Here’s a videogame thing: Let It Die

After months of putting it off, I finally beat Let It Die late Sunday afternoon while a friend of mine watched through the magic of Sony’s “Share Play.”  Monday morning, I uninstalled the game, likely never to play it again.

Total time spent in game: upwards of 560 hours.  That’s a bit of a lie; there’s at least twenty or so hours there that were just the PS4 idling, for Reasons.  But only a bit of one.  I most certainly actively played the game for upwards of five hundred hours.  The only thing I’ve ever played even close to that much is probably the MUD I ran back in the mid-to-late ’90s, sadly defunct now.

So, an important question comes to mind: was Let It Die any good?

I… think so.  I’m not certain.  It’s free-to-play, and while it has without a doubt the least scummy F2P mechanics of any game I’ve played–it actually hands out the premium currency often enough that you never need to spend a penny on the game–I’m also aware that the gacha/slot machine mechanics that underlie basically every F2P game have a nasty way of short-cutting people’s critical faculties.

I’ll talk about the bits I am confident of, though.  Let It Die is an action RPG roguelike… thing, with a distinct sensibility in style and sound design that pretty much had to come from Grasshopper Manufacture, the company that Suda51 (of No More Heroes and Killer7 fame) started.  It has, without a doubt, the best damn soundtrack of any videogame since Katamari Damacy. (The fact that you can’t buy the OST is frickin’ criminal.)  And the combat in the game is extremely satisfying, in a Dark Souls-esque way; you learn how to handle just about everything with careful consideration (and the occasional death).  Most of the enemies in the game amount to AI-controlled versions of your own characters, which at first seems a bit lame–where’s the variety?–but it ends up being a strength, not a weakness, as it gives you a sense of how each weapon works from both sides.

The ending, which I won’t spoil, was something of a disappointment, in that there was a fairly obvious “twist” I was expecting that didn’t actually happen.  And the ending is actually no ending at all, nowadays; the game is fairly crammed with “post-game” content (and only now do I realize just how ridiculous that particular term is… how can anything in a game be, you know, post-game?), but after sinking the amount of time I did into the title I had no interest in pursuing those particular slogs.

It has crafting mechanisms, which are the main place that the gacha/lottery elements come into play, but other than a couple of particular grinds–expect to see a lot of a particular 21-22-23F run–it doesn’t actually feel that onerous.  It has kinda-sorta-not really permadeath, but careful play (and judicious use of the freemium currency) can work around that too.  And the asynchronous multiplayer PVP is an interesting design effort that I wish more single-player games would take a very hard look at copying.

Yes, there are a couple of really nasty difficulty spikes in the game, but they’re nothing that can’t be overcome with good equipment and deilberate care.  Above all, I feel like its design is scrupulously fair, which is basically something that is never ever true for free-to-play games.

This is all very disjointed, so let’s circle back around to the question.  Is Let It Die any good?  Yes.  Yes it is.  But I uninstalled it.

That said, I uninstalled all the other free-to-play games the night before, right after I beat Let It Die, with no sense of loss.  And right now I’m glancing at my PS4 controller, wondering whether I should install LID again and make another run at the Tower of Barbs.

I shouldn’t.

But will I?

[Let It Die is also available on Steam nowadays, for those of you who don’t have a PS4 and want to check it out.  It’s free there too.  But don’t say I didn’t warn you as to how much time it may absorb.]

Here’s a book thing: “The Orphan Master’s Son” by Adam Johnson

I had never heard of Adam Johnson before.  The local library had a display of short story collections, as part of their year-long reading challenge that I somehow missed signing up for; I had already grabbed Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, but something about the cover of Fortune Smiles appealed to me.  It seemed pop-art-y, for some reason evoking my memory of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay even though they don’t look very similar at all.

I liked Fortune Smiles

From that, I learned that the book that put Adam Johnson on the map was all about North Korea.  I put it on hold and added it to the enormous pile of library books that are currently sitting on my couch; I’m tearing through them as quickly as possible in anticipation of NaNo, knocking out all the novels before I dive into the dauntingly-huge short story collections that remain.

Come Sunday evening, it was The Orphan Master’s Son

The book is dark, depressing, haunting.  It paints a vision of the DPRK that is unrelentingly awful.  My understanding is that it was painstakingly researched, that life there is really just as terrible as the book shows, and even if it’s only a tenth as bad as the book makes it out to be, the North Korean regime’s iron grip on its populace is one of the greatest tragedies of our time.  This is something I knew in the abstract, of course, but reading about it–even in fictional form–makes it much more visceral, much more real despite the irreality of a story.

And, more than anything else, this is a book about stories.  The DPRK is a place where everyone lies as a matter of course, from morning until night when the power goes out, because to tell the truth is to implicate yourself in doings which officially never happen, even though they absolutely do.  The ability to lie on demand, to concoct a tale that cloaks events in such a way as to satisfy your interrogators, is just as critical a survival tactic as knowing which flowers are edible, or how to set a snare to capture a swallow and eat it.  (Both of these acts are illegal, of course.  Everything is, other than worship of the Dear Leader.)

The Orphan Master’s Son questions the meaning of identity, both personal and national, when survival requires that identity to be made of lies.  It does not look away from horror, from the everyday evils of a brutal despotic regime that starves an entire nation to death while convincing them that their demise is righteous and just.  It had passages that actually forced me to look away from the book for a bit, utterly defeated by the hopelessness and depravity.  And it also finds hope buried deep within that unblinking despair.

Like the stories that the characters have to tell in order to survive another day, the story of The Orphan Master’s Son has holes, problems, issues.  And like those stories, it is not about being true, it is about being convincing.

I am not sure I have ever been so convinced.

Here’s a videogame thing: Planetside 2

I’ve had more “oh, damn, it’s 6am and I haven’t gone to bed yet” nights in the last week than I’ve had in total since I retired, and it’s all because of Planetside 2.

For those of you unfamiliar with the game, Planetside 2 is a massively multiplayer online first-person strategic shooter.  That’s a whole lot of adjectives; put simply, you run around going “pew pew” with laser guns, there’s a lot of people playing at the same time, and there are goals and objectives beyond “pew pew a bunch of them before you get pew pewed back.”

In many ways, the game is a more complicated version of a game mode I was obsessed with many years ago, Unreal Tournament 2004‘s Onslaught mode.  At the depths of my addiction to that particular mode, I would come home from working at LSU at 1700 or so and not stop until 0200 or 0300, night after night, for weeks on end.  I stopped because it was utterly wrecking my wrists; as a keyboard-and-mouse game, I was doing a lot of repetitive strain on my right wrist in particular as I played.

Planetside 2 is basically Onslaught scaled up 64x or so.  There are three teams/factions; the goal is to be the team with the most territory.  You can’t just drop deep into your opponent’s land and capture there, because the only vulnerable territory is that connected to your own by the “Lattice,” which is generally (but not always) the stuff that’s right next to it on the map.  What this means in practice is that the “front” of the fight is constantly shifting but almost never crazily distant, as your faction either successfully claims a bit of territory and pushes further in, or loses territory and is pushed back.

Now, I’m playing on the PS4, which makes it a bit of a double whammy of a mess: I’m already not exactly good at first-person shooters, having lost my high level of coordination as I’ve gotten older, and using a controller rather than keyboard and mouse just makes it worse.  But that’s actually mostly okay, because the game has a bunch of “support” work that you can do.  I spend most of my time as an engineer, repairing vehicles and other things around the bases, and the game rewards me for doing so.

That said, the game has some major issues.  It’s free-to-play, and while its monetization strategy is only mostly scummy, the real problem is that it’s a free-to-play game… on a console… in the dead of summer… where you shoot people.  If you don’t already know what that means, let me tell you: it is absolutely overrun with twelve year old boys who think cursing is the Coolest Thing Ever and constantly kill their own teammates because it’s funny.  There are moments of utter brilliance, when you get in with an organized group and manage to fend off a nasty assault or execute one of your own… and there are moments of utter frustration when the person whose vehicle you were keeping alive turns the turret and shoots you for no good reason.

And while the monetization is only mostly scummy, it is scummy.  The rate at which you get experience (“certifications”) in the game is low, so it strongly encourages you to drop real money on the game to unlock stuff.

But there are some clever things too.  For one, most of the weapons are “sidegrades;” better at some things but worse at others.  You actually really don’t ever need to buy a new weapon for most of the classes, and if you do it can come much later.  That’s surprisingly respectful for a F2P game, where often the person with the most money gets super-awesome ultra better versions of the standard weapons.

Now, I know that I’m not supposed to play massively multiplayer online games, because I know what a time-sink they can be.  But I suspect that I’m going to run Planetside 2 dry in a week or two; it’s fun, but ultimately pretty same-y, and unless I can convince some friends to play with me–it’d sure be nice to team up with actual adults rather than prepubescents–it’s going to end up too lonely to sustain.  But for the time being I’m having fun, and given that I haven’t paid a penny for the game (and don’t plan to), why not?

(If you’re interested in teaming up, drop me a note.  I know no one will, but I feel like I’ve gotta try.)

In conclusion: Planetside 2 is pretty neat.  It’s given me sleepless nights.  Would play again.

Here’s a book thing: The Bill Hodges trilogy by Stephen King

As mentioned in my first Stephen King review, it became clear to me while reading The Outsider that one of the characters was from a previous work.  That work turned out to be an entire trilogy of gritty crime novels.  I snagged them from the library last week, and have spent much of the intervening time reading them.

Conclusion: they’re good.  Also, large print books are awesome for my aging, failing eyes, and I’ll be on the lookout for large print editions when possible in the future.

The first two novels in the series, Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, are straight-up mystery/crime books with no supernatural elements.  Mr. Mercedes is the better book, I think, but that’s at least partly because Finders Keepers involves a J.D. Salinger-type writer and I am really tired of Stephen King having stories revolve around writers.  You’re a writer, bub.  I get it.  We all get it.  We got it in The Dark Half, and Bag of Bones, and Duma Key, and… yeah.  We get it.  I actually stopped reading King for a while because he seemed to be in a rut where every main character was a middle-aged writer.  I mean, sure, write what you know, but… c’mon.

Fortunately, the writer is offed in the opening.  This is a crime novel, after all.

By the end of the second book, there are a whole lot of pointers to the fact that the third one (End of Watch) is going to be more supernatural in nature, even if you weren’t already aware of that due to mentions in The Outsider.  And that turns out to, indeed, be the case; what was impressive was that the book still managed to be a solid mystery/crime novel despite the supernatural elements.

That said, I feel that the series had a pretty linear decline in quality.  They were all good, but Mr. Mercedes was the best, with the most captivating villain and the best “oh, if only!” moments.  That’s actually kinda nice, to be honest; if you only have time for one of them, you can read the first and be pretty content.

Are they better than The Outsider, you ask?  I think I enjoyed that book more, because the back half of it was a more traditional King novel, with the dreamlike logic those books contain.  But that book is also a very, well, King-ian work, with weird horrible magical things happening and massive confusion reigning.  I like that sort of thing, but totally understand why some people don’t.

On the other hand, Mr. Mercedes presents a perfectly human villain that does things almost as awful.  Isn’t that worse, really?

Here’s a book thing: “The Outsider” by Stephen King

[Extremely minimal spoilers ahead.  Basically, if you’ve ever read… well, anything by Stephen King, it’s spoiler-free.]

I wended my way through Stephen King’s latest novel last night, finishing it up around one in the morning.  Now, I wake up to an alarm at 0500 every Monday morning for stupid reasons involving a video game, so I should have been in bed around 9pm or so… but I just couldn’t pull myself away from the book.

It’s good.  Real good.

I used to be an enormous Stephen King fan.  My mom let me join the Stephen King Book Club when I was eleven or so; the first book I got was Needful Things, which had just come out.  (To those of you concerned about a kid reading Stephen King, let’s just say that I could handle it, and my mother was well aware of that.)  It was painfully clear to me that there was a lot more to this Castle Rock business, even before I could look up the details easily on Wikipedia, and over the next few years more and more of his earlier books would trickle into my possession from the Book Club.  I can’t remember exactly when we stopped the subscription; I think it was sometime after Dolores Claiborne and before Insomnia, but I’m not entirely sure.

Anyhow, while I was a huge King fan for years, his grasp on my imagination slackened considerably once he entered that period where it felt like every book he wrote involved a New England author having a mid-life crisis, oh and also some spooky stuff happened or whatever.  I felt like he was treading the same water over and over.  His ending to the Dark Tower series also left… a lot to be desired.  I figured I’d still read him every now and then, but my days of following every new Stephen King novel were over.

This proved to be true; I picked up the interquel Dark Tower book and Duma Key from the library at different times over the last few years, and they were pretty much precisely what I expected: a disappointment and a book about an author having a mid-life crisis, oh and also some spooky stuff happened, in that order.

I read a snippet of a review of the brand-new King novel, The Outsider, and it mentioned that the book was a “return to form.”  I figured, what the hell? and put it on hold at the local library.  Apparently I was one of the very first to do that, because I got it in my hot little hands immediately after it entered circulation.

Conclusion: It’s good.  Real good.  It is, indeed, something of a return to form.  The novel starts off like a police procedural, but things get weirder and weirder as it goes, and by the end it is definitely a Stephen King novel.  As someone who is strongly spoiler-averse I won’t go further than to say that I felt it fit together better than a lot of his later work.

A note that I would have appreciated before reading it: one of the main characters of the novel is apparently from King’s earlier crime trilogy that starts with Mr. Mercedes, a fact I didn’t know but started to suspect as I read.  The Outsider spoils the events of those novels pretty heavily, so be forewarned that if you don’t want those spoilers, you should read those books first.

That said, the book stands alone just fine.  Duma Key was something of a mediocre read, and the less said about The Wind in the Keyhole the better, but if this is how he writes nowadays, I’m ready to become a fan again.

Here’s a food thing: Great Value drink enhancers, considered opinion edition

After spending several weeks using them heavily, I think it’s time that I write up my final thoughts on the Great Value drink enhancers previously discussed here.  Some moved up, some moved down, and I figured out a neat trick.

Neat trick first: for pretty much any of the “fruity” flavors, you can add a bit of the Black Cherry to it.  It acts as an en-tartening agent (that’s not a word, but whatever) without messing with the flavor profile too much.  It works particularly well with several of the flavors, which I’ll mention below.

Also, a note: the bottles say “24 servings”, but I get a whopping 10 out of them, so apparently my potency is 2.4x what Walmart suggests.  Given that I use the enhancers as a replacement for both soft drinks and candy, that’s not too surprising, but your personal tastes may vary based on just how much you squeeze into the glass.

D Tier

Lemonade: This ended up being the only flavor I actually dumped (well, squeezed) out into the sink after three or four glasses.  Country Time lemonade powder just isn’t my thing, and it’s no better in liquid form.  It didn’t even last long enough to make it to the Black Cherry mix-in, but I can’t imagine that would have improved it much.

C Tier

Cherry Limeade (has caffeine): How the mighty hath fallen.  This was the flavor that encouraged me to try this whole thing, and to be honest I was surprised by how good it was with my very first glass.  The problem: it’s not as good as the rest.  Perfectly drinkable, sure, but also noticeably artificial, too strong on the cherry and not strong enough on the lime.  I found myself very weak on it by the end.  Disappointing, but other surprise flavors have picked up the slack, so it all works out in the end.

Black Cherry (has caffeine): This is a flavor they didn’t have the first time I picked up the drink enhancers.  I bought it hoping for something better than Cherry Limeade.  It is, but Black Cherry is still not amazing.  That is, it’s not amazing by itself.  Added to several of the other flavors, it significantly enhances them, at least for a tartness junkie like me.

Orange Blast: New as well.  I avoided this one the first time because I’m generally not a fan of artificial orange, but it turns out that this is essentially liquid Tang, and I actually kinda like the flavor of Tang for some reason.  I don’t love it, but it’s perfectly fine.  It’s not special, though, hence the lowish ranking.  A pleasant surprise nevertheless.

B Tier

Pineapple Mango: Another new flavor.  I wavered on where to put this, either C Tier or here, because I have a problem with it: it tastes very mango-y, and I’m not a huge fan of mangoes.  I love pineapples, though, and I can’t deny that this particular flavor tastes exactly like fresh pineapple and mango juice.  It’s a bit freakish, to be honest.  Despite my lack of love of mango, though, I enjoyed every glass of this that I had, which bumped it up to B Tier.

Blue Raspberry: The third and final new flavor.  I actually bought this one last; I kept ignoring it, because I consider “blue raspberry” a stupid stunt flavor.  That turned out to be silly, because it’s actually quite good.  Not mind-blowing, but a perfectly pleasant raspberry flavor.  It’s definitely a bit better with Black Cherry added… and also turns a particular shade of purplish blue that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid.  I freely admit that might bias me.

Strawberry Watermelon: This one moved up the ranks.  It still tastes like a Jolly Rancher, but the flavor’s better than I realized that first glass.  Don’t bother putting the Black Cherry into it, though; that just makes it taste exactly like Fruit Punch.  I mean, I guess you could, rather than buying Fruit Punch separately, but… why?

A Tier

Strawberry Kiwi: Nothing changed about this flavor, really; it’s still exactly like Crystal Light’s version (or Jell-O, if you have fonder memories of wiggly food than ’90s diet beverages).  I just realized I actually really like the taste of strawberry kiwi.  A hit of Black Cherry in it improves it even further.

Berry Blast (has caffeine): Still a tasty blueberry/strawberry mix, still very good, still an unfortunate color.  (I love purple!  I just don’t like drinking it.)  Black Cherry boosts this as well, and I’m honestly not sure I’d drink it without a squeeze of Black Cherry now because of how much the tartness enhances it.

Fruit Punch: I realize it might be weird to give Lemonade such a low ranking and this flavor such a high one when they’re both replicating specific, very artificial flavors.  Whatever: I loved Fruit Punch Kool-Aid, and I love this.  Its only flaw is that it isn’t tart, but hey!  That’s what Black Cherry is for.  With a bit of that, I’d put Fruit Punch at low S Tier.  As is, it’s still delicious.

S Tier

Raspberry Lemonade: Still the (utterly shocking, to someone who’s not crazy about raspberry) champion.  It’s not just me, by the way; everyone I’ve had try it loves it.  I dunno what it is about this flavor, but it’s got all the magic necessary to go the distance: tart and fruity in a perfect balance.  It’s possibly the only one that is actually made worse with Black Cherry, as that increases its tartness to an almost unpleasant level.  No, Raspberry Lemonade is perfect where it is.

So, there you have it: an extensive review nobody wanted.  I’ll note that I’m still not brave enough to try the Grape, and I don’t like tea, so the various sweet tea variations are very much Not My Thing.  If you’ve tried any of those flavors, feel free to leave a comment as to what you thought.  I’d be curious to know!

You might ask: which ones do you plan on keeping around?  Well, I bought three more bottles of Raspberry Lemonade today, and I have an unopened Fruit Punch.  I think I’ll pick up a Berry Blast, Strawberry Kiwi, and maybe even Pineapple Mango the next time at Walmart… plus more Black Cherry for mixing.  In the end, I’ll probably cycle through all the lower-tier flavors that I enjoy… with a whole lot of Raspberry Lemonade betwixt it all.  So good.  So, so good.

Here’s a food thing: Great Value drink enhancers, hot take edition

[Welcome to Here’s a thing, my take on reviews.  Yes, the Solving post from last week should have been one of these.  Anyhow, inspired by Movies with Mikey, I’m not going to bother with negative reviews.  Instead, these posts will showcase things I like.  No promises as to frequency, mind you; I don’t want this to become a review blog.  But I do plan on reviewing things on the semi-regular.

Also, you should watch Movies with Mikey.  It’s one of my top five channels on YouTube.

Monday update: These rankings will have to be updated once I finish off the bottles; several have shifted after a day’s tasting.  The title of this post has been updated accordingly.]

I’m back on a ketogenic diet, and in fact currently fasting.  Part of the problem with keto, particularly for someone like me who lives alone and doesn’t get a ton of pleasure out of cooking for one, is maintaining variety in what I consume.  I’ve been drinking a lot of diet soda recently–way, way too much diet soda, to be honest–and last night I remembered Mio.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Mio is a “water enhancer.”  It’s a little squeeze bottle filled with a sugar-free hyper-concentrated liquid that you squirt into a glass of water or water bottle.  It’s Crystal Light in a much more convenient form, really, and its only real downside is that at the flavor concentration I prefer it ends up being almost exactly as expensive as actual 12-packs of Coke Zero Sugar.

But it’s better for you, for sure, and way better for your teeth, so I was all prepared to place an order for a ton of different flavors on Amazon this morning when a pair of lines in one of the reviews stopped me: “Get walmart brand for about 30% less. Tastes the same.

Now, I don’t know about you, but my general experience with Walmart’s Great Value brand is that it’s hot garbage.  Their sodas are terrible, their knockoff of La Croix is even more undrinkable than the original (an impressive feat), their cookies taste like cardboard, and so on.  I’d say that my success rate with the brand is in the low single digits.

On the other hand, it’s cheap, and I wanted to get out of the house today anyway.  So I cruised on over to the Super Walmart in Lenoir and picked up seven different flavors for a whopping total of $14.14 and brought them home.  Imagine my surprise when, pouring myself an ice-cold glass of water from my Brita pitcher in the fridge and squeezing the first flavor in–Cherry Limeade, the best-reviewed of the bunch–I discovered that, huh, this is actually really good!

I’ve actually made myself a glass of all seven flavors I bought today already.  What can I say?  I’m a thirsty boy, and an inquisitive one.  Below are my hot-take rankings of the seven flavors, from best to worst, broken up into tiers a la characters in fighting games… because why not.

C Tier

Lemonade: It tastes exactly like Country Time lemonade powder, which doesn’t taste anything like real lemonade.  I imagine if you have fond memories of said beverage this would end up higher on your list; I don’t, really.  It’s not disgusting, it’s just not what I want lemonade to taste like.

Strawberry Watermelon: This flavor is completely inoffensive, but it tastes like a watered-down watermelon Jolly Rancher, which is already one of the least strongly-flavored sugar delivery systems I know.  Wherever the strawberry tones were hiding, I couldn’t find them.  I still like it more than actual watermelon, though, so there’s that.

B Tier

Strawberry Kiwi (has caffeine): Tastes identical to Crystal Light’s flavor of the same name.  I used to love the crud out of said drink, so that speaks highly of the other flavors we’re about to discuss.  You definitely get both the strawberry and the kiwi.  Had this been the best flavor that Walmart brought to the table, I would have been mildly disappointed but also a bit surprised, given my general opinion of their house brand.  But it doesn’t even make the top half.

A Tier

Berry Blast (has caffeine): I took a sip of this and went, hmm, blueberries and strawberries.  Then I looked at the picture on the label: blueberries and strawberries.  Nailed it, me!  The only real problem with this one is that it’s purple; I can’t stand artificial grape flavor thanks to taking Dimetapp when I was a kid, a cold medicine that transcends grapeness to taste purple.  So I have an uncomfortable mental association with any beverage that looks like it might be even slightly Dimetapp-adjacent.  Fortunately Berry Blast transcends its color.  Totally yum.

Cherry Limeade (has caffeine): Turns out people were both right and wrong.  This flavor is quite delicious!  But it’s not the best.  The cherry overwhelms the lime a bit, and as a major lime partisan I really wish the citrus tones were stronger.  It also has a bit of a weird smell, although it tastes just fine.  A slight tweak to the formula and I think it’d be at the top of the list, but even so I’m more than happy to drink it.

Fruit Punch: I may not have fond memories of Country Time lemonade powder, but I do have fond memories of fruit punch Kool-Aid.  This tastes exactly like that; maybe a little weaker unless you really squeeze the bottle, but that’s actually a good thing.  Of course, if this particular totally artificial flavor isn’t your thing, this one’s going to drop down to C Tier.  I love it, though.

S Tier

Raspberry Lemonade: Here’s the thing.  I don’t even really like raspberries.  I almost didn’t buy this flavor because of how “meh” I am on them.  That would have been a damn travesty, though, because holy moly this is delicious.  Unlike the Cherry Limeade, the lemon and raspberry components are perfectly balanced, and every sip is crisp and refreshing.  I would have never ever guessed before all of my tasting that this flavor was going to be the winner… but it was so good that I had to tell my mother that she needed to go pick up some from her local Walmart pronto, since she loves raspberry.

Overall, I was really impressed.  Even my least-favorite flavor, Lemonade, is totally drinkable, and the top three or four are worth keeping on hand at all times.  I suspect I’ll be going through the Raspberry Lemonade like it’s going out of style.

For those of you who don’t drink a lot of water, or just want to try something a little different, hopefully this review will give you something out to try.  (They’re in the “drink mixes” section, along with Kool-Aid, Crystal Light, and friends.)  I’m curious as to your thoughts, in particular if you try these out yourself.  Which flavors do you love?  Hate?  There were others at the store, but most were flavors that didn’t interest me at all; I’m not a sweet tea drinker, for example, and I find artificial orange to often be very cloying.  Let me know if you give them a whirl!