Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

Gaming News Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

As the portable console market is gradually being sidelined by our video game giants, Sony has left the race and Nintendo has decided to go hybrid, the Playdate arrives with more than a crank turn in the bag. Indeed, this radiant little machine, designed to fit in all pockets except those with sea urchins, promises a regular supply of independent games to be discovered by flicking a fun handle. What should turn heads?

A very square portable console

We’ve already had the opportunity to put our big hands on most”India” Handheld consoles last July. Our hours spent on the final version of the playdate all confirm our good first impressions. The Playdate is a small machine perfectly designed to fit in any pocket thanks to its minimal dimensions and light weight. Its design is reminiscent of a Game Boy Pocket that would have taken a hammer hit on the top edge: the format is almost square, the yellow color tickles the retina and the design is simple. The only elements visible on the front are limited to the directional cross, the two buttons “B” and “HAS“, to the “Menu“, on the loudspeaker, as well as on the three fastening screws. Thanks to its delicate coating and rounded corners, Designed by Panic in collaboration with Teenage Engineering, the console is comfortable to useeven after long gaming sessions. inputs involuntarily. Same observation for the buttons “B” and “HAS” which are reactive and bounce quickly. Their arrangement on the same horizontal line will certainly prevent you from dealing with classic platform games where “B“used to run and”HAS” jump.

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

Playdate on par with other portable consoles?

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

At the first start, the configuration is done in a few steps. You need to connect your device to Wi-Fi first and then register the device online to get the latest updates. Nothing very complex for those used to setting up today’s home consoles. At first glance, the Playdate’s screen is reminiscent of that of our good old laptops, since Panic decided to show black and white. The games are therefore in 1-bit monochrome for a resolution of 400×240 (5:3). However, the rendering is much sharper than what we used to have.. With its 180MHz Cortex-M7 CPU, the laptop aims to offer the sensations of yesteryear while improving visual comfort thanks to backlighting and various technical improvements. The few concessions have at least the merit of allowing a very good autonomy : We only had to charge the device after 8 hours of use. Be careful, downloading/installing games drains battery faster. If the rendering is pleasant compared to the size of the screen, the lack of colors remains a questionable choice, as it prevents developers from starting concepts around certain visual nuances.

In terms of general interface, it is ergonomic. The game library shows large animated banners representing the various software installed, while the options allow you to manage various details. However, we regret the lack of a parameter that increases the brightness of the screen. A list of less graphical but more ergonomic games is available in the Games section of the options. Finally, the standby mode shows a rather sober virtual clock.

Features of Playdate
Advertisement 400×240, 1 bit
cut 76x74x9mm
screen size 2.7 inches or about 68mm diagonally
autonomy 14 days standby (clock), 8 hours active
CPU 180MHz Cortex-M7
storage capacity 16MB RAM, 32KB L1 Cache, 4GB Flash
Wireless Specifications 802.11bgn 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth
His Built-in mono speaker, stereo headphone jack, condenser microphone + TRRS microphone input
key D-Pad, A, B, Sleep, Menu, Crank
Price $179 (excluding shipping)

More crank turns than magic?

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

At this point in your reading, you’re probably wondering, “why the heck pay $179 for another retro console“. The answer is simple: Despite appearances, Playdate is not a retro console. With the small crank located on the right side of the device, Designed by Panic, the laptop aims to appeal to fans of indie games looking for both familiar and new sensations. In fact, this fun accessory brings a breath of fresh air to the interaction with our video games. With a few turns of the crank, the surfboards move, the figures move, the balls bounce … in short, the worlds come alive with joy and good humor. Of course, the resistance of this crank must be ensured after several months of use. We have no concerns about the quality of the material at the moment. However, the few reservations we had during our preview find a new echo today. If we enjoyed discovering very arcade-style apps where the crank played a crucial role, we are less enthusiastic about the more classic adventure games where the accessories come second (if they aren’t plain and… is just useless ). Left-handers will complain that the crank position is designed for right-handers, although there is an option to flip the screen (which allows you to flip the machine and thus move the handle to the left).

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

Do Playdate games make a difference?

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

Before becoming one of the most atypical portable consoles ever created, The Playdate is above all a concept based on a promise: to offer two free games every week for twelve weeks. So that makes a total of 24 titles for that first batch promised with the purchase of the machine. Each time a new title arrives, a gift to open will appear on the history interface to make the event festive. We’ve been able to access all these works conceived by some renowned developers such as Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Zach Gage (SpeelTower) and Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It). As of this writing, Lucas Pope’s creation (Return of the Obra Dinn) is not included in the package. Since one of the principles of the console is to surprise players with two new games a week, we will not spoil the surprise by describing the content of all the planned software. We will only say that in the crowd there is something for everyone, with shooting, adventure, platform, text experience, puzzle, rhythm, arcade, etc. Despite everything, we note the absence of horror games and the virtual non-existence of sports games.

In all titles we mainly keep eight creations that are out of the ordinary and manage to sell the original concept of the playdate. One of the best is none other than Time Travel Adventures, a project that Panic pushed hard and that makes perfect use of the device’s capabilities. We also like Omaze, a very clever puzzle/skill game, and Whitewater Wipeout, a very effective surf/scoring game. We’re also keeping Echoic Memory, Flipper Lifter, Sasquatchers, Spellcorked, and Forrest Byrnes Up in Smoke. Note that just over half of downloadable apps use the crank wisely, if they use it at all, which is surprising given that the Playdate is sold in part for its original way of playing. For your information, the 24 games of the first season weigh between 59Kb and 160Mb. After all have been downloaded to the 4GB internal storage space, 2.6GB remains available.

Playdate Pulp: Become a video game developer!

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

Playing games from independent developers is good, but becoming a creator of monochrome virtual universes is better! If you feel the soul of a game designer, you know that buying Playdate gives access to Playdate Pulp, a tool available right in the browser that offers the possibility to create your own games for the small console.. If there’s a way to build your apps simply by using bits of code, you’ll have to quickly roll up your sleeves and go through PulpScript to bring your most absurd ideas to life. This means that users have to deal with a sparse scripting language of functions and variables. The level, sprite, music and sound editors are sufficiently well thought out to be able to produce quickly. Pros who don’t want to go through pulp can download the SDK (free) and create their works using their favorite LUA and C APIs.

The Playdate, a console for an informed public

Playdate: The Game Boy with a crank for all players?

With a starting price of $179 ($241 including shipping for France and taxes) and delivery now scheduled for 2023, the Playdate is undeniably expensive even if the player had access to 24 titles after three months of use. This prize reserves the panic machine for fans of indie productions, familiar with the language of Shakespeare (both the games and the menus are in English) and who are not afraid to stake the prize to own an exceptional object. Some will see it as an undeniable breath of fresh air for elite enthusiasts and hackers, others won’t understand the craze for this expensive little device with a monochrome screen. In our view, the Playdate is a beautiful object that already offers amazing experiences, although we would have liked even more boldness in the way it cranks within the pixelated universes on offer.

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