Playdate overview: Panic’s first {hardware} product is lovable & enjoyable

Playdate overview: Panic's first {hardware} product is lovable & enjoyable

YourNextApp might earn an affiliate fee on purchases made by way of hyperlinks on our web site.

Playdate is a brand new gaming console from the beloved Mac growth studio Panic. It is small, has a steel crank, and is in contrast to any console we have performed up to now — and we find it irresistible.

Panic introduced the Playdate again in 2019 with a deliberate market debut of 2020. These plans acquired derailed when Covid despatched the world into lockdown.

A brand new launch date was set for 2021, although that was scuttled after a important battery challenge surfaced. Now, Panic seems to have manufacturing flowing and bugs ironed out.

Who created the Playdate

Traditionally, Panic has been a software program growth firm, creating Mac-specific software program since 1999. You’ll have heard of their development-focused apps reminiscent of Coda, Transmit, Immediate, or Nova.

It is slowly branched out from its core competency to recreation publishing. Panic helped carry excellent titles Untitled Goose Recreation and Firewatch to market. Now its focus is popping to its inaugural {hardware} product, developed at the side of Teenage engineering.

Boogie Loops lets you create lo-fi beats
Boogie Loops helps you to create low-fi beats

{Hardware} is a completely totally different beast than software program. Panic had a tough highway forward not even together with the challenges COVID induced.

After enjoying with the Playdate for the previous few weeks, we’re satisfied they managed to tug it off with nice success.

Playdate specs and internals

The diminutive Playdate matches neatly within the palm of your hand. It measures 76mm by 74mm by 9mm, which is sufficiently small to slot in your pocket.

Playdate fits in your pocket
Playdate matches in your pocket

It is acquired a 400 by 240 1-bit show, a front-facing mono speaker, headphone jack, and assist for inline mics in your headphones. Internally it has 4GB of flash storage, a three-axis gyroscope, 802.11n Wi-Fi assist, and Panic says Bluetooth assist can be arriving quickly.

Headphone jack and USB-C port
Headphone jack and USB-C port

You employ a USB-C cable to energy up the inner battery which provides a powerful eight hours of playtime on a single cost. Whereas in standby mode, an analog clock fills the display. On standby, the battery will last as long as two weeks.

USB-C to USB-A cable bundled in the box
USB-C to USB-A cable bundled within the field

Panic features a color-matched yellow USB cable within the field, although it’s USB-C to USB-A. We have stated it numerous occasions already — corporations ought to cease together with USB-A cables within the field. If something, a small USB-A adapter would suffice.

Mono speaker next to the menu button
Mono speaker subsequent to the menu button

On-console controls embody a directional pad, A and B buttons, a steel sleep button, and a menu button. Then, after all, now we have the crank.

A novel console expertise

The second we picked up the Playdate it felt totally different. In contrast to different consoles, the entire thing felt polished and with loads of consideration to element.

Playdate in its box
Playdate in its field

Its field is shiny yellow, just like the console itself. Whenever you open the field, the Playdate is not sq. with the field, however as a substitute simply barely off-kilter. This off-kilter character is current all through the Playdate expertise.

Press the sleep button twice —  once for each eye —  to wake it up
Press the sleep button twice — as soon as for every eye — to wake it up

Upon first boot is simply the primary of many quirky animations and represents what you possibly can anticipate from the system as a complete. We rapidly registered the system with our Playdate account and instantly jumped into a number of newly-available video games.

The primary recreation we tried was Whitewater Wipeout. We’ll be sincere — we had been horrible. You employ the crank to manage your surfer as they trip the swell throughout the display. We acquired higher over time, although, in a position to often pull off a 360 spin.

Focusing the camera on Casual Birder
Focusing the digicam on Informal Birder

Whitewater Wipeout completely used the crank whereas the second recreation we tried used it far much less. Informal Birder used the D-pad and buttons to play and solely used the crank as a bodily technique of focusing your participant’s digicam.

This reveals off the utility of the crank and the way it may be an integral a part of a recreation, a small element, or not utilized in any respect. We recognize Panic did not power each recreation to make use of the crank. The crank is employed when it is sensible and ignored when it would not.

The entire {hardware} right here feels nice to make use of. The D-pad is ultra-tactile and has significantly better “clicks” than even what we see with the favored Xbox controllers. The A and B buttons are equally clicky to press.

That crank was seemingly the toughest to nail down, although Panic pulled it off. It is steel with a plastic deal with on the top.

Panic Playdate crank
Panic Playdate crank

It tucks into the facet of the console when not in use and slides out when wanted. There’s a slight rigidity because it’s pulled free, however it’ll lock securely into place when totally open.

It may possibly really feel a bit of flimsy when cranking rapidly in sure video games, however we like the texture of it.

About that show…

The place we bumped into points was with the show. It is stuffed with tradeoffs and could also be a dealbreaker for would-be customers. Panic instructed us that the show is just too reflective to assist a backlight and the entrance lights they tried did not look nice, so that they omitted a lightweight totally.

This poses an issue if you wish to play in low-light conditions. We frequently need to wind down — pun supposed — on the finish of the day by enjoying some video games whereas mendacity in mattress. That is a no-go with Playdate.

With out the lights on within the room, we could not see the show properly sufficient. Like the unique Gameboy, lengthy automotive rides that stretched into the evenings had been an issue. No mild means no Playdate.

As a optimistic, the show is remarkably crisp and pleasing to have a look at when the lighting is apt. Our smartphone shows usually wrestle in shiny circumstances or outdoor, so Panic wished one thing that was the other. That is the place Playdate does greatest.

Dark and light games look great in sunlight
Darkish and lightweight video games look nice in daylight

We went outdoors on the in the future of good climate we have had this 12 months and performed within the solar. The show was unbelievable. Its excessive distinction was on full show as we button-mashed and cranked enjoying a number of video games.

Panic had good intentions with this show and it succeeds in some ways, however with no backlight, it is arduous to play as usually as we wished to.

Video games, video games, and extra video games

Essential to any gaming system is its catalog of video games. Panic, as a software program developer, is aware of this. It has made each effort to get loads of video games on the platform it might.

By all accounts, it is succeeded.

Executive Golf DS
Government Golf DS

The playdate was initially going to launch with solely 12 video games however the huge response from the general public led to Panic doubling that preliminary season lineup.

Whenever you purchase a Playdate, you get entry to the primary season of video games. What meaning is each Friday, two new video games will mechanically obtain to your system. You will get up within the morning to a bit of badge on the lock display letting you understand they’re able to play.

Unwrapping a new game
Unwrapping a brand new recreation

The brand new video games arrive on the principle menu, gift-wrapped. Whenever you click on on them, two little robotic arms will mechanically inch onto the show, pulling the bow, and unwrapping the brand new recreation. It is only one extra lovable animation that we love.

These new video games will arrive over 12 weeks, giving 24 video games to play. You will love some video games whereas others might not curiosity you, however they range in design, style, and magnificence.

We had entry to all 24 season one video games throughout our testing interval. Even after a number of weeks of enjoying with the Playdate, we have not tried all of them. We’ll get sucked right into a recreation and never need to cease, which is a testomony to the video games themselves.

To maintain a number of the video games a shock, we can’t go into too many particulars. We’ll persist with sharing just some of the highlights.

Informal Birders, which we talked about above, was an early standout for us. You wander round city snapping images of various birds. It has a Pokemon-like really feel to it however with a reasonably absurd premise. It wasn’t lengthy into the sport when a gang of locals approached and mocked us as a “informal birder.”

Whenever you see a chook you need to {photograph}, that is if you’ll get to make use of the crank. You will get shut earlier than opening your digicam. You will place the digicam you need after which focus it on the crank.

You will patiently wait a second for the chook to land or cross your body earlier than snapping the pic. It is similar to utilizing a real-world digicam and a neat manner of integrating the crank. That crank seems like a extra applicable mechanism than adjusting the main focus with a D-pad.

The back of the Panic Playdate
The again of the Panic Playdate

We additionally beloved Time Journey Adventures the place you need to ship your character to a date on time. Obstacles will seem in your manner the place you need to use the crank to control time and keep away from them. One other nice, pure use of the crank.

Government Golf DS and Sasquatchers had been two of our different favorites video games we went again to repeatedly.

A few of the video games had been fairly brief and did not take lengthy to complete, whereas others had a lot of replayability.

Not restricted to the season go

With Panic’s pedigree, it ought to come as no shock it is extremely straightforward to create video games for Playdate. It provides a freely-available SDK for anybody to make video games. You possibly can obtain the SDK and get creating immediately.

Video games can be found by way of the season go, however they will also be sideloaded. Simply connect with your pc — or use Wi-Fi — to switch the video games to Playdate.

Panic even has an in-browser dev platform referred to as Pulp. It is a fast methodology to get began and has methods to design your 1-bit fonts and write low-fi music.

Devs can promote their video games wherever they’d prefer to. One such recreation is Bloom.

Out there for $9.99, Bloom is a real-time simulator recreation the place you run a flower store. You possibly can examine in together with your store a number of occasions all through the day to see the way it’s doing and has an adaptive setting that reacts to the precise time.

Lost your Marbles is a really fun game
Misplaced your Marbles is a very enjoyable recreation

Whereas all of those video games are spectacular, the long run is extra opaque. We do not know what the long run holds for Playdate video games and what number of can be launched.

You will not see any high-resolution first-person shooters or MMOs and the indie growth world will seemingly must step up for making Playdate value it long-term.

Must you purchase the Panic Playdate?

The Panic Playdate is a darling little console. It is so in contrast to all the things else now we have in our gaming arsenal. There aren’t any exterior controllers, no TV assist, an itty-bitty 1-bit show, and a mono speaker.

It feels such as you’ve been teleported again in time to the launch of the unique Gameboy. On the identical time, it has so many fashionable touches reminiscent of quick flash storage, USB-C and Wi-Fi, and downloadable video games.

We love the Panic Playdate
We love the Panic Playdate

As we performed with the Playdate, each second was gratifying. Nearly each recreation was one thing we wished to maintain enjoying and it left us excited to see what new video games can be delivered subsequent.

After all, we want it had a backlight for the show, but it surely did not cease us from enjoying each time we might.

Should you’re a fan of retro gaming or need one thing enjoyable and distinctive, the Playdate is definitely it. Playdate is totally different, and we love that.


  • Lovely, enjoyable, and quirky
  • Nice assortment of launch titles
  • Stable {hardware} with good development
  • Season go is a novel option to introduce video games
  • Good battery life, particularly on standby
  • Extremely-reflective show appears to be like nice in shiny mild


  • No backlight
  • USB-A cable bundled
  • Uncertainty at what future video games can be launched

Ranking: 4 out of 5

The place to purchase

You possibly can preorder the Panic Playdate from the corporate’s web site for $179 which incorporates all 24 season one video games. Be aware that each one new preorders aren’t anticipated to ship till 2023.

There’s additionally an elective purple cowl for $29.

Related Posts

Keychron S1 overview: Minimal, mechanical, trendy

Article Hero Picture Keychron S1 4.5 YourNextApp might earn an affiliate fee on purchases made by hyperlinks on our website. The Keychron S1 is a low-key mechanical…

Satechi Thunderbolt 4 Slim Hub assessment: Moveable, speedy, and versatile

Satechi Thunderbolt 4 Slim Hub 4.5 YourNextApp could earn an affiliate fee on purchases made by hyperlinks on our web site. Introduced at CES 2023, Satechi’s Thunderbolt…

ShiftCam SnapGrip overview: Higher iPhone photographs with MagSafe

ShiftCam SnapGrip 3.5 YourNextApp could earn an affiliate fee on purchases made by hyperlinks on our web site. Apple launched the MagSafe accent ecosystem as a brand…

iLive 3-in-1 Wi-fi Charging Stand overview: A unusual journey charger

iLive 3-in-1 Wi-fi Charging Stand 2.5 YourNextApp might earn an affiliate fee on purchases made by way of hyperlinks on our website. The iLive 3-in-1 Wi-fi Charging…

BenQ 34-inch ultrawide 2K monitor evaluation: Good for Common Management

BenQ PD3420Q 34-inch ultrawide 2K monitor 4.0 YourNextApp could earn an affiliate fee on purchases made via hyperlinks on our web site. The BenQ PD3420Q is an…

Meross Good WiFi Lamp Evaluation: Small design, large customization

Article Hero Picture Meross Good WiFi Lamp 4.0 YourNextApp could earn an affiliate fee on purchases made via hyperlinks on our website. The Meross Good WiFi Lamp…

Privacy Policy