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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Panic's Playdate Is a Retro-Modern Handheld-Gaming Delight

If you logged countless hours crushing Tetris blocks on road trips in the Family Truckster, this game machine looks familiar to you. But while the Playdate has a joyfully retro design, with springy buttons and a black-and-white screen, it's no mere Game Boy nostalgia trip. For one, there are no cartridges. Games are delivered over Wi-Fi; the first “season” of titles will arrive over the course of the 12 weeks after launch. (The purchase price includes that initial batch.) Then there's the crank: You'll keep it nestled against the housing for some titles, but in others you'll deploy it as a supplemental controller—to make a character run, say, or to advance a side-scrolling map. Playdate is made by Panic, the Portland, Oregon, company behind last year's irreverent hit Untitled Goose Game as well as some of the most beloved utilities for Mac software developers. Importantly, the Playdate is built on an open software platform. Any game designer can code their next creation to run on the device; the gaggle of indie games that spring forth should keep the Playdate feeling fresh for years.

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