As part of a showcase event, Panic announced that Catalog, a game store for its Playdate handheld, would be launching today. The store is available both on the device and on the web and is described as a “boutique” storefront featuring “software curated by the team at Panic.” As part of the announcement, Panic also announced that the handheld is getting a $20 price bump and will cost $199 starting in April.
It was — and still is — possible to sideload games purchased on platforms like Itch.io, but Catalog theoretically makes it easier to find the good stuff. At launch, Catalog has 16 titles, 11 of which are brand-new. Two of those games — Real Steal and Recommendation Dog!! — are being released as a free “bonus” to the season one collection that came bundled with every Playdate. Meanwhile, one of the device’s early hits, the charming real-time narrative Bloom, is getting a big update that adds a post-game story and a new “chill” mode.
Ahead of the launch, I had a chance to check out the new lineup of Playdate titles. If you’ve managed to get your hands on the little yellow device and have exhausted the first season of games, here are five great titles to check out.
Developer: Lowtek Games
Not only does Tape Worm Disco Puzzle have a great title, but it also has a wonderfully absurd premise. You play as a worm who owns a nightclub for fleas, and it’s your job to help them have a good time by enjoying the tunes and... gathering droplets of blood. In practice, this means squirming your body through maze-like levels to collect things and help the fleas out. It’s a clever puzzle game with bite-sized levels and, as you’d imagine, a killer soundtrack.
Developer: Chuhai Labs
This is a great little arcade game that makes clever use of the Playdate’s built-in crank. As your snowboarder goes down a mountain, you use the crank to turn them left and right to avoid obstacles — like trees and skiers — as well as pull off tricks. It takes some getting used to, but it’s also very satisfying pulling off a spin by turning the crank. Carve Jr. also has some old-school arcade charm, right down to the robotic announcer voice cheering you on.
Another clever crank game, Grand Tour Legends is a bike racing game where you only have to worry about pedaling, not steering. That might sound simple, but figuring out when to go all out and when to conserve your energy is the key to winning, and it’s a tricky balance. That’s probably why this is the first game I’ve ever played with a content warning for “precision cranking.” Then again, the hardest part might be not getting distracted by your racer’s mesmerizing butt.
Developer: Ron Lent
Eyeland is a strange adventure that takes place entirely inside of a dream and thus uses dream logic as you control a little blob through a tiny world, solving oddball puzzles to get to the end. The most impressive thing about Eyeland is how efficient it is: you get the satisfaction of a larger game, but it only takes an hour to finish. It’s also an experience meant to be played in a single sitting, with no autosave feature (though you can still pause the game while your Playdate is asleep).
Developer: Shaun Inman
A handheld isn’t really complete without a good word game, and Word Trip is that for the Playdate. It even manages to offer something pretty unique inside the well-trod genre. Here you’re presented with two words, and the goal is to use letters from both to turn the first word into the second. It makes more sense when you’re playing, I promise, and the road trip theme adds a touch of tension as you’re playing with a time limit of sorts.