Monday, January 15, 2018

Star Wars: Destiny Game Review

In the roughly five years that I've been enjoying tabletop gaming, one particular category has proven to be troublesome, that's collectible games. Whether they be classic collectible card games like Magic: The Gathering, squad based combat titles such as X-Wing Miniatures, or the narrative driven living card game Arkham Horror: The Card Game. each has in one way or another let me down by either being too cumbersome, fiddly, and of course expensive. Even those that I've somewhat enjoyed like Dicemasters, or the aforementioned Arkahm Horror fail to hold my attention. It's a shame as the idea of a collectible game goes right to the heart of this hobby, experiencing a growing system alongside fellow players over the course of years sounds great, but for someone like myself the games don't work out.
Last year however, I decided to give yet another one of these titles a chance with Star Wars: Destiny. Seeing as it was released in the classic collectible model with boosters, and it being a Fantasy Flight title (a company known for excess and sloppy rules) I thought this might be another experiment that would waste my slim gaming budget. To my endless surprise, the results were far different than I ever could have imagined. At last here was a game with straightforward rules, easy deck-building, quick play time, and elegant design. Yes it is still somewhat hindered by a few issues mostly steaming from it's collectible model, yet it has held this gamers attention from the intial starter kits to the new fourth series.

Like so many of the games I've mentioned, Destiny can accommodate multiple players but is really intended for 2. While that may seems restrictive for someone who enjoys full board games it's balanced out by several factors like the speed of play. It's important to realize that even though it can work with more people, more so now as they're introducing things like draft play, for those that don't have a game store it would be wise to get this if you live with a family member or significant other who will join in. It's not the sort of thing you bring to game night for a group.

The game is largely devided into heroes and villains along with some neutral cards that can be applied to either side. Characters come in one of three colors, and have two point values for team building, one if you're only using one of their dice, the other for two. The max points allowed for your team is thirty. After that you need only to put together a deck of thirty cards from the same colors as your characters or some of those neutral ones. The cards can be instant one use abilities, equipment to attach to your characters, or droids and vehicles to offer support.

Once you're ready it's time to face off and that's where the games unique pacing kicks in. Most two-player collectible games have multi-phase turns where you draw cards, activate characters, lay out special items, attack, and so forth. Here you pick one thing per turn. Activate one character? Turn over. Play an instant? Turn over. This turns games into a proper back and forth duel. To be fair though some players do not enjoy this style of play, they actually prefer the extended turns of something like Magic where one player narrates a massive turn, followed by the other doing some math in response. And that's fine. Lord knows I've made a few good gaming memories from those massive turns but for my money the pressure of choosing which single action is most important at that moment is far better.
Adding more pressure to the game's pacing are the two victory conditions. Unlike most of these games where they aim is to attack the player directly, his cards only serving as a form of barrier, here there are two different winning conditions. One is to eliminate the other players team, and the other is to have them burn through their entire deck of cards. Admittedly I've never seen a game end with that second option but seeing as there's only 30 cards per player, it's a real possibility.

More than anything the game just feels right. The terminology, character abilities, and round structure all make sense. There's only one resource for instance and multiple ways to obtain it along with ways to cheapen the cost of cards. Battlefield cards likewise add a thematic element and create this odd balance between rushing to nab it for a bomus and first player status, but wanting to stay in the round issuing commands to your team.
Beyond that the presentation is excellent with nice art on sturdy cards and the dice, oh those dice. These are thick, weighty, printed die that are just heaven for anyone with a tactile nature.

For as many parts of the game as I love, there are a few that are irritating or underdeveloped. Two of these are an inherent part of collectible gaming. The most obvious being that games like this are far more expensive than a nice complete board game. With that model also comes the frustration that you may go an taciturnity before getting the characters you want. It's hard to express the sheer aggravation of going through booster pack after booster pack without getting your first yellow villain all while stockpiling plenty of yellow villain events and upgrades.
Team building early can be a bit frustrating as well. It's not as much of an issue once you have a nice sized collection, but there are still times when you can't make the group you want, either because you haven't got a second die for one of them or because even their base point values prevent them from pairing up. Now if you're playing this at home, there's always an option to allow each other to go over by a couple points, but it's still an issue when playing by the normal rules.
On that same topic, there are times when teams come up short of those 30 points. Originally a player simply had to live with the fact that they couldn't bridge a leftover 2 or 3 points. That's changed recently with the introduction of Plot Cards. These fill in those tiny gaps with small bonus allowing them to start with extra resources or a larger hand of cards. Sadly it seems like these cards aren't well distributed seeing as an entire booster box yielded only five of them.

Even with those complaints the system stays fun as there's always something new to try and the strategies make sense. If you come across a new card, not only can you see the potential in it, but there's no need to change your entire deck to fit it in. Of course there are still cards that can piggyback off of each other and strange traps that can be assembled yet there's just as good a chance of winning the game with a straightforward strong team and good luck mitigation.

At this point in my tabletop hobby, a game like Destiny is a godsend. There's very little room left for regular board games, and I wouldn't dream of parting with most of my collection. Having a collectible game that I actually enjoy allows me to still support the local game store and meat new people without risking my closet exploding. Plus there's a certain joy in picking up a single booster pack when you're feeling down. It's a nice little treat not unlike candy only without the accompanying dental issues.

If you're someone who occasionally ponders getting a game like this, I'd definitely recommend checking out some videos on youtube or downloading the rules. Don't get sidetracked or worried by talk of the different kinds of play or tournament rules, just focus on the key gameplay. If you decide to actually give it a short there are four starter kits. Two or hero based single player kits, two are single player villain, and there's a two-player kit as well. None of them offer a complete deck but it's still a good taste of the game, and buying a combination of them will give you some customization options.

While board game coverage may account for some of my less popular posts, gotta check the numbers on that, it feels good to share something like this with you all at a point of the year when so many of us are shuttered up indoors watching the snow fall. Few activities help to pass the Winter blues like some nice tabletop gaming. And it's certainly healthier than another round of drinks. On that note, I leave you for today. May the Schwartz be with you.

Monday, January 8, 2018

CosmicSparky's Top 100 Horror Flicks: Zombi 2

As a kid I never really considered myself as a horror fan. Sure I loved stuff like the Alien movies and X-Files, not to mention a fair share of monstrous toys. Maybe I just figured it was pretty universal to have an interest in weird creatures and spooky stories. Even into the mid 90's when I would camp out in the living room to watch Joe Bob Briggs host the hell out of Monstervision, I still didn't identify as a horror fan. Moving into my late teens and the glory days of the DVD market, something happened and horror became a much larger part of my life. I can never pinpoint the exact moment when it happened but somewhere along the line I found myself collecting horror movies at a steady pace.
In the spring of 2008 that collection had grown enough that I decided it was time to restore the glory of those old Monstervision nights. I declared that every Saturday would be horror movie night. After the first shaky couple of months it became this became a constant within our house. Scary flicks have are that little something to punctuate every week whether it be to celebrate a good time or to make up for a lousy one.
With this year marking the tenth anniversary of this Saturday night tradition I thought it might be a fun addition to the site to share with you all my 100 favorite horror flicks. Now I want to make that very clear, these are what I enjoy the most. I can't declare them to be the absolute best flicks out there as that would require me to have seen every single scary movie ever made in the history of the world. Nor will I adhere to historical relevance, so no matter how much Scream may matter historically, it's not popping up in my countdown.
There will be some familiar titles no doubt, like The Fly, but you'll also see some bizarre picks like Full Circle or Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. Also these are not appearing in any sort of quality ranking. I'll simply write about which one I feel like discussing at the time. Just understand that if it's part of this series, whether it be something deep and well-made or something so bad it's hilarious, I'm including these flicks because I think they're an outstanding part of any horror collection.

Given the current frightful weather across the states, I think we deserve a nice tropical vacation, so let's go with a movie that doesn't meet most of the usual standards of quality but sure is a lot of warm weather fun.

Zombi 2 was one of the earlier Italian horror flicks to enter my collection, and while it eventually wormed its way into my hear it also served as something of a lesson in film buff bullshitting. For the life of me I can not count the number of times I have read film nerds wax poetically about the deeper meanings and quality of Italian horror, and while I have a love for some of these films there are incredibly few I would tout as having any real narrative meat. By and large you watch Italian flicks because you want some pure unfettered excess. That's where I grew to love this flick. Think of it this way. Some days you need a nice healthy meal. Maybe a salad, some whole grain toast, you get the picture. Then there's those days where the only thing that can lift you spirit is Taco Bell. Zombi 2 Is pure Taco Bell.

The story is crazy simple. A boat carrying some dead bodies, and one not so dead one, arrive in New York City. A reporter meats up with the daughter of the boats owner and soon the two set off to the Caribbean in search of answers. Along the way they hitch a boat ride with a married couple and arrive at an island occupied by a shifty doctor, his spiteful wife, and craploads of zombies. There's honestly not much more than that. There's no deep character study or revelations about human nature. It's all a sun drenched excuse to get people topless and bloody. And on that front tit totally delivers.

Everything you could ask for from a sleazy zombie picture is on display. Cranial explosion, burning corpses, eye trauma, topless diving, and even a fight between a zombie and a shark! It's like the sketchbook of a nasty little boy brought to the screen with just enough overwrought and poorly dubbed dialogue keeping things from getting too serious.

I just remembered you may be wondering about the first Zombi, well there isn't one, not really anyway. You see Zombi was an international title for Dawn of the Dead, this is simply an unofficial sequel. It's a fairly common practice in Italy. Even the Evil Dead films have some completely unrelated sequels in name only. The Zombi franchise itself doesn't dodge this practice either as later entries like Killing Birds are simply dragged in to benefit from brand recognition.

While I fully endorse this movie as a bit of trashy fun, it's definitely not something for new horror fans to dive right into. If you're just developing an interest in the genre and hoping to catch up on some old goodies, you'd be much better served with something like The Fog. Zombi 2 is something you can sit on for a long time, until just the right time when life has left you exhausted and sort of brainless. Then it's time to gather some like minded individuals, some tasty hooch, and just enjoy the show.

That's all for tonight, folks. I hope you will all enjoy this new feature, though I can't say for certain how frequently it will appear. Haven't even decided on all the titles that will be featured, so there will be surprises for all of us.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Shuriken Sentai Ninninger Returns: Ninnin Girls vs Boys.

Here we are in another new year and boy has this one ever started off on an odd note. For as much as people claim this time is about change and life goals it seems all the more real when you get started by saying goodbye to a job you've held for fifteen months. Don't get me wrong, I'm not all that down about this turn of events, truthfully I'm looking forward to the opportunity to focus more on my own projects rather than freeze my ass off in a dirty old guard shack. That being said, I'm still in an odd place to start the year. If I utilize this opportunity though this could really be a year for advancements, and maybe I'll even grow a crazy unemployment beard. In a wonderful bit of serendipity, today's topic ended up focusing on people working towards their larger goals, not to mention it allows us to revisit some old friends which is what holidays are all about. Let's check up on the old ninja crew in Shuriken Sentai Ninninger Returns: Ninnin Girls vs Boys.

It's been two years since the end of the original TV series, and all the Igasaki kids are returning home to reconnect and compare how they've progressed. Seeing as it wouldn't be much of a Sentai story without ridiculous monsters attacking, you can probably guess what happens. Instead of the whole group joining up to destroy the baddies, it all comes down to Fuuka and Kasumi in new gaudy costumes to save the day. Turns out Fuuka & Takaharu's mother has recently returned to push her daughters budding career as a ninja idol and she managed to rope Kasumi and another poor girl into this crime-fighting super group.

Turns out old mommy dearest is kind of an asshole. She's a highly successful producer of ninja entertainment which not only keeps her away from home but is largely the reason she approached her husband in the first place. Her current plan to promote an all-girl ninja squad involves convincing the boys that they're no longer needed, so she sets up a girls vs boys showdown to decide who will continue defending Japan.

With all this commotion, our heroes fail to realize a few of their old foes have been revived by their old grudges. I'll be honest, this sub-plot hardly matters. It's mainly an easy way to provide some punching bags for our team without spending cash to create a new baddie, and actually that's not much of a problem, but we'll come back to this point.

The boys and girls face off in one on one combat with dad serving as an extra for the girls team. Kinji is pitted against a new green ranger who claims to be familiar with him, though he's clueless as to how. While almost evenly matched, the girls come out on top. In a surprising show of maturity, Takaharu congratulates his sister on becoming so strong and encourages her to follow her own path rather than let their mother dictate everything.

The remainder of the film is primarily made up of action with the girls being bested by the villains, and the boys show up to get the band back together properly and save the day. Oh,and since I'm unsure where to plug this bit in, the green ranger turns out to be a girl who's possessed by the spirit of Kyuemon who needs to repay his debt to the team before he can be reincarnated.....seems sensible. While far from the best action this crew has given us, these fight scenes showcase a level of confidence that permeates the whole film and makes this something better than the usual Sentai movie.

During it's entire run, Ninninger struggled to find solid footing. It was as if the show wasn't confident enough to decide whether it wanted to be a crazy grab bag of ninja fun or serious action. Instead of a finding a nice mix of elements, everything always felt a little half-baked. That's not as much the case here as the entire cast and subsequently the characters they portray have all grown considerably. They're exchanges, humor, and affection for each-other shine through in a way that would have made the show something really special. I can't help but feel this is what the series should have been doing in it's last leg. At least we get a vision of how good this group would have been if given a little more time and care. Even the elders learn a few lessons about how to be better parents and let their children grow. Especially after Takaharu calls out his mom in a great scene.

That confidence is also the theme of the film itself. Mainly the focus is towards Fuuka as the youngest member of the group, and if she's strong enough to achieve her idol dreams. In fact, the movie almost straight out admits she was the best character from the show, though Nagi gets a couple good bits for himself. This character focus is why the lackluster villain subplot is a fairly minor issue.

There's an almost off-putting honesty to the message of the film as everyone is a little closer to their dream than they were before, yet they all still have a little further to go. It's a pleasant and still realistic lesson for kids that you can achieve your goals but it will still take time, possibly years. In the end, our heroes even remind the audience that if they ever feel lonely or afraid just think of them for comfort and keep moving forward.

As you might imagine, watching a flick so plane about following your dreams felt a bit odd since I currently have to figure out the next phase of my employment history. Can't say as I expected so much encouragement from TV ninjas but I did appreciate the sentiment.

As for you online folk, you should definitely expect to see more from me in the coming months on here and as I attempt to launch a massive article series elsewhere. I have a feeling that the next couple of years are going to be very transformative. I hope you'll all tag along for the ride.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Memories of Parasite Eve.

Let's take a trip back to the late 90's. Yes I know it's an ugly time, Kangol hats reign supreme, the Spice Girls are still a thing, and the worst thing a president could do was stick cigars in different holes. Let's take it down to something more personal. It's Christmas Eve, family and friends have gone home for the night, my appetite for Hawaiian Rolls has been satiated, and Albert Finney has sung the praises of the holiday season. It's still too early to go to sleep for this one, so I supply myself with the surprisingly effective combo of hot chocolate and saltines, head to my bedroom, and turn on the old Playstation for what would serve as something of a holiday tradition for my annual playthrough of Parasite Eve.

In 1998, Squaresoft (long before they purchased Enix) was on a roll. Coming of the massive success of Final Fantasy VII, the company struck further deals with Sony and eventually Electronic Arts to publish classics like Final Fantasy Tactics, Einhander, Xenogears, and Brave Fencer Musashi. Nestled among this wave of greatness was the very experimental Parasite Eve, a title that sought to combine the then young survival horror genre with classic RPG gameplay.
For most companies the accomplishment of successfully blending two genres for the first time would have been enough of a success, but that wasn't the case here. Parasite Eve also served as a sequel/spin-off to a popular novel and provided one hell of a unique setting. Consider that most of the big games that year had outlandish or fantastical settings be they the fantasy settings of Ocarina of Time or Panzer Dragoon Saga, even the militaristic buffoonery of Metal Gear Solid was pretty far removed from reality. So imagine how odd it was to play this hybrid RPG set in modern day New York City over the Christmas holiday.

You better believe that environment set my heart aflutter. For a kid who loved RPG's, Monsters, and holidays, this thing was like a warm blanket. I mean where else could you find a game that begins with a Christmas Eve concert at Carnegie Hall? For that same concert to be overtaken by spontaneous human combustion was just gravy. Throughout the game was the constant presence of snow, lights, trees, and most of all the birth of a supernatural life form. Can't get much more Chistmasy than that.

Parasite Eve cast the player as a young, blonde, lady cop named Aya Brea, Our somewhat dour heroine is forced to spend her holidays tracking down a monstrous woman named Eve who is using mitochondrial powers to transform life into something new. Aya must also discover why she's the one person in all of NYC who can resist Eve's powers. Naturally there are twists, turns, mutant babies, and even dinosaurs!

For multiple years in a row I made an effort to play the game one day at a time in accordance with the calendar. Blasting through the first section was usually no big deal. Depending on what Santa brought me on Christmas morning however, finishing the game could be put into question. Truthfully I never finished that goal of playing it day by day. I believe the closest I ever came was wrapping it up just after New Year's.

Another issue that routinely held me back was that unlike most games I cherish, I sucked at PE. Completely, utterly sucked at it. I never once finished the game without finding some way to cheat. It's important that you know this because this isn't some title I mastered over countless nights of obsessive play. Despite the number of hours spent playing, I couldn't get much further than the halfway mark legitimately. I'd like to think it would be a different situation these days as I'm someone who take on Ikaruga and win but lord knows I'd probably face off against that damn police dog again and just crumble.

If you've never experienced the game, don't let my nostalgia make you think for a moment that the game was without faults. Slow character movement, a daffy reloading mechanism, and cramped environments all contributed to cheap hits and frustration. Likewise the story, while fun isn't some timeless classic. Largely the game gets by on novelty from both its' setting and unique gameplay.

The series would go on to spawn two sequels, the first went full survival horror and frankly stunk up the joint. The third I've yet to play but when you consider it's so radically different as to not even use the franchise name, there's probably not much of a proper connection. It's a shame as the first game is still totally unique all these years later. If more effort had been made to further develop the series in that original direction we could be playing the fifth or sixth entry today. Lasting legacy isn't what's important though. For a few years this game was as much a part of my holiday as putting up the tree. Not too shabby for something where you shoot flamespewing mutant rats.

And with that, I wish you all a Merry Christmas! Currently I'm watching the snow come down to the tunes of Nat King Cole. There are movies to watch, Hawaiian Rolls to devour, and even a little work to do. No matter how you end up celebrating this or another holiday, I hope the season gives you the charge to go out and tackle the coming year head on. Thanks to all of you who check into the site throughout the year. While we don't have the most talkative readership, those consistent page views keep this site moving along. Happy Holidays! Now go try that saltine and hot coco combo.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool 2017

I'd swear that for nearly every major celebration there has to be a challenge or roadblock. If you're lucky that obstacle is nothing more than a wonky strand of lights. For yours truly I'm staring down the potential of losing a job in the first week of the new year. To my readers that should mean you'll be reading a lot more entries in the coming months. Meanwhile I have to figure out what harebrained industry to work in next, maybe I should build a media outlet in the hopes Disney will buy all the assets. Fact is I need a boost to the spirit, so it was time to look to a shining example of spiritual peace, the Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool.

Inspired by the classic Mystery Science Theater bit, the Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool stands as a outlet for your own selfish holiday whims. In truth the aim is similar to Dinosaur Dracula's (Formerly X-Entertainment) Halloween mood table. However, while that is meant to be a constant reminder of the joys of Halloween, this is meant as more of a release for pent-up holiday experimentation. Think of it this way, usually when you decorate a tree or the front yard, you're putting on a show for somebody be it family, neighbors or friends. This means you might include ornaments or lights that aren't always appealing to you personally. This bar stool gives you the chance to be as tacky or subdued as you wish. You want a wall of pearls? Go ahead! Wanna proudly display your old Tiny Toons ornaments? Here's your chance. Simply put this is the one bit of decorating you do solely for you.

Last year I opted to trace the legs of the chair with lights and droop gold pearls, this time however I went with a more traditional wrap of both lights and garland. No matter the approach, tape is always your friend when it comes to decorating a bar stool. Instead of normal lights I was able to find a strand of fiber optics which in combo with the extra thick garland make the for a (snicker) fuzzy stool.

Obviously the seat itself provides display options for your favorite movies, snacks, candlesticks, whatever you feel like showcasing. Most of our good Christmas stuff was already on display throughout the house but I remembered our collection of holiday Funko goodies which range from the Grinch to festive Batman. A lucky few of you may have trees small enough to stack atop the stool in order to make some twisted hybtrid.

I had intended to craft some Swayze ornaments to adorn the stool until being reminded our printer is only black & white. Granted that still leaves a few options but I'd rather take more time and craft some nicer items for next year. In the meantime, I used some snowman themed glass balls to help fill out the whole display.

And that's this season's bar stool. Now I'm putting out the challenge to you. Get out your extra lights, grab your favorite festive goodies, and make a towering monument of what the holidays mean to you and only you. Make this the perfect escape from gifts, charities, and obligations. Most of all, be sure to share your bar stool with us. Let's make this a true holiday tradition.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Silent Night, Bloody Night (1972)

After a Thanksgiving that frankly seemed more like “somewhat hectic Thursday” I'm happy to report that I'm feeling quite jolly about the upcoming Christmas antics. Admittedly that excitement has still faced some challenges such as a light knot so horrific it could nearly reduce a grown man to a quivering mess. Mercifully there are plenty of comfortable traditions to sooth ones bruised ego after being thwarted by decorations and one of my seasonal comforts is my collection of yuletide horror films. Tonight I wanted to share one of my favorites with you all in the bloody spirit of the season.

Silent Night, Bloody Night is a 1972 production from director, Theodore Gershuny (who had a terribly short career) which may in fact be the first Christmas horror flick, having beaten Black Christmas by two years. Both films share some elements, the spooky phone calls being chief among them. Likewise, both films have little reason to actually take place during the holidays though Bloody Night makes some effort to work Christmas into it's own backstory. Don't go in expecting lots of window dressing however. Much of this film takes place in abandoned homes or dark country roads. The few decorations that manage to make an appearance are delightfully old-fashioned.

Depending on how you view the movie, the run time may be slightly different. This is mainly due to a piece of the opening that is cut off in some public domain sets. This doesn't majorly effect the storyline mind you but it does reveal that the narrating character survives the ordeal rather than us catching up to them at some midpoint. I've never liked this part as it removes a good deal of suspense. Once that's out of the way though we get one hell of an opening, compete with funerals, burning men, spooky piano playing, and the main theme which is an off-tone take on the classic carol.

From that point on you'd think the movie would get moving properly, but there's a nifty little trick here, and consider this something of a spoiler. Not unlike the last Friday The 13th, the first twenty-odd minutes of film are almost their own thing. Obviously different characters carry on to the next portion and all of those events matter but the primary storyline really doesn't get going until a third of the way through the film. While that may seem like it could be a cheap trick to pad out the running time, the build-up of one plot within the other makes it flow pretty seamlessly.

Beyond all that there's a rather large segment spent in flashback. For most people this is the highlight of the film where most of the mysteries finally come together. What makes it so special is the visuals which were filmed in a sort of sepia tone which features some massive black effects thanks to poor film quality. The resulting image is unlike much of anything you'll ever see and because of that, the sequence takes on an unearthly atmosphere.

A word of advice to new viewer. Don't go in to this expecting a standard slasher flick, this is from far before the tropes of the sub-genre were cemented which makes this play out more like a sensible version of one of this Italian Giallo movies. For that matter, don't expect normal human dialogue and interaction. Much of the film is intentionally off-center and populated by characters who indulge in strange behavior like strangling birds. This is very much in tune with most of Gershuny's work which tended to involve the limits of sanity.

For genre fans there are some extra perks to this one aside from the historical importance of being an early holiday horror tale. There are also some cult performers like John Carradine and Mary Woronov. Carradine is given an odd role completely devoid of dialogue whereas is the main heroine. Then there's Tony Award winning actor James Patterson who sadly passed the year this was released at age 40.

It's likely that I've failed to sell you on the movie so far and I suppose that's because it's become such a tradition for me that it's hard to step back and view it from an outsiders perspective. It was around a decade ago that I turned on a DVD of this for the first time, unsure of what I was going to get only to find something that provided a massive boost to my holiday spirit. Fact is most of us have our own little holiday treat. For most people it may be the Grinch, others like my nieces go with The Polar Express, but for me it's a cup of coffee and the bloodshed found at Wilfred Butler's house.

The best part of me rambling on about this film is that for once you don't have to strictly take my word for it. Since Silent Night, Bloody Night is in the public domain, you can check it out on youtube without issue. Consider it my cheapskate gift to you all. In case I'm unable to post it directly to here I highly advice seeking out the HD remaster. It's still an ugly print but far better than any other copy out there.

Now that it everything seems back on track, expect some major work from me. Not only do I plan on meeting the monthly quota for articles here, but I still have two nearly complete posts for Dread Central and hopefully a major writing project will be launching around the new year. In the meantime, watch the movie and plan to be back here at least by next week.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holiday Snacks: Hot Coca Oreo, Peppermint Twinkee, Mtn Dew Holiday Brew, Slated Caramel Pepsi.

The common practice round here whenever updates have been sparse is to blame whatever extraneous thing has been eating up my time. Lately, that's become difficult as for the life of me I can't quite figure out where November went! While most of this year has gone at a fairly steady pace, this month has just been melting away at breakneck pace. I feel lucky that I've accomplished a good deal of my recent to do list but even that still has eight or so items left to wrap up before December. I suppose it's a blessing then that there have been a few moments calm enough to allow tastes of the new holiday treats. Let's give em a look before I turn around to find out it's new years.

Another day, yet another Oreo flavor. This one comes as part of a marketing push since the company recently released their own hot coco mix. While I've yet to try the drink, I'm happy to report that these cookies mark another victory for the companies ever expending line of flavors.
Let's keep it simple; these smell like hot chocolate, they taste like it too. If you hadn't thought of it that's not much of a stretch from normal Oreo flavor. This is no wild trip into bizarre territory like Swedish Fish or Peeps. It's a fairly basic flavor executed very nicely.
Here's the odd part. Usually whenever I bring home a new Oreo variety, everyone in the house soon voices their opinion be it negative of positive. With these, hardly a word was said about them and yet they had vanished in less than 24 hours. I'd definitely call them a hit, just something of a quiet one.

A treat that has provided plenty of loud opinions are Peppermint Twinkees. And the common verdict around here is that these are gross, though I can't say I fully agree with that sentiment.
Right out of the package these are bright, cinnamon candy red. The sort of red that makes your mouth hurt just looking at it. It's such a cartoonish looking item it could have jumped straight out of some animated Christmas special. That effect if further amplified by the odd pinkish cream.
Flavor is minty but not a refreshing mint. This is the kind of situation where the flavor naturally clashes with the type of foodstuff. Mint seems nice when it's coming out of a hard candy or maybe even some refreshing cucumber water, but a fatty snack cake is another matter entirely. Perhaps they're better frozen but I've yet to try such an experiment.
While I can't wholeheartedly recommend these Twinkees, I very much enjoyed my time with them. Sure they're a little gross. At the same time they're the sort of ridiculous novelty that makes life more fun.

Cheetos Snowlfakes isn't some new right wing insult, it's simply the winter variation on the popular Cheetos Bones. If you've had those before than there's nothing much to say here. You either enjoy cramming your mouth full of somewhat dry cheese puffs or you don't. I do, which earns these a pass.

Of course you need something to wash down all this festive food and what better way than crazy high sugar soda? That's right, Mtn Dew has come up with their own Holiday Brew which I'd heard nothing about before beholding a massive end cap of this cheery concoction. That sort of surprise is rare in this day and age when everything is spoiled or reported within mere seconds of release. Major props to Dew for sneaking one out.
Oddly enough after the fun new gamer fuel flavors, this yuletide variant is simply regular Dew mixed with Code Red, cause red and green equals Christmas, get it? Soda mathematics aside this is a solid brew. The experience reminds me of the old juice and sherbet punches my mother used to make for holiday gatherings. Sure it's not quite as foamy but that nostalgic taste is there. It makes one wonder what might happen if this were used to make one of those punches. The results would most likely be diabetes but man what a trip it would be.
I think this will easily be one of the highlights of the season for junk food lovers so run out, buy a case, and give your friends a sugar high.

The other new holiday soft drink is more of an eyebrow raiser. Salted Caramel is already one of those flavors that gets tossed into far too many items with greatly differing results. The idea of drinking a Pepsi flavored in this fashion seemed like a surefire way to ruin a good night, especially after the horrendous Pepsi Fire.
I made certain to make a group experience out of this one by parceling a bottle among shot glasses. The shock heard round the living room was that this honestly wasn't too bad. Imagine Buttershots and Pepsi without the alcoholic burn and this is the result.
While the flavor turned out to be ok, it still didn't seem like the sort of thing I'd chug down on my own until one night yielded sinus drainage and an irritated throat. This being the only fizzy drink on hand made it the only option to clear out the congestion, and wouldn't ya know it made for an enjoyable time. Not saying you should stock the basement with 12 packs but at the very least give Salted Caramel Pepsi a go.

Given that this was just a handful of this years snack offerings I'd say we're in for a spiffy December. Now the trick is to accomplish something, anything before we get there. Time permitting you'll be seeing another post here this week, I'm thinking something with ruffles.