Panic owes its name to high-end Mac software, but more recently the company switched to gaming and released indie hits Fire watch and the upcoming Unnamed Goose Game. Now the developer is expanding his work in games and moving in a very unexpected direction. Today, Panic has unveiled Playdate, a small, yellow Game Boy-like device with a black and white screen, a few thick buttons and … a hand crank for controlling quirky games developed by indie stars such as Keita Takahashi and Zach Gage.
The company says it's something completely different in the world of video games & # 39; wanted to create. As the Playdate saw it, it succeeded in doing exactly that. "The yellow color made Playdate immediately palpable, friendly and irresistible," says founder Cabel Sasser, founder of Panic.
First the hardware. The device is incredibly small, measuring in at 74 × 76 × 9 mm, with a 2.7-inch display. It looks a bit like a stretched iPod Nano. The Playdate has a reflective black and white screen with no backlight, two face buttons, a directional pad and a hand crank that fits neatly into the side of the device. The pendulum does not feed the handheld as you would expect; instead it is a unique control option. "Think of the pendulum as an analog stick, but one that you can turn endlessly," says Panic.
As far as the screen is concerned, Panic says that while it sounds incredibly lo-fi, it's a bit more high-end than you might think. "At first glance, it might be tempting to compare the screen with, say, the Game Boy," the company says. "But the display of Playdate is very different: it has no grid lines, no blurring, is extremely sharp and clear and has a much higher resolution. It sounds strange to say, but: it really is a & # 39; premium & # 39 "black and white screen."
Other functions include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C and a headphone connection. The handheld operates on a custom operating system built by Panic and it has a battery that is charged with the USB-C port. ("We don't have definitive figures yet, but the early game results look promising," the company says about the battery life.) If you wonder why the hardware looks so smooth, it's designed in collaboration with Teenage Engineering, the Swedish company known for its beautiful synths. They came up with the crank idea.
However, the hardware is not the only unique thing about the Playdate. Instead of buying cartridges or game downloads, the hardware is included with what Panic calls "season" games. That means that 12 titles, each specifically designed for the Playdate, will appear over time. When you switch on the device for the first time, you get access to one game and a new game is unlocked every week.
Although we don't know much about the games ourselves, Panic has put together an exciting team of indie makers to design experiences for the device. The first game to unlock is called Crankin & # 39; s Time Travel Adventure, and it was designed by none other than Katamari Damacy maker Keita Takahashi. This is the starting point:
This game uses the crank solely to control time, back and forth. Your goal? Get Crankin & # 39; to date with Crankette while avoiding an ever-increasing series of ridiculous obstacles – obstacles that are not influenced by the time control. Will Crankin get it in time for his meeting? (Spoiler alert: no)
Other contributors include QWOP maker Bennett Foddy, The Last Rocket designer Shaun Inman, and Zach Gage, the spirit behind inventive mobile games such as Really bad chess and Flip Flop Solitaire. "The games remain a surprise until they are magically delivered to your device," Panic explains. Once a game is unlocked, it is available to play forever and Panic says it will consider additional seasons depending on how the device is sold.
The Playdate is expected to be delivered in early 2020 and will cost $ 149 if that is the case. If you want to start early, pre-orders will be made later this year. Panic says it's still "figuring out" to which countries the device will ship.