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Astro's Playroom

In the buildup to the PlayStation 5’s launch, I had one question on my mind: would the DualSense really be that different from my DualShock 4? The answer was, unequivocally, yes, and nothing proves it more than Astro’s Playroom.

Developed by SIE Japan Studio and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, Astro’s Playroom is included on every PlayStation 5 to showcase the new console and its fancy controller, but it’s more than just a tech demo. Astro’s Playroom is a surprisingly fun 3D platformer, full of so much charm and personality that I’m certain I would have loved it no matter what controller I used to play it.

Astro’s Playroom features Astro Bot, one of PlayStation’s newest mascots, exploring the inside of the PlayStation 5 system. It includes worlds inspired by the console’s tech, like GPU Jungle and SSD Speedway. Each level has a different gimmick based off the DualSense’s capabilities, highlighting the adaptive triggers, haptic feedback, motion controls and the touchpad.

Additionally, Astro’s Playroom is a joyful exploration of PlayStation’s history. In the game’s hub, there’s a room called PlayStation Labo, which is essentially a museum for all the collectibles you’ve found throughout your playthrough.

Each level in the game has four puzzle pieces, all of which add up to create a mural dedicated to the evolution of PlayStation on the walls of the Labo area, as well as two artifacts. The artifacts are physical products that have been released since the PlayStation 1’s launch, including mainstream objects like the PSP and different DualShocks, as well as more niche products like the PocketStation.

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Exploring the levels, scouring every nook and cranny to find artifacts and puzzle pieces, was a delightful experience. The levels themselves stand on their own, even if you don’t want to dedicate your time to a 100% completion run of Astro’s Playroom.

In fact, I’d say that Astro’s Playroom might be my favorite modern 3D platformer. The worlds stick to a main theme, but within each world, every level branches out, making everything feel like a new experience.

Just like the artifacts and puzzle pieces, the levels are full of PlayStation love, too. One of my favorite moments was when I randomly decided to hit a box I saw on the floor, and another Astro Bot popped out, wearing a headband and making a surprised noise as an ode to Metal Gear Solid, an absolute classic that I adore from the PS1 era.

Of course, Astro’s Playroom’s main appeal is the experimentation with the DualSense controller, which each world takes full advantage of. I was stunned when I first booted up the game. It’s hard to explain and is definitely something you need to experience yourself, but you can actually feel Astro Bot’s little footsteps in your hands as you run around rooms with your DualSense.

Plus, the worlds feature different suits to showcase aspects of the DualSense, as I mentioned earlier. For example, in GPU Jungle, Astro Bot uses a monkey suit that uses the adaptive triggers and motion controls to climb up rock walls.

Having to actually apply pressure to the triggers to climb or, on occasion, making sure I was pressing lightly to not break the wall’s handhold, was such a small addition to gameplay. However, it makes so much sense while you’re playing that it’s hard to imagine going back to a world where every trigger press is exactly the same.

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Astro's Playroom Gameplay

Graphically, Astro’s Playroom was a nice, little glimpse into what the PS5 will be able to do in the future. Even though Astro Bot is rather cartoony, the lighting effects look fantastic, reflecting light and images back in a realistic way. Additionally, everything runs smoothly, even the fast travel. I don’t think I ever had to wait longer than two seconds to jump into anything once I booted the game up.

Overall, Astro’s Playroom took me by surprise. I was expecting a short tech demo that would impress me because of the new controller, but instead, I was greeted with a full-blown, short and fun 3D platformer. The main focus of Astro is to showcase the DualSense, of course, but there’s plenty to love about the game itself.

It’s creative, it’s fun and it dives deep into PlayStation history in such a pleasant and exciting way that it’s sure to please any PlayStation fans. While you should still play games like Miles Morales or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to test out your new console for a beefier experience, Astro’s Playroom is a must-play for all PlayStation 5 owners who want a shorter, relaxing game that shows off everything next-gen can do.

Astro’s Playroom is available now on PlayStation 5.

Astro’s Playroom

8/10

TL;DR

Astro’s Playroom took me by surprise. I was expecting a short tech demo that would impress me because of the new controller, but instead, I was greeted with a full-blown, short and fun 3D platformer.



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