At this weekend’s BitSummit, Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi asked me if I’d like to see the Playdate. He then proceeded to pull it out of a black case and hand me the version that’s running his new Playdate exclusive Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure.
“You don’t use any buttons,” Takahashi said. “Everything is done through the crank. You just turn the crank.”
I hold the Playdate in my hand. The yellow is striking and the plastic is nice to the touch and doesn’t feel cheap.
The whole thing seems heftier than I would have thought. It’s not heavy per se, but it feels like a solid piece of industrial design and not like the standard plastic portables—as nice as they are—to which I’m more accustomed.
“Like this?” I asked, turning the crank.
It feels like I’m turning a film reel. The crank is metal, and I can hear a clicking noise as it turning.
“This guy is the protagonist,” Takahashi continued. “Every day, he’s late for a date. He has to hurry to meet his girlfriend.” I turn the crank forward and stop. The protagonist (Crankin’?) freezes. I turn the crank the other way and he starts moving in reverse.
“Yes, yes, like that.”
With the simple monochrome graphics, it’s like I’m playing around with an old silent film mutoscope at a penny arcade. But this isn’t silent. There are cute little sound effects the characters make. It’s all rather charming as you’d expect from the guy who made Katamari.
I only had a few minutes with Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, so it’s hard to make heads or tails of it. What I saw looked interesting. There was a game element: For example, I had to rewind the crank to turn back time and get out of the way of a butterfly.
So this isn’t just some tech demo, and I’m happy to see someone trying something decidedly different. I’ve never played a portable quite like this.
The demo model felt solid and screwed down. I pressed around on the Dpad and the buttons, but it’s hard to judge them because Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure didn’t use them. They’re clicky enough, so if you like that, then you’ll probably be happy.
I hope the commercial release feels this good and other developers take advantage of this unique little game machine.
YouTuber drikin has footage of the Playdate, which you can watch below.