Panic’s Playdate Feels Like a Delightful, Bizarro Nintendo Game and Watch

Gaming handhelds are my favorite type of console, but they’ve become much bigger and more complex over time. I grew up with a Game & Watch that could fit in my pocket, but now the Nintendo Switch can barely tuck into my jacket. Playdate, which promises to be a return to tiny whimsical gaming devices, has been teased by Portland-based Panic for years. It’s finally here in my hands, and I love the way it feels. 

My full review of the Playdate won’t be coming until April 18, but for now here’s a look at the box, the Playdate and its size next to some other handhelds.

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That’s it. No case included.


Scott Stein/CNET

It’s a minimal package! The box opens up, and then there’s the Playdate, sitting askew to match its quirky gaming promises, along with a small instruction booklet and a matching yellow USB-C cable to charge. That’s it. There’s no case in the box, which is frustrating, since the device seems to beg to be coddled in some protective bag. It’s small and square, a shape unlike any other handheld I’ve used before.

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It does come with a yellow, short USB-C cable.


Scott Stein/CNET

The Playdate has a reflective black-and-white display. There’s a direction pad with two buttons, plus a signature crank, which works with games, that pops out the side of the handheld.


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The Playdate’s close in size to Nintendo’s recent Game & Watch models. It’s smaller than any phone on the market right now, which makes it a lot smaller than a Nintendo Switch.

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Panic’s Playdate, next to Nintendo’s Zelda Game & Watch (top) and the old Game Boy Micro (right).


Scott Stein/CNET

Besides its USB-C charge port, the other thing I appreciate is the headphone jack. Nintendo’s Game & Watch handhelds don’t have one, which means you can’t keep the audio to yourself. It’s a small touch that makes the Playdate feel less like a novelty and more functional as a portable game system.

My impressions on the Playdate, and its games, are coming. For now, I can confirm that this little yellow machine is adorable and surprisingly well-built.

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