review astros playroom

Review: Astro’s Playroom

I know it isn’t my mind playing tricks on me but every console launch I’ve participated in has included a modest launch library. I wasn’t too impressed when the PlayStation 4 launched but games like Resogun did a great job weening us into the new generation. With Astro’s Playroom, PlayStation isn’t just easing us into a new generation, they’re pulling us in excitedly thanks to the packed-in software.

What gets me though is not a lot of people don’t seem to know who Astro is. I’m calling him the new and unofficial mascot for the PlayStation brand. We’ve been aware of its existence since the beginning of the last generation through the introduction of The Playroom followed by Astro Bot Rescue Mission, one of the best VR platformers of 2018 and a contender for Game of the Generation to many who’ve played it. Being marooned within the VR headset, however, meant not as many people got to experience the game.

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Team Asobi continues delivering the most inventive titles on PlayStation. This small team out of Japan Studios has delivered some magical moments over the last few years and they continue to push the platform in new and exciting ways.

Astro’s Playroom includes four worlds that are split between 16 levels with each one introducing a feature associated with the DualSense. Taking place within a PlayStation 5, the CPU plaza is the gateway to Cooling Springs, GPU Jungle, Memory Meadows, and SSD Speedway. The starting area, which we’ve seen extensively is called Cooling Springs which begins on a crystal-clear beach and ends rafting down icy water on a chunk of ice. Each section includes hidden puzzle pieces that are artifacts, each unlocking a piece of the PlayStation legacy over the years. All the while, you’re acclimating to the new DualSense and all the features of the controller.

Fantastic Freebie

Showing you a video of Astro’s Playroom does no justice to how actually sitting down and playing it is. From the moment I began to the moment I stopped, the controller rumbled in a multitude of ways, thanks to the haptic feedback inside. You feel the controller response as Astro walks around, you feel the rumbling when sliding, you feel the rumble when jumping into a pool of water and off a diving board. Even walking through sand or skating on ice, the DualSense makes it feel like you’re doing those very things. I can only express how much I enjoy using the DualSense through my own experiences – for you, it might not be as big of an impact but these small little details are the things that made me a believer of Sony’s new controller.

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But what I find to be phenomenal isn’t just the technology behind the new DualSense controller, no. Team Asobi has delivered an exciting platformer that has enough variety to keep you invested and every level throughout the game is different enough to keep things fresh the entire time. If you want some combat in your game,  you’ll find light mechanics to as Astro deals with minor enemies. Puzzles and secrets will have you hunting every corner, but the true focus is exploration.

This isn’t a decidedly tough game at all but for the four-five hours I’ve spent playing Astro’s Playroom has been a treat. That cherry on top is this is a free pack-in title that every PlayStation 5 owner will experience on day one. For legacy fans like me, finding all the pieces of PlayStation’s history strewn across each level is a trip down memory lane and seeing old peripherals, nods to Solid Snake, the cast of Until Dawn, Kratos, Tomb Raider, and Uncharted are cool nods to the PlayStation brand.

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Verdict

Yes, Astro’s Playroom is included on the console but don’t let it slip off your radar. You’re getting a brilliant platformer on day one that’s an homage to the PlayStation legacy. Throughout four stages, you’ll experience everything the DualSense offers and also a great lead-in to the generation. Since the introduction of the DualShock nearly two decades ago, the controller has marginally improved the experience. Now, I feel like we’re seeing a true revolution thanks to the Adaptive Triggers and Haptic Touch the DualSense uses to immerse players in exciting ways. Sony’s always been a traditional company but they’ve crafted one of the important pieces to experiencing the next generation with this 1-2 combo of Astro’s Playroom and DualSense implementation.

[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]