Trifecta: Great Games, Wall-E, and New Products

Sweet merciful applesauce, I've got this huge list of blog posts to make, and the top of my list is "Do The Latest Snacks", so it's time to start knockin' it down. Let's-a go!

But First, A Diversion

All good things
Lately I've been in the deep work zone at Panic preparing for the CandyBar 3 launch, but in my spare time, ever since Bioshock, I've been blown away by video gaming. First, there was Portal — which I'd rate "A+++ UNFORGETTABLE EVENING". Then, this weekend, a weekend I had specifically scheduled to be duty-free, I successfully and comically carried a gnome for mile after dangerous mile just to put him in a space rocket (yay, Half Life Episode Two achievements!), then played some of the most genuinely cinematic, better-than-Bruckheimer games of war I've ever experienced (hooray, Call of Duty 4!), but mostly, above all else, I pretty much played Super Mario Galaxy from dusk until dawn.

Oh, Super Mario Galaxy, let me woo thy bits: it's been a while since a game has given me such a pure, old-school sense of excitement and gamementum. You know that feeling, right? It's hard for me to type this right now, as I'd rather be excitedly checking out what the next level will bring. 40 stars in and I'm still freaking out, from the endless surprises to the ear-blowing music to the "I guess they unlocked the twelve secret extra Wii processors" visuals. This is certainly my game of the year, likely one of many. Whoah, hang on, did I just get a Wii Message Board note from Toad?

This is as good as it's ever been, people.

One more story: a few weeks back, Steve and I (along with friends Dave and Alex) had the incredible opportunity to see an early test screening of the next Pixar film, Wall-E. (How? Steve was Mr. Right Place Right Time on the invite. I don't know why Portland always gets the animation test screenings, but as a flarnormous animation nerd, I couldn't be happier about it.) Sure, I thought about blabbity-blogging the whole movie immediately after seeing it — I didn't sign any kind of NDA, I think? — but to be honest, once I got home I wasn't sure what I could say that would feel "right". I don't want to spoil the whole plot, or talk about the million little amazing moments, or even remotely critique an obviously unfinished work. (Visually, a good 65% of the film was pure storyboards.)

But I will touch on a few quick things. First, the movie was amazing, daring, funny, and thoughtful, also offering one of the most memorable first acts of any film I've ever seen. That's all I'll say about that.

Second, as it was largely unfinished, we only later realized that we were fully engrossed and laughing out loud at what amounted to a series of still napkin sketches for at least half the film — that, my friends, is the power of the Pixar story.

Third, I took part in a small focus group after the film, and it was really interesting to hear the group impressions of it — some of the most memorable moments that I loved to death, a couple viewers found "depressing" or "slow". Sigh. Are focus groups the most useless thing in the world, and do they only help nervous executives? Or can they provide useful, genuine feedback for a creative team? If so, how much second-guessing can a creative team handle before they break? It'll be interesting to see...

Fourth and finally, after stepping into the lobby after the focus, my nerd brain shattered into a million tiny pieces — it seemed like half of the Pixar crew was hanging around. In fact, to prove to you my ultimate Level 12 Geek Powers, the first person I recognized was Richard "Dick" Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios. I'm also pretty certain I spotted Ed Catmull, and a friend says Lasseter was there. (Where was Stanton, though?) It was very hard not to say hello and thanks to someone, but I didn't want to be that guy, you know? Everybody was headed into another theatre for what I assumed was a post-mortem — one that I would have given my left ventricle to listen in on.

More than anything else, though, I will be first in line to see the film when it opens. I'd be doing this anyway, but I'm also quite excited to see what changes they make between now and then — I feel incredibly lucky to get this rare insight into Pixar's creative process, and I won't squander the opportunity, my friends. No way.

Anyway, here's a big cyber high five to all the people in the world doing awesome things right now.

Now, The Snacks

Oh, right: snack products! I almost forgot. This will undoubtedly surprise you, but over the past few months, I've been gatherin' up the usual array of questionable new junk, snack, and novelty food products to share. So, let's dig in!

First, there are a few things I want to call out.

First, I managed to track down the elusive Batter Blaster™. You've heard of this, right? It's basically pancakes in a can, which means they should have named the product 2007 IS FINALLY HERE, BITCHES!™. Against all logic and reason, it's even organic:

One word of Batter Blastin' caution, though. When you have the ability to make one single pancake on a whim, and said pancake emits from a frosting-like joy-nozzle, you will try to make whimsical pancake shapes and they will totally fail when you try to flip them.

That's a C, and N, or is it a Z? And.. uh.. I think an asterisk? Yeah. That didn't work out.

That said, when you're not screwing around, the pancakes look, and taste, delicious. Really!

Next up on the product wagon is the latest Kettle Chips People's Choice tasting package for 2008. I've blogged about this before, but there's nothing quite so great as beta testing snacks — and this year, it's all about spice. Pick up a pack, taste 4 flavors that you'll never taste again in your lifetime, and let me know what your favorite was. Mine?

Good stuff. The spice can sneak up on you, though.

Next! I'll be petitioning Congress later this year on an important topic: Jones Soda must be stopped. Honest to God. Every year I theatrically sigh and shrug and purchase their inevitable seasonal novelty sodas, not because I want to, but, as others point out to me, I have to. I can't let the people down, right? This year, it's like Jones Soda knew this, and decided to make the worst flavors of all time, and theme them to football, just 'cuz.

Yeah, you're reading those flavors right.

Never again. Which is a lie. But after drinking liquid jockstrap then washing it down with a cold glass of grass, I can't help but feel that Jones CEO Peter van Stolk is hiding in the back of my refrigerator, stifling a laugh, and eating my good ice cream.

What surprise do I have for you next? Really, this is one's mind-blowing on many levels, but mostly just the name. (Full credit to my folks for discovering this one. Love you guys!) Who wants a couple fresh, juicy...

Mickey Burgers? I mean, REALLY?

And last but not least, if you read these snack posts, you probably imagine me eating this crazy crap all day long. You'd be mostly right. But to be honest, while I'll eat a bite or two, your pity (and concern?) should go to the nice guys in the Panic office, who do the bulk of the garbage collection with my endless parade of gastrointestinal failure. Sorry, guys.

So, what do I eat? Well, at home, anyway, the answer is: a whole lotta Gardenburgers. So here's a new product that I was legitimately excited for — Gardenburger Gourmet — and turned out to be equally legitimately delicious!

They technically call them "steaks", not "burgers".

There are four varieties, you can cook them up real quick-like on your skittle, and they're packed full of tasty. Recommended, and I even forgot to use my coupon! (Also: using coupons makes me feel like the world's oldest man. Also also: I did ask for a "soder-pop" at a restaurant the other day, which not only made me feel old but also like I should be panning for gold while jigging on the back of a donkey.)

And with that, dear reader, I leave you with a mind-numbing grab bag of products to digest. Thanks for reading.


Uh holy crap.
Anonymous Jay 11/20/2007 3:06 PM  
Focus groups are indeed useless—and have been proven to be so. Groupthink is a horrible thing, squeaky wheel gets the grease, all those platitudes apply.
Blogger Julian 11/20/2007 3:21 PM  
Oreo Cakesters sound delightful. Not so sure about toasted coconut marshmallows, though.
Blogger Austin Heller 11/20/2007 3:49 PM  
I too can't get enough of Super Mario Galaxy. I'm only about 20 stars in so it's great to hear the excitement keeps on going.
Anonymous Tom Watson 11/20/2007 4:30 PM  
Sadly I'm only about five minutes into Super Mario Galaxy and haven't managed to play Portals yet.

The Jalepeno Salsa Fresca flavor was my favorite flavor too. The Wicked Sauce my second favorite.
Anonymous Greg 11/20/2007 4:42 PM  
I gotta get me some of that pancake in the can stuff.

37 stars into SMG, and in my book, it's the best Nintendo game since the N64.

Too many good games. Now Mass Effect and Rock Band and all that. Crazy happy times.
Blogger Dmitri 11/20/2007 4:53 PM  
Say, does that Perspiration flavor Jones soda taste anything like Pocari Sweat?
Blogger Grenamier 11/20/2007 7:22 PM  
Reese's WHIPPS? Two P's must mean double the awesome.

Where'd you find that?
Blogger Emmet 11/20/2007 7:50 PM  
New mission: Must find a can a spray pancakes.
Anonymous Isaiah 11/21/2007 12:57 AM  
Super Mario Galaxy has blown me away too :). I can't get enough of it. I had exceptionally high expectations for the game, and it still surpassed every one.
Blogger CJ 11/21/2007 4:12 AM  
Focus groups aren't useless, but they are not good for artistic processes. When art tries to appeal to everyone, it becomes Garfield.
Anonymous Stuart 11/21/2007 5:39 AM  
"There are four varieties, you can cook them up real quick-like on your skittle, and they're packed full of tasty..."

Is a skittle a real thing or is that an inadvertent mashup of "skillet" and "griddle"?
Anonymous Bill 11/21/2007 8:49 AM  
Watching the trailer for WALL-E (especially the "theatrical" one) makes me hope they don't change a thing. Whoever wrote those scenes has exactly the sense of humor and storytelling style that I can totally dig.
Blogger Steven Fisher 11/21/2007 1:21 PM  
"A skittle is a multipurpose piece of equipment that can be used as a pressureless steamer, braising pan or griddle. The griddle mode is ideal for cooking steaks, sandwiches, eggs, pancakes, breakfast meats and potatoes. The steam mode may be used to cook vegetables, seafood, rice and pasta. The braising mode is used for slow moist-heat cooking of meats, poultry and vegetables."

Now we all know. :)
Anonymous macg 11/21/2007 7:25 PM  
A link, too -
Anonymous macg 11/21/2007 7:26 PM  
macg: Holy crap, you gotta be kidding me! :) I only wrote "skittle" as an inside joke because I'm constantly, constantly accidentally calling a "skillet" a "skittle" around the house. I can't seem to stop. Who knew it was a real thing! Great find!
Blogger Cabel 11/21/2007 8:10 PM  
How were the pickle-flavored Pringles? I imagine they taste like salt and vinegar chips.
Blogger Andy 11/22/2007 12:33 AM  
The Jones "CHristmas Cocoa" is pure amazement. I've never had a chocolate soda before that wound up being SATISFYING.
Blogger rstevens 11/22/2007 8:02 AM  
Cakesters are the scourge of the earth.
Blogger Jacob 11/22/2007 10:37 AM  
Great post! I can't stop laughing.
Anonymous Lucius 11/22/2007 5:54 PM  
this was a triumph
i'm making a note here:
huge success
it's hard to overstate my satisfaction...

dum di dum...

just way to many great games around the door. got the 60 stars in SMG - just 60 more to go to finish the game completetly - and i'm very tempted.

Portal was unbelievably cool.

Metroid Prime corruption is still on hold because I can't afford to play 20 hours or more in a row.

Bioshock is yet unopenend because i'm still afraid of total time loss.

Halo multiplayer is really fun.

Did I forget anyhting? I bet - but i don't even want to think about it ;)
Blogger dom 11/25/2007 2:58 PM  
Cheerios snack mix have actually been around a long time in Canada. They are well loved here, north of the border...which i suppose is the reason that they are now reaching the States.

Also: Pancakes in a Can? F$#@ YEAH!
Blogger Sir Quady 11/25/2007 4:46 PM  
I haven't seen the razzle m&m's anywhere. where would one go to get these treats?
Anonymous francis 11/30/2007 2:30 PM  
Please tell me you didn't ingest all of those delicious looking treats? Yikes!

Give me a time frame, I might have to take you in the office dead pool unless Panic has a wicked awesome health plan / corporate gym.

And man am I jealous about SMG. I can't find a copy of it up here in Winnipeg.
Blogger Julian Moffatt 12/06/2007 9:55 PM  
Thanks for reminding me to buy this year's Kettle pack. Have you tried Pomegranate 7-UP yet? It's nothing special.

My captcha is "mexmnjw", which seems vaguely racist.
Blogger dalas v. 1/02/2008 6:33 PM  
great stuff, the mickey burgers look fantastic
Anonymous sir jorge 1/06/2008 5:03 PM  
I'm sure those mickey burger patties are made with high quality ground beef too. Parents should have no problem feeding those to their kids.

The irony would be if the factory actually had mice and a few fell in the vat while it was being ground up.

Excuse me. I'm going to go throw up now.
Blogger Phil 1/07/2008 7:17 AM  
Apparently even Mickey doesn't endorse burgers shaped like himself, since he's clearly cooking two normal, round burgers right there on the package.
Blogger Deidzoeb 1/07/2008 2:51 PM  
After I read this post I had to try batter blaster. It took a while for it to get here in Santa Cruz, but I found some. my wife just posted a review on her blog. BTW, I think we might have the same plates as you! From C&B?
Anonymous Mike 1/12/2008 3:24 PM  
I'm kinda disappointed to hear that Pixar uses focus groups. But whatever their process is, you can't argue with their results. They've NEVER had a dud. I assume they will weight the focus group appropriately.

As for spray pancakes... that's just ... wrong somehow. But then I don't like spray cheese.
Anonymous Anonymous 2/09/2008 5:44 AM  
That image thumb/zoom effect you have on the blog is so perfect... want!
Blogger Wiley 2/21/2008 3:10 PM  
movie links:
Anonymous Anonymous 7/28/2008 7:41 PM  

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Name:Cabel Maxfield Sasser
Job:Co-Founder, Panic Inc.
Location:Portland, OR