We tried Playdate, the little yellow console that brought the crank in the history of video games

It’s unlikely you’ve ever used a crank to interact with a video game, except, in a pinch, if you’ve tried one of the fishing simulations that offer controllers with reels. The American Publisher Panic (Firewatch, No Goose Game Title) however bet on this elbow -shaped link by placing it on its first console, the Playdate.

Getting your hands on this little yellow square is harder than expected. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of components, the console, which was first announced for 2020, won’t finally be available until April 2022-and again, if you order it from the moon from July 2021.

Lots of pixels and 8-bit music

Playdate has something to appeal to design enthusiasts. It is strong and compact. Its thickness is almost the same as a smartphone, and its surface can be compared to four squares of a large bar of chocolate with hazelnuts. The crank fixed to its right side (too severe for left hands) can be deployed or retracted thanks to a relatively flexible joint.

With its canary yellow color, the handheld console is eye -catching. It happily blocks out the black and gray shades on the screen. Losing colors is an aesthetic option: this new generation portable console tries to reconnect with the spirit of dinosaurs in video game electronic games in calculator format (like Nintendo’s Game & Watch).

Its resolution and, therefore, the quality of its graphics may be actually four times higher than the old Game Boy, but the monochrome aesthetics as well as the 8-bit music and sound effects are likely to excite the fans. flash of nostalgia for users. born in the 1980s.

The Playdate is 7.4 cm wide and 7.6 cm long (if the crank is folded).  Its thickness is 0.9 cm.

A connected machine

Don’t look for the notch where to put the cartridges in the machine, nothing. Playdate may have had a foothold in the 1990s, but another is firmly rooted in 2020. A Wi-Fi connection allows it to automatically feed its catalog at the rate of two free games. every week, which we “unwrap” like little. virtual gifts if they are downloaded automatically. In total, Playdate will offer twenty-four games at the end of what its publisher calls it “first season” – indicates that there must be others.

The first title tested was Whitewater Elimination, where the crank is used to rotate the surfer’s board in a large wave. The goal is to complete a series of acrobatic jumps to score points. This highly intuitive title sets the tone for most console games: easy to learn, but hard to master. The second title is such a beautiful but little story: the photographic game casual birder disappointed us a little, as it struggled to go beyond respect for the games of the 1990s.

The first few days, though, like the crank on Playdate, we had the impression of going round the circles: we had to wait four weeks, and therefore eight games, to see a good variety. A variety that can be obtained on Playdate much more easily if you decide to download other games, in addition to this first “season”, thanks to the USB cable: two development tools was made free of Panic in early April.

The machine battery holds charge much better than a Smartphone or a Switch.  It will only come out after eight hours of activity, the manufacturer specifies.  Power is provided via a USB-C cable.

grind to win

After trying out about fifteen games, the temporary toy library review was even more positive. Only three or four titles are disappointing, while some concepts have an air of deja-vu that is unpleasant, like the proper name. Executive Golf or arcade games Hyper Meteor.

The most memorable memories are associated with the act of spinning, whether at agility or at running speed. We were always even tempted to play while singing “And I at that time, I turned the crank” in the Wazoo group.

Surfing on Whitewater Eliminationinspired by one of the mini games California Games (1987), shocking. We also approached to sprain the wrist Pinball Lifter, where you have to operate an elevator to carry the penguins impatiently. the wise Omaze also offered us beautiful puzzles based on cylinders.

The obstacle course game Appearance of Time Travel also offers a nice discovery: the crank allows you to progress or change the course of time. It reminds us of the oldest cameras that were activated by performing the same action.

But the little metal appendix isn’t everything. Other creators only use it (too?) A little, like Bennett Foddy, the creator of Overcoming It and QWOP. on zipper, the D-pad and the A and B buttons act as the main controls. The crank is only used to anticipate the actions of enemies in a game that offers bloody confrontations in a palace in medieval Japan.

Simplicity and creativity are the hallmarks of the console.  No video game juggernaut has led the project, and American publisher Panic has called on developers from the independent game scene to provide its console catalog.

Make the most reluctant video games fall in love

So far, this portable console has proven to be very enjoyable for short and serious games. If we take the beloved Game Boy as a point of comparison, our favorite experiences in the first batch are more in the act of Tetris than the epic story of The Legend of Zelda: Awake Link. It’s available on the antipodes of portable machines released in recent months, whether it’s the Steam Deck from Valve, a mini-PC with a plethoric catalog, or the Switch OLED, a luxurious version of famous Nintendo console.

Also read: Steam Deck: we tested the first portable console from Valve
Read also Switching the OLED model: we play the game in seven variations of the new Nintendo console model

With instant grip and creative content, the little yellow square is still perfect for introducing video games to the public who are most reluctant to the complexity of new console and PC games. So Playdate is great for challenging an elderly uncle, his parents or a child.

But for now, by contrast, only the most knowledgeable players will be able to play it – those who were able to order one of the unique first copies sold in July 2021 – and those willing to spend € 200 for it. (where you have to add the € 25 shipping cost and an optional € 20 case), which is the price of some “classic” consoles that are even more powerful.

These expert gamers will be happy to enjoy this portable console like no other and its small games with new concepts. For others, it will have to wait until next year to get this beautiful thing that brings the crank in the history of video games.

Pixel Review:

We like:

  • turn the crank in one direction or another to maneuver machines, characters or objects;
  • a very nice console that you can take anywhere;
  • the originality of the toy library.

We don’t like it very much:

  • with shipping costs, this console shipping from the USA is more expensive than some Nintendo Switch models;
  • some titles that are extremely storytelling;
  • all than English;
  • somewhat disappointed, at first, with the slow release of the games.

It’s better for you if:

  • you like fast and intense games;
  • you are looking for new concepts;
  • you are an inveterate nostalgic.

This is not for you if:

  • you don’t like 2D games;
  • let go of the blacks and whites;
  • you have no hands;
  • you have a sprained right wrist.

The Pixel Note:

400 pixels/240

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