November 12, 2020
It’s strange to admit that I got a little emotional as the credits played out for Astro’s Playroom. This is a packed in, pre-installed game that anyone who buys a PlayStation 5 will find on their console, minus the update, when they turn it on, yet it’s such a love letter to all things PlayStation, and by-proxy, gaming, that it really felt like a moving experience.
Gaming has been an ever-present in my life, as I’m sure it has for many of you, too. Astro’s Playroom is so good that it made me actually forget Sackboy existed, proclaiming to members of our team how PlayStation finally has a platforming mascot to rival other companies. I’m a big Sackboy fan, but Astro has the charm of Nintendo, and the tight controls of a Nintendo game, and yeah, the fantastical, genius gameplay ideas of… well, you get the point.
This is a technical showcase for the console, of that there’s no mistake. From the rapid, almost instant level load times, to the brilliance of the DualSense controller. In fact, every single feature feels implemented to single out a fantastic feature of the new PS5 controller: from the simple speaker on the front to the haptic feedback throughout the pad, and of course not forgetting the incredible adaptive triggers.
And I don’t really want to spoil too much of what Astro’s Playroom has to offer, in all honesty. Each of the four main levels (there’s more, and I won’t be mentioning them here) bring new ideas to the table, starting with Cooling Springs which is designed to teach you about the adaptive triggers. It may start as a platformer, taking what made Astro Bot Rescue Mission so brilliant only without the Virtual Reality, but it quickly shows you how impressive and, frankly, next-gen the DualSense controller is.
From walking into sand and having it feel “gritty” in your hands, to Astro putting up an umbrella in the rain and each drop feeling as though you are in the rain, it’s truly impressive. But each of the four levels has a gimmick of sorts involving Astro jumping into a suit and you using the controller in a less typical way. That first Cooling Springs level sees you in a suit that’s got a spring on the bottom. You hold the R2 trigger and it will give resistance as you push. The harder you push; the higher you’ll jump, and you control movement with the motion controls within the DualSense. That’s just one example, and again, I won’t spoil any of the lovely surprises aside from saying the “monkey suit” is my favourite.
While it’s a phenomenally playable platform game, it’s also a museum of sorts. Astro’s Playroom has hidden collectibles in every segment of every level. There are puzzle pieces to collect that flesh our murals in the main playroom area, but there are also artefacts that are certain to make you nostalgic for the past. And there’s that emotion again, because there were moments that threw me back in time, imagining my long-gone father walking in as I played a PlayStation game and trying his best to be slightly interested. My parents struggled, but they managed to get me a PlayStation, and I’ll always be grateful for that. If games matter to you, there will be a “PlayStation story” for you as well. A simple game like Astro’s Playroom reminded me that despite barely being able to work a TV properly, it was my parents who got me that first Commodore 64 and sparked a passion that would put me where I am today, writing this for people to hear. We are the memories we make, never forget that.
The only thing I’d complain about, really, is that I wanted more. There are small sections and ideas that never get reused and I’d play an entire world of just those things. It’s not a difficult game, obviously designed for all-comers to enjoy and feel capable of beating, and there’s replayability because of the inclusion of collectibles you actually want to collect. In that respect, other developers could learn from this. Astro’s Playroom is a game I wanted to grab everything in, and be reminded of the classic PlayStation hardware from the company’s history. I’d love to see Team ASOBI bring some additional content, or get to make a full-on Astro game in the future, because there’s some genius minds behind Playroom, that’s for sure.
With Astro’s Playroom being a pre-installed game for new system owners, you’ll almost certainly play it, but I implore you to finish it: fully see the credits. The other new games aren’t going anywhere, so explore every nook and cranny and see the other Astro Bots referencing games from PlayStation history. There’s something for everyone here, and some pretty obscure references, too. It was a lovely trip down memory lane, yet Astro’s Playroom is incredibly futuristic and worthy of anyone’s time. What a delightful thing to include with every PS5.
Incredible showcase for the new system
Looks and sounds amazing
Left me wanting more
Some ideas are left behind too soon
A love letter to PlayStation and a showcase for the future of PS5: a delightful thing to include with the console.