Let’s Have a Play Date With the PlayDate!

Way back in 2019 when I went to PAX West in Seattle, I saw a new handheld console called the PlayDate.  It was simple, yellow, and had a black and white screen.  And a crank you turned on the side!  And it was just as charming as heck and I wanted one for some reason!  Well I finally got one, so let’s take a look at it!

So this little yellow handheld goes the simplistic route and has just a D pad and two buttons.  But on the side it also has a crank that you can turn to play the games!  The screen is black and white, but it has a pretty high resolution so the graphics in the games can still be good aside from the monochrome.  Only problems I have with the screen is that it’s not backlit, so you have to be in good lighting to play it.  And since the screen is so small it can be hard to see things sometimes.  One thing I am impressed with is the sound.  I figured it would just be Game Boy quality bleeps and bloops, but it’s actually on par with the Game Boy Advance as far as sound quality goes.

If I were offered to buy the handheld now, I probably would’ve declined.  Times are tougher right now and I need to work on saving money.  But the pre-orders for the PlayDate happened around the time that COVID first started to hit back in 2020, so I was in ‘depressed and stuck at home’ mode and pre-ordered this thing with a ‘you only live once’ mindset.

So before we talk about games, let’s take a look at pictures of this thing.  Here’s the front of the box.

And here’s the back.

When you open the box, here’s what you see.  I love the playful nature of this whole package, as the “Have Fun” word balloon is actually a box that houses the charging cord and instructions.

And here’s the console in my hand, so you can see how small it is.

So how do you get games for this thing?  Well the beauty is that you don’t have to buy anything else past the console.  Just hook it up to WiFi and you get two games every week on a Monday.  Season One will have 24 games in total.  Not sure if they’ll have a Season Two or not.  Supposedly you can make your own games as well, but I’m not doing that!  As of this writing, I’ve had the PlayDate for two weeks and have four games on it, so I thought I’d go over those briefly now.

Whitewater Wipeout

This is a surfing game and reminds me of that portion of T&C Surf Designs on the NES.  So yeah not a good start right there.  You use the crank to move your surfer dude around and try to do flips and tricks on the top of the wave and not wipe out.  But just like the surfing portion of NES T&C Surf Designs, I couldn’t figure this one out very well and could only get a high score of 30 points.  But the graphics are good at least.

Casual Birder

In this top down viewed RPG styled game, you have just moved to a new town where different species of birds live.  You want to photograph all the birds, and can do so by pressing a button to bring up camera mode, and use the crank to bring the birds in focus.  You have an album of 25 bird species to collect.  Sometimes you must take a picture of certain birds to move the story along.  And you also have to watch out for an evil gang of birdwatchers (ooo, I’m shakin’ in my boots!), who like to cheat and steal photos to win the bird photo competitions!  I really liked the idea of this game, but it’s hard to see the birds sometimes because they are so small on the screen.  I wish this game would be ported to other consoles so I could play it there.  Aside from the crank focusing feature, this one could totally be on consoles.

Cranklin’s Time Travel Adventure

This was the game that sold me on the PlayDate initially.  Mainly because it was made by the same guy who did Katamari Damacy.  I’m a huge fan of that game and I’ve played every other game that he was responsible for, including Noby Noby Boy and Wattam.  In this game you play as Cranklin, a dude that looks like some kind of caterpillar.  He has to make it to his date on time, and you turn the crank to make him move forward.  Turn it the other way to make him go backwards.  Along the route he’ll react to certain things on screen.  For instance, he’ll duck to sniff a flower or jump over hurdles.  There are bugs that are independent of your time travel movements, and if they hit you, you must start the stage over again.  So you must time your crank movements so that he ducks by a flower or jumps over a hurdle at the same time a bug flies by so you avoid them.  Once you reach your girlfriend, you move to the next level.  I love some of the things she does to him at the end of the stage, like giving him a German suplex for being late!  Dude, Cranklin, just wake up five minutes before three, she’s not that far from your house!  Only problem I have with this game is that I’m not sure how you can start over if you wanted to.

Boogie Loops

The last game on this list is less of a game and more of a music program you can mess around with. It’s fine and all, I just wish you had instructions so you know what was going on.  I guess you could probably look online, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a handheld gaming system, I think.

So those are all the games I’ve got so far.  Two good ones and two not so good ones.  Here’s what I’m going to do about the other games.  After I get ten more of them, I’ll write another blog in about a month or so about those.  And then a month after that, I’ll do the same with the remaining ten.  So should you get the PlayDate?  Well it’s too early for me to tell you that right now.  I’ll let you know in a couple of months when I play all the games for it!  Later!  –Cary

One Response to “Let’s Have a Play Date With the PlayDate!”

  1. Sweet! I was entranced with this last spring and put in an order… no idea when it might come… Looks pretty fun and I like the “doling out games over time” sort of thing, like an old-school TV release schedule…

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