Astro’s Playroom. It’s free, and comes pre-installed on your PS5. It is basically a tech demo wrapped up in a platformer. And a pretty fun platformer too.
And it is also so adorably cute.
I’ve been curious about PS VR, and Astro Bot Rescue Mission was on my to-try list, and this non-VR game for PS5 has been such a great welcome to this cute little robot.
I do love a good platformer, and this just felt fun, fresh and light. Nothing was too challenging or rage-inducing (c’mon, we all know platformers can do that), and was simply a delight to play.
But let’s be honest: it really is a tech demo, showing off what the new PS5 DualSense controller can do.
The new haptics within the controller are incredible – and really shown off through Astro’s Playroom. From bopping enemies to landing after a jump, the haptics spring in to stereo lift – not just a straight forward rumble, but a feeling of space too. It sounds really odd, I know, but felt so enjoyable to play. It also was incredibly subtle: especially with the pitter-pat of raindrops buzzing quietly as you ran around the meadows.
The controller does keep giving though… with resistive triggers on L2/R2. Which on paper sounds odd and a “how did they do that” sort of thing – but it brings a new sense of pressure to the feel of the controller. Different costumes within the game gave different responses – the Frog Suit having a range of resistance to help signify how far you’ll leap – and different items, such as the bow and arrow or machine gun (it’s like a Sony BRAVIA balls ad) each have a different “feel” to them.
When you first pick up the controller, you’re overwhelmed at the aggressiveness of its senses – but by the end, they blend so beautifully in to the gameplay experience. While the extent at which some of these controller features were employed truly screams “tech demo”, the fact that there’s a whole game built around them is a credit to Sony’s willingness to do more than just demo a controller.
But what made me really fall for Astro’s Playroom is the love it shows to the past gaming experiences. Throughout the levels are other bots messing about, doing their bot things. And then you wander past one and realise “oh, that was Sam from Death Stranding”, and behind a pillar you’ll find Ash from Concrete Genie. But not just the new games too – you’ll see Crash Bandicoot, Sir Daniel Fortesque from MediEvil, Wipeout ships, and Ratchet and Clank to name a few.
You’ll also find Aloy (Horizon: Zero Dawn), Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Jin (Ghost of Tsushima), Deacon St. John (Days Gone) and I think my favourite, Joel and Ellie (The Last of Us). And they’re all bots – just too cute!
These little easter eggs throughout the game - along with finding older Playstation artefacts throughout the levels - made the experience feel so fresh, and as a player, acknowledged. It's like Sony are treating players with this gorgeous love letter of games gone past. It had me wondering who I would find next!
While I appreciate many have missed out on a PS5 this year, if you have been lucky enough to pick one up, have a play of Astro’s Playroom – it’s short, fun, and a great example of what the new DualSense controller can do.
Let’s just hope developers play the game too and find out for themselves just how powerful those new controller features are.