I’m not sure I’ve experienced such a quirky device since my days playing on a Barcode Battler in a small caravan at Butlins in the 90s. Playdate, a much-smaller-than-I-expected custard yellow handheld games device gained quite a following after its reveal. It’s easy to see why. It’s cute, it’s novel, it has a modern sleekness with a retro vibe, some top indie talent are making games for it, and it was the cover star of UK games media print press darling, EDGE. But after the wait for it to arrive, is it actually fun to use?
To cut to the chase, avoiding a lead up for many clever and wit-infused words: sometimes. Inevitably, how much fun you’re going to derive from the Playdate depends on how you find the 24 games that are included in Season One. And this is where things get a bit unfortunately negative. But first, some more about the Playdate’s quirkiness.
It’s got a crank. Undock the yellow handle from the slot on the handheld’s lower right side, swivel it a bit, and you can rotate a crank like people did on game shows, like the Crystal Maze, or in Medieval times for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on (but were probably ghastly). I think most people lasered in on this crank as what was going to give Playdate a unique line-up of games. “Just what can the best game dev talent create now they have a turning stick to play with?” we all thought. We’ll come to that.