When I woke up each morning for the past two weeks, the flashing blue light from the Playdate, a peculiar little handheld with a crank, beckoned me. Next to the analog clock on the screen was a small text box confirming that new games were available. I pressed the lock button twice–which shows one eye opening with each tap–to wake the handheld for my date to play new games. Sure enough, two new title cards were in the main menu each time, both of which were concealed by wrapping paper and a bow. I pressed A and then Playdate’s on-screen crank arms came to life to untie the package, revealing new treats.

That’s how I started viewing the games delivered to my Playdate each day: as little surprise treats. Playdate’s „seasons of games“ premise naturally created this feeling of anticipation and discovery, but the excitement would’ve faded if I wasn’t unearthing some real gems. Playdate’s Season 1 lineup has a bunch of charming and unique games that excel on this tiny handheld with two buttons, a D-pad, and, of course, a crank.

The Playdate is great for filling small pockets of time, as it’s highly portable and quick to get into the action. But it’s also a whole lot more than a convenient time waster. Sure, it’s a novelty device–its 1-bit black-and-white graphics and small crank used for some controls tells that story–but I quickly found that the Playdate was home to inventive and meaningful experiences that I wanted to keep going zurück zu. With an intuitive design and a heap of ingenuity, the Playdate provides a gaming experience that isn’t quite like anything else on the market now.

Playfully designed

Before I dive into specifics on Season 1’s 24 games, let’s talk about the device itself. The Playdate’s size might surprise you: It’s basically a 3 x 3-inch square that’s only 1/3-inch thick. Whereas the trend for mainstream handhelds has skewed toward „the bigger the better“ lately, the Playdate is certifably tiny. It weighs just 86 grams–less than 0.2 pounds. It has a 2.7-inch display, which, for reference, is just about the same size as the Game Boy Advance’s screen. It has a menu button to the right of the screen and a stereo speaker that is small enough to be unobtrusive while still producing an impactful sound. A 3.5mm headphone jack is located on the bottom of the device next to the USB-C charging port.

The most notable aspect of the Playdate is, of course, the crank on the side of the console, which adds an unlikely new control option to the handheld’s games. You could think of the crank as the Playdate’s analog stick. You can spin it clockwise or counterclockwise, and it essentially works to produce a full 360 degrees of movement. Playdate games rely on the crank to varying degrees. Some games utilize the crank almost exclusively to move up/down/left/right, while others integrate the unique input for smaller tasks such as a spin attack, focusing a camera, or rewinding time. While I can’t speak to the crank’s durability over time, it feels solid and sturdy and has a smooth range of motion. It has a magnetic steel arm and a little pocket on the side of the device that the handle slots into, allowing it to be stealthily stored when not in use. You simply lift it up into place and you’re good to go. It’s a seamless transition from play mode to storage mode and vice versa.

With a great build quality and a smooth matte finish that isn’t prone to showing fingerprints, the Playdate looks and feels great. There are a couple of things that take getting used to, though. While the 400 x 240 resolution display boasts 173 pixels per inch and renders the 1-bit games with sharp clarity, the prerequistite conditions to play and viewing angles are an adjustment if you’re used to playing other modern handhelds and mobile devices. Playdate does not technically have a backlit screen, so you need to play in a somewhat well-lit area. That said, the screen is very reflective and has high contrast, which makes it significantly clearer and more vibrant than the non-backlit handhelds most people have experience with. I was able to play it outside during the day with no issues, and you don’t need to situate yourself directly under a light to play. But the lack of a backlight means that you have to tilt the screen toward the general vicinity of the source of light to see everything clearly; otherwise, the objects on screen are a bit shadowy, like an out-of-focus camera. Most often, this meant holding the Playdate at a slight upward angle. It was always a comfortable viewing angle, though.

Playdate’s UI is tidy and easy to use. The clean home menu houses all of your games as cute little tiles. Load times are brief, with most games booting within a few seconds. The menu button pauses your game and pulls up a sidebar that can be used to instantly return to the home screen, adjust the volume, or take a screenshot. Playdate doesn’t have dedicated volume buttons, but there is a handy shortcut to adjust volume: hold the menu button and press up/down on the D-pad. When on the home menu, the menu button can pull up device settings–network, lock screen, storage space, etc. It’s worth noting that while the Playdate only has 4GB of storage, the games take up very, very little space. Even with all 24 Season 1 games installed, my Playdate still had 3.7GB left.

Specifications Spieltermin
CPU 180MHz Cortex M7
Graphics 1-bit
Display 2.7-inch glass
Resolution 400 x 240-pixel
Size 76 x 74 x 9mm
Audio Mono speaker, 3.5mm stereo jack
Battery 8 hours active / 14 days standby
Storage 4GB flash memory
Inputs D-pad, two face buttons, crank, menu, lock
Wireless 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
Ports 1 x USB-C
What’s included? Console, USB-C to A cable, and user guide
Price $179
Availability New orders arrive in 2023

Playdate Season 1, reviewed

Melanie Martinez - Play Date (Official Audio)

As alluded to already, Playdate’s game library has a pretty darn cool release model. Broken up into seasons, Panic will digitally deliver two games to your handheld each week until the season is complete. It’s too early to say if the „seasons“ model will continue after the completion of Season 1, but I sure hope so. Since I didn’t have 12 weeks to review the handheld, Panic scheduled a condensed season: two games per day for 12 days rather than 12 weeks. Though I didn’t get the authentic experience in this regard, I greatly enjoyed the „presents“ that showed up each day. Also, the fact that I didn’t know about the contents of any game going in made the delivery model a satisfying and surprising experience.

With that in mind, if you want to be totally surprised by the Season 1 library, skip past the game review „journal“ below. Just know that Season 1 includes more good than bad, and there are a bunch of truly wonderful games to play here across a wide variety of genres, including text adventures, action games, turn-based tactics games, retro arcade shooters, puzzlers, and mehr. There’s even a top-down Zelda-like. Some games are high-score chasers with runs that can last just a few minutes, while others have deep story arcs and a traditional level-based structure. Game length and replay value varies considerably across the collection. I haven’t had a chance to complete every game, but I’d say the average runtime for games with an actual ending is a couple hours. That said, I spent more than five hours with several Season 1 games and plan on going back for more. Games with linear progression auto-save frequently, so they are good for both short spurts and longer play sessions.

One of the most interesting aspects of Season 1 is that it became more and more apparent that many of the games, while radically different in genre and gameplay, felt tonally consistent. The library is a collection of games that feel joyous and playful. Though designed by many different developers, there’s a thread of spirited humor in almost all of the games. Rarely do games actually feel „at home“ on a specific platform, but they very much do in this case. The Playdate is a quirky device filled with off-kilter and extraordinarily clever games.

Many of the games have fairly significant narrative threads running through them, and the writing across the board is largely stellar–a mix of both lighthearted and dark humor, fun characters, and stories tinged with mysteries that need to be uncovered. It’s cool because it feels like every developer was given the same assignment–make a cool game for this funny little handheld–and all of them turned in their own interpretation of the homework.

A few games lean a tad too far into the novel control mechanic and wound up feeling gimmicky, and there are a few others that felt more like tech demos. But most of the games are good to great, and a decent number of them felt like something that I had never played before. Those instances–the wow moments–are what makes the Playdate feel like magic at times. A secret little world of offbeat 1-bit games that you can’t play anywhere else. It’s extremely impressive to see the visual style variations present across Season 1, especially since all of the games have to adhere to the stringent limitations of 1-bit graphics, which only allows black and white pixels to be displayed. Yet, many of the games still deliver stylish and expressive visuals with just black, white, and the illusion of gray that fall between those opposite colors.

Since the Playdate can’t really be compared to anything else on the market, it feels appropriate to take a different approach for reviewing its content. Below you’ll find mini-reviews for each of the 24 games, in the order that they were delivered to my handheld, which also happens to be the order that I played them in. Games that have a saving function auto-save frequently, while other games play like arcade titles–each time you boot it up, you start again. Again, if you want to be surprised, please skip over this section and check out the final section of this review revolving around Playdate’s community-focused game creation tools.

Tag 1

Whitewater Wipeout: A surfing mini-game featuring killer waves and tricks (if you don’t wipe out). Whitewater Wipeout feels more like a tech demo for the crank. It has a learning curve, as the crank controls feel touchy at first. There’s not much to this one, so it becomes repetitive rather quickly.

Casual Birder: A top-down adventure game set in a town where birdwatching is what cool people do. You get called a „Casual Birder“ by the group of birdwatching baddies and embark on a journey to take a picture of a legendary bird to win the annual bird photo contest. You use the crank to focus your camera. With funny writing and a charming world, Casual Birder is a fun little adventure.

Tag 2

Crankin‘ Presents Time Travel Adventures: Controlled entirely with the crank. You play as a wind-up toy person with three ovals for a body. You’re late for your date every single day, and you have to figure out how to not be late. It makes clever use of the crank to contort your body and avoid obstacles. It took me about 1.5-2 hours to complete this adventure.

Boogie Loops: This isn’t a game. It’s a loop station to make music to dance to. The UI is very tiny and hurts my eyes. No one in my family danced to the loops I made, but that’s more a reflection of my own abilities to make a jam than the game.

Tag 3

Flipper Lifter: The first game in the season that hooked me for hours. This Lemmings-esque game revolves around delivering penguins to the right floor of a building. You control the elevator with the crank. Once you pick up a penguin, they become impatient, so you have to be efficient. Seconds are added to the timer with each successful delivery, and subsequently harder levels unlock as you reach milestones. It’s a simple concept that evokes the „one more try“ mentality splendidly.

Echoic Memory: A match-the-music game. You play as an inspector at a factory for robot radios that need to be calibrated. The crank is used to dial in the music to match to the sample track. It’s a neat use of both the crank and sound as mechanics working in tandem. Plus, there’s an overarching and well-written story that involves a troubling but funny AI.

Day 4

Lost Your Marbles: You’re an intern for a genius inventor who happens to be a cat. Their latest invention makes all your decisions for you. Humorous writing, but the central gameplay is kind of frustrating. You guide a marble with the crank through rudimentary mazes to „choose“ responses to dialogue. It gets chaotic and disorienting, because the crank twists and turns the screen. It gave me a headache.

Pick Pack Pup: Lovely grid-based puzzle game about matching groups of three or more of the same objects. Each match automatically boxes the items, and therefore blocks off part of the grid. Strategy is required to pack as many boxes as possible before loading them onto the truck. This is a D-pad and button-controlled game, but it shows that not all games need to use the crank to be interesting and fun on Playdate.

Day 5

Hyper Meteor: Retro space shooter where you run into meteors to destroy them. It uses crank controls to steer the ship. When there are a bunch of obstacles on screen that lead to instant death, the reliance on the crank can be a bit aggravating. It’s also a one-dimensional experience that feels familiar.

Zipper: A really cool turn-based puzzle game that reminds me of Superhot. You play a swordsman who can move however many spaces you want each turn, but face enemy samurai who will then move the same number of spaces. You have to plan out your moves so that you pass by the enemies to slash them with your sword before they have the chance to kill you. It has one-hit kills, and each move takes a point off of an hourglass. You have 249 moves total, but I haven’t come close to exhausting those. It’s quite challenging, but nothing is left to chance here.

Day 6

B360: Breakout, aber mit einer 360-Grad-Ebene. Das Paddel wird entweder mit der Kurbel oder dem D-Pad gesteuert. Jede Ebene hat ein anderes Ziegelsteinlayout. Die Kurbelsteuerungen arbeiten hier wirklich gut. Es ist eine wirklich coole Möglichkeit, das klassische Spiel in einer erfrischenden Form zu spielen.

Ratchetierer: ein Top-Down-Action-Abenteuer, das an klassische Zelda-Spiele erinnert. Sie spielen als Lehrling eines Mechanikers, der den Tag retten muss, an dem die Stadt von Monstern überrannt wird. Ratcheteer hat traditionelle Zelda-Fortschritte, einschließlich versteckter Herzstücke, um zu finden, und das bewährte Dungeon-Setup. Dungeons haben gesperrte Türen, ein neues Gadget, um sich zu sichern, und Chefs, um sich zu bekämpfen. Ratcheteer spielt auch mit dem Restbetrag von Licht und Dunkelheit, wodurch sich Umgebungen prekärer anfühlen und zwingt, Sie wirklich auf Ihre Umgebung zu achten. Ratcheteer ist einer der charmantesten Zelda-Likes in letzter Gedächtnis, und es ist eines der größten Spiele des Bündels. Ich habe schon ein paar Stunden angemeldet, und es scheint, als hätte ich noch ein paar Stunden, um zu gehen.

Freundlicher Ansatz für Spiele

Neben einem Handheld, der bereits mit 24 Spielen geliefert wird, entwarf Panic das Playdate, das Entwicklerfreundlich und community-fokussiert ist. Jeder kann ein Spiel für Playdate erstellen und dann auf ihren Handheld hochladen, um zu spielen, und teilen / verkaufen sie über Ladenfronts wie Juckreiz. Es gibt bereits ein Bündel von Playdate-Spielen, das zum Herunterladen verfügbar ist, und sicherlich werden viele weitere freigegeben, da mehr Indie- und Hobbyisten-Entwickler auf dem Spielerdaten auftreten.

Teil des Grunds für die bereits erweiterte Bibliothek von Playdate-Spielen vor dem offiziellen Start ist, dass Panic das Software-Entwicklungskit online zur Verfügung gestellt hat, sodass Entwickler Spiele in C oder LUA geschrieben werden können. Während ich nicht so tun, als ob ich selbst ein Spielentwickler bin, ist es ohne weiteres offensichtlich, dass das Ecosystem des Playdate-Ökosystems dazu dient, Entwicklern aller Hintergründe und Fähigkeiten zu ermutigen. Es gibt bereits eine Fülle von Dokumentations- und Tutorials, um Spiele auf der Playdate-Website herzustellen.

Obwohl das frühere Programmiererlebnis und die Arbeit mit dem SDK selbst wahrscheinlich helfen, größere und komplexere Spiele zu tätigen, hat Panic auch ein anfängerfreundliches Browserentwicklungswerkzeug für Anfänger, das als Zellstoff bezeichnet wurde, veröffentlicht. Dies ist ein visualorientiertes Entwicklungswerkzeug, das keine vorherigen Programmierkenntnisse erfordert, da alle wichtigen Aspekte des Spiels auf dem Bildschirm angezeigt werden, und Sie können schnell rudimentäre Prototypen zusammenstellen, sie im Browsersimulator testen, und dann Laden Sie sie auf Ihr Gerät. Pulpen hat sogar eine eigene Skriptsprache namens PulPScript. Es ist eine saubere, ausgebrennte Sprache, die das Tiefenniveau und Minutien in Ihrem Spiel erheblich erhöhen kann. Ich habe in der Vergangenheit mit Game Maker Studio und RPG-Hersteller aufgewendet, aber ich bin immer noch sehr ein Neuling, wenn es um Spielendesign geht. Und während ich versucht habe, mich selbst Programmiersprachen wie Python, Java und Swift beizubringen, habe ich noch nie über die Grundlagen hinausgekommen. Ich denke, Zellstoff und Pulskript wechselt das für mich, und ein großer Grund ist, dass es bereits eine Fülle der atemberaubenden Dokumentation sowie eine sehr aktive Entwicklergemeinschaft gibt.

Sobald Sie Ihr Spiel erstellt haben, können Sie ihn als Playdate-Spieldatei (PDX) und „Sideload“ -Orgebnis (PDX) über zwei Methoden exportieren: entweder lokal mit Ihrem Computer über USB-C oder mit Ihrem Playdate-Konto, in dem Ihr Handheld registriert ist. Letzteres ist die empfohlene Methode, vermutlich, weil es einfach ist, vorhandene Dateien auf Ihrem Konto in einem Webbrowser zu verwalten und zu aktualisieren. Nachdem Sie Ihr Spiel hochgeladen haben, können Sie zu einem Spielspeicher auf Ihrem Playdate navigieren und Ihr Spiel auf Ihr Gerät herunterladen. Dann erscheint es auf Ihrem Startbildschirm mit einem eigenen Fliesen. Aber zuerst musst du es auspapieren, genau wie die offiziellen Saison 1 Spiele.

Die offene Natur des Playdate fördert das Potenzial weiter. Auch nachdem Sie Ihre Spiele in der Saison 1 gegeben hatten, werden viele weitere Abenteuer ermittelt werden. Und vielleicht werden Sie derjenige sein, um diese Abenteuer zu schaffen.

Die untere Zeile

Als Stück Gaming-Hardware schlägt das Playdate sicherlich über sein Gewicht. Es hat ein minimalistisches Design ästhetisch, das sowohl Charms als auch Gele mit dem, was ich denke, dass das Playdate alles ist: Verlieben Sie sich wieder in Spiele, indem er sich wieder in Spiele verliebt, indem er in Erlebnisse taucht, die sowohl brandneu als auch nostalgisch fühlen. Die Jahreszeiten des Spiels der Spiele ist eine unterhaltsame Möglichkeit, Sie auf neue Überraschungen zurückzukehren, und den kommunalen und offenen Ansatz zur Ausweitung der Playdate-Bibliothek gibt es ein enormes Potenzial für die Zukunft.

PlayDate ist zur Vorbestellung direkt von Panic für 179 US-Dollar verfügbar. Sie können auch ein Bündel erwerben, das eine Bildschirmabdeckung für 199 US-Dollar enthält (die Abdeckung kostet 29 US-Dollar separat). Playdate-Vorordnete wurden im letzten Sommer eröffnet, und jedes 2022-Gerät wird bereits gesprochen. Wenn Sie jetzt bestellen, schätzt Panic ein 2023-Lieferfenster.

_Seven verbrachte Dutzende Stunden mit dem Spielerdate in den letzten Wochen.
Er spielte alle 24 der Saison 1 Spiele und arbeitet jetzt daran, sein eigenes (wahrscheinlich schlechtes) Playdate-Spiel zu machen.