First impressions of Playdate – weird on the outside but not so much on the inside

I’m not sure I’ve experienced this quirky device since I played Barcode Battler in a caravan in Butlins in the ’90s. play date, a creamy-yellow handheld game console that is much smaller than I expected has gained quite a following following its exposure. It’s easy to see why. It’s cute, new, modern and retro, some top indie talent is making games for it, and it’s the cover star of EDGE, the darling of the UK gaming media press. But when it arrives, is it really fun to use?

Cut to the chase and avoid many clever and witty words: sometimes. Inevitably, how much fun you’ll have from Playdate depends on how you find the 24 games included in the first season. Unfortunately, this is where things get a little negative. But first, more quirks about Playdate.

It has a crank. Take the yellow handle out of the slot in the bottom right corner of the handheld and give it a little twist and you’ll be able to spin the crank like people do in game shows, like the Crystal Maze, or in the middle ages, because I couldn’t quite put my on your fingers (but can be scary). I think most people rave about this crank as it will give Playdate a unique lineup of games. “What can the best game development talent create now that they have a wheel to play?” we all thought. We’ll talk about that.


Next, as I mentioned, Playdate is small. Here’s a photo next to the small plug adapter for my iPad. Look, it’s very small. Kind of like it’s not the most comfortable thing to hold for long periods of time. So the screen is also small, it’s 1 bit, black and white. Of course, that’s fine — there were a lot of great games out there before we had amazing colors in them. I started playing the game on the green screen Amstrad. What’s not so cool is how I can see the screen properly in low light situations, such as a bedroom with only one side lamp on.


The last quirk is what I really like. The 24 games are included in the cost of the handheld, and they are delivered twice a week for 12 weeks. In theory, if 10,000 people get Playdate on the same day, they will experience the game at the same time, which is fine. It also encourages you to try every game, rather than discarding it after a few moments, in an attempt to see everything as quickly as possible. So yes, Playdate is quirky, so it’s easy to fall in love with it.

I’ve purposely left out all the press material about the games included in the first season, so opening each new game digitally brings a real thrill of discovery that I don’t recall since random Mega Drive (Genesis) games Had a similar experience from Blockbuster rentals. I pretty much know what to expect from everything these days (partly a side effect of work, and partly due to excessive marketing and promotion), so getting these mini-games that can be absolutely anything is a real highlight.


However, my love for Playdate is waning. For all the charm I found with this handheld, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by a huge chunk of the game library. Maybe it’s my expectations that need to take a step back, or I haven’t played every game I want for as long, but of the 12 games I’ve played so far, only one stands out as a game I would totally recommend other people. That game was Crankin Presents Time Travel Adventures.

A robot man wakes up late for a date. You then have to spin the cranks to get Mr. Robot through a level to his destination, usually the fury of being late for a date with him – but you have to avoid obstacles or it’s game over. The difference is that you can twist the cranks to make our robot buddies go backwards, while the rest of the world’s inhabitants continue to do their jobs normally. I was obsessed with this low-key for a while, and I’d time to smell the flowers when the darts flew over my head, jump on the table when the boar was on a rampage, and jump to the bar to let things pass through an elongated belly.

Time Travel Adventures works for me and everyone else doesn’t because it has a single core gimmick, stick with it, and use it as much as possible – that’s the game. Other games I’ve sampled so far are a bit text-heavy, or use cranks in an unnecessary way. Time Travel Adventures is what I look forward to playing. A game as quirky as the quirks that define the console.


I reserve my final judgment on Playdate because honestly, I’m on vacation and don’t have time to test everything as I’d like. There is clearly something here. In the sense of discovery, the sense of something new, and the gimmicky joy of Time Travel Adventures. I wish I could say that as my time on the handheld increases, I get to experience more of this experience.