Sound Mind, or, Committing to the (1) Bit

About my recently-announced game and some recommendations for other Playdate games

Wednesday morning, Panic ran a Playdate Update video that previewed some upcoming games for the platform, including one I’m working on called Sound Mind.

It’s a two-player game where you play as siblings fighting over your father’s inheritance. On your turn, you’re trying to find the bag of money and keep it all for yourself. Then you hand the Playdate to your opponent, and your character is frozen helplessly in place, while your sibling is trying to steal back the money for themselves. You can’t see what they’re doing, but you can hear every step and every movement.

The idea for the game came during a road trip down to southern California while we were getting ready to move. At a car charging stop, my fiancé was playing with the Playdate. I couldn’t see what he was doing, but the device has a pretty great speaker, so I could hear every bit of it. And the sound effects were distinctive enough that I could piece together a reasonably accurate image of what he was doing.

Since 2023 was supposed to be the year of my glorious voluntary unemployment, I thought I’d be able to casually finish up this game in just a few months without even breaking a sweat.1Honestly, I was well aware my schedule was comically over-ambitious, but I wanted to try and keep myself on task. Then I had to go and ruin everything by getting a full-time job. My pace has slowed way down, but I’m still plugging away at it to be released next year.

I submitted a bunch of ideas2Well, okay, four to Panic, and I suspect they’re more perceptive than I am at seeing the potential in a half-baked idea. As I’ve been working on Sound Mind, it’s kind of gone from just a novelty to something that fits in well with what I think is the whole gestalt of the Playdate: it’s kind of a weird idea that wouldn’t work as well anywhere else, it’s a fairly simple concept that’s going to succeed or fail in the execution, and the platform itself is small and lo-fi enough that there’s room for me to get goofy.

So I can fill it with homages to Edward Gorey and extremely dated references to 1970s horror movies, for instance, and I don’t have to look at anybody’s stinkface reaction that it’s too niche to be marketable.3Hypothetically speaking.

Plus I can’t say enough what a fan I am of Panic. Everybody I’ve dealt with has been surprisingly and unnecessarily nice and supportive, without exception. And I’ve been grateful for their patience, as they’re a lot more laid back than it seems like a company that’s so famously detail-oriented could get away with being.

Or to put it more simply: come for the crank, stay for the supportive environment and platform that favors novelty and creativity and seeks to empower people to make cool stuff.

And finally, here are some game recommendations for the Playdate, since it’s been a while since I’ve made any. (This isn’t in any way exhaustive, since I’ve had very little time to play anything, so I only catch about 5% of what’s out there).

Under the Castle was another upcoming game that was previewed today. I haven’t played it, but it looks fantastic. Similar to early Zelda games in layout, but with a unique and modern art style.

Grand Tour Legends might be the best game available for the Playdate right now. You play as a cyclist, and all you do is turn the crank to pedal your bike, keeping a close eye on your stamina. You’ll want to coast down hills and drift behind other bikers to keep up your speed without BONKing out. It’s got an animated background that’s just absurdly well done, it cleverly renders your opponents moving around you on a platform without 3D capabilities, and the whole thing has a really slick graphical presentation reminiscent of Tintin collected editions. IORAMA seriously raised the bar for the Playdate with this game, in my opinion.

Word Trip is a word game themed to a cross-country road trip. What I like is its clever presentation, and the sense of restraint. Word games shouldn’t work on the Playdate, since there’s no keyboard, but limiting it to 4 letter words with only 1 letter changing keeps the feel of a word game without the overcomplicated UX.

Platform 10 is like a scaled-down version of Countdown where you’re trying to manipulate 4 digits to result in the number 10. It’s a pretty simple idea, well-executed.

Four Corners and Shift are unfairly lumped together because they’re both by Scenic Route Software, masters of the puzzle game for Playdate. Any puzzle game they put out should be an instant buy for anyone who owns the device.

That includes Generations, in which you’re merging portraits on a wall to age them up to subsequent generations. It’s a really clever away to adapt a puzzle game that was heavily dependent on color on iOS, to a platform that just has 1-bit black and white. And the result ended up with a lot more character, as well.

  • 1
    Honestly, I was well aware my schedule was comically over-ambitious, but I wanted to try and keep myself on task.
  • 2
    Well, okay, four
  • 3