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The Playdate is the strangest handheld games console you’ve ever seen

Given everyone has a handheld games device in their pocket now, it’d be a very brave company to come up with a dedicated device at the moment. It seems Panic – the company that used to develop Mac software before taking a sidestep into games with the excellent Firewatch – is that company. Say hello to the Playdate.

A collaboration with Swedish synth designers Teenage Engineering, the Playdate is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, from its crank controller to the games delivery method, but let’s start with the screen. That 2.7-inch display is a 400×240 black and white LCD number.

On the surface, it might be tempting to compare the screen to, say, the Game Boy,” the company says. “But Playdate’s display is quite different: it has no grid lines, no blurring, is extremely sharp and clear, and has much higher resolution. It sounds odd to say, but: it’s truly a “premium” black-and-white screen.”

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The next thing you’ll probably notice is that alongside the familiar D-pad and front-facing buttons, there’s a third input: a hand crank. While this may make the Playdate the ideal machine for a Sega Bass Fishing remake, the developers have something more unusual in mind with its games lineup.

First of all, 12 games are currently planned for the Playdate, and you’ll own all of them when you buy the machine. They come as a ‘season’ and will be unlocked as time goes on. These are all made by indie developers, and some critically acclaimed ones at that. There’s Bennett Foddy (QWOP, GIRP), Shaun Inman (The Last Rocket) and Zach Gage (Really Bad Chess, Flip Flop Solitaire).  

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The games will remain a surprise until magically delivered to your device,” the company explains. “One of the benefits of purchasing a Playdate early is that you’ll play the season in sync with the other first-buyers. You’ll be the first to know when new games are released, and the first to experience them.”

The first title will be “Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure”, and it comes from the mind of Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi. And as the name suggests, it will be exclusively controlled via that crank. Here it is in action:

Extremely limited pre-orders will go up later this year with a plan to ship in 2020. It will cost $149 which includes all 12 games.

Will you be pre-ordering the Playdate? Let us know on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

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