him the Red Death and tosses down a dagger so that the noble's wife may also kill herself. The same thing happens when some of the remaining villagers come to the castle begging for salvation. Prospero has his archers kill the villagers while demanding that they spare a child. Even though his archers protest that the child would die anyways, he still demands the child be spared. It's really interesting to have a character whose evil is tied completely into the fact that he genuinely worships Satan and genuinely believes that Satan has already defeated God. In contrast, Franesca, on the other hand is a true believer in Christ, which fascinates the cruel Prospero despite Prospero's attempts to turn her to Satan, such as making her watch as he kills the late lord or forcing her to watch as he sends her lover out of the castle to certain death. The latter of which, you should know, causes her to pledge to be anything Prospero wants if he'll just bring Gino back, a pledge which greatly impresses Prospero. Finally, however after watching Alfredo be burned alive in the gorilla suit, she can take no more and tells Prospero that she will be his at the end of the masquerade ball.
But before this can happen and, in probably the best part of the movie (outside of the sweet dagger game), a figure cloaked in red appears, enraging Prospero who confronts him in another room. The figure reveals himself as the manifestation of the Red Death, something which brings Prospero great joy because he thinks that the Red Death is a messenger of Satan and that he has won. The Red Death begins a new dance and we find out that all of the guests, with the exception of Franseca and Prospero, have the Red Death. Prospero, still believing that the Red Death is sent by Satan, tells him that he brought all these souls for Satan but asks that Franseca be spared, having grown genuinely fond of her devoutness and devotion to Christ. The Red Death grants the request, telling her to leave the castle (earlier in the film, The Red Death had met Gino and told him to return to the castle). But the Red Death then reveals that he is not a messenger of Satan, that Satan is not his lord, that death has no master, and that Prospero's pact with the Devil won't save him. Enraged, Prospero pulls down the mask of the Red Death and finds that the figure has his face. The infected partygoers then surround the prince, who dies from the Red Death. Outside the castle, the Red Death encounters his brothers, each wearing a different colored cloak. Each is a different disease going through the countryside. Of the thousands the Red Death has encountered, only six have been spared.
As with all films that star Vincent Price, he's absolutely the best part of the film, and, in a lot of ways, he's the only one that has any real character. It helps that he's doing what he's does best, playing an evil character who doesn't pretend to be anything else. The rest of the cast, while fine, aren't exactly given much characterization, with Gino and Ludovico being given little screen time and being kind of generic characters. Jane Asher is great as Franseca, playing the role of a sympathetic character who survives her torture perfectly. The other notable casting choice is Skip Martin playing Hop-Toad, who is great as the cunning dwarf jester getting revenge on those who wronged him (it helps that his portion of the film is partially based on its own Poe story though).
All in all, The Masque of the Red Death is a great Vincent Price movie with a lot of vibrant themes. The party setting works great and the depravity of the guests who are partying while the countryside is destroyed is great change to the story (in the original story, the party still happens but it's not a den of evil and sin). I also really like the ending change where it's implied that the diseases are sparing those who deserve to live. It's a really fun movie with some great acting by a Vincent Price while also being a fairly good adaptation of a classic Poe story. My only real complaint is that most of the characters that aren't Prospero are kind of generic, but the story does such a good job of focusing on the lovably evil Prospero that it's easy to overlook that.
I'm afraid, dear readers, it's time for this party to come to a close. I hope you had a good time at this fear party. The moral you should take away from this party is that you should always make sure you have directions to a party's location, lest you end up traveling through a plague filled city. That's all the time we have for this month, so join us next month for another journey through the darkness.
Graphic Novel Review
|Sunny Makes a Splash
|Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Greetings, readers! Welcome to a new Graphic Novel Review! This month, we'll be returning to one of our long-running series with book 4 in the Sunny series: Sunny Makes a Splash!
The Holm siblings dropped this one in fall of last year, and it was a nice surprise for me to pick up, as Scholastic isn't one of the publishers I track throughout the year. Either way, I find this series and always make room for it on my shelf. Makes me miss the Scholastic Book Fair back in grade school.
Anyway, what's Sunny getting up to this time? It's the summer of 1978, and Sunny is BORED! Her best friend, Deb, has gone to visit relatives in Wisconsin all summer, the temperatures are soaring, and Sunny is stuck babysitting her baby brother- until she lands a job at the snack bar at the local pool with a boy from school, Tony. The boredom goes POOF as Sunny serves up popsicles and sodas, learns how to cook hot dogs and deep fry french fries, and listens in to all the gossip happening at the pool. Gramps comes up to visit, Sunny and her mom butt heads in the way that only pre-teens and moms do, and the pool is jumping with visitors that all want snacks! Can Sunny serve up everything with a smile, while also trying to navigate her friendship with Tony?
The fourth book in the Sunny series is a real treat- like a cold sno-cone on a hot summer day. Familiar characters come back to say hello and new ones settle right in, like Tony and the lifeguards at the pool. The story is a very cute little romp into the maze of middle school crushes- does he like me, or are we just friends? How do I feel about him? Sunny navigates it all in her signature style- with plenty of pop-culture references and shots that feel like that "looking straight into the camera" style of The Office. Sunny is such a great character, and I love reading about whatever she gets into, whether that's vacationing with the elderly, playing D&D, or working the snack bar. She feels extremely real, probably due to the fact that these books are based on Jennifer and Matthew's experiences from when they were kids- each volume has a little blurb next to the author bio where the Holms talk about what the book was inspired by. Jenni worked at the snack bar at her local pool until she was promoted up to lifeguard. Another reason I love these books is how relatable they are over time- Sunny lives in the 1970s, yet in the 2010s and 2020s, I still can relate to her and her experiences. Middle school is a weird time for everyone, but Sunny always has her friends and family to help her through her struggles.
Physical copies of the book are just like the rest of the Sunny series- they're not flimsy, the pages are very heavy and durable, and the colors are vibrant and expressive. Lark Pien, the colorist who works with the Holms, is extremely good at what she does and every panel is lovingly colored. Full-page spreads are beautiful- there's one page that features a sunset at the pool that's my favorite in the entire book. Backgrounds are given love and care, and even the smallest details get attention, like the sleeves of Sunny's shirts always featuring a pattern or a solid color. The cover and spine are a red-yellow ombré, which looks lovely next to the blue, green, and yellow of the other three books on my shelf. I'm looking forward to building a rainbow of this series, and I'm excited to see what the next book will be!
Sunny Makes a Splash is a great addition to the series that you can't miss out on. Younger readers and older ones will love these books and Sunny as she moves from grade to grade in school. I can't recommend these books enough to everyone, so if you haven't started reading them, now's a great time before they become hard to find in physical print!
That's all for me this time, readers! Tune in next time for a new Book Review!
All-Time Smash Merit Ranking
Welcome to another round of Smash Merit! The non-shroom sections for this batch included Zero Suit Samus, ROB, and King Dedede. But as for our shroom sections, we have 2 characters that certainly rank as 2 of the most popular Smash characters in their own different ways.
Starting with none other then the SUPER FIGHTING ROBOT!
|Smash 4 Veterans
|Game of Origin
|Mega Man (NES, 1987 (US/JP), 1990 (EU)
Before we knew that Solid Snake and Sonic would turn out to be the only 3rd characters in Smash. There was one other name out there that had plenty of support even if the fervor for him was not as big as it was for Sonic. But as soon as Sonic did make it, I think it’s fair to say Mega Man quickly became that next-in-line character. There was too little time I guess for Capcom to get a word on bringing in Mega Man for Brawl. But that was pretty quickly rectified the moment we got to Smash 4.
Our first fully cinematic Smash character reveal that would become commonplace through both Smash 4 and Ultimate’s speculation lifecycle started with Villager and a good amount of pretty obvious veterans. But I don’t think we need to be reminded that what came next is what most people remember. The warning challenger approaching banner that had Mario and Link in a mountainous area at night. Where a figure looks down from above with spiky hair. The moment the iconic helmet design appears, people knew, the iconic Blue Bomber was in Smash Bros. Even with how saturated Smash Bros. has become with fighters from outside Nintendo, I feel Mega Man’s trailer still hits as one of the top reveals of all-time. Just listen to perhaps one of my favorite reactions to a character in Smash of all time that was for Mega Man’s reveal (From 12:08-12:38).
And while I’m no diehard Mega Man fan myself, I’m going to say what I think about Mega Man’s inclusion: He’s the most merited 3rd party inclusion in Smash Bros. ever. And I mean that, if there’s one 3rd party that has the soul of a Nintendo franchise. I’d argue it’s Mega Man straight up, even with other options as Banjo-Kazooie which was pretty much 1st Party itself. And while Mega Man was never officially owned by Nintendo, I feel having the first 6 entries on the NES (With the 7th as well as the first 3 Mega Man X games on the SNES) should get special consideration. Mega Man was considered such a crucial part of Nintendo he even appeared in the Captain N show (…albeit like everyone else in that show was pretty inaccurate and would too often say the word mega in way too many sentences) While Pac-Man’s status as the original video game mascot is enough to shoot him to 2nd most merited 3rd party inclusion. Mega Man feels like his very identity ties more into the core of Nintendo’s history then Pac-Man does.
While yes, there would be Mega Man games that would evade being put on Nintendo consoles such as the Mega Man X games past the 3rd game, and most of the Legends series other then the first one (Though I wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo fans didn’t know the first legends was on Nintendo consoles, because it was rebranded as Megaman 64 for the N64 version. Mega Man never abandoned it’s Nintendo roots for very long as the franchise would have a healthy amount of games on the Game Boy Advance. Including the Battle Network games that just got a collection announcement for Switch in a recent partner showcase. From there the Classic Mega Man games made a resurgence with the Wii included for Mega Man 9 and 10
Mega Man just has everything you would want in a 3rd party character getting in Smash. A deep history with Nintendo, a natural fit with many of more colorful characters in the Smash cast, and a very popular request that brings in another dedicated fanbase into the mix. I’m just sad I can’t really gush over him myself as someone who didn’t quite grow up a Mega Man fan as others did. That said, Mega Man is very much a huge part of what I consider the Mount Rushmore of Gaming. I fully believe Mario, Pac-Man, Mega Man, and Sonic. A set up that was made possible in the base game of Smash 4 would be worthy of being erected on a mountain if Video Games were to choose 4 influential figures on the gaming landscape. Perhaps some would argue characters like Link, and/or a JRPG character could make an argument. But I definitely think that Smash 4’s base game definitely delivered on it’s choices. That’s not to say Smash 4 DLC and Ultimate didn’t have really cool 3rd party additions, but Mega Man, Sonic, and Pac-Man together in one game ready for you to play on day one of the game was just alone a testament to what Smash Bros. was able to accomplish, this ranking is all about talking about each and every character’s place in Nintendo and party gaming history as a whole. And Mega Man’s addition is still one of those I’m very glad happened.
And now, we got none other the launcher of many memes in Smash Bros. history. And it helps that he’s certainly one of the coolest Nintendo characters ever made
|Game of Origin
|F-ZERO (SNES, 1990 (JP), 1991 (US), 1992 (EU)
Captain Falcon’s really just one of those characters that feels like he’s transcended his own franchise into the immortality of the history of Nintendo thanks to the Smash Bros. series. While unfortunately his franchise has not seen a new game in nearly 2 decades. Captain Falcon alone carries the flag for himself in his perfect attendance record in Smash Bros. His franchise may have been left behind, but his presence in Smash Bros. is certainly never to be forgotten. It’s hard not to love him, if we didn’t have his energetic voice lines in Smash Bros., the series would almost never feel the same.
I guess it’s also a little funny how this man who’s normally in a racing game, and is such rarely seen outside of the cockpit in said games has been given such a famous Smash moveset. It’s one case where there are limits to being fully accurate to the source material. As you probably don’t want an F-Zero machine just zipping across the Smash stage as the playable fighter (Granted, to some that sounds appealing just for how insane it would be). So much of Captain Falcon’s moveset is most definitely a Smash original. Though the iconic Falcon Punch did make it’s way into what’s become the F-Zero anime's most famous scene.
I should get into mentioning the most recent major release of the F-Zero franchise. I of course don’t mean the F-Zero games on GBA, but none other than F-Zero GX. I actually own that game… although I very much sucked at it and still suck. I don’t think I’ve ever completed the story mode nor aced all the cups ever. It’s a very difficult game. But I do have a strong relation with this game in that this game was co-developed by Sega (Heck the game’s engine is modified off Super Monkey Ball of all things). That’s early 2000’s Sega, back when the Sonic Adventure games were still relatively new. Which came with it the presentation and a great capability of making some pretty rocking music. Some of the stuff in F-Zero GX sounds like they could have released on an actual radio or had a music video on MTV. I’ll highlight in particular Captain Falcon’s theme from the game. Oh do I so wish this had made it into Smash in any official manner. Because… just… mwah… it’s certainly one of my favorite lyrical Video game music songs of all-time. That isn’t even the only theme from the game I have no problem rocking to, as I can certainly list a few other favorites such as Black Shadow’s, Blood Falcon’s, Deathborn's, Phoenix's, Super Arrow's, and more. Seriously, if you’ve somehow never listened to the F-Zero GX soundtrack. I advise you to rectify that right now. Sometimes I wonder if the music license is part of the reason the game has not been remade since or something, although I’m not sure I’ve ever got word on who were the bands and/or vocalists that did the themes and if they’ve released anything outside of this game.
It is a shame that F-Zero hasn’t managed to get a new game since GX. As unfortunately it still looks like the only future F-Zero has is honorable mentions in Mario Kart games. With two tracks in Mario Kart 8 and the Blue Falcon. Frankly, I’m wondering if at this point Captain Falcon’s next playable appearance outside of Smash Bros. is going to be the next Mario Kart. Or even something like a Nintendo kart, if they were to expand Mario Kart to include more franchises.
As for the man himself in Smash, he’s had the distinction of being the fastest character on the ground in the game… well… up until a certain blue hedgehog took that from him, but he’s nonetheless a fun character that mixes up his speed with pretty powerful moves. Even if Smash remains his only home for yet another decade, we can’t say it’s not a significant place to be. Even if F-Zero doesn’t have a future, Captain Falcon seems to have one, as long as Smash Bros. remains popular.
For the rankings. I mentioned that Mega Man is probably the highest merited 3rd party. Putting him directly above Pac-Man even if the gobbler of ghosts have a larger impact on the gaming industry as a whole. Even though I consider Mega Man pretty much THE Nintendo-centric 3rd party. He’s still a bit below many of the Mario characters and probably a decent number of classic characters yet to get to. So I don’t think I could put him higher then Princess Peach.
As for the ol’ Captain. this is where F-Zero’s absence starts to really hurt. I think at the very least Falcon should be above Jigglypuff partly for being a unique franchise not to mention the mascot of F-Zero while Jigglypuff is one of many Pokemon. Though I struggle to put Falcon above Ness, as while both of their franchises are dormant (Albeit in MOTHER’s defense, the creator considers it complete) it feels like Ness’ series has more impact on the landscape of current games then F-Zero does. If there was a new game, there’s a chance the Captain manages to jump Ness to be with Pit after he had Uprising from the last decade. Although I don’t think I could go with Captain Falcon over Shulk even if there was a recent game due to how Xenoblade’s become a true franchise.
|21. Toon Link
|3. Donkey Kong
|27. Captain Falcon
|9. Mega Man
|29. Duck Hunt
|11. Diddy Kong
|12. Banjo & Kazooie
|13. King Dedede
|14. King K. Rool
|34. Min Min
|15. Mr. Game & Watch
|16. Sonic the Hedgehog
|36. Wii Fit Trainer
|17. Bowser Jr.
|38. Dr. Mario
|19. Rosalina & Luma
|39. Dark Pit
|20. Zero Suit Samus
|40. Piranha Plant
Welcome back for another round of sparkles, bubbles, and fizz! In true Half-Baked fashion, I went and kept buying more and more and more, so settle in for a full summer of hydration!
Filtered naturally through the porous lava rock at the base of Mauna Loa, Waiākea is proudly marketed as Hawaiian Volcanic Water, made premium by nature, water in its ultimate form, available to native Hawaiians for thousands of years and now bottled for you, sitting in a continental suburb, since 2012.grew up living there half the year making defenses for his place selling tap water. At least it’s sustainable and renewable! It’s not just a carbon neutral product, but it’s CarbonNeutral®, a certification from a company that sets guidelines through The CarbonNeutral Protocol. make an effort to give back to the community, in ways that seem solid with the only kickback I can find on Google just being cynical articles that pose loaded and generalized questions that all seem to be answered for in unproblematic ways that are only superseded by the general concept that bottling water and shipping it across the world is not really the best thing to do. Maybe I’m just not finding an aggregation of comments from native Hawaiians easily online, and I feel like their collective stance would be an important one to have.
‘Alohi’, their brand of sparkling water, in full spirit of its entire image being centered around that it’s: 1) from Hawaii, and 2) inside a refillable aluminum can, has really nothing else to it beyond those trivia points. If you’re looking for a carbonated water that can strip the plaque and enamel from your teeth in record time, this is the one, as it feels and sounds like liquified Pop Rocks. There’s not a lot of flavor, but there’s definitely not no flavor. Tastes slightly salty, but doesn’t leave me feeling thirsty. As it gets flat it doesn’t take on too much of a bitter carbonic acid flavor, but it also doesn’t feel good to drink anymore. What I did appreciate about it was it felt a lot colder for longer due to the type of container it had, and if that’s the whole value it had to me I can just bypass the brand entirely and either get another one
The only opinions I’m finding about Waiākea online are more about whatever pseudoscience health benefit they’re hallucinating regarding alkaline water, which the company itself seems to be evading directly confirming or siding with as they’re likely savvy enough to know not to align with it, with some people saying very meekly basically ‘sure, it was sorta sweet, maybe’. Waiākea seems more like a vessel for philanthropy and good-will credit, trying to hit every virtue they can while delivering a product that tastes like no more than what it is: tap water for a small town.
What I find most intriguing about Waterloo is that they really don’t have any hook or lore, they’re kinda just a company that makes sparkling water, tossing in some corporate buzzwords and nonsense to at least fit the theme. What they promise are ‘full-out flavors’, that they ‘are crafted, not formulated’, and provide authenticity. Their entire angle is about making something that tastes (and smells) good, which, honestly, is a valid direction to come from with a product that’s notorious for either leaving a bad taste if any at all. Non-GMO, 0 calories, Whole30-approved, but don’t expect any insight on what the ingredients are.
Cherry is a difficult flavor to nail or predict, as it can come with many different expectations, and it’s apparent that Waterloo tried to appeal to all of them. Candy sweetness, sour, mellow and dark, without a single one standing out. Some people may be fond of this, but it just doesn’t grab me at all; cherry is one of my favorite flavors and I need it to be tart and strong. It smells really good, though, which sets up the expectations that it will come with a full-out flavor blast, but it’s just an over-engineered run-of-the-mill sparkling water. Sparkling Ice does it better, cheaper, for more volume, with no disingenuous attempt to disguise how they don’t care at all for virtues beyond ‘carbonated’ and ‘tastes like what the color is’.
A classic flavor that they felt they needed to change up by focusing more on the citrus flavors than the caustic sweetness that every single other lemon-lime fizzy drink is. This was achieved by combining their regular Lemon, and their regular Lime, which sounds intuitive, but neglects to acknowledge that the fusion of two strong personalities is the creation of a more powerful one, as they instead opted to create a Frankenstein’s monster where you get some hints of lemon, some hints of lime, but not enough of either one. Just barely enough flavor for it to feel uncanny and off, not very pleasant to deal with. I’m not sure why I’m even trying to hate this, since apparently everyone else on the internet salivates at the sight of this; maybe it’s because Sprite has such a stranglehold on that flavor combo that I’m left feeling disappointed that I didn’t receive a mimic, or maybe because they discontinued the two separate Lemon and Lime flavors to introduce this. Why did they have their Flavor Artists concoct some synthetic potion to imitate separate lemon and lime flavors, but refused to make the synthetic lemon-lime flavor? What’s not clicking with me about this brand that is with everyone else? Maybe I’m getting tired of a genre of products that has only so much variation possible before it goes outside its bounds? But hey, at least it smells good!
I think that their Flavor Artists would be better off going into the air freshener or candle market, as the scents are what they excel at.
A recent spin-off from Mother Kombucha, Aqua Bucha is a kombucha-infused sparkling water in case that was something someone thought they needed. What’s most interesting about this is that it’s a shelf-stable kombucha product that remains safe and non-alcoholic, a miraculous feat that has only been achievable recently and just starting to expand; Humm Zero, Remedy, and poppi being big names within that. What Agua Bucha does in effort to set itself apart is that all of its ingredients are organic, and the drink has naturally occurring B vitamins (2200% of the daily recommended level of vitamin B12) and organic acids, no alcohol, no preservatives, nothing artificial.reviewing kombucha not too long ago, this product came into my field of vision, but remained out of my grasp until a few months after, and here’s what my initial superficial commentary on that was so we can all look back and reflect on how actually trying it measures up to me being skeptical:
Mother Kombucha also has a line called Agua Bucha, which is kombucha-infused sparkling water, which is uhhhhhhhh...yeah… I can understand this to an extent, it’s sparkling water with a bit more of a kick to it, bringing the unique sensations of kombucha to people who wouldn’t really be into the full thing, but I can’t help but think that this is just kombucha that was heavily watered down with the price kicked up. It really just seems like a crass attempt to cash in on the sparkling water craze, in a way that seems too fake to be real, but here it is. Plus, it’s shelf-stable at room temp, what about the live yeast and bacteria? What did they do with it? How was it infused? No added probiotics so what’s the point? Unfortunately the product is just simply too new, and only sold in areas currently too far from me--Tampa only, it seems--so I guess I’ll get back to it if I feel it’s necessary.
I’m not seeing much talk about this product, so much that my excerpt above is dangerously high in search engine results, as information provided by their product locator indicates the brand hasn’t spread much out of their home market of Florida and the southeast US, except for the anomaly that is Agua Bucha proliferating in southern California. Even the shelf space it occupies at stores is minimal, with just one facing per single can UPC, with larger format grocery stores maybe also carrying a single facing of each case. They currently have three flavors, which I all tried because it was only $1 per can: Key Lime, Meyer Lemon, and Grapefruit.
It just tastes like regular sparkling water, but as you swallow you get a brief slap of kombucha funk that really only serves to trigger my gag reflex. There’s simply no excuse for it, as a strong citrus flavor is typically what shields you from the nastiness of kombucha, but the key lime is missing in action. Spoiled water, and nothing more.
Much MUCH better, just simply tastes like fizzy water with a lemon wedge squeezed in. The kombucha flavor is almost completely masked, except for a little tinge of ‘hmm?’ in it that rounds out the subtle sourness. Drinkable enough that I’d qualify it as ‘refreshing’.
This one doesn’t taste like much, it’s very weak and mild, only a subtle clue that it’s some kind of citrus that’s for sure not lemon. Completely inoffensive, though, from every angle it could have come from. What is notable and cannot be ignored is that the same tragedy befalls Agua Bucha as it has with many sparkling waters, in that the flavors available in the item become more present as it goes from cold to room temperature, and quite truthfully those flavors are not good.
If you come to Agua Bucha expecting a kombucha product, as you may given their focus on the kombucha-inclusion and marketing, then you will be incredibly disappointed, as the kombucha flavor is very minimal, with there being better products out there that would satisfy your need. I feel that this squarely fits into the sparkling water category and should be viewed as such, and with that is a sparkling water that provides more flavor than others without resorting to sugars and additives like Sparkling Ice does. There’s more of a savory element than there is sweetness, which feels different, but welcome. It’s a good way to step out of the safety of La Croix and dip a toe into kombucha without getting a mouthful of feet.
Right off, I’m suspicious of brands that emphasize that they’re the first of something–Sanzo proudly marketing itself as ‘The 1st Asian-inspired sparkling water’ which is uhhhhhhhh ok, I’d like to see what metrics determined that, as La Croix had Mango since 2014 if that’s the technicality we’re running with. Fellow foodie darling du jour Genki Forest is out there with Lychee, Yogurt Refresh, Calamansi Lime, Bamboo & Aloe, and I can tell you that these would, for sure, be included in this review set if the only current way to get them wasn’t just buying expensive cases with way more of a single flavor than I care for. Sanzo is also nowhere near the only Asian-inspired sparkling water on the market, but perhaps just simply had the more slick corporate gimmicks and push.
I just feel like it's an Asian-American founded product that's marketing itself to white people who don't feel comfortable going into H Mart, or at the very least they're taking advantage of the fact that white people will pay nearly $3 for it. At the time I saw this, with ‘New item’ shelf tags and everything, it was $2.49 per can, on sale for $1.61 at Whole Foods, and an equal price at Sprouts; the store locator also informed me that I could get it at Panda Express. Despite the marketing and design of sparkling waters being easily the most significant part of their value, I’ll go ahead and give every flavor a try because who knows, maybe there’s some magic.
Certainly tastes like mango; not mango flavor, but like you went out to the grocery store to buy a mango for the first time and didn’t know how to tell if it was good so you grabbed one that wasn’t ripe yet and bit directly into it. The real fruit ingredients are similar to Spindrift’s m.o., but I think they make something more unique that can stand alone without requiring a heartfelt family backstory of immigrant struggle and Facebook advertising to carry the brand.
The ingredients, along with yuzu, include ginger and lemon, flavors that can go pretty well together but I’d just like to see on their own sometimes if it’s not too much to ask. All three being combined is likely to buffer what yuzu actually tastes like and how it very likely would not appeal to the American market that it’s selling in aside from the weird kinda Japonisme eroticism that makes me think that this would be a French brand rather than what is really a genuine Asian-American product, especially with their other motto being ‘Traditional Asian flavors. Modern Taste.’ Like, I don’t know, the angling is just weird to me, there are plenty of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Japan, Indian, Filipino, and overall pan-Asian grocery stores and supermarkets around me where I can go and get Asian products that are overtly Asian with Asian flavors that don’t pivot in this way, but I also guess that’s why those items don’t make it into the New Yorker, Epicurious, and Business Insider. I think by now plenty of people are aware of what yuzu is and aren’t mystified by its 16-point minimum Scrabble score, and if they’re instead met with a flavor that’s pretty common and mundane, they’ll be pretty disappointed.
Calamansi are citrus fruits, hybrids of kumquats and (usually) mandarin oranges, widely used in southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines. Their flavor is described as being a blend of lemon and lime, or orange and lime, the former of which is the tone that comes much more strongly through in Sanzo’s version. As the drink is only made up of carbonated water and calamansi puree, I can confidently say that it’s just a lemon-lime fruit flavor, and as a result this is simply a mild Sprite and nothing more. If your desire is for what tastes like a large McDonald’s Sprite that you couldn’t drink fast enough before the ice all melted, but with 0 calories, then this can be on your list of options.
Lychee is a tropical fruit native to China, but able to be grown in tropical environments around the world, and thus able to be grown and harvested here in Florida. The taste is described frequently as similar to strawberry and citrus, but more floral. Sanzo’s Lychee sparkling water definitely evokes an accurate flavor, something made easy by the ingredients of this brand being simply carbonated water, the named fruit, and some citric acid. It’s reminiscent of many other fancy worldly gourmet artisan drinks utilizing rose flavor. It’s ok, but having had other lychee drinks such as Calpico’s, I have an awareness that the flavor could be much more powerful, and I’m honestly a little thankful for that as lychee flavor tends to lean more on the Yankee Candle side than edible fruit.
Overall I’m just not pleased with this brand. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted good and all, had no bad aftertaste, never felt any of the nasty stale carbonation, but the theming just felt like a ruse, like I’ve been had. The mango was cheap mango, the yuzu was more ginger and lemon, the calamansi was just diluted Sprite, and Lychee–the least morally offensive one–was just weak compared to any of the dozens of lychee-flavored items at any number of locally owned Chinese family grocery stores. Go out and buy Sanzo if what you want to do is impress your Twitter mutual who also reads Epicurious headlines without clicking the articles, as that is all the value they have for the gimmick and price they put forth. You are paying for the aesthetic, the vision that you’re hip and into the exoticism that now flows through you, with the full power of 2004 Gwen Stefani activating the tie-dye in the vintage Rugrats t-shirt you bought at a self-labeled ‘Latinex’ artisan market for $35. They got their $7 from me for trying every flavor, and that’s all I’m willing to give.
|The 'Shroom: Issue 184
|Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • 'Shroomfest Highlights • Poll Chairperson Address
|Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner • Strategy Wing