Playdate Review: Crank It Up

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 back to. 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.

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Author: Steven Petite