- Developer: SIE Japan Studio, Team ASOBI!
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Release date: 12/11/2020
- Price: Free (Pre-installed on Ps5)
Introducing: Astro’s Playroom Review
I know it might sound strange, but Astro’s Playroom is one of the games that I was most looking forward to on the PS5. Considering that it is meant to be a showcase of the new features found in the Dualsense controller, one of my most anticipated parts of this generation, I was looking forward to what it had to show off. Getting to see some early footage from others before launch made things all the more exciting. So, did it live up to my expectations of what a showcase this could be?
Astro is a cute little robot that lives in your PlayStation and I can see serving as a future mascot for either tech demos or showing things off. He is absolutely adorable! Anyway, Astro is taking a little journey through your PlayStation to look at all the new features that can be found there, like the cooling capabilities and the SSD. Along the way he gets to see all sorts of exciting sights and collect up all sorts of goodies. There’s not so much of a plot for the character, but for us as the player as we get to be introduced to the system in an absolutely adorable way.
There is so much love for past consoles shown here. Now, I know it’s a little silly to get sappy over what is, at the end of the day, a corporate product, but there is really a lot of wonderful callbacks to the games that a lot of us grew up with. Let me tell you, I squeaked when I saw the reference to Ape Escape was in the game, a game that was my biggest childhood game but never got any attention, even for it’s 20th anniversary. There’s these spots allover the levels where you will find little film crews acting out various scenes from other games and it’s really fun to try and guess what they are meant to be and how many you don’t know. It’s a great test for those who grew up with these consoles and want to see more love shown to the history of gaming. Though I will say, the final boss that is unlocked after you make your way through might be something that you don’t recognize unless you know your PlayStation history.
Ready, Set, Launch!
The platforming is honestly excellent. While I don’t think that the game would be too difficult for any child to beat, there are some side piece of platforming for collectibles that are pretty tricky and took me out a few times. Though dying in just one hit in most cases does mean that you tend to go down more easily, the way that the game has you up and going again at frequent checkpoints means you’re never down and out for very long. There are plenty of those side collectibles, by the way. Between gathering up puzzle pieces, coins, and accessories of systems past, there is plenty to find! Coins aren’t collectibles themselves, but they can be used in a gatcha machine located where all your collected goodies are stored.
The levels themselves are designed beautifully and not just from a visual standpoint. While the way forward is always clear, there’s also subtle direction towards the side paths that guides you towards finding anything that might have been hidden along there, whether that be a collectible, or a little robot vignette. Each of the four levels is divided into 4 subsections and between those four they alternate between conventional platforming and segments where Astro is placed into a suit in order to accomplish a task. These extra suits are limited to being just inside their own level so there is a variety to be found, but on top of that, the gameplay for each of them is being shaken up in their segments all the time. Nothing overstayed its welcome, but at the same time I felt like this game could easily have been expanded beyond the few hours that it takes to play through the first time, though that is what the completion drive is for.
A Sense of Touch
The real star of the show here is obviously the the DualSense controller itself. As a game that is meant to be a showcase for everything that this controller is capable of, it certainly does that. It feels like at every turn they asked themselves what they could do to make use of the features they were implementing and then proceeded to do just that. Every time Astro walks around, you can feel the little pitter-pattering footsteps alternate on each side of your controller. Not only that, the feeling of those footsteps changes depending on what you’re walking on. Grass feels completely different than metal, which feels a whole world different than the crunchy snow of the ice levels. It’s brilliant! Because the environment changes so often, there were often new sensations to be felt. I think my favorites were the way that there seemed to be a spin inside my controller when Astro did a spinning jump while ice skating, and the feeling of raindrops dripping all over the controller while under an umbrella.
The adaptive triggers are used a little less often due to how much more time you’re going to be spending running around and exploring an area than in the sections where they are made impressive use of, but they are no less interesting and impressive when they are brought into the spotlight. The feeling of the trigger tightening up as you press down a spring or bouncing with the recoil of a ball-firing minigun are super fun. There are some where there is a clear point that you have to push past and if you are someone who is inclined to slam down the trigger as quickly as possible, you might not notice it as much, the the resistance is there and it is noticeable. For those wondering, the triggers are capable of doing two different types of resistances at once. When you make use of that gotcha machine for goodies, the left trigger will pull down the lever and have a stopping point you have to press past, but the right trigger has much more of a squeezing resistance as you crush whatever you get. Astrobot is full of sensations big and small that never failed to make me excited by the possibility that this technology presents. Then again, I suppose that’s what it was meant to do, isn’t it?
Sony Pulls a Nintendo?
I am not saying this lightly when I tell you that Astro’s Playroom feels like Sony went, “What if we made a Nintendo game?” and did just that. It’s just that charming and colorful. Each of the worlds is visually distinct and brimming with little details that are just absolutely adorable. There is certainly an obsession with the PlayStation button symbols that we have been seeing with their marketing and showcases in the new generation, but I can’t even be bothered when you notice that if you look really close at the raindrops when they splash on an artifact when you find it, that they splash in the shape of those symbols. Character design is wonderful too, not only for the bots (who I want a plushie of Sony!), but also for the bosses that you encounter along the way. Each of them is distinct and memorable in the best of ways. I am particularly fond of the final boss and the way that the game plays with the framing of it for the first part of the fight.
The music is likely going to be stuck in my head for a while, though depending on your feelings that could be a good or a bad thing. Every area has something different and most of them are catchy as can be. One of my highlights was wandering off the beaten path, only to find the lyrics of the music playing hidden behind a wall. Even if the music repeats, I was never bothered by it and I woke up this morning humming one of the songs so I’m clearly not sick of it just yet. The only audio issue that I have is that I personally found the number of sounds coming out of the controller a little bit excessive, however, these simply blend with the rest of the sound if you play using headphones instead of the tv audio.
Some Real Speed
Astro’s Playroom runs absolutely gorgeously. Every second of it was smooth as butter as far as I’m concerned and the loading ties really are a complete marvel. It does take a second to get into each level from the main hub, but it is literally just seconds to do so. Seconds that are covered up by a fairly flashy transition so they don’t even feel that much like a load time. It’s yet another great showcase of what this system is capable of, which is definitely the running theme for this game.
Don’t Sleep on this One
I adore Astro’s Playroom. I don’t have to tell you to buy it because if you have a PlayStation 5 then you already have it, but I think so many people are going to just overlook this one because it is a smaller game and because it is a pack in title. However, you really shouldn’t. Not only is it a great way to keep yourself distracted while your other games are downloading or installing, but it’s just a wonderful introduction to your new console that lets you feel everything about the DualSense that might not be as widely utilized in other titles yet. Those who have been with PlayStation from the beginning are going to get a little more out of it, but everyone will have fun, I assure you.
- Beautiful visuals
- A wonderful nostalgia trip
- Makes huge usage of the controllers new features
- Excellently solid platforming action
- It’s free with the console!
- The controller speakers were making a little more noise than I would have liked