More than two years later it was introduced for the first time, Panic’s Playdate finally has a pre-order date: Thursday, July 29. This charming bright yellow handheld video game console has a single crank for its part, and its price of $ 179 includes 24 games developed exclusively for the device.
However, you won’t be able to play all 24 games right away. Panic will deliver two games per week to the device over Wi-Fi for three months until all 24 are in the system. That sums up the games in Season 1, and sadly, Panic doesn’t have much to share on Season 2.
“We are waiting to see how many people are interested in the Playdate before determining how the games will be distributed in the future,” a Panic spokesperson wrote in an email. “We will adjust if necessary. Everything is currently on the table, but nothing has been decided.” (Panic, which is primarily a software company, has released blockbuster games for other platforms, including the popular Fire watch.)
I’ve been playing a preproduction version of the Playdate for a little over a week. It’s a fun little gadget for those short moments of your day when you’re twiddling your thumbs, like when you’re waiting for the train. It’s about the size of a pack of Post-Its and easily fits most pockets.
The games I’ve tried so far—Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, Lost your marbles, White water erasure, and Saturday edition– don’t necessarily have the depth or longevity of games you might be used to on handhelds like the GameBoy, but they can be surprisingly difficult.
But unlike modern mobile games, with their in-app purchases, ads, and clunky touchscreen controls, the physicality of the Playdate is what makes it fun. Especially the crank. Pull it out and start spinning it as a control mechanism for games. Not all titles use the crank, but the ones that stand out. You can use the crank to trick a surfer on a wave, move a ball to a certain target, or control the time. (Unfortunately, while it seems ripe for it, there is no fishing game yet. Let me collect some fish, panic!)
Games like crank It really gave me a hard time, because you have to be quick and precise with the crank. You will fail a lot. But there was a great sense of accomplishment after completing a level.