Welcome to Chip Chat, a column where I eat as many novelty chip* flavors as humanly possible, then justify it by reviewing the chips and pairing them with a game I think they’re particularly suited for, like a garbage sommelier who specializes in junk food instead of wine. This is, I insist, not a thinly veiled excuse to buy novelty chip flavors—but if it was, that sure would be convenient, now wouldn’t it.

*That’s crisps, for the British readers among us.

The Chip

My affinity for spicy food is somewhat recently acquired. In my youth, I was a dreadfully picky child who balked at the mere smell of Frank’s Red Hot (I know, I know), but by the grace of Wilbur Scoville and my own stubbornness I have expanded my palate in adulthood. And so one of life’s great joys has become available to me: eating spicy chips.

Today’s offering is Devil Chili Potato Chips, which are manufactured by Tasto, a Thai brand. Between the enormous chili pepper, raging flames, and shiny red of the bag, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated about what these chips were going to do to my taste buds, especially since, in addition to chips, the bag holds hunks of dried chilies.

Structurally, the chips are similar to Ruffles—a slightly thicker cut with a ridged surface and a light fry that prevents them from tasting overly oily. The seasoning on the Devil Chili flavor is fine enough to coat each ridge, but flakes of chili visibly sit on the surface of each chip. As the name and heavy chili seasoning suggest, they are quite spicy, but my fear was misplaced. These chips aren’t like any I’ve ever had. They’re delicious. I was cautious at first bite, but soon I couldn’t resist going back for more.

Earlier joke aside, I really don’t care where my hot sauces rank on the Scoville scale, nor do I care to singe my esophagus so I can say I’ve tasted a Carolina Reaper. What I most like about the Devil Chili chips is that they don’t sacrifice flavor for heat; rather, the heat complements the other flavors of the chip and vice versa. The spiciness hits your palate first, but it’s tempered by a subtle sweetness that means the heat doesn’t overstay its welcome. (Though I would still recommend washing your hands before giving in to the urge to touch your face after handling.)

The sweetness was a pleasant surprise that made eating these chips all the more enjoyable. I’m a huge fan of salt and vinegar chips and the type of acidic spice you’ll find in Fuego Takis, but with that level of acidity you always run the risk of a raw mouth if you eat too many. Though my sinuses felt remarkably clear, this wasn’t an issue with the Devil Chili chips. Overall I would describe the flavor as balanced, which makes sense given the emphasis Thai cooking places on balancing salty, spicy, sweet, and sour flavors.

Official art of Zagreus with a bag of Tasto Devil Chips photoshopped into the fist that's also holding his sword. Hades, Supergiant Games, 2020

Spicy

Pair With

I die enough playing my usual open-world hack-and-slash video games that I never thought I’d be the type of person to enjoy playing a roguelike. The idea of starting over and over again still doesn’t entirely appeal to me, but I’m a sucker for a good story (and a charming protagonist like Zagreus), and like so many others, was unable to resist the pull of Hades when it was released in 2020.

Look, there’s an obvious connection between the hot-spicy-devil branding and a game set in the deep, fiery pits of the underworld. Zagreus wears a crown of flame-colored laurels, and his feet, per the Hades wiki, “are perpetually on fire.” These chips would not feel out of place in lava-flooded Asphodel.

But I think the connection is also slightly more nuanced. Despite my initial trepidation, I found Hades a remarkably approachable roguelike that felt more worthwhile the longer I played. Admittedly, it took me a while to get a handle on the controls and stop panic-dashing into lava, but the inclusion of the damage resistance God Mode feature kept me from getting too frustrated when felled by pesky Exalted enemies or Hades himself.

In addition to fighting my way out of the underworld, Hades offered plenty of tasks to keep me busy and coming back for another run, like relationships to level up, improvements to make in the House of Hades, weapons to unlock, and prophecies to fulfill. Beyond that, the story is well-written, featuring compelling conversations, narrative arcs, and romances between Zagreus and the other characters. Players have to work for the story, but I don’t find it tedious work, as Hades is a game that richly rewards patience and repeated exploration.

What I enjoy about Hades is the same thing I enjoy about the Devil Chili chips: balance. I just want to keep coming back for more.

 

Read the rest of the Chip Chat series.