Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kotas Reviews Apple Pie Oreos

We're deep into fall now my hearties! At least, I THOUGHT we were, until this touch of summer came back to haunt us. Damn it, Summer. Let Autumn have its turn! Still, the progress of food products continues, as we enter that most dreaded of flavor seasons, Pumpkin Spice. So screw that, let's have a pie! Or at least, something resembling pie? Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time we looked at Apple Pie Oreos.

As American as...uh, itself. I guess.
It's no secret that I love pie, and a well made apple pie is truly one of the pinnacles of piecraft. Still, apple is one of those flavors that, even when it's kinda bad, it's still pretty good. Plus, it hasn't really been "done" as a flavor much, with the more popular Green Apple and Caramel Apple flavors having their day in the sun. I like most any apple pie, though I concede it is often very difficult to eat in a convenient way if you are "sans flatware". If only there was some sort of way to get all that flavor into a small, portable package you could eat with just your hands! Oh wait...

Well, the packaging is pretty good. I would have expected the base color to be yellow, but the nice big ol' slice of apple pie stands out nicely from the blue. The little ribbon design stating these are Graham cookies (WHERE IS MY KEY LIME OREO NABISCO? WHERE?) calls back to pie contests and the cookie image...is there. Let's open it up.

Well, it's very..beige.
This is not the best color I've seen on a cookie. It's okay, but beige makes me think of "house about to be sold so any personality has to be covered by blandness". The scent is apple-graham-ish, which you know, makes sense. I guess the graham part is supposed to be a graham cracker crust, but apple pies aren't generally known for their graham cracker crust (KEY LIME PIE OREO! IT SCREAMS AT YOU NABISCO!). It is a better choice than the standard "vanilla" cookie, so let's just give them the benefit of the doubt here. How does it taste?

It does taste like apple pie, just not the apple pie you'd expect. So, a McDonald's apple pie is loosely a pie, and more a turnover. It also has a distinct "fake flavor" chemical taste along with the hyper sugarized apple taste. That is exactly what these cookies remind me of, so I guess mission accomplished? Is this actually what I wanted? I don't know, better eat a couple more. Also, my kid likes them, which is always a plus.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Smiley Faces. They are in fact Apple Pie Cookies, though I don't think this is exactly what I had in mind when I envisioned an apple pie in cookie form. They are sweet, and different, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to get them, except maybe for a fall themed party or something like that. I've eaten a few, and I really see no need to eat any more, but they are different and who knows? Maybe you will love them.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kotas Reviews West of Loathing

Well, howdy there partner! We don't get too many people lookin' for NON-food reviews 'round these parts, but I tell ya what. You set a spell and we'll cram your ear full of some high falutin' newfangled review goodness. Or, you know, maybe not. Still, it's been a while since I last did a non-food review, and boy have we got a nice one today. As you all may recall, I enjoy the games quite a bit, especially the games what are on the video. So let's take a look at one that has a...unique pedigree. Ladies, Gentlemen, Cowfolk of all ages, let's take a look at West of Loathing.

With Booze! Because of course.
Picture taken from http://westofloathing.com
Way back in the mists of time known as "the early 2000s", browser based games were just starting to become a thing. The most well known of these is of course the Free to Play MMORPG called Runescape, which still runs to this day. It supported itself with advertising showing on the game play screen, as well as offering subscriptions and other store items. This of course inspired a host of other browser based games, because hey, Web 2.0 and all that, right? Still, Runescape was Java-based, and thus required additional downloads to play, even if they were incorporated in the browser. But, what if you could play in a more leisurely, turn based sort of way? 

Enter Kingdom of Loathing. First published in 2003, this game is a full browser based, turn based Dragon Warrior style RPG with a decidedly minimalist, hand-crafted aesthetic and the humor of a Dad convention run by snarky 90s teens. I discovered it in 2005-2006, when it caught on like wildfire among my coworkers at a help desk job, and it ate a LOT of my time. I loved the jokes, the stick figure "Hey, I could totally draw that" aesthetic, the goofy items, and the surprisingly deep combat and adventure systems. It also is still running to this day, and supports itself with donations.

So what happens when the people who made Kingdom of Loathing go and make an actual game that you can buy for real money? You get West of Loathing of course! Because apparently Western games are all the rage (or about to be, see the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 and Wild West Online titles), the fine folks at Asymmetric Games put out their spin on the genre, combining the wit of Kingdom of Loathing, with a wild send up of Western tropes and cliches. From the Options menu, you know this is going to be one of THOSE games. As you can see, the aesthetic is a black and white, hand sketched stick-figure style of art and yet it has a color-blind mode option, with the tool tip of "You never know". That is exactly the kind of game you are going to get, so saddle up, you are in for a bumpy ride.

You start off in your hastily sketched home dreaming of being one of three classes: The Muscle based Cow Puncher, all about melee combat and, well, punching cows, The Mysticality based Beanslinger, who uses bean based magic to smite his or her foes, and my personal favorite, the Moxie based Snake Oiler, using the power of snakes to poison and slither through the world. There are three other stats, Guts, Gumption, and Glamour which add various secondary bonuses and also determine your Liver, Spleen, and Stomach capacity, which determines the number of Booze, Potion, or Food items you can consume for bonuses each game day. Yes, you heard right, you throw back Booze to gain stat buffs. I love this game for that. 

Anyway, after saying goodbye to your family and moseying through the credits, you end up in the town of Boring Springs, after the semi-cataclysmic event When the Cows Came Home. Did I mention there were demonic cows? Yeah, that's a thing. Your goal here is to get to Dirtwater, but you'll need a horse to do it. And thus you start going through the various starter quests where you will get your hat, your horse, and your helper. The hat is based on your class, there are 4 horses, and 4 potential helpers to acquire, though you can only have one of each. There's even an optional "Hard Mode" to find. Already there's gonna be some replayability here. The story doesn't change though, but the details...those do change. 

Combat is turn-based and grid-based (ish). You pick an action, your helper picks and action, and then the bad guys do their thing. Wash, rinse, repeat. Sometimes you go first or sometimes the bad guys get the jump on you (based on your Speed). Your class skills usually require Action Points (AP) to work, and most of them don't use up your turn to use, though attacks always do. My Snake Oiler was able to buff himself pretty high before letting loose a fan of bullets which pretty much murders any single target. Items can be used in combat and using them doesn't generally take up your turn either, so you could, for example, heave a giant pile of dynamite at a foe before you officially "attack" it. Some skills work on the grid, such as "hitting a line" and the like, but the grid interaction is pretty weak.
Experience points are earned for fighting, conversations, interactions, quests, and lots of other things. These points are spent to boost your stats and your skills. The game also has an option for automatic expenditure of points, or you can always divvy them up yourself. I tend to go with "autopick" for a first play through, but you do you man. The skills are all appropriately themed: The Cow Puncher has a buffing skill called "Beef Up", whose icon is a picture of a steak. The Snake Oiler has a skill called Snake Whip, where you literally whip an enemy with a snake. The Beanslinger slings Lava Favas, which explode. There are elemental damage types lifted wholly from Kingdom of Loathing: Hot, Stench, Spooky, Cold, and Sleaze. That's right, you too can inflict Stench damage if you so choose.  

Poke around everywhere to see what you can do, because many things are interactable. There are numerous puzzles to solve, some fetch type quests, and so on. Most are pretty straightforward, but there are a few tougher puzzles that may require some additional thought. Nothing is a real brain buster though. This ain't West of Professor Layton after all. There are lots of optional things, and you CAN absolutely screw up a few bits permanently. Still, nothing you do will cause you to lose the game or get so stuck as to be unable to complete the content. Just lots of sidequests you may or may not complete. There are even multiple ways to get through the main quest, though a primary path is always suggested to you. 

All in all, my romp through the West of Loathing has been an enjoyable one, but there are a few things that aren't great. For one, you can't get through every single option in one playthrough, which mildly pains the completionist in me. For another, the windowed mode is a bit janky, without a proper "windowed full-screen" mode to make tabbing back and forth to things (like say, a blog post) easier. There is replayability, and yes speed runs are going to be a thing in this game, but a LOT of the content is the same stuff with only slight variations (hilarious though they may be). The art style is definitely a "love it or hate it" kind of thing, as is the humor.

On the FACE Rating System, West of Loathing gets 3 Hat Wearing Smileys. I adore this game and if you love lightweight RPGs that don't take 80 hours to finish (though it may take around 20), this will be right up your alley. The Western theme is glorious, the jokes land well, the combat is surprisingly good, and it has a Stupid Walks option. What more could you ask for? Whiskey, the answer is always whiskey.