Fri, 20 Nov 2020
Title: Astro’s Playroom
Platform: PlayStation 5
Release Date: November 19
Rating: PEGI 7
Whenever a new console launches, there is always a wow factor that grabs the audience’s attention. Be it the improved graphics engines, motion controls or even portability. The headline is always easy for the consumer to grasp without even touching it.
This generation's headline tech, at face value, might be the ray tracing technology that renders hyper realistic lighting effects or the SSD storage that allows for lightning quick load times.
But what is probably less obvious is Sony’s new DualSense controller. Something that until you get it in your hands, you can never truly appreciate.
And this is where Astro and his playroom come in.
This adorable little robot has the gargantuan task of selling the next generation of immersive controls in a five- to six-hour platforming game that is preloaded on to every PS5.
At its heart, Astro’s Playroom is a plucky platformer, taking players on an adventure through the innards of their PS5. Starting you in the CPU plaza and taking you to four levels modeled on the unique architecture of the PlayStation 5’s hardware.
Levels include the tropical beaches of the Cooling Springs, themed around the cooling systems in operation on your PS5. The Memory Meadow sees players jumping through the clouds as a fun little play on the cloud storage available and the super-fast platforming of the SSD Speedway.
Each level is lovingly created to utilise the workings of your new console in a fun and interesting way. Packed full of Easter eggs that are sure to stir nostalgia in even the most casual of PlayStation fans.
I especially loved looking for all the cute robot counterparts of classic PlayStation characters like Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake or Ratchet and Clank.
Even the collectables in the game are an ode to Sony’s console history as players will hunt down artifacts that take the form of classic accessories such as the EyeToy from the PS2 era or multitap from the PSOne.
Platforming is simple and responsive. With a limited array of moves I could jump, hover and melee my way through most levels with relative ease. Enemies rarely proved too much of a challenge but the odd change in enemy type did change my approach, but not by much.
The big shake ups came through themed suites that Astro zipped on, which were unique to each level, transforming Astro into a wall-climbing monkey or a coil loaded spring, bouncing through the Hotel Hopalot. It’s here that we really get to see the DualSense controller at its finest.
To understand why these sections are so good you first need to understand what’s inside your new controller.
It may look fairly similar to earlier generation’s controllers, if not for the ergonomical improvements to the shape and size but under the hood the DualSense has some nifty new tricks.
Of course there are staples from PlayStation's last controller, like the touch pad which Astro uses to swipe and move a hamster ball vehicle around a map in Memory Meadow. And the SixAxis motion controls have you steering Astros Glider with steady turns of the controller itself. But the new tech is what will truly wow audiences.
Haptic feedback replaces the previous generation's rumble technology, allowing you to feel even the most subtle differences in vibration and feedback.
Take Astro to the beach and you will feel the grainy texture of sand dispersing around Astros feet. Or have him run over a pane of glass to get the hard reverberating sense of a delicate piece martial beneath you. Coiling and bending Astro's froggy suit in Cooling Springs creaks and vibrates in your hand, depending on how much you tilt the controller.
Adaptive triggers resist being pulled when drawing an arrow. Engage the thrusters in a rocket ship and feel the triggers vibrate and build until ignited, when they click down and forcefully rocket you off into space.
Even the inbuilt microphone plays a part in blowing a propeller to steer your boat through a lazy river.
All of this helps to immerse yourself into the game in a way we haven’t felt before.
You feel Astro's Playroom started life as a tech demo, putting Astro into lots of different scenarios that show off the new controller's capabilities. But it eventually grew into something so much more.
Though short, you will be hard-pressed to find a game crafted with so much love and attention.
At its best Astro’s Playroom plays as a love letter to all things PlayStation and fans are going to adore the details Asobi Team have laid out for them here.
Gamers new to PlayStation will also find a game that prepares them for the new generation as well as filling them in on a rich 26-year history of Sony’s consoles.
Now, when I have friends and family over (whenever that may be), rather than show them one of the big, graphically flashy games like Spiderman or Demons Souls, I’ll sit them down with an adorable little robot named Astro and the Dual Sense that had me grinning from ear to ear as I felt my way through Playroom's magical box of tricks.