Playdate hands-on: a Game Boy from a different dimension

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Playdate hands-on: a Game Boy from a different dimension

If things go as expected, four new dedicated video game handhelds will launch this year. And each is primed to offer something different. The next Switch has a brighter, more vibrant OLED screen; Valve’s Steam Deck is a gaming PC in your hands; and Analogue’s Pocket handheld recreates the original Game Boy hardware while adding modern upgrades like a better LCD display and the option to connect to an HDTV.

And then there’s the Playdate from Panic. Whereas the aforementioned handhelds are almost uniformly technological upgrades, the Playdate offers something much weirder. It looks kind of like a Game Boy that comes from an alien world. There are familiar elements, like a D-pad and face buttons, but many of its games are controlled by a crank that slots into the side. And those games are only available in black and white, and they’ll eventually be released as part of weekly mystery drops.

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It sounds strange and fascinating, and I had the chance to head into the PlayDate’s parallel universe over the last few days with a near-final version of the device. It definitely is weird — but that’s also what makes it exciting.

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