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Jay Castello

Jay Castello is a freelance writer. If they're not down a research rabbit hole you'll probably find them taking bad photographs near a riverbank or old tree.


What Exactly is the Pokemon “Ironmon” Challenge?

For a long time, Pokemon challenge runs have tried to up the difficulty of the game. The classic example is the Nuzlocke, a ruleset that forces players to only catch the first Pokemon they encounter in an area and considers any fainted Pokemon dead and unusable. These challenges took off…

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pokemon ironmon challenge

FEATURES

The Last Days of This Dying Gacha Reveal a System of Exploitation

In June, close to its three year anniversary, the gacha mobile game BTS World announced that it was wrapping up, ending all future updates. As a “goodbye present,” a number of the systems became much more forgiving. And it revealed that, at the heart of the game, there wasn’t much…

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FEATURES

Sonic Fangames Are Much More Than a Comparison Point for Sonic Frontiers

When footage of Sonic Frontiers was shared this month, a common response was that it looked like a fan-made game. Some meant it as a positive, but for most it seemed to express disappointment or at least surprise. But among fangame developers themselves, the comparison is not welcome. “Such a…

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FEATURES

The World’s Oldest Game Jam is Still Going Strong After Starting with a Dare

In April 2002, about 20 friends challenged one another to make a game from start to finish within 24 hours. 20 years later, Ludum Dare is the longest-running game jam in the world, with thousands of participants. Ludum Dare was originally proposed and created by developer Geoff Howland, but for…

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FEATURES

Caitlyn/Vi Arcane Fanfics Show the Appeal of Well-written Sapphic Romances

You don’t have to spend long in online fandom spaces to notice that fanfiction is dominated by shipping, and shipping is dominated by male-male pairings. Every year, Archive of Our Own posts annual and cumulative stats demonstrating as much. In August 2021, 60 percent of the top 100 ship tags…

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FEATURES

A Fondness For Low Poly Graphics Formed A Beloved Community

When a bunch of extraordinarily blocky grapes from Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker went viral on Twitter at the end of last year, it wasn’t because people were being mean-spirited. In fact, when they were updated in Patch 6.01 to look slightly less like they could take an eye out, people…

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FEATURES

Pupperazzi Is A Joyful, Canine Paradise About Photographing Dogs

Pupperazzi isn’t about taking pictures — it’s about being a camera. The first time I saw my shadow on the ground, with its blocky rectangular body and goofily extendable limbs, I realized the game simply had no need for a human avatar. This world was built for dogs, and you…

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FEATURES

A Speedrunner’s Quest to Perfect Super Mario 64 Blindfolded

Speedrunner Bubzia has been on a quest to collect every star in Super Mario 64 blindfolded for years. For the final one, he needed to collect 100 coins in the Dire, Dire Docs level. In a regular speedrun, this takes around two minutes — too slow to be included in…

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FEATURES

Ace Attorney Bot Turns Twitter Drama Into Courtroom Battles

Imagine Elon Musk and Grimes getting dragged by the cast of Ace Attorney. Or a courtroom debate arguing what the appropriate payment would be for teaching a rat to swim. Well, turns out you don’t need to imagine at all, because these are available as videos, created by a Twitter…

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FEATURES

Weirdos Among Misfits, the Journalists of Ace Attorney Deserve a Spinoff

The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is finally out in the west, and I’m thrilled to announce it continues the Ace Attorney tradition of including an intensely weird journalist. Sure, all Ace Attorney characters are weird in their own ways. That’s why the games are so good! But the franchise is now up to five…

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nicole ace attorney

FEATURES

The Best New Pokemon Snap Pictures Are the Bad Ones

The best picture I’ve taken so far in New Pokemon Snap is almost entirely dust. It’s supposed to be a Skorupi. I mostly missed Pokemon’s fourth generation, so it’s not like I have any particular love for the bulbous little bug. But in the desert level these oddly-shaped insectoids get swept up in…

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New Pokemon Snap Pictures

FEATURES

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut Is as Good as Ever, but Not a Different Game

Everything Steven wrote in their original Disco Elysium review for Fanbyte holds true in its newly updated Final Cut. You’re still a drunk, amnesiac cop who wakes up in the run-down, capitalist world left behind after a failed communist revolution. That world is still abrasive on its surface but layered underneath with humor and beauty.…

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disco elysium final cut review

REVIEWS

PHOGS! Is Cooperative Mayhem Best Played With My Dad, Specifically

You can play PHOGS! alone, taking control of one of the two-headed dog-snake’s ends with each hand. Played this way, it’s a reasonable puzzle game, built around the gooey physics of a boneless Catdog-esque tube that can stretch, shrink, and grab things in its cartoonish teeth. When getting to grips with the game this…

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phogs review

REVIEWS

Bugsnax is an Endearing Adventure for Your Inner Kid

Bugsnax is quite simply the cutest game I have played this year. Or possibly ever. If you’ve seen one of the titular bugsnax — animate food with big googly eyes — you probably already have something of an idea. But Bugsnax is less about the snax themselves and more about…

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bugsnax illustration

REVIEWS

EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER: BOUND BY ASH Blasts Past Queerness 101

EXTREME MEATPUNKS FOREVER: BOUND BY ASH resists any kind of summary. I can tell you that it’s the second season of a visual novel/mech brawler hybrid that follows a misfit bunch of outcasts as they attempt to survive (and maybe even improve) the wilderness and society that are trying to kill them. I can tell…

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Extreme Meatpunks Forever Bound by Ash

REVIEWS

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! Gets Something Right About Food in Calamity

Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! is a game about the joy of food (and an audacious use of punctuation). In a fractured, violent America, the player chef takes their restaurant and its frenetic typing-based order fulfillment on the road. Customer requests pile in one on top of the other, everyone craving something…

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cook serve delicious 3 review

REVIEWS

Fall Guys Devs Never Thought of It as a Battle Royale – Until They Did

“We wanted to make a game that made you feel like you were a middle-aged Japanese businessman lined up on a start line with 59 other people,” says Fall Guys lead designer Joe Walsh. He’s talking about the game’s inspirations: obstacle course game shows like Takeshi’s Castle. “So many games operate on this…

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Fall Guys Developer

FEATURES

Early Assess: Grounded Is a Miniature Breath of Fresh Air With Room to Grow

@Merlin13Fallout: New Vegas by Obsidian Entertainment was one of my first open-world games. Seeing the silhouette of two men shaking hands on the horizon, then crossing (what felt like) a vast expanse of desert to stand under that now giant statue stuck with me — even as reaching distant mountains…

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The Best Townscaper Community Creations Bridge Outside the Game

Townscaper is a toybox about creating colorful and quirky towns. It doesn’t have guidelines or goals beyond that, allowing players to take it  whichever direction they choose. For many, that includes stepping outside the boundaries of the game itself, and bridging that gap has led to many of its best…

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FEATURES

Early Assess: Ooblets Breaks Through the Corny Barrier With Sincerity

Soon after starting Ooblets, I realized how committed it was to its hyper-cute aesthetic. It wasn’t specifically visually, though obviously its pastel colors, rounded edges, and even the vignette that softly blurs the edges of the screen are part of the same devotion. Instead, it was the game’s voice — particularly where it…

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REVIEWS