Two years with the little yellow inspiration machine

The Playdate came out two years ago and is still small and yellow with a black-and-white screen and a delicious crank on the side. Today, the device has a built-in library of over 100 titles, none of which are Call of Duty, Dark Souls, The Last of Us, or any other big-budget, mainstream game — and that’s exactly what makes it so damn good. attractive The community that has sprung up around this palmheld is vibrant and creative, and scrolling through Playdate tags on or github feels like hanging out in a friendly underground clubhouse populated by video game enthusiasts.

It’s less disturbing than it sounds, I promise.

Indeed, Playdate has only become more beloved and more relevant with age. Firewatch publisher Panic and hardware studio Teenage Engineering unveiled the device in February 2019, touting it as a sub-$200 handheld with a monochromatic screen, crank, and seasonal free games. Pre-orders for the Playdate opened in July 2021 and are scheduled to begin shipping by the end of that year. But in November, Panik discovered on its production line and the company was forced to change suppliers and delay the launch. Playdate officially hit the hands of players in April 2022, and reviewers generally like it .

History of the gameHistory of the game


Playdate including 4 GB flash memory and 24 free games Cranky’s Time Travel Adventure uvula from Keita Takahashi’s studio and Zipper By Bennett Foddy. Playdate has always supported sideloading, meaning titles are easy to get and other distribution sites on the device. In March 2023, Playdate’s Catalog went live, offering a curated selection of 16 games for purchase. Panic also raised the price of the Playdate from $179 to $199, citing increased production costs.

Today, Panic has sold nearly 70,000 Playdates and its Catalog features over 100 games with regular additions. Panic held and headlined a program showcase in February Exclusive project from Playdate Documents, please and The Return of Obra Dinn created by Lucas Pope. Mars after midnight It came out on March 12th and Playdate was one that week, as a big showcase.

Two years after its launch, it’s clear that there is no single formula for the Playdate game. for example, turns the Playdate on its side and uses the elbow as a helicopter-style rotor, spinning a propeller flap over a demon trapped in a gothic tower. Cranking controls this horned dude as he slices through flying enemies, leaving shards of flesh and bone through the narrow frame. And then there are the headlines , a simple yet addictive letter swapping game that I would recommend to all Wordle fans. Playdate supports first-person shooters, detective mysteries, bullet hells, shooters, puzzle games, RPGs, pocket pets, rhythm situations, action-adventure, racing sims and all kinds of sub-genres, including some invented for them. platform.

Root bearRoot bear

Root Bear by TEAM ROOT

Between Playdate’s UI and games, the crank turns into hundreds of different tools. There are standard iterations like crank to spin and crank to buy, but crank to pour drink, crank to fly, crank to fish, crank to spin record, crank to build city, crank to control time, crank to turn, tilt survive. Literally every game on Playdate reveals a new use case for crank or helps show off the absurd level of detail possible on a 400 x 240 1-bit display. Many games do these two things – and Mars after midnight is one of them.

As the creature in charge of the community room in the Martian colony, Mars after midnight players open an observation window and identify the correct aliens for each session, while serving snacks, cleaning with two long forks, and planning future support groups. Players use a crank to open and close the room’s peephole, but the game also fully incorporates Playdate’s A and B buttons, D-pad, and speaker, rolling out fresh mechanics at a steady pace. The game is populated with charming, whimsical aliens and cartoonishly cute sets, and even features an entire language.

Like the vast majority of Playdate games, Mars after midnight it doesn’t feel like an abbreviated version of a bigger idea; it was just meant to be a colorless, elbow-jerk experience.

Mars after midnightMars after midnight

Mars After Midnight by Lucas Pope

I’ve had one consistent problem with Playdate, and it’s something I didn’t think would be a big problem when I first reviewed it in 2022. The lack of a backlight on its screen is noticeable and sometimes annoying, especially gaps in low light. I often find myself tilting the screen towards a nearby window or lamp, and the device is nearly impossible to use without a light source on a dark plane or bus, or after sunset. If you remember trying to play the original Game Boy in the backseat of your parents’ car at night, waiting for the street lights to regularly pass by the window, it’s a lot like that. There’s a hint of nostalgia here, but mostly it’s kind of disappointing.

The Playdate’s biggest problem may be the Stereo Dock. Panic introduced the Stereo Dock in mid-2021 – a really cute charging stand, Bluetooth speaker and pen holder that matches the Playdate’s pleasant yellow color. I’ve wanted one on my desk since it was announced, but the Stereo Dock has been “coming soon” for two years now.

That’s really still coming, Playdate Project lead Greg Maletic told Engadget.

“Apologies to everyone with Playdate who has been patiently waiting for the Stereo Dock; it’s been a more difficult project than we anticipated and we’ve had a few false starts,” he said. “We thought we’d save some time on this project by having our factory ship the firmware for the Stereo Dock, but we’ve learned that in some cases you won’t always want that. The Stereo Dock is very much alive, and we have physical prototypes to prove it! About when you can get it later this year get the official update.”

Playdate Stereo DockPlaydate Stereo Dock


If the worst thing about Playdate is that people can’t get enough of it, then it sounds like things are going well. The device hasn’t faced any widespread recalls or hardware issues, with the showcase expanding, development pipeline and people are still interested in buying it (and one day the Stereo Dock).

With Playdate, Panic has created a new pocket for curious gaming enthusiasts, and it has provided a platform for innovation that will ripple across all sectors of development. The Playdate is a simple, small gaming machine with a single crank – the crank – and in its first two years on the market it tapped into the creative wells of the indie scene. By reducing graphics and adding a new input method, Playdate is changing the way we think about how games are played and made. With many of the industry’s most influential studios trapped in a period of massive layoffs and regularly scheduled crunch, it’s a great time to rethink what we’re all really doing here. Playdate makes this process natural, accessible and fun.

History of the gameHistory of the game


A device like the Playdate just doesn’t happen. If it was too weak, too complicated, or frivolous, I wouldn’t bother reviewing it two years after launch, but this isn’t a funny gimmick from a company on a press tour. The elegance, care, and sense of proper prioritization built into Playdate make it a blank canvas for a variety of game development styles. Playdate is a little yellow inspiration machine; it’s a physical reset button for the entire industry. Actually, I think it’s the reset crank.

Go ahead, flip it. It’s a lot of fun.

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