IT’S HIP TO BE SQUARE

A CLEVER NOD TO THE CLAS­SIC GAMEBOY, PLAYDATE’S RETRO FEA­TURE SET LOOKS LIKELY TO CRANK UP SOME SE­RI­OUS EX­CITE­MENT AHEAD OF ITS SCHED­ULED RE­LEASE NEXT YEAR

Llanelli Star - - TECH NOW -

THESE days, it’s quite hard to be sur­prised by the go­ings on in the world of tech­nol­ogy. Phones largely look the same, all the games con­soles are tread­ing wa­ter, and there’s not much to choose be­tween the var­i­ous smart­watches on the mar­ket.

So I raise a glass this week to the com­pany that de­cided that what we re­ally need is a new hand-held gam­ing plat­form that fea­tures, among some more tra­di­tional con­trol meth­ods, a pop-out crank.

You heard that right. A pop-out crank. That’s the best way I can de­scribe it, and even I don’t re­ally know what it means. So let’s dig a lit­tle deeper.

Cre­at­ing a big­ger storm in the tech world this week than a new iPod (see col­umn, far right), was the Playdate – the brain­child of Ore­gon-based Mac and iOS soft­ware cre­ators Panic, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Swedish syn­the­siser ma­gi­cians Teenage En­gi­neer­ing.

It’s a new hand-held gam­ing de­vice, and it looks… un­usual. It has a very sim­ple 2.7in 400x240 pixel monochrome screen, a four-way d-pad, and two but­tons. And the crank, of course.

At first I thought this might be to charge the de­vice by hand, but no – it’s another con­troller. Some games for the de­vice use noth­ing but the crank to con­trol the gam­ing action, while some do not use it at all.

There’s a speaker as well, on this per­fectly square bright yel­low de­vice, and not much else. It’s a retro homage to the Game Boy of yore, and yet it feels com­pletely mod­ern.

One of the most in­no­va­tive fea­tures is the games – there are 12 of them (at first, at least), and they’re all in­cluded in the price, but they don’t all come with the game on day one.

They will be de­liv­ered wire­lessly and au­to­mat­i­cally to the de­vice at a rate of one per week over a pe­riod of 12 weeks.

And per­haps the most ex­cit­ing el­e­ment of the whole project is some of the de­vel­op­ers who’ll be cre­at­ing these 12 games – Ben­nett Foddy (Get­ting Over It), Keita Taka­hashi (Kata­mari Democ­racy), and Zach Gage

(Spel­lTower, Ridicu­lous Fishing, and Re­ally Bad Chess), will all be in­volved. It’s like a who’s who of the most in­no­va­tive game de­sign­ers in the field.

Panic it­self, of course, is no stranger to games, even though it’s mainly known for stel­lar Mac apps like Trans­mit and Coda.

It pub­lished the ex­cel­lent FireWatch video game three years ago, and is also slated to bring the lat­est game from indie Aus­tralian stu­dio Un­ti­tled Goose Game to mar­ket this year.

But Playdate is the Panic project ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about right now. Even though it won’t hit the mar­ket un­til early next year.

The de­vice will cost just $149, which seems like a bar­gain, even from this dis­tance.

Or­ders will be open later this year, but you’d bet­ter get your name down now at https://play. date – Panic says stock will be very lim­ited.

It’s a new hand-held gam­ing de­vice, and it looks… un­usual. It has a very sim­ple 2.7in 400x240 pixel monochrome screen, a four-way d-pad, and two but­tons... And the crank, of course

The Playdate cap­tures the Game Boy’s min­i­mal­ist fun vibe

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