Playdate Brings Creative Cranking to Handheld Gaming

Video games are toys. We sometimes forget this as consoles turn into increasingly powerful and scary-looking home PCs, but video games are toys that you play with. You press buttons, fiddle with sticks, and rub touch pads. Panic’s Playdate gives us yet another, charmingly analog way to control our games. Along with its d-pad and face buttons, this monochrome handheld lets you play by turning a physical crank.

Announced three years ago, the Playdate’s crank garnered the most attention. After years of homogenous console controls, people were excited for a throwback to the days of big light guns and trackballs and other weird mechanical interfaces at home or in the arcade. Finally, turn a crank to help a robot travel through time and go on dates.

But this fascinating handheld has more going for it than just a gimmick. For $180 you don’t just get a Playdate, you get free access to seasons of new games, delivered over Wi-Fi, from acclaimed indie creators like Lucas Pope and Keita Takahashi.

On today’s episode of The Pop-Off we talk to one of these developers, Rokashi, about the fun creative challenges that come from developing for the Playdate and their chill golf game Faraway Fairway. Watch in the video above.

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You can order the Playdate now but may not get a unit shipped to you for a few months. For fans of boutique new handhelds, from the Valve Steam Deck to Analogue Pocket, that’s just how things are now. In meantime, we recommend trying out other delightfully bizarre games from publisher Panic, including Untitled Goose Game and the upcoming Nour: Play With Your Food. 

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