Take control of ASTRO and feel the world through your DualSense™ Wireless Controller: every step you take, every jump you make, and every enemy you defeat are felt in a whole new way thanks to the immersive haptic feedback technology. On your way, use new power ups that show the potential of the dynamic adaptive triggers, motion sensor, touchpad and integrated speaker working together to deliver a totally new gameplay experience. Take time to enjoy the many hidden references to PlayStation® history and collect timeless artifacts to display in your beloved PlayStation Labo!
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS5
Also available for: N/A
Developer: SIE Japan Studio, Team Asobi!
Director/Producer: Nicolas Doucet
Lead Gameplay Programmer: Masayuki Yamada
Art Director: Sebastian Brueckner
Lead Game Designer: Gento Morita
The first game you’re likely to play on your PlayStation 5 system is Astro’s Playroom. It’s already installed on the console when you turn it on, but this is more than a simple pack-in or demo disc. Although there are elements and easter eggs that callback to the classic PlayStation 1 demo disc, Astro’s Playroom is a 4-hour joy of 3D platforming that’s both a showcase for the console and most importantly, the DualSense controller. Unlike games like Welcome Park on the PS Vita or The Playroom on PS4, Astro’s Playroom is a fully-fledged game that’s more than just a tech demo.
If you’ve played the underrated PSVR game Astro Bot: Rescue Mission you’ll feel at home with Astro’s Playroom. The game features four district worlds and a total of 16 levels of joyful platforming and exploration where you play as an Astro Bot. These cute little bots have quickly become one of my favourite PlayStation mascots in a world where Sony doesn’t really have them anymore.
Each world focuses on a certain period of PlayStation history, as well as one factoid of the PlayStation 5 and the DualSense controller. Sony related easter eggs are littered throughout each level, and they can range from super-obvious (I’m looking at you Crash Bandicoot suit) to the more obscure. I’m not going to spoil all of them for you, but there is a reference to the PS3 game PAIN, and I couldn’t believe it. Who remembers PAIN? I guess I do!
As much fun as it is to stop and enjoy the nostalgia, it’s the DualSense mechanics of Astro’s Playroom that are the standout feature. In a lot of ways, Astro’s Playroom is still the most ‘next-gen’ feeling game I’ve played in the couple days since the launch of the PS5. In the ‘Memory Meadow’ world, you’ll use the DualSense’s touchpad to roll a ball through lush pink hills, rough tarmac and muddy potholes. Not only does the front touchpad now control substantially better than the DualShock 4 but the haptic feedback of the DualSense is a real wow-factor. As you roll over the tarmac, you’ll feel the bumps of its surface in your fingers; when you hit the mud, it feels as if you’ve jumped into a puddle. The sound effects coming out of the DualSense also elevate all of this. Truly it combines it a level that is more than a tech-demo, it’s a sign of things to come. After months of hearing Sony talk-up the DualSense controller and being somewhat wary, it took one level for me to fall in love. The DualSense, if appropriately implemented, will be the defining feature of this new generation of gaming.
If you’re not able to pick up a PS5 until the second shipment in November, or December, I implore you not to watch any gameplay from Astro’s Playroom. Go in with no more than what I’ve told you now and experience it fresh. I’m so glad I got to explore the secrets Astro’s Playroom on my own and experience the joy of each DualSense feature for the first time on my own. It’s going to be one of my favourite memories in gaming from 2020.
Other levels toy around with ideas and concepts we’ve heard PlayStation talk about over the past few months as well. A bow in one level adds tension to your R2 trigger and like advertised, it does feel like your pulling the bow back. The one feature I could have done without was the levels where you need to blow on the DualSense’s microphone. We’ve seen this feature used on the PS Vita, DualShock 4, as well as many recent Nintendo devices and now the DualSense. Every time it’s used, it’s just silly. Luckily you can mute your DualSense to bypass these moments if you’d like.