No one knew quite what to expect during Nintendo’s latest Indie World Showcase, but it definitely wasn’t videogamedunkey. After years of reviewing games, the popular (and divisive) gaming critic YouTuber popped up out of nowhere to try and sell fans one, straight from a recently thawed forest river.
After announcing his indie publishing label Bigmode last year, Jason “videogamedunkey” Gastrow appeared in Nintendo’s Wednesday livestream to promote its first first game, the Metroidvania puzzler Animal Well. “Hello, I am funny video game man dunkey from Bigmode publishing and I am joined today by the creator of Animal Well, Billy Basso,” he said, introducing the duo in the middle of the showcase by tossing a frisbee.
While Basso described his five-year journey to make the atmospheric exploration game from scratch, dunkey tiptoed across rocks in the shallow part of a river in the background. “Just trying to give people the experience of finding something new in a place they’ve already been before,” Basso said. It worked. The YouTube chat lost it, and viewers on Twitter were super confused:
Dunkey’s best known for video reviews of the biggest new games that lean into comedic riffs and visual gags. His negative reviews roasting blockbuster releases tend to get the most attention. A 2022 review of the unwieldy open world game Sonic Frontiers went especially hard, culminating in a Metacritic review bombing campaign where fans and detractors alike waged a meme war against one another in dunkey’s name. But he’s also been equally gushing about games he loves, which tends to include a lot of Nintendo’s first-party lineup. His review of 2017's Super Mario Odyssey called it the “ultimate collectathon that is in equal parts comedic and wondrous.”
When he launched his publishing label with Leah Gastrow, his wife, last year, he said he wanted to use his years of experience tastemaking and explaining why some games were bad and others were good to help locate hidden gems and bring them to the rest of the world. Animal Well, which began its marketing campaign on the PlayStation Blog, will be the first but probably not the last game released by his studio. Nintendo Direct viewers should probably keep an eye out for him in the future.