Panics Playmate is a pint-sized gaming machine with a season of 12 intriguing titles

Tired of your smartphone games, and dont want to take the Switch with you on the train today? Panic, renowned creator of useful Mac apps and more recently publisher of interesting games, has created a tiny handheld console that goes anywhere and receives a regular trickle of new games. Its called Playdate.
One has to admire the gumption of jumping into a space that has been so thoroughly dominated by Nintendo and smartphones over the last decade that hardly anyone has even attempted to break in. But Panic isnt trying to build an empire just do something interesting and new.
Nothings surprising anymore and surprises are great! reads the Playdates FAQ. Panic saw an opportunity for something truly different in the world of video games. Something small-scale that could deliver a dose of fun and delight to video game players who have otherwise seen it all.
Its different, all right. Bright yellow with a black and white screen and with no spot for removable media like cartridges, the Playdate is more or less self-contained, except of course for the charger and wireless connection. And its over the wireless connection that the games come: 12 of them, exclusives created by well-known developers like Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It), and Zach Gage (Ridiculous Fishing).
They appear one at a time, weekly; the first title is Crankins Time Travel Adventure, from Takahashi. Oh, right did I mention it has a crank?
Panics Playmate is a pint-sized gaming machine with a season of 12 intriguing titles
Yes, the gadget has the usual d-pad and two buttons, but on the side is a little crank that youll be using in all these weird little games. In the first one, for instance, you use it to advance and reverse time. Perhaps youll be reeling in fish, charging a flashlight, grinding stones for crafting, or any number of other tasks. Its not necessary for every game, though, so dont worry if it seems too weird. (The crank was the inspired choice of Teenage Engineering, Panics hardware design partner.)
In case you didnt notice, the games are also black and white. The 2.7-inch, 400×240 screen has no backlight, but it isnt e-paper but rather just an LCD without color filters. Ive been saying we should do this for years! It should make for improved battery life and change the way you play a bit in bed by the light of a lamp instead of on the couch looking at a bright screen.
We thought Playdate needed to be a different experience than the one you get from your phone, or from a TV-based console, said Panics Director of Special Projects, Greg Maletic, in an email. This bizarre 1-bit reflective screen was a big part of that: you just wont see a lot of devices go this route, and for us, that was part of the attraction. And its worked out really well: developers have felt energized designing for this weird but cool screen.
Panics Playmate is a pint-sized gaming machine with a season of 12 intriguing titles
When the 12 titles have all been delivered, theres the possibility that more will come, but that depends on lots of things, the company said. But they were careful to make the platform easily hackable.
Most hardware platforms nowadays have tight restrictions, so it was important to us that Playdate be open enough to allow experimentation, said Maletic. Thats the kind of platform that we, as developers, were personally craving. So weve made sure that people will be able to develop their own games and easily share them with their friends, without having to worry about plagues of mobile development like code signing and provisioning profiles.
Youll be able to preorder a Playdate for $149 later in the year. Yeah, it isnt cheap but its weird and fun and for now one of a kind. That has to count for something in the increasingly genericized world of gaming hardware.
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