Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kotas Reviews Abita Christmas Ale

Ho, ho, ho, MEEEEEERRY CHRISTMAS! I absolutely love this time of year. Santa, reindeer, decorated trees, twinkling lights, the welcoming of a little breaking and entering, along with theft of sweets, makes this one of my favorite holidays ever. So of course I sought to ring in the holiday with a little themed beer. Today we review Abita Christmas Ale.

You can see that it is Christmas because it is labeled as such.
I have a good relationship with Abita normally. Abita Brewing is located in good old Louisiana and was a staple drink when I was visiting New Orleans. It was with a big ol' mug of their Turbodog that I first discovered the culinary perfection that is the muffaletta sandwich, so naturally I gravitated towards their seasonal offering. Also one of the very few beers that actually had the word Christmas on it.

On Snapper, on Ripsaw, on Toothy and Chomper!
I love regional portrayals of Santa Claus in art, and the label on this one is superb. Santa, having set aside his traditional coat due to the heat, is in a small boat being pulled by some old fashioned bayou gators. Truly, it warms the cockles of my heart to see this. Of course, once I saw it, I had to have it. And boy was it expensive. The six pack I bought was a whopping $12 after tax, which is pretty darned expensive for a six pack of beer not from my local bartender. Eh, will it be worth it? Let's look!

Brownest of the brown malted beverages.
It certainly looks fantastic in the glass, however the scent says to me this will be quite hoppy. That's a shame because nowhere on this does it state that the Ale part is actually a Pale Ale variant. Son, I am disappoint. Eh, there is always the off chance that this is one of the few pale ales I can stand. Let's find out! 

Well, the answer is a resounding "Go to hell". This is one of the bitterest beers I've had in a long time, and it also had a ton of sour notes to it. Just awful. I will admit I thought at first that the bottle was skunked, and I think I might be right, because I dumped this one and got a second one and it tasted a little better, but not by much. Less sour, but still with some sourness along with the bitterness. Ugh, not a great experience for me. Beer should never really be sour at all. Bitter, sure. A little bitter is pretty decent, but sour? It should never taste sour. Yeech. I feel that Pale Ale lovers might like this more than I did, but I don't know considering the sourness aspect. Christmas Ale? More like Shitmas Ale.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 Frownie Faces. Not only is it sour, it costs an arm and a leg. If I wanted to drink shitty beer, I'd have paid a lot less and gotten some Coors. At least that is cheap and when cold, not terrible. Not even coldness could save this awful beer. Stay the fuck away, and have a Merry Christmas without it! Real shame though, because I love that artwork!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Kotas Reviews Ritz Crackers Cheese Sandwiches

It's Christmas time again! Time for toys and time for cheer. We've been...well, not good exactly, but we've not been bad! So clearly it is time to dip back into the Mystery Box for some holiday shenanigans! This go around, I at least have some idea of what the food is supposed to be. Today we look at Ritz Crackers Cheese Sandwiches with...Something.

Now with...I don't even know.
Well, other than the language and the mysterious red objects that I believe are supposed to be the flavoring used, this is a pretty ordinary snack package of Ritz Cheese Crackers. Nothing fancy in the package, just the product, a bit of flair, and the name of the filling in a language I can't understand. I'm sure it's fine. Let's open it up!

Can you feel the Christmas Cheer just radiating from these snacks? No. No you can't.
Yeah, looks like a Ritz Cracker Cheese Sandwich all right. The filling smells mostly of something like processed cheese spread with vaguely fishy overtones. It also has little red flecks in it. The crackers look like Ritz Crackers to no one's surprise. I'm not terribly impressed by any of the visuals of this snack. Perhaps the taste will finally rouse my holiday spirit.

The short answer is, no. It did not. The long answer is that these are definitely cheese crackers with a vague fishy flavor. The cheese filling tastes exactly what I would expect from a generic processed cheese spread, with the strange fish flavors added. It's not super strong, but definitely noticeable to me. It's not bad I guess. Bah Humbug. This just tastes like cheap processed cheese that's been left near some fish too long. Yuck.

On the Holiday FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frowning Ebeneezer Scrooge. It's a cheese cracker sandwich, with an odd to my palette flavor and not a lot to love. I suppose if you LOVE processed cheese spread AND love fish flavor, you might consider eating these. I'll stick to plain old Ritz, instead. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kotas Reviews Genghis Khan Caramel

Well everyone, with Thanksgiving fast approaching, it's time to completely ignore that fact and dive back into the Mystery Box. I mean, why not, right? Besides, I've not looked into it in a good while because life has been super busy. So, let's eat what I think is candy. Today we explore...Genghis Khan Caramel!

Is that...meat? Why is it on the box cover? It's the "Hokkaido Original" though, so maybe they know.
Seriously, this packaging. I have no idea what they are trying to say, but "delicious candy inside" is Not It. It looks like a plate of some unidentified meat, possibly over rice, and almost but not entirely unlike anything resembling a caramel as I know them. Maybe it has a caramel sauce, but why in the world would you ever put that over MEAT? I just don't know, folks. I just don't know. Anycrap, let's see what's inside!

You lied to me, box.
Okay, well, I guess the actual product DOES resemble caramels as I know them, though they don't seem very Genghis Khan-ish to me. More like "a slightly lighter Kraft caramel" in wax paper. I was expecting more I guess? Pretty yawn-tacular. Eh, but how do they taste? 

They certainly are a variety of caramel. Much more milky than the caramels I'm used to, more creamy and less sweet, though still pretty darn sweet. They have a kind of chalky feel in the mouth that a bit of chewing resolves, sort of like a slightly softer Starburst, but not as soft as other taffy. It's fine, I guess. It certainly didn't conquer the majority of my flavor palette and reshape that palette for generations to come, that's for sure. Not really living up to your name there, Genghis Khan Caramel.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. They are okay, false advertising on the packaging notwithstanding, but definitely NOT worth going out of your way to acquire. There are much easier to acquire adequate caramels for you to enjoy without having to go to Hokkido to get them.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Kotas Reviews White Boo-tterscotch M&Ms

Well folks, we're all bloated with candy after the yearly sweets gorge other people might know as "Halloween". Seriously, the amount of treats my child has accumulated will last her well into next year at the rate we allow her to eat them. Still, when scrabbling around in the bottom of the candy barrel the occasional sweetmeat of interest will arise. Hence today's subject, and probably the next few reviews. Let's take a look at White Boo-tterscotch M&Ms.

Yeah, I'm terrified too. Though for entirely different reasons.
I'm a big fan of butterscotch. One of the few hard candies I can tolerate is Brach's Butterscotch disks, and nothing makes me happier than seeing butterscotch sauce on a dessert. When I saw M&Ms was doing a promotion for Halloween I just had to pick some up. The packaging here is pretty good. There are bats, a terrified candy person, the product itself, and a vague attempt at theming the name of the item. Oh, and the M&Ms logo. Still, I remain wary of white chocolate, because it has chocolate in the name and yet tastes almost exactly unlike chocolate. I mean, I guess it's okay, but I usually pass it up in favor of the real stuff. Let's rip open the bag!

That's not spooktacular. That's not spooktacular at all!
Well what a raging disappointment the coloration turned out to be. I could have lived with black and orange or other mostly "Halloween-ish" color scheme, but this? White, Tan and Brown? Sure, it's a lively block party or a furniture cover from the 70s, but as a candy theme it is suck-tacular. Still, if this is what it takes to get a high quality butterscotch candy, I'll take it. Let's eat!

Well, I can't say it is bad. What I can say is that it isn't good by a long shot. I will freely admit that I don't care much for white chocolate, but here it just overwhelms the butterscotch too much for my liking. Instead of taking a backseat, the white chocolate is just as much a part of the flavor profile, perhaps even greater than the butterscotch part. It does have butterscotch flavor though, so I can't knock it for not being what it says it is. It's just not MY butterscotch candy. 

On the FACE Rating System, it gets 0 Faces. It's not bad, it's not great, it's just there. If you really love white chocolate, you will be much more favorable to this heaping dollop of meh, but for real butterscotch lovers our time has not yet come. We wait, we hope, we persevere. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Kotas Reviews the Paqui Carolina Reaper Chip

Happy Halloween, my lovelies! Today is a holiday celebrated around the world in service to the acquisition of sweet treats by deception and/or extortion. You might know it as Trick or Treating, but I know the terrible truth! That said, for tonight's entertainment, we have a very special meal for you all. Well, really for me. For tonight, we dine with death. Ladies and Gentleghouls, tonight we taste the Carolina Reaper.

I was first introduced to the Caroline Reaper chip by the tremendous marketing engine of Paqui, the parent company. There was a countdown clock until October, when the chip would finally be released, the very iconic imagery of the "grim reaper of chips", and to top it off, they issued a challenge to record yourself eating the chip for like, a free bag of chips. Woo hoo? No. Still, I had to admit that as soon as they were available I scoured my local area to purchase one. Best or worst $5 I ever spent? Let's find out!

Homemade Hell? I think not. You were manufactured by a large corporation! Homemade Hell my ASS.
This chip's claim to fame is to have been made with the legendary Carolina Reaper pepper, the hottest pepper in the world. According to Wikipedia, it has on average a bit over 1.5 million Scoville Heat Units, with the highest individual measure topping out at 2.2 million Scoville Heat Units. I've eaten spicy nonsense in the past, but this one really takes the cake with the marketing campaign. I mean, I have to admit it was effective, drawing me into its stupid hot flame like a moth to a more different flame, but at the same time...$5 for a chip that I probably won't even like? I must be insane to eat this thing. Well, let's open her up, shall we?

Pictured with milk, because I'm stupid, not crazy.
I actually put on gloves to open the package, Stories of spice gone wrong from others has said that this is definitely a flavor dust you don't want in sensitive areas, such as the eyes, mucus membranes, or the uvula. Two out of three ain't bad, I guess. It smells like...burning and smokiness. This is in no way a "good" chip, because I've seen its like before. Hot for the sake of hot, presented as some sort of challenge. Well Paqui, ya roped me in. Now let's destroy our insides!

SWEET MOTHER OF SHIT! Okay, at first it had something vaguely resembling the flavor of "stale corn chip" mixed with "something that might have once been pepper flavored" but all of that was completely overwhelmed by the intense burning sensation that rocks through your nerve endings and plays a discordant melody on your pain receptors. Why? Because fuck you, that's why. This chip certainly lives up to its promise of "Deathly Hot", and yet I feel...sad and oddly, angry as hell. Not just because I'm gargling milk trying not to have my insides prolapse in terror, but because I expected more from this. There should have at least been a rush of actual flavors preceding the crescendo of agony that is the legacy of the Carolina Reaper in this chip. Instead, I got a shitty fucking corn chip laced with pain for the sake of pain and nothing else of value. In short, I was fucking scammed. This isn't a "unique taste experience that only the most robust of individuals ought to try". Instead, it's a trick to get you to punch yourself in the face (well, taste buds) after spending FIVE. HAUNTINGLY DAMNED. DOLLARS. on a Single. GODDAMN. CHIP. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets Four Flaming Frowny Faces. Fantastic Marketing that's sole purpose is to trick you into selling your tastebuds' souls to the Reaper Man and get nothing but pain for pain's sake, while Paqui laughs all the way to their hellish back account. Well, you got me good Paqui. I hope you choke to death on your next marketing stunt. Stay the fuck away from these things, they are a waste of time, effort, and money. At least I had ice cream afterwards. Don't fear the Reaper, punch him right in the dick while yelling "BOO, MOTHERFUCKER!"

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kotas Reviews Candy Corn Oreos

Well folks, it's definitely the Fall season. The Halloween decorations are out! No, really, like they are out the door and the Christmas stuff is already starting to pile up in shop windows. I remember a time when you could pop into any old store on October 30th to grab some last minute Halloween decorations and maybe a cheapo costume, but those days are NO LONGER. Ah well, at least one thing is back on the shelves for the foreseeable future: Candy Corn! So of course Nabisco made an Oreo out of it. Let's take a look at...well, you know the drill.

This is why you are here, isn't it?
To be fair, I'm late to this party. They came out last year, I believe, but I was never able to get a package...until now! Well, the package looks nice. The Candy Corn is obviously the focus here, and the picture of the Oreo is accurate, which is to be expected from Nabisco. The "easy open" flap is missing again, which is weird. Nabisco is remarkably inconsistent with its use of this feature, so I keep wondering why it isn't bog standard. Oh well, let's rip it open.

Seems Legit.
Well, they smell...sweet, though not really like candy corn. The vanilla cookie is a given, since that wold pair a lot better with any candy corn flavors. The creme in the middle is delightfully two toned in proper colors and easily passes the twist off test. It mostly smells like a generically sweet cookie though, and not much like candy corn. Let's eat!

So, you've all eaten candy corn at least once, right? It's waxy, honey tinged sweetness is like nothing else that is manufactured. This cookie only reinforces that fact, as it tastes exactly nothing like candy corn. It's very sweet, much sweeter than regular Oreos. There may be something that resembles honey flavoring too, but candy corn they most certainly aren't. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get a frowny face. In every conceivable way these are a failure, but they aren't terrible. If you like super sweet cookies, they are probably quite tasty. As a candy corn flavored treat though they are just not even in the right ballpark flavor wise, though they do manage to hit the cheap seats in the color department. Nice try, Nabisco, but stick to things that can actually successfully translate into cookie flavoring. You've managed to pull off this before, but that triumph of chemical engineering only led to mixed results.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Kotas Reviews Choco Chip Oreos

Here at Kotas Reviews, we often see food that is flavored like "more different" food. Cookies that taste of ice cream. Ice cream that tastes of bacon. Admiral Crunch. However, it is not often that we get a food that is trying to disguise itself as one of its peers. Ladies and gentlemen, today we have a gander at Choco Chip Oreos.

Because you knew it was Oreos. It was ALWAYS Oreos.
I'm not even sure where to begin here. I actually enjoy cookies like Chips Ahoy and other mass market chocolate chip cookies. They do not hold a candle to their homemade counterparts, but much like Hostess Cupcakes, they sort of fall into their own category of treat that satisfies a certain ineffable desire to eat artificial flavoring. Chips Ahoy was always my favorite of the "mass produced" cookie, because it was not that weird fake soft type of cookie that just overflows with "this was made in a laboratory" overtones, rather than the more subtle nuance of the simple, yet crumbly, Chips Ahoy cookie. So what the FUCK is Oreo trying to do here? "It's a cookie! That tastes like a different kind of cookie!" I mean, it's certainly unexpected, and not nearly as lazy as some previous efforts, but did anyone ask for this? When I go to eat an Oreo, the very LAST thing I think is "I wish this tasted like a Chips Ahoy" because if that were true I would just GO EAT A CHIPS AHOY. Anyway...the packaging is exactly what you'd expect, with a "no really, just a generic cookie and not a Chips Ahoy" in the background and an accurate image of the cookie within the bag. The "easy open" tab is also there, which is good. Let's easy open it up!

Pretty much what I imagined it to look like.
They certainly smell like Chips Ahoy cookies, mixed with a bit of Oreo-ish-ness as well. The look is pretty nice, the creme being about what I expected, but the real surprise is the cookie itself, which is speckled with dark brown swirls that looks like they threw in some "choco-chips" to the cookie dough part. You get an A on the look, Nabisco. Let's taste 'em!

Yeah, they taste like a mash up of Oreo and Chips Ahoy, with the Chips Ahoy part mostly in the flavor, and the Oreo part mostly in the texture. It is exactly what I would imagine a mash up of these two cookies would be like, which is good. My big question is why bother? Nabisco owns the two biggest brands in each of their respective category (Oreo - Sandwich Cookie::Chips Ahoy - Chocolate Chip Cookie), so it's not like you are stealing customers from a competitor. Maybe they are trying to get some crossover appeal for people who only like one or the other? It is a mystery.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. There is nothing wrong with them, but I have exactly no reason to ever eat them when I could instead just go get the actual cookie I want to eat. They don't taste bad, but they are a more expensive way to enjoy a different style of cookie that maybe you aren't used to. My suggestion in that case is just "go buy a bag of the other cookie". Maybe next time, Nabisco. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Kotas Reviews Calbee

Today we dip back into the Mystery Box for spooky treats from beyond the pale...or at least treats we don't really have in this part of the world. Seems the world over loves crunchy snacks, and this one purports to be...well, why don't we just get started with Calbee...whatever the hell this is.

Canadian Bacon and Asparagus, the Snacking Duo I Never Expected!
Yeah, I don't know what this is. It has a little giraffe person on it that seems cute enough. Honestly, at first I thought this might be some form of instant noodle soup, but then I noticed the picture of the vaguely "hot fry" looking things and dared open it. I tried to glean information from the lid, but to no avail for I am an ignorant soul.

Well, I did learn that I shouldn't microwave it.
Every culture has a different flavor profile for snack food that is generally tailored to either an every day flavor or an exotic one. Of course, such things vary and in this case...ham and asparagus. Not really a flavor I look for when snacking, but hey, I suppose it fits the exotic category for everyone. Let's open this thing up!

Vastly underwhelming.
I can honestly say I was not expecting it to look like someone took Andy's Hot Fries, stripped off the "hot" and replaced it with random flecks of green and red. Still, I am a fan of potato stick type snacks, so how bad could it be? Well let me tell you how bad it can be. First, a positive. These things have tremendous amounts of crunch. Now for the rest of it. These things do, in fact, vaguely taste like asparagus and ham. Old nasty dried up asparagus and slightly off, shriveled up ham. It's not "spit out bad", unlike some other things I've tried, but it isn't the most pleasant of flavors. Thankfully both flavors are pretty muted compared with the overwhelming taste of whatever these things are mostly made of. Corn maybe? It isn't much like other corn snacks. It's not much of anything, yet somehow this overwhelming non-flavor mutes the other flavors so that you don't taste much of them. 
On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Frowny Faces. I find the mix of flavors to be less than enchanting, but the odd anti-flavor that the sticks themselves have is off putting. Visually, they aren't very appealing, and while they are super duper crunchy, I think I can find a better flavor combination than this sad sack of fail. Not recommended unless you REALLY like old asparagus and ham bits, I guess. Bleah. The good Mystery Box Giveth, the good Mystery Box Taketh Away.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kotas Reviews Master of Orion Conquer the Stars

Finally, a review that isn't about food! I'm a video gamer, though I wasn't a PC gamer until college due to, well, not really have a PC, but ultimately these days I vastly prefer PC gaming over console gaming, mostly because there are genres there I really enjoy that you really can't do well on a console. One of my old favorites is the 4X game: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and everyone's favorite eXterminate. This is the category of Civilization, Master of Magic, and that old favorite Master of Orion. It's experiencing a bit of a resurgence as of late, and that's why we're here today. Let's take a look at the revival of an old franchise, Master of Orion: Conquer the Stars

A game on every PC, and a subtitle on every game!
Master of Orion is one of the more popular franchises from the 1990s in the 4X space (ha!), especially the legendary Master of Orion 2. My college PC gaming circle loved 4X games, and this, along with my personal favorite Master of Magic, were the space bee's knees. I'm told, however, that the third entry in the series was terrible, and the 4X genre faded quietly into niche status, with the dominance of Real Time Strategy absorbing a lot of its fanbase and development dollars. Still, we're not here to talk about that, we're hear to talk about the new one! Well, some things have changed...

Mrrshan have changed a lot since the old days. Me-ow!
Developed by WG Labs, a sub studio of, purveyors of games like World of Tanks and World of Warships, the latest installment of the venerable series is a classic 4X game, with a lot of modern polish. It seems like a labor of love in a lot of ways, since they purchased the rights to this franchise from the ashes of Atari (Microprose having long since died miserably) and frankly, no one was exactly clamoring for a new edition. For those of you who haven't ever played a 4X, the concept is one of empire building, technological progress, colonization, and strategic military management. It differs from Grand Campaign style games like Europa Universalis in terms of scope in that you manage colonies and fleets much more directly than abstractly. You are at the solar system level rather than the sector level. Each colony has a population you can direct into Research, Food, or Production. Food keeps your colony from starving and with a surplus, encouraged population growth. Production helps you, well, produce things, from local buildings (which boost Food, Research, Production, or other things) to star bases and space ships. Research advances your technological progress, opening up new tech and new avenues of research. It's a lot like Civilization in general.

There's a lot of polish here, with lovely graphics (though not pushing any envelopes) and, in my favorite part, lots and lots of voice acting! Most of it is good (John De Lancie! Micheal Dorn! Mark Hamil!), but there are a few rough spots (Tutorial Lady! Human Researcher Lady!) that can be annoying. Thankfully, most of the voice acting is skippable if it isn't your thing. The races are all visually distinct and interesting, Personal favorites include the Meklar (Think Cylons crossed with the robots from the Matrix), the Psilons (because they have FLYING SAUCERS FOR SHIPS!) and of course, the Mrrshan (cat people with an Egyptian theme...and clothing tape, apparently). Each race has its pros and cons: The Silicoid rock people are crude, but they don't need food at all and can live on planets that suck for most races. The Sakkra aren't so good with tech, but they sure do grow fast. The Humans are friendly with everyone, and the Evil Humans, er, Terrans (the Collector's Edition race that I don't actually have) are good at building warships, but not so much at being nice.

One thing that is pretty cool is that you are given a number of slots for blueprints for your war ships. You start with the humble frigate, but you soon unlock destroyers, cruisers, battleships, and even titan class warships. Of course, the pinnacle of space death is the mighty Death Doom Star, of which you can only have one. Each ship has slots for engines, shields, targeting computers, various add ons such as Battle Pods or Displacement Devices, and of course, weapon slots! From lasers to phasors, nukes to torpedoes, you can slot and mount a bunch of different options onto a ship. However, not much about the ship building is explained very well (or at all, really), so usually I just mount the best weapons I can along with some point defense, and just go for it. There may be a lot here, but as much as I liked tinkering with it, I didn't see a huge amount of difference in my fleet's performance in most cases. Shields vs. no shields however, my fleets just murdered the enemy. 

The fleet combat has two modes: Tactical, where you can command your ships directly (with or without AI assistance) or Auto Resolve, which is more like classic Civilization and just does all the calculations for you. Before you actually engage, the game gives you its best estimate as to your chances, and those estimates are usually pretty good, so that's helpful. I often auto-resolve battles when I can easily crush the enemy, such as when my Alkari bombed the Mrrshan into extinction.

This was known amongst the Bird People as a "dick move".
Ground combat is...boring as hell. You have bombs and troops, you send them in, you either kill the opposition or conquer them in a button click, or you don't. *yawn*. I generally just send in bombers to wipe out opposing colonies, but it takes a loooong time (dozen turns or so) for more heavily fortified colonies. I could build troop transports...or I could just send in more bombs. It's certainly not the tactical combat from Master of Magic, but it works, so whatever. Occasionally you will encounter Space Monsters which can wreck your fleets, but they tend to stick to a single star system and don't seek you out. Every so often a "GNN" news report will flash up, and a couple of goofy robots will tell you about a random event, or give you an overall status update on some aspect of the game. Winning can be done a number of ways: Economic Victory, where you have all the monies and control a majority of Space Wall Street. Diplomatic Victory, where everyone votes you Ruler of the Galaxy. Military Victory, where you crush everyone under your booted heel, and of course the Research Victory, where you complete the final technologies and ascend out of meatspace. There's also a "point" victory, when your game ends after a number of turns with the highest score being the victor.

There's an espionage system, but it plays like a mobile game where you wait for a spy, send the spy to a colony, and then select a mission for the spy, which can succeed or fail for a result (intel on a colony all the way up to putting it in revolt). It's not very deep, and kind of becomes an annoyance later on. Diplomacy works a lot like Civilization, where you offer things to your opponents in trade, declare things, and otherwise choose from a small set of options. It's not bad, and the voice acting here really makes this feel a lot deeper than it probably actually is. This is not nearly as deep a game as Stellaris, but it hits all the right notes and most of the various systems are good, if not spectacular. Mostly it feels like a good game to explore the 4X genre if you have never played it, or if you (like me) don't have time to really dig into a much deeper, more complex and nuanced game but still wanna enjoy a good experience.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 smiley faces. If you've never played a 4X game before, this is a solid modern entry into the genre that builds a solid, if not amazing, foundation for building up a good play experience. For real enthusiasts of these games, this is a bit of lighter fare with pretty scenery and enjoyable polish. For the time squeezed, this is a great way to scratch that conquest itch. For $30 (more if you by the Collector's Edition, which comes with all three previous games), it's a good romp. There is even multiplayer, though at the time of this review, I haven't tried it. See you in the space ways! 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kotas Reviews Frito-Lay I Have No Idea (Takoyaki-Tei)

Today we return to the Mystery Box for additional snack treats! There is a glorious habit of anthropomorphic food icons to sell us various treats. From the talking M&Ms to the crazy zaniness of McDonaldLand, walking, talking food has been trying to sell itself to us for consumption for ages and ages. Occasionally a product takes it to a whole new level. Today we look at...I have no freakin' idea.

Soy Fritter Ball Things? Adipose gone horribly wrong? I wish I could read Japanese.
Whatever the heck these things are, they are ADORABLE. Look at 'em, with their big smiles and stumpy limbs only good for the suggestion of motility! Clearly they are supposed to be living incarnations of the fried sauce covered things to the right of the packaging, and the potentially female one has a BOW in what passes for hair. And big eyelashes for some reason. Anyway, I love this packaging. It makes me want a plushie version of these things. SO CUTE! I wonder what is on the back?

Aw, they have a lovely family. Wait, are they eating their own kind? THE TERROR OF IT ALL!
The back of the package is no help determining what these things are, but it shows a preciously snuggly family settling down to eat a meal of themselves, like the horrible cannibals that they apparently are. So much for cute and cuddly, eh? It's always the cute ones you have to watch out for. Let's open it up and see what we have.

Heh heh. BALLS.
Well, they smell like onion and soy sauce, and they are basically corn puff balls with flavor dust on them, much like I expected. By Akira's Ghost these things are darn tasty though! It's like someone took an unflavored corn puff, dipped it in soy sauce, coated it lightly in onion powder, and let it dry. Savory, tangy, and excellently munchable, I ate almost the whole bag of these. My daughter however rejected them outright with "Yuck!", but she's a three year old and thus her opinion on the matter doesn't count. I now understand what drives these cheerful mascots to greedily devour their own kind. They are delicious! So, what the heck are these supposed to be? Well, according to the Internet, they are a snack food distillation of a takoyaki: fried octopus ball with sauce. I can honestly say that is not what I was expecting.

On the FACE Rating System, these get an easy 2 Smiley Faces. They are om nom nom good, but I wouldn't want them every day. Damn tasty though, and if you can get your hands on them, you should pop them in your food hole. Unless you hate soy sauce, probably. And you know what? I don't care if they are cannibalistic, I still want a plush version of their mascot.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Kotas Reviews Suppaiman! Snacks

Oh, we're in for a real treat in the upcoming weeks. So, one day recently I was getting my mail and I found a package on my doorstep. Since I hadn't ordered anything online recently, particularly anything from JAPAN of all places, my curiosity was piqued. After confirming with my spouse that she hadn't ordered anything, I examined the box. The customs label had the word "gift" written on it, but other then that there was no way of identifying the sender. What was inside this mysterious package? Why, a ton of really weird looking Japanese snack foods. Hold onto your butts, we're in for a bumpy ride. Many thank yous to the anonymous soul who sent me these lovely items. This review is for you! And the rest of you. First up, we have...I don't even know. Welcome to Mystery Box Madness!

Why is there a flower on his chest? Why is anything about this?
Well, from the packaging, I think this is whatever was leftover after a superhero of questionable fashion sense punched a cloud. Or possibly some sort of snack food. My goodness is this thing full of wonder. The mascot (I guess?) is appropriately detailed in a mix of art styles both West and East. I have no idea what most of the text says, but "Suppaiman!" is at least something I can parse, so we're gonna go with that being the title of these snacks. I could be way wrong, given the placement of the word as sort of arcing around the more prominent picture. It is quite striking, that's for sure. 

I have no idea what is in these at all
The only thing I know about this is that it has some sort of snack food inside, in little hollow cylinders. Opening these up hits you with a very strong scent of what I think is corn, but might be wrong, and some other scent I simply cannot identify, but is very strong. Almost vinegary in initial impression, it has lots of something else too. I am baffled.

To me it says "prototype Froot Loops", at least visually.
Well damn if these aren't interesting. The flavor is sweet and sour, with some vinegar and tomato elements. It's actually pretty tasty, and if I had to name the flavor I would say "Ketchup". It's got a bit of zing to it, but not too much, and the corn undertones meld nicely with it, though I think it might be an acquired taste. Maybe not though, since my 3 year old ate two without any issue. Given she's really not into most flavored snacks, that's a pretty solid recommendation. I don't know exactly how you fight crime, Suppaiman, but your snack food is pretty tasty, if weird. 

On the FACE Rating System, Suppaiman! gets 1 smiley face. The packaging is loud and obnoxious, the artwork makes little sense, the snack itself is a little oversized, and the flavor combination is not something I would have picked out, and yet somehow the whole thing hangs together pretty well. If you can ever find these, definitely try them, unless you hate any of the following: corn, ketchup, Anime style artwork. This is gonna be a fun romp!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Kotas Reviews Swedish Fish Oreos

There comes a time in every reviewer's life when they reach a pinnacle of accomplishment or experience. Once they've reviewed something that epitomizes what their whole reviewing career has been leading up to, one of two things will happen. They will sometimes quit reviewing, moving on to other tasks, since at this point, what more could they possibly do? Or they will be reinvigorated and seek ever higher peaks of their craft. Which one will this one be, I wonder? Ladies, Gentlemen, Children of All Ages, today we review...Swedish Fish Oreos!

This is my unicorn folks. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Look at it. LOOK AT IT. My goodness isn't it just MAGNIFICENT? This may very well be the Holy Grail of Weird Food Reviews, and it's not even a clever PhotoShop job. Who would have ever guessed THIS would be a thing? It's the kind of idea a 7 year old has at Halloween when they get Oreos and Swedish Fish and OF COURSE it's a great idea to eat both of them together. And some executive at Nabsico approved it. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

I love me some Swedish Fish. These little gummy morsels that look remarkably fish like have a delicious unique flavor that I mostly describe as red. They taste like red. They are classified as a wine gum candy, similar to gumdrops without the sugar coating. Chewy, slightly chemically, and oh so nomable, they are one of the few candies I enjoy any time of day. They also have a label molded right on them, in case you forgot the nationality of the candy you were greedily devouring. 

Anyway, Swedish Fish are a product of the Swedish (natch) candy maker Malaco, and are mostly sold as a pick n' mix bulk candy there. They also have different flavors elsewhere in the world, but I haven't yet seen anything other than red in the United States. The flavor is unknown, though the speculation says it might be lingonberry. Anyway, I love the things, but I am really unsure how well they match with the almost opposing flavor of the Oreo. The packaging is spot on with both the Swedish Fish and Oreo logos sharing space above a full on Swedish fish and its namesake Oreo. Let's eat.

The very essence of magnificence.
Well damn if they don't smell like Swedish Fish and Oreos being in the same bag. In fact, the odor is so powerful that other sweets pick it up if they stay in an enclosed area. I put one of these in a plastic baggie overnight along with some sugar cookies my daughter helped make, and the whole lot of them tasted vaguely of Swedish Fish afterwards. They got the smell right, is what I'm saying. The creme is almost a perfect match on the shade of red of a Swedish Fish, but it fails every twist off test I put it to, including the one shown above. 

It was with some trepidation that I started eating these. Would they be like peanut butter and chocolate, and meld together in delicious harmony? Or would it be more like peanut butter and olive oil, delicious apart but yakktacular together. Well, I can safely tell you, they are edible. They taste EXACTLY like eating an Oreo at the exact same time as a Swedish Fish. However, I don't think this is necessarily a GOOD thing that it is Exactly What It Says On The Tin. The flavors do not mix together at all, with the chemical fruitiness of the Swedish Fish clashing tremendously with the creamy chocolate flavors present in your typical Oreo. It's just so odd tasting. It's not bad exactly, in that I didn't spit it out, and I did finish the package (and bought a second one to inflict share with some friends), but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't buy them just to eat, but they do at least hold one characteristic shared by both their parents: They are weirdly addictive for reasons I can't explain or understand. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. Nabisco knocked it out of the park in achieving exactly what they set out to do, but the actual product that emerged from this unholy alliance of Swedish Fish and Oreos is just off putting and strange. I would however probably eat a package of them if you gave them to me, and may even feel compelled to eat them. It's like I'm trying to puzzle out how they accomplished this feat of bakegineering by simply eating MORE of it. Give it a whirl if you like Swedish Fish AND Oreos, but people who do NOT like Swedish Fish will absolutely hate these. Oh, and don't put it in milk. Yakktacular indeed.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Kotas Reviews Ruffles All Dressed Chips

Welcome to the BONUS ROUND! After such a disappointing finish to Chip Week, I remembered that I had one more chip to review...that I probably should have reviewed months ago when I was first introduced to them (thanks [REDACTED])! Let's close this out with a look at Ruffles All Dressed Chips.

Oh yah, time to find out what it's all aboot, eh?
It is a well known fact that chip companies provide flavor variations based on regional preferences, and Frito-Lay is no exception. The Ruffles All Dressed chips hail from our frozen neighbor to the North, Canada, where this flavor is incredibly popular, and only just now made its way South to the United States. The flavor is described by Frito-Lay thusly: "hard-to-describe, hard-to-put-down salty, savory, and sweet all at the same time". Which really doesn't describe it too well, but it sounds like an interesting combination. From the imagery on the bag, I gather it has something to do with barbecue sauce, paprika, and vinegar. Still, the bag is otherwise a bog standard Ruffles bag. Let's open it up!

Yeah, okay, color me whelmed.
Well, these look like nothing special. A light dusting of reddish flavor powder and that's it. The smell is delicious though, with a nice vinegar-y yet sweet scent that made me hungry. The taste is actually amazing. It's like a more savory, less sweet barbecue potato chip, with a lot more zing. It is a strong flavor, probably from the vinegar elements, but unlike normal barbecue flavored chips, which are usually way too sweet, this has that perfect balance of, dare I say it, Sweet, Savory, and Salty coupled with the solid crunch that Ruffles are known for. Om Nom Good is what these are. I did share the bag I purchased, but reluctantly. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get three smiley faces. They may be my new flavored chip of choice, dethroning my long beloved Cool Ranch Doritos as my number one snack chip go to. If you like barbecue chips, these are a must try. If you always wanted to like them, but found them too cloying, these are a must try. In fact, just go out and get them. If you don't like them, I will take them!

Kotas Reviews Hammond's Pigs N' Taters Chocolate Bar

Well, it's the end of Chip Week, but we're all out of Lay's flavors. So I suppose I'll just have to come up with something on theme. Well loyal readers, I found something that will intrigue you, amaze you, and quite possibly disgust you. Do you dare look into the Potatoy Abyss? Or will you flee into the night screaming, like so many before you? Okay, maybe I'm laying it on a bit thick. Let's take a peek at the Hammond's Pigs N' Taters Chocolate Bar.

F'gnly M'agwah Cthulthu F'atgn!
You read it here first folks, this is an actual candy bar with not only bacon, but potato chips as a primary ingredient. Of course, you are probably wondering "Who the hell is Hammond" and "Why is he selling this bizarre chocolate bar?" Well, Hammond's Candy is an old candy company, but these days mostly sells to the department store crowd. These candies find their way into variety stores, greeting card places, and other purveyors of miscellany. Mostly, they are one of the many makers of "off brand, yet trying to be fancy" chocolates that you see at the check out counters of random stores. Lest ye think this kind of stuff is the norm, they have a wide variety of chocolate bars that are not completely insane (though I will admit that their peanut butter and jelly sandwich bar is in the weird category). 

I am not particularly fond of the packaging here. I have always appreciated companies that use the "foil paper with cover paper" chocolate bar wrapping, because it is the standard I grew up with until they moved to that weirdly clingly "solely super thin plastic" stuff, but this design is very generic and boring. Sure, the pink color stands out a bit, but there's not even a cartoon pig or anything that makes the label jump out at you. I would have totally bypassed this in the store except for my spouse pointing out that it exists. But enough about that, let's get to the real crazy.

Into that black abyss from whence we all come from once I stare and tremble as my gaze slides onto that hideous PIGNESS that is this candy.
Maybe I should be less afraid of this candy than I originally thought. This is wholly underwhelming in almost all ways, though I am impressed at the bit of actual bacon that sticks out from the top right bit of the chocolate bar there. The scent is weirdly chemical for a chocolate bar, which was off putting, but I must give them credit for using actual bacon and potato chips in their chocolate. Sadly, the chocolate is where this whole thing falls down. The bacon bits are okay, adding a LOT of salt and a bit of smokiness to the taste. The chips mostly just add some crunch. The chocolate here is of, presumably, very low quality though, and that plasticy, chemical flavor of shitty chocolate just ruins the whole experience. It's not quite the grittastic nightmare of some of the really cheap "chocolate flavored" candy out there, but it's not a high bar to leap over, and this just barely does so. Yucktacular.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 frownie faces. Weirdly, the bacon and chip portions were way better than the chocolate portion they were supposed to be enhancing. Just shows that you can't really put lipstick on a pig and call it a sow's purse...or something. Bypass this entirely, and instead think about what it COULD have been.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Kotas Reviews Lay's Indian Tikka Masala Chips

Chip Week marches onward, as we continue our journey with the Passport to Flavor Lay's promotion. First though, some corrections. It turns out there IS a Chinese flag on the Szechuan Chicken chip bag, but it blends in with the rest of the artwork so as to be much less noticeable than the other flags.  Still, we press ever forward to glory, and salted potato goodness. Today we review Lay's Indian Tikka Masala Chips.

Kettle Cooked for her pleasure.
So, as you may have guessed, I like to learn a little about the origins of the various flavors and foods I consume. Tikka Masala is probably the wildest tale yet. I assumed, like many people, that tikka masala (usually CHICKEN tikka masala) was a traditional Indian dish. Then you have no less a personage than Robin Cook, a British Foreign Secretary, declare it to be a national dish of  Great Britain! Holy Appropriation of Cuisine Batman! BUT...the plot gets thicker. The origins of the dish are "wildly varying", but the mostly likely explanation according to Wikipedia is that it originated in Indian restaurants in Glasgow to appeal to the tastes of the locals. There are plenty of specific stories about which restaurant, as well as other origin stories (it's a variant of butter chicken, developed in India to appeal to British palettes, it's a form of street food that evolved in Delhi, etc) that can be found here

Now that we've discussed that, I actually really like the artwork. It's still very monochromatic, but the various shades of orange have more contrast than those of the other bags, and the Indian flag stands out nicely from it. The bag is just cheerful, and that's very nice. Let's open it up and see what's inside. Hopefully potato chips.

Behold the majestic potato chip, in its natural lair, the bowl.
Well, that bag is full of delicious spicy scents. They certainly managed to capture the essence of what I think of when I think "tikka masala", which is interesting because "tikka" refers to the size of the chicken chunks and "masala" just means "spice mix". So I guess this is the masala portion of our experience. It's a good one. The taste is quite good. Lots of spice and flavor, with enough heat to keep it interesting, though not as hot as the Szechuan chicken chips. These are quite munchable actually, and I kind of wanted to eat the whole bag in one go. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get an easy 2 smiley faces. I could easily eat these any time of day, for any reason and not be unhappy. I don't always want a flavored chip, but when I do, this would be one of my top picks. Nice job, Frito-Lay! Definitely recommended if you like Indian Food, or just interesting spice combinations on your chips. Go out and get some today!

Well, that concludes Chip Week, I guess, even if it's a day early. We just don't have any more flavors of chips to explore...hrm. But flavored chips aren't the only things that could slot into Chip Week. Stay tuned for the thrilling finale!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Kotas Reviews S'mores M&Ms

The last fading moments of summer are fast a weird timey wimey kind of way. I will have fond memories of summer, what with the blistering heat, the endless yard work, and the s'mores. Oh the s'mores! They've translated pretty well to cookie format, but will they make the leap to candy? Let's find out. Today we review S'mores M&Ms.

Crispy! Because, reasons! SINISTER REASONS.
I've not generally been a fan of the Crispy line of M&Ms. I don't know if they use a different chocolate or if the crispy part is made of fail, but every time I eat them I am disappointed in the taste. It always just seems off to me. Still, I don't think they are vile or anything, they just aren't really for me. My love of s'mores, however, has brought me back to give them a second try. The fact that my buddy [REDACTED] got me a free bag didn't hurt either! I would have reviewed these earlier, but due to a series of wacky mishaps the bag was lost and then found again. 

That said, hoo boy is this artwork all over the place. I kinda dig the stylized s'more of the word "s'more", but neon green and tan are two colors which really don't belong together. Also, why is Red the anthropomorphic character used here? Crispy is traditionally orange! Oh well, let's move on and see what these babies look like.

Well, this is sort of familiar.
These have almost exactly the same color scheme as the Coffee Nut M&Ms I reviewed a while back. And you know what? They taste a lot like them too. In fact, these remind me mostly of tiramisu rather than s'mores. I suppose there is the vague hint of something graham cracker-esque hiding in the aftertaste, but mostly? I get coffee. The crispy bits are their usual disappointment, but they don't detract too much from the experience. This one is very strange.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 faces. They aren't terrible, and they are sort of interesting, but they are almost but not quite exactly unlike s'mores in almost every area. If you are looking for a coffee flavored M&M that DOESN'T have nuts in it, this is your next stop on the path to flavor country. For everyone else, eat 'em or don't, your call. 

Kotas Reviews Lay's Greek Tzatziki Chips

It's Day 3 of Chip Week, and honestly, I'm getting a wee bit tired of eating potato chips. Nah, I'm just kidding, I love eating potato chips! Lay's in particular are very munchable, what with the whole "you can't just eat one" thing. I'm pretty sure they put some sort of addictive substance in them to make me crave them, probably "fat". What does the magical bag have in store for us today? Why, Tzatziki Chips!

Wavy with dignity.
So, this will be the second time a traditionally Greek food has been condensed into chip form by Frito-Lay, the first being the Gyro chips from last year. In this case, I think they did pretty well going with the Wavy variety and a flavor best suited to a dipping sauce than as a sandwich. The Greek flag is prominent along with other stereotypical Greek imagery. That tzatziki sauce bowl actually looks pretty good. Let's open it up!

Large and in charge.
I rather like the texture of Wavy chips, and they hold up a bit better in the bag too. The scent is pretty much like tzatziki sauce, though it has a bit of chemical under notes in the scent. The appearance is once again the very underwhelming "chip with green flecks" on it that is so dang popular this go around. Still, smells decent, looks like...well, chips. Let's dig in.

The flavor is almost exactly what you'd expect from a tzatziki flavored chip. What really astonishes me is that there is actually some cucumber flavor. Cucumber barely has flavor at all in the first place but to extract that minute bit and manage to generate flavor dust that has it as a distinct component is a marvel of snack food innovation. Frito-Lay certainly hit this one right on the nose, unlike some of their previous efforts. Bravo, chipgineers. Bravo. I think I'd prefer to just dip regular Wavy chips into tzatziki sauce, but when I'm feeling lazy (read: almost all the time) and just want that taste, you have filled a need I didn't know I had.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 smiley face. I wouldn't want to eat them all the time, but if I am in the mood for tzatziki sauce, these would fit right into that taste slot. They'd actually probably be really good mixed with the Gyro chips (or just an actual gyro, frankly), but they won't be for everyone. Give them a try! Unless you hate cucumber, then skip it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Kotas Reviews Lay's Chinese Chicken Szechuan Chips

Chip Week continues, and so does our international tour de chip. One thing that Lay's has been trying more of is the meat flavored chip. We've seen bacon flavoring (for the bacon mac n' cheese chips), corned beef with the Reuben chips, and beef with the picanha chips. So why would we be surprised when they finally get around to the world's most popular meat, chicken? Well, we aren't. Today we look at Lay's Chinese Chicken Szechuan chips.

Nice font ya got there, I guess.
Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the art work. I do love the dragon and pagoda silhouettes, but...why not have the Chinese flag on it like the Brazilian ones had their flag? Also, the box of presumably Szechuan style chicken isn't the artwork I would have chosen. I probably would have had it on a plate, and made it somewhat classy looking. This looks...well, it looks kinda meh. Anyway, Szechuan (or Sichuan) style cuisine is known for its use of hot spices and garlic, though pork is far and away a more traditional meat to use than chicken. Still, everyone loves chicken right? I predict these will be spicy. Let's have a gander!

Behold the glory! The glory of relatively uninteresting looking chips.
None of these chips so far is winning any sort of appearance awards. These are a bit nicer looking than the picanha chips, with not just green flecks but red flecks, but they also have a distinct brownish tinge that is more prevalent on some chips than on others, and usually indicates there will be a higher concentration of flavoring on those chips. The scent is vaguely spicy and garlic-y, but doesn't smell too much like chicken. Maybe a little. 

The taste comes through with the chicken all right, though it is more like the chicken flavoring from Chicken in a Biskit than actual chicken. The spices though, those I am impressed with. A nice garlic overtone, with a generous, but not overwhelming portion of peppery spiciness that lingers in the mouth and accents the chicken flavor well. These chips are pretty munchable, and they stay mostly on target with their supposed flavor. Good job, Frito-Lay, this is pretty good! I particularly appreciate a good dose of hot that is coupled with actual flavor, as opposed to "hot for hot's sake" like so many other "spicy" snack foods.

 On the FACE Rating System, these chips get one smiley face. I'm not always in the mood for a spicy chip, but when I am I would probably choose these over a more generic spicy chip. Definitely give them a try, particularly if you like other chicken flavored snacks. Much more on target than the picanha chips, though I suspect if those were marketed as chimichurri chips, they would disappoint less.