Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kotas Reviews Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos

Hola Amigos! Now that Winter is slowly (or not so slowly, amirite?) leaving us, time to get back to what we do best: Eat new flavors from Nabisco. I don't know about the rest of you, but Hazelnut and Chocolate are two flavors that pair extremely well together. From Ferrero Rocher to Nutella, people have been obsessing about this combination in "semi-fancy" treats for decades. Well, Nabisco just had to horn in on that action, eh? Of course it did. Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a gander at Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos.

Legally distinct from Nutella!
Image Source:http://www.brandeating.com/2018/01/oreo-welcomes-2018-with-chocolate-hazelnut-and-cinnamon-flavors.html
Honestly, I love the taste of chocolate hazelnut things and Nutella has always been my favorite way to ingest it. I dip fruit in it, smear it on cupcakes, or just plain bread and make a sandwich out of it. Mixes well with peanut butter too! It's damn tasty is what I'm saying. Naturally, I saw these Oreos and was all "Hot diggity dawg, I bet these are amazing!" Anycrap, the packaging is bog standard for limited edition Oreos at this point. Nothing outstanding, but nothing terrible either. I'm sort of surprised they went with the vanilla Oreo on this one, but I guess I kind of get it. Chocolate on chocolate might be a little overwhelming. Let's see how they look!

Yup, that's a chocolate looking Oreo all right.
Well, they smell very Chocolate Hazelnut, that's for sure. The vanilla from the cookie though is much more noticeable than I would have thought. So, how does it taste? Kind of disappointing. It's certainly chocolate hazelnut, but the vanilla in the cookie really mutes the flavor and makes it taste a lot less strongly that I would expect. It's good, but not nearly as good as I would have thought. I feel that the chocolate cookie, as counter intuitive as it might seem, would have been the better choice. The extra bit of bitterness from the chocolate cookie would enhance the hazelnut part instead of mostly drowning it out. The cream itself is a little less chocolatey than I would like as well, though if I mash two cookies together in some sort of Double-Stuf nightmare, that tasted about right. 

On the FACE Rating System, I give these 1 Smiley Face. Pretty good, but not quite as good as I would have hoped. Still, it's not bad, and I'd eat them again. If you don't like Hazelnut, these have nothing to offer you, and if you don't mind a strong vanilla overtone, these may be right up your alley. Grab some and see for yourself!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Kotas Reviews Hot and Spicy Cinnamon Oreos

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! A time when marketing moguls have convinced us all that there is exactly ONE day a year during which we can really show our love for a significant other, and the best way to express that love is with a stuffed bear emblazoned with a heart. Also with candy. Because always candy. So of course Nabisco is gonna try and horn in on that sweet sweet Valentine's money, right? Right! Today we're looking at Hot and Spicy Cinnamon Oreos.

Made with love...and pain.
Well, I'm pretty sure no one ever asked for this and yet, here it is. This Limited Edition wonder sports a jaunty heart theme, made up of Legally Distinct Cinnamon Candy From Red Hots, and a picture of the Oreo itself. Red is nature's warning color folks! Seriously though, it is a remarkably nice piece of packaging for conveying what kind of cookie you are getting yourself into. Let's tear it open and see what's inside.

You know you wanna. Come oooooooon.
Well, they certainly smell like cinnamon Oreos. There is no hint of trickery or tomfoolery with these. It just lays it out there, and you can take it or leave it as you wish. Would that all businesses were as upfront with their wares as Nabisco has been lately. But, ultimately, the truth is in the tasting. Let's eat!

Yup, this is exactly what I would expect if you took Red Hots, ground them into paste, mixed them with a little bit of Oreo filling, and put it in a cookie. A bit underwhelming really. I appreciate the fact that the cinnamon burn is muted, but the flavor itself is very meh. It's cinnamon yes, but 'nuthin' but cinnamon' just isn't that great a flavor to start with, and who would mix it with Chocolate of all things? Chocolate and Cinnamon generally do not go all that well together in my opinion, so this cookie is just a solution looking for a problem. For a Valentine's Day special, you sure are unloved Cinnamon Oreo. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frownie Face. It certainly is exactly what it says on the tin, er package, but what it is just isn't very good. It's not bad, it's just something I never wanted. The fact that I've now tried it only affirms my original conclusion of "no one would want that". If you really like Red Hots, maybe this might be for you. But really, outside of that very particular fetish, stay away. Go find a bear to hug.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Kotas Reviews Doritos BLAZE

Well well, another Superb Owl come and gone. Our household spent the noble affair...not watching the game, as illness has swept through House Kotas. Still, I heard some birds won, and that's good for birds everywhere, right? Right! Still, you ain't here for my pathetic attempts to talk about sports ball. There was, however, a snack brought to prominence by a relatively high budget ad, starting a certain Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones and Knights of Badassdom fame. So strap on your flame retardant clothing, it's time for us to take a look at Doritos Blaze.

And the dragon comes in the NIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!
Okay, I sort of love the art on the bag, which I feel would be best served airbrushed onto the side of a van. There is a tortilla chip, coated in red dust, ON FIRE, with vague Steve Ditko background elements that convey...weird. It's weird and I love it. Still, it's not the outside that counts, but what lies within! Let's crack it open.

This is less rad than I thought it would be, given the bag art.
Well, they are definitely the same as on the package. Tortilla chips coated in the angriest looking Mars Red flavor dust I've ever seen. The scent is at once burning, but cloying, with a hint of spicy goodness and various other seasonings I can't place. Let's eat! HOLY JEEZ those are spicy! Now, they aren't nearly as mouth destroying as certain other things I've reviewed, but they will clear the old sinus cavities and the burn lingers a bit. However, they ALSO have an amazing hot salsa type flavor that does exactly what I would hope all really spicy foods do: Hit you hard with the flavor, and THEN let you feel the burn. And what a burn! These chips do not fuck around...but I found myself happily chomping them down. The flavor is intense and the burn is really, really hot. But not unbearably hot. Why, I didn't even need milk after this! Nice job walking that line of flavor to burn ratio Frito-Lay.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Smiley Faces. I certainly wouldn't want them all the time because the consequences of that would be...well, very burny, but if I really want some super spicy flavor filled Doritos, these are my go to pick. If you like really spicy food, you owe yourself a bag of these. If you don't like spicy food though, avoid these, because the name isn't a lie.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Kotas Reviews the Fried Twinkie

Las Vegas is a town like no other. Giant man-made monuments to consumption and hubris dot the desert landscape, and light up the night with neon and promises of pleasures legal and illicit. Everywhere you go there is someone who wants to put a drink in your hand and a smile on your face. They have a surprisingly high number of aquariums for some reason. Then there is the food, OH THE FOOD! It is glorious in both quality and quantity, though not always at the same time, but occasionally you get the best of both worlds. Then...you don't. I'm just back from a whirlwind tour of some of the most Buffet buffets Vegas has to offer, and from there I turn to today's promised glory. Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a look at the glory of the Fried Twinkie.

TA DAAAAAA!
While feasting at the glorious MGM Grand Champagne Brunch (what a steal, if you drink 3-4 mimosas...and who doesn't?), I came across a whole platter of doughnuts and the like. Nestled next to it was a small pile of the legendary Fried Twinkies, left there almost as an afterthought. Of COURSE I had to snag one. I mean, look at it! The outside has a crisp shell, which leads me to believe this particular variety was dipped in batter first. I'll be honest, it smells heavenly, with a lovely sweet vanilla aroma that makes this thing seem super special. It mostly looks like a Twinkie, but really it could be any old fried cylinder of dough. Let's crack it open!

Stacked all fancy like, because reasons!
Well, it's...pretty much just some fried cake at this point. There is only the barest bit of "not quite as solid as the rest of this" in the middle that hints that perhaps at some point there might have been some filling. Otherwise it's just another doughnut. A sub PAR doughnut. The texture and taste of the crisp outside is quite nice, but the cake inside just got kind of tough and chewy. There's no filling to contrast with, presumably because it has been super-heated and thus dispersed through the cake itself rather than being the burst of sugary sweetness we are used to in a regular non-fried Twinkie. It's not bad, but it's not particularly good either. I expected better of you, Twinkie. Or maybe I should blame those who could not appreciate you for what you are but instead sought to make you more than what you could possibly become. Tough call, really.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frowny Face. It's not awful, but it is very disappointing. Maybe it could be improved with a more "tempura" light fry sort of a affair, but as presented here it's a big old pile of meh. If you are in the MGM Grand Buffet and see one, you might as well try it for yourself, but as a stand alone product I would pass.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Kotas Reviews Dark Souls the Board Game

Alright folks, I know how it is. You're out praising the sun, maybe having just left a bonfire, and suddenly some Smough shows up and wallops you with a giant hammer. It can really get you down is what I'm saying. So, what better way to blow off a little steam than with a board game? Oh wait, You Died. Ladies and Gentleman, today we review the Dark Souls Board Game.

Behold the majesty!
I'll level with you folks: I've never really played Dark Souls. I messed around with it for maybe 30 minutes one time and watched a few game play videos, but Dark Souls really was never my thing. I'm mostly a PC gamer too, so action games haven't been in my wheelhouse in years. I only just recently got a USB controller even! However, some of my friends are super into not only the games, but all the lore surrounding the games. I gotta admit that the visual storytelling is pretty awesome in the Dark Souls universe. I ain't a hater, but it's just not my thing. So when it was suggested "Hey, let's try the Dark Souls board game" I was a little scared I wouldn't be able to "get it" since I really knew only what I had absorbed from my friends talking about it. Lucky for me, I was totally wrong!

So many pieces! SO MANY! This was our fight with the mini-boss.
First things first, this box? It is huge. Like, at least twice as thick as a standard board game box. Second? The very first thing to greet you when you open the box is a big ol' sign that says "You Died" This lets you know what you are in for. Third, there are a metric fuckton of pieces here. Cards, counters, dice (custom dice no less!), more cards, character layouts, wooden cubes, even more cards and two heckin' big boxes of miniatures. All the components are pretty high quality, but the miniatures look amazing. The first time we set  this up, it took a while due to have to punch out and organize a bunch of stuff, but the second time was a lot faster setup.

The basic game is a dungeon crawl, where you seek out a Mini-Boss and then a Boss. Once the Boss is defeated you win the game. Players start at a bonfire that has a number of "sparks" based on the number of players. They move through rooms, and have encounters. Each encounter is dictated by a card drawn from a stack of them, and there are different stacks of encounter cards for different difficulty levels. Once in an encounter, players have to defeat all monsters. If they succeed, they get 2 Souls (a currency used for everything from treasure draws to character upgrades) per player and any bonus goodies they might find. If any player dies, or they decide to retreat, they lose and head back to the bonfire. All their "per spark" abilities reset (Estus Flasks, usable once per spark, Luck Tokens that allow a die reroll, etc), but so do all encounters for the current board. If the players run out of sparks, and then one of them dies, the game is over with a loss for the players. After defeating the Mini-Boss, the number of sparks resets.

Each character has basic "per spark" abilities listed above and a Heroic Ability that also resets per Spark. These vary from Amazing to Decent in power level. Characters also have gear they equip, and upgrade with various treasure cards. Combat seems complicated at first glance, but once you get the hang of it it's pretty straightforward. Enemies move and attack in predetermined ways based on who's turn it is or who is closest to them. There is a single Stress/Health track on each player card that has ten boxes. When you sprint (move more than one square) or use certain attacks, you gain stress (black cubes) in your track. When you are hit by a monster and do not Dodge or Absorb the hit, you take Damage, which gives you red cubes in your track. Stress is healed by 2 cubes each time it is your turn, Health only heals from spells or miracles, or the Estus Flask, which clears your track entirely when used. If you ever fill your 10 square track, You Die. 

The game play loop is as follows: Defeat encounters to gain Souls to spend on Treasure and Upgrades to defeat Harder Encounters and ultimately the Mini-Boss and Boss. Players can even choose to voluntarily rest at the bonfire (and thus use up a Spark) to reset encounters to farm up Souls. You will definitely need better gear to take on the Mini-Boss than what you start with, and some characters upgrade better than others. The Assassin for example kind of has a crap weapon, but is the best at Dodging and gaining spells. The Knight on the other hand has good armor and weapons to start, but his upgrades aren't as flashy, the Knight generally gets hit repeatedly, and is riskier to play. There is considerable depth here and a lot to think about. This game is also ball-breakingly hard at times, especially if you get unlucky with your draws.

Our first run through was cut short due to exhaustion, but we though the encounters, while challenging, were very doable. For the second game, we made all sorts of plans on optimal farming routes and so forth...and then on our second encounter we drew a lone Sentinel. We eventually referred to him as "Buttman" because not only did he beat our butts twice, but he was being such a butthole about it. Once we got some better upgrades we were much more able to take on a Sentinel, but boy we sure were worried about seeing one on an encounter card. Bosses are monstrous too. We opted for the Boss of Orenstein and Smough, because apparently we hate ourselves and they are BEASTS to defeat, basically wiping the floor with us (though we put the hurt on Smough) and while we did have a couple of Sparks after that, we elected to call it there due to the lateness of the hour.

On the FACE Rating System, this game gets 3 Smiley Faces. It is an awesome dungeon crawl experience that (I'm told) manages to capture the feel of playing Dark Souls almost perfectly, with lots of tactical options and interesting decision points. I really enjoyed my playthroughs and would love to play it again, however this is not a casual game. A full playthrough would probably take up an entire day, so only pull it out when you can dedicate the time to it. It also only supports 4 players, so if your group is larger, someone gets left out. Definitely strap on your Claymore and give this game a try if your taste in games runs to long and complex. Praise the Sun!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Kotas Reviews Mixtape Massacre

Ah, love that new year smell! It smells of cheap sparkling wine and flannel for some reason. So! With 2017 behind us, I will repeat my oft broken goal of "try not to review so much damn food this year" and then proceed to not review food. Today we tackle something a bit different. Ladies and Gentleman, let's get back to the 80s with Mixtape Massacre.

A face only a legally distinct from Jason Vorhee's Mother could love.
Mixtape Massacre is a board game by BrightLight Games, that began life as a Kickstarter project back in 2015. An expansion for the game, Black Masque, was also Kickstarted this past summer. It has decent reviews and a really striking presentation. I mean, look at that box art! The conceit for this game is that you play as one of several 80s horror movie inspired killers, stalking the citizens of Tall Oaks and brawling with your fellow murderers in a gleeful tongue in cheek spree of a game with the goal to collect 10 kill trophies and thus become the Master of Massacre. 

Nostalgia for 80s horror (and the 80s in general really) drips from every component, from the "knife" health counters to the fact that the back of the various cards are styled like VHS and music tapes, this thing gets 5 stars out of 5 for presentation. I was super hyped to play this game and gleefully cackled as we set up the board. My particular avatar for this bloody fun? The Legend, a weird mashup of Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees. Truly this was to be something special.

The glory of Tall Oaks, I guess.
Then we actually started to, ya know, play the game. OH HOW MISLEAD WE WERE. So, the idea is that you start on a square with a knife on it, and move to a location to have an encounter with a victim, then roll to murder them. So the first few turns progressed like this. Roll to move, maybe hit a Bonus Square. If you do, draw a card. Take two unavoidable damage for...reasons. Next turn, roll to move, almost make it to murder someone. Next turn, finally get to a location, draw for victim...bam, hit by a car, take two unavoidable damage. It was literally 4 turns before ANYONE got to roll to murder someone and then...they failed and got sent back to start. Wash, rinse, repeat. After a few more rounds a couple people had one or two kills, but most of us were down to half health due to various unavoidable damage from card draws or bad rolls, and most of us were on or near our starting squares. 

Finally someone got on a lucky roll and started a Killing Spree. So, when you finally murder someone, you can go on a Kill Spree. Your movement roll is doubled, and as long as you keep killing, you keep taking turns. Up to this point most sprees had lasted all of a single roll, because the distance to one location was fairly far away. This time our intrepid hero killed someone in the middle of the board, which has several locations within 3 squares of each other AND this person managed to avoid all the shitty draws, probably because we drew them all already. So they end up winning the game. What was nice though was that while they were on the streak, it actually felt like a killing spree rather than slowly podding around, getting hit by cars or shot in the face by police before your inevitable return to the starting square. This was the only time the game actually felt something that resembled "fun". 

My group decided that maybe we just had a run of bad luck, so we reset, reshuffled, and played again. Things went slightly better, but it was still just plodding around, trying to get lucky enough to go on a kill streak and just win it. There is not a lot of complexity to the rules, nor much interesting to do. Each character has a special ability, but they felt super not impactful or interesting at all. Mostly, we just tried not to get hit by a car and be hopeful a bunch of nerds would show up in our draws so we could end the game faster. I ended up on a spree and winning that one, but instead of the satisfaction of slaughtering a bunch of sexed up teens, I had the relief that it was finally over and the disappointment that I even wasted time playing the game a second time. 

On the FACE Rating System, Mixtape Massacre gets 2 Frowny Faces. The theme is super entertaining, but is not reflected in the actual game play. The game mechanics themselves are simplistic at best, and downright boring at worst. What is really disappointing is that with a bit of playtesting and polish, there could be a decent game here. I went into this expecting the amazing fun of Friday the 13th, and would have even settled for the hilarious badness of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but what I got was the plodding boredom of The Ring 2. I really wanted to like this, but I just can't. What really boggles me is how well reviewed this is! I guess it could be fun if I were like, super drunk. Please don't buy this, but if you can play without paying and have a lot of booze, you might consider opening the box looking at all the awesome and hilarious artwork, and then going to play something actually fun.