Milking It: Dino S'mores Pebbles

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Dino S'mores Pebbles Post Rating: Two spoons out of four

Cereal description: No skimping on shapes for this variation on the Pebbles franchise. The main pieces, dubbed "Crunchy Chocolatey Nuggets," are misshapen brown orbs, not the usual disc-like mini-flakes that most other Pebbles cereals feature. Also included are light-brown "Bone Shapes" that actually resemble bones -- the cartoon type as opposed to, say, a patella or a scapula -- and "Fun Marshmallowy Boulders" instead of plain old marshmallows. Which is where much of the problem comes in.

Box description: Nice logo: The word "Dino" appears in an appropriately Dino-like shade of reddish-pink, while "S'mores" is split between letters that resemble graham crackers and chocolate bars, with a marshmallow-like "O" in the center, and "Pebbles" appears to have been mined from a vein of pure gold. The additional front-cover illustrations are a bit confusing, though. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm sit in the background about to chomp into an actual s'more, not the cereal, which suggests that they've rejected the cereal simulation for the real thing. Not Dino: He stares goggle-eyed at a marshmallow on a spike, his tongue hanging out, as if he can't decide whether to eat it or hump it. As for the side panels, one sports nutrition info, and the other directs diners to click to Postopia.com, a cyber-land teased with images of Fred Flintstone, a gremlin-like creature riding an all-terrain vehicle, an eyeball wearing a headband and, most inexplicable of all, a bizarre baseball with hands, feet, a cap and what appears to be Scarlett Johannson's lips and teeth. Paging Timothy Leary! Meanwhile, the back of the box spotlights several activities starring Fred, Barney, Wilma, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm and Dino -- among them a woodsy word scramble that asks eaters to unmix terms such as "camp," "tent" and "tree." Even six-year-olds are likely to roll their eyes at that one.

Taste: Original Pebbles are so chocolatey that they're sometimes even a bit much for a choco-fiend like me. (Just kidding!) So imagine my disappointment when I bit into the aforementioned nuggets and discovered that the strong taste I craved had been dialed down into the blandness zone. The same can be said for the bones, which add little or nothing to the bowl in terms of flavor or texture variety. But the marshmallowy boulders are the real crime. There aren't very many of them in the overall scheme of things, and instead of offering actual marshmallows, the manufacturers use oat-and-corn cereal sprayed with an extremely mild marshmallow tang. What the hell?

Conclusion: S'mores without real marshmallows is like a hamburger without a patty. Back to the drawing board, brain surgeons. -- Michael Roberts

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