Arcade Block December 2015 Review

December 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The product of the month is a Titans figure set from The Last of Us. I haven’t played it so this does nothing for me, but they look good and will make a nice gift. The Pirate Cats in Space mini-notebook is an amusing novelty.

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Now we get into the stuff that wowed me personally. I’m a huge retro fan and the Space Invaders Tin Bank in the shape of an old style arcade cabinet is exactly the type of thing I love to see in these boxes. The Street Fighter V patch is another nice inclusion.

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The real centerpiece this month though is Classic Console Casino Cards. This is a great deck with the Mario themed Arcade Block logo on the backs, four classic properties chosen for the suits with great art on the ace and face cards, and a fifth classic favorite used for the jokers.

The T-Shirt this month is a nice design for Just Cause 3.

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Conclusion

Arcade Block continues to knock it out of the park month after month both in terms of quality and variety. This easily remains my favorite mystery box.

Japan Crate December 2015 Review

December brings another unique box of snacks from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional content. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but 1 of 11 possible Legend of Zelda Mini-Figures. While I don’t recognize the character I got, the figure is quite detailed for the small size and looks good.

Now let’s look at the edibles.

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The Excellent

As I’ve mentioned before (repeatedly), I adore cola flavored candies. So the Hia Shuwa Cola hard candies, one of the Premium exclusives, were easily my favorite item this month. The three “levels” (types) were all good, although I’m not sure why one was called “gummy.” I understand the fizzy and soothing ones. 😉

Naga-I Sawagumi Orange is described as a “sour gummy tape,” although I got more of a sweeter version of the candy I know as orange slices than something sour. Regardless, I loved it.

Both named flavors in the Black Bean & Soy Sauce Scones were extremely subtle, but that was perfect here and the underlying corn taste tied it all together. This is my favorite savory cheetos variation so far.

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Celio Lifeguard Drink. Subtitled as “Super Life” in the booklet, this was almost a combination soda / energy drink. Honey and royal jelly give it a much more pleasant flavor than normal for energy drinks.

Demitasse Pocky is apparently a new limited edition flavor made from seasonal ingredients. The coating was thick dark chocolate, and as such these were fantastic.

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The Decent

I liked this month’s Umaino Sticks better than the previous flavor (beef tongue). They were less salty and the fact that we got three different flavors to try instead of just one was great. The veggie salad tasted more like the corn snacks I’ve gotten (and enjoyed) in the past than a combination of veggies, the Tonkatsu didn’t quite taste like Tonkatsu to me but was fine, and the cheese was similar to cheese puffs. All three were good, but I liked the cheese the best.

The delayed item from last month was Fujiya Lollipop Bag, a bag of classic style lollipops in four flavors: orange, grape, apple, and strawberry. Exactly what you would expect here.

 

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There were a LOT of drinks / drink mixes this time. Awa Moco Moco powder formed a fizzy, creamy fruit drink. I got strawberry, which would have been my preference among the 3 possible flavors (banana and melon were the others).

The DIY kit this month was Cute Tororin Parfait DIY Kit, which is intended to make a strawberry parfait with pink candy topping and icing. I doubt I’m the target demo here, but I like this all the same. It mixed quickly, and well and made a good tasting parfait with a creamy texture.

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Bad Kid Beer was supposed to be in fact a “magic powder that creates a creamy grape soda when mixed with water.” The grape flavor was very light but this was a fine soda-ish drink mix.

There was another “drink in a flexible plastic bottle packaged like candy” this month, and they still amuse me in presentation. I took the advice of the booklet and tried freezing my Pachishuwa Dynamite Melon Soda. There was no indication of how I was then to get it out of the package, but the soft plastic sliced easily enough and I poured the slush into a bowl. This Premium exclusive had a strong melon flavor and I liked it better than the previous beverage of this type. The freezing idea was a nice touch.

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The Meh

Nothing this time. YAY!

Conclusion

Great batch this month, with a lot of variety and several unique inclusions. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5.

Arcade Block November 2015 Review

November’s 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The advertised property for this month was Uncharted, and the product of the month is a titans figure of Drake himself. Pretty “big name” an inclusion, and it doesn’t slow down from there. Since we’re close to the end of the year we get another 2016 mini-calendar, this time featuring Halo 5.

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One of the strangest items I’ve seen in one of these yet is The Master Cork: A Drink to the Past exclusive. It’s a novelty cork in the style of a sword from Legend of Zelda. Completely absurd, and I love it. Another exclusive is one of four possible Mansion Keys. Is a decent little trinket that really appeals to me as a collector of keychains and the like. I got the one with a knight’s helmet.

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I’m not opening my mystery pack containing an Angry Birds K.Nex mini-figure, as I have a nephew who collects them and will flip over getting a sealed pack to open. The T-Shirt this month is a wonderful “Christmas sweater” style design featuring Yarn Yoshi.

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Conclusion

Another month, another wonderful and varied batch of goodies from Arcade Block. This easily remains my favorite mystery box.

Nerd Block November 2015 Review

This month’s Nerd Block theme is “tis’ the Season” and most of the items are Christmas or New Year’s related.

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The Product of the Month was the one stretch on the theme,  as the card puts the ridiculous spin on the Sherlock Vinyl Figure that it’s “on the case for all your Holiday-related mysteries.” It’s a great item from a great property though so no complaints here.

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Moose Acrylic Shot Glass is a wonderfully absurd, relevant inclusion from a property I certainly wasn’t expecting to see represented. Firefly was one of the series teased ahead of time, and the exclusive chrome variant Serenity Ornament is my favorite item this month.

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The teased Stars Wars inclusion turned out to be a Force Awakens Mini-Calendar, a practical and awesome little item from the impending blockbuster. I’ll admit I don’t know the reference or significance of the included print (and it’s not listed on the card), but it’s striking if a bit creepy.

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Finally we have the monthly t-shirt, a mash-up called Back to the Nightmare that amusingly combines the two expected movies.

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Conclusion

Nerd Block turns in a great batch in the last month of my subscription, with a nice variety of stuff I like quite a bit. It’s not enough overall to make me want to renew, as the Arcade Block offering is much more consistently to my tastes, but Nerd Block Classic is still a solid offering that I’m sure a lot of people will find satisfies their mystery box craving.

Japan Crate November 2015 Review

November’s here and so is my box of varied and unique snacks from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional context, pictures and promotion. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but a Naruto Blind Box Mini-Figure. Good inclusion to capitalize on the popular anime. One of the items listed in the book (Fujiya Lollipop Bag) wasn’t available in time, so an email was sent out explaining that it would be in next time and that two snacks had been added in its place. Nice touch.

So let’s look at the edibles.

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The Excellent

Both replacements were from Glico, and the Cookies & Cream pejoy ended up being my favorite snack of the month. Kind of a “reverse pocky,” these vanilla cream filled chocolate cookie sticks were delicious. The chocolate items were a big hit with me in general, as the Bar-None-like Black Thunder candy bars were fantastic.  The other replacement was also great: Hot Chili Salad Flavored Pretz, nicely seasoned pretzel sticks with a decent dose of spice.

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The Decent

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Chunosuke Water. I got the Apple flavor, and it’s a nice lightly flavored drink. Superstring Q is also a Premium exclusive, and is a 50 inch gummy string with two different types of grape flavored sections. It was decent, although I while I could tell the difference in taste between the two types it was more “sweet and different sweet” than “sweet and sour.”

Meiji Dice Caramel and Glico Man Caramel & Toy are both amusingly packaged caramel candies. They were fun inclusions and the caramel was decent, but in both cases it was a bit too sweet for me.

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The DIY kit this month was Funassyi Furi-Furi Shake DIY Kit, which is intended to create a sweet pear flavored milkshake by adding milk and an ice cube to the provided powder. I got almost more of a banana flavor from it personally, but it mixed to a nice consistency and was decent for what it was. “Add milk and ice and shake” is also far and away the least work required for one of these so far.

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Another Premium exclusive, Parchishuwa Grape Soda Mix, is one of the most unique candies I’ve tried yet. It’s like a bit a pop rocks mixed in with a powder that fizzes a bit and some chewy pieces for texture. The book describes it as “exactly what grape soda would be like if you could eat it instead of drink it,” and they’re right.

Uranai-KKO Bubble Gum is a nice recreation of fortune sticks. The gum itself is decent and seemed to have a slight cola flavor. The book and blog provide a little to help try to translate the fortunes, but it’s not nearly enough and I found the most I could determine on the sticks I got was good or bad luck.  Spy vs Spy Sour Gum contained two identical looking soft sticks of lemon gum, with one much more sour than the other. This was one of the Premium Crate exclusives and I enjoyed both versions.

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The Meh

Fluffy Long Neck Marshmallow is a twisted rainbow marshmallow stick. It’s fine for what it is, but a marshmallow doesn’t impress me. I wanted to like the Purple Sweet Potato Sticks, which taste as advertised, but I really didn’t for some reason. So it goes.

Conclusion

This was the weakest Japan Crate so far for my personal tastes, but I still appreciate the chance to try all of these unique snacks. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5. Despite less to love than usual there wasn’t a lot I severely disliked either, there were still high points,  and I continue to be impressed with the variety of selections, not only within each box but across the shipments I’ve received.

Arcade Block October 2015 Review

October 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The advertised exclusive for this month was a physical version of Retro City Rampage, complete with SNES style box. A code for the downloadable version is also included. Fun old-school style game and a great inclusion. Another nod to the retro crowd is a fantastic baseball cap with the Atari logo and a breakout background.

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The toys this month are a fun pair. Never played Fallout but it’s instantly identifiable an I like the mini-figure I pulled from the blind box. We also get a Titanfall K’Nex set, which is aweseme.

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The T-Shirt this month is a striking Call of Duty Black Ops III design from ShirtPunch.

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Conclusion

More great variety and value from Arcade Block. This is easily my favorite mystery box subscription of all I’ve seen/tried.

Nerd Block October 2015 Review

This month’s Nerd Block items were identified as “Tricks” and “Treats,” with three of each.

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The “Treats” consisted of a Bob’s Burgers Mad Libs, an exclusive Moe the Bartender coaster, and a Jem and the Holograms comic (Annual #1) with an exclusive Nerd Block cover. I live in a bubble so have never heard of Bob’s Burgers, but Mad Libs are always amusing. The Jem comic features a series of short stories with the cast interjected into various other famous properties, and was cute for what it was. The Moe coaster seems sturdy enough to actually use for its intended purpose (ie its not cardboard or paper) and I sure I know a Simpsons fan or a hundred who’ll love it.

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The “Tricks” featured monsters of all kinds. The exclusive Ripley and Big Chap Xenomorph Vinyl 2-pack seems of good quality and looks good (through the box, which I won’t be opening). Zombie Hunter Dog Tags are another decent inclusion and the type of collectible I expect from these kinds of boxes.  IMG_4164

Finally we have the monthly t-shirt, a Peltzer’s Pets design featuring Gizmo that changes to a Gremlin via glow in the dark. Cool idea.

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Conclusion

I have to admit Nerd Block’s been an odd experience for me. The variety of both properties and products is great, and the items all seem of good quality. But they just aren’t appealing to my particular tastes, and I will likely be giving everything here away. NB’s Arcade Block offering is FAR more suited to me. I’m not disappointed with having tried Nerd Block classic, but personally I can’t see anyway I’d renew my subscription after my next and last block.

Japan Crate October 2015 Review

October’s here and my usual box of varied and unique snacks from Japan has arrived.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional context, pictures and promotion. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but a Food Dog Gashapon. Yes, little keychain figures of puppies inside food items. So odd, but it’s a suitable inclusion that will amuse some.

Now let’s look at the 11 edibles.

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The Excellent

As I’ve mentioned before I adore soda flavored candy, and this month provided me with a lot of it to enjoy. Mysterious Soda Balls (gotta love that translation), one of the Premium exclusives, are like soft Skittles flavored like various Japanese sodas. Poifull Soda Beans are excellent soda flavored jelly beans.

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Another great Premium exclusive is Sour Fruit Gummies. There was just a hint of sour to these, and the flavor and texture was fantastic. Vitamin C Lemon Drops are exactly what they sound like – a lemon flavored hard candy loaded with Vit C. Interesting and cool  inclusion.

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Moving on to the savory side of things, Tohato Caramel Corn is what would happen if Cracker Jack replaced the popcorn with carmel flavored cheese puffs. Quite tasty. Chocolate Mini Pancakes is another snack exactly as advertised. Tastes just like two tiny pancakes with chocolate filling between them.

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The Decent

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Bireley’s Orange. The book explains it’s a drink that originated in California but was discontinued and is now only made in Japan. The origin makes sense, as this kind of tastes like a soda version of Sunny Delight. Rich Cheese Scones are exactly as described – essentially Cheetos with a more creamy and buttery cheese taste.

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I got Strawberry Soft Candy (Rum Raisin was the other possibility), a pleasant chewy candy in the described flavor. Grape Gummy Ribbon has a nice, slightly tart grape flavor and a very unique soft, almost dough-ish texture.

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The DIY kit this month was Chitto Soda DIY, which is intended to create mochi with a ramune flavored glaze. This was an intriguing one and I had fun attempting it. The texture was a bit odd, but that was likely due to me having some trouble mixing all the powders properly (my candy certainly didn’t turn out particularly pretty). It was a little bit bland, as the glaze needed a stronger flavor, but a neat experiment with a fine end product overall.

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The Meh

I give  Gyutan Umaino Stick points for trying, and letting us sample the cow tongue flavor is exactly the type of absurdity I want from Japan Crate. But while the airy corn stick did actually manage to capture the flavor of cow tongue, I found it an odd combo and these were also way too salty for me.

Conclusion

Still really enjoying my Japan Crate shipments. Even the snack I didn’t like was interesting to try, and there were a lot of great things in this month’s box. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5. I continue to be impressed with the variety of selections, not only within each box but across the shipments I’ve received. Highly recommended.

Arcade Block September 2015 Review

September 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The advertised theme for this month was The Legend of Zelda, and it’s the one of the most thoroughly integrated theme I’ve seen yet for a mystery box. 4 of the 6 included items were Zelda related. The “Product of the Month” this time around is the monthly t-shirt, sporting a good looking Wind Waker design. Next is a Springz Chicken (nice pun) accessory, a silly little amusement that’s has an extra layer of meaning if you know the connection.

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One of my favorites this month is a canvas print called The Hero’s Triumph. It’s a great piece of art that’s distinctly Zelda, but subtly so and non-gamers will appreciate it even without knowing the context. The last Zelda item is a nice keychain of Link’s shield.

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The music item this month is a little different – a 7″ record(?!) featuring two tracks from Galak-Z. Not familiar with the game or its music, but this is a neat, unusual type of thing to include. Finally each box comes with a 5″ Boo or Goomba plush from the Super Mario games. Timeless characters make this a fantastic addition. I got Boo, which was my slight preference.

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Conclusion

I love the variety of items even when keeping to a theme, and despite not being a huge Zelda fan those items were all appreciated. Throw in a classic plush and a unique collectible and the result is pretty much the best box I’ve gotten yet. Arcade Block continues to be my favorite and most recommended of the mystery box craze.

Nerd Block September 2015 Review

The announced theme for September’s Nerd Block was sci-fi, featuring Star Wars, Star Trek, etc, so I decided this would be a good time to try it out. Let’s see what I ended up with:

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The promised Star Wars item from the upcoming movie was a BB-8 plush. Decent enough, and now I know the name of the droid I’ve seen plastered everywhere. For Star Trek a Springz U.S.S. Enterprise dashboard toy was included. Cute little novelty. There was a Funko mini mystery box for Supernatural. I have no familiarity, but the figure looks nice for what it is (the zombie eyes are a bit creepy here though).

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The remaining two items dive into the mash-up realm. Jurassic Galaxy was apparently an online joke that a poster artist turned into a work of art. A small sized print of the original limited run poster was included here. It’s a great little piece of imagination run wild and combines Star Wars, Terminator, Guardians of the Galaxy and of course Jurassic Park. This month’s t-shirt is a different kind of mash-up, combining different elements of Cylons and Battlestar Galactica over the years.

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Conclusion

Nerd Block certainly delivered what it promised this month, and everything in it was on theme and of decent quality. I have to admit though for my personal tastes their Arcade Block offering is vastly superior so far. I have two more Nerd Blocks coming with my subscription, so we’ll see if that remains true.