Congratulations! You must have managed to snag yourself a shiny new PS5! No matter what version of the console you got your hands on, you will find that Astro’s Playroom comes pre-installed on the console, completely free of charge. Going on a journey with Astro is one of the most unforgettable experiences of my gaming life. And I say ‘with’ Astro because it feels as though you are truly working alongside him. This is in no short part thanks to the sheer magic of the new PS5 Dualsense controller, giving you a sense of real immersion in the game.
"Stay awhile and listen!" - Deckard Cain
Before you even start your frolic down memory lane with Astro, you are presented with a controller demonstration. The game will ask you to try out the controllers’ new abilities, and I spent SO long playing around with this. My mind was truly blown. My face was practically frozen in a childishly joyful glee as I moved the controller around and actually felt the little bots rolling around inside. I deliberately, purposefully, forcibly stopped myself from getting wrapped up in the hype the new controller was generating. Knowing full well how little the DualShock 3 Sixaxis’ abilities turned out to be used in games. I did not want to be disappointed. And I certainly was not.
Keep in mind, that this was all before I even started the actual game. I got all this just from a floating controller on the screen. I felt like the world’s biggest child. And I loved it.
During the game, you will discover how well the levelled-up controller immerses you with its adaptive triggers, haptic feedback, improved speaker, and the microphone (that detects when you blow into it AND how hard you do so).
"You are here, and it’s beautiful, and escaping isn’t always something bad." - Delilah June A
I would usually stick a teasing question here such as “does it live up to the hype?” or “did I feel so connected to Astro through the controller that I have started research into how to marry video game characters?”. But I will spare you the tropes for now and just say that Astro’s Playroom is perfect. I have been gaming for the best part of 29 years, and the number of games that I have rated a 10/10 is still in the single digits. Astro’s playroom nestles in comfortably with the handful of other titles that are deserving of such honours.
So, how did it achieve such a high accolade? (I did not spare you from tropes for long, would you kindly accept my apologies?). I guess I have praised the sun for long enough, let us finally acid drop into some details.
The Rooms of Play…
Cooling Springs will take you and Astro on a beautiful adventure highlighting the sheer powerhouse of the PS5’s cooling systems. You will take Astro along with you to explore a series of water and ice-based levels. You will delight in feeling the crunch of sand or snow beneath Astro’s feet. Gasp at how differently it feels to have Astro glide across the ice. You will enjoy bouncing around in a springy suite exploring the controllers’ adaptive triggers. Even lap up the feeling of Astro’s playful paddling in the water.
GPU Jungle will take you and your new best bud on a trip through a jungle of processing plateaus. As you climb your way up from the Renderforest to Mt. Motherboard you will explore the capabilities of the Dualsense controller’s haptic feedback. From the gentle progression of Astro walking on different surfaces to the intensity of ziplining up the side of a mountain on jagged speed lifts. You will quickly appreciate the impressive array of rumble intensities.
Half Way There
Memory Meadow will take you both on a journey that will teach you just how effective the controller can be in immersing you with the gentle (and not so gentle) touches of weather. From feeling sluggish trying to power through heavy winds, to the subtle delicacies of feeling the patter of raindrops, to the shocking velocity of being zapped by electricity. You also get the opportunity to control a metallic ball and discovering just how different it feels to roll over grass, ice, road etc than it is from walking on them.
Last, but certainly not last is SSD Speedway. You and your delightfully cheerful companion will be exploring the fast-paced action in another series of levels. Here you will be sling-shotting and gliding yourself around until you find yourself blasting off into space! Controlling a rocket ship in zero gravity madness.
"I am happy, truly. I have you, don't I?" - The Fair Lady
The GPU Plaza serves as a small hub area reminiscent of the warp rooms from the classic Crash Bandicoot games. There are a couple of collectables to discover here. There's plenty of interactivity to be had with the environment and other NPC bots. Oh, I did not mention collectables earlier? To be honest, I'm in a bit of a pickle…
Collectables are everywhere! From artefacts to puzzle pieces, they are strewn across each of the landscapes, encouraging you to try things, explore a little, and give you an excuse to spend a little more time in each area. The puzzle pieces go towards building up artistic murals in the PlayStation Labo. The artefacts unlock interactive models of PlayStation hardware history in the PlayStation Labo. The Labo is a separate hub area that acts as an exhibit of everything you have collected and unlocked, it also serves as the place to spend those shiny gold coins you have been collecting.
Who needs collectables though? We all know the real value in exploration is in the easter eggs that developers hide in games. Well, they certainly are not hidden in Astro’s Playroom. With supposedly over 100 easter eggs and game references to be found, they are as prolific as Drowners wherever there is a drop of water. These are the real stars of the levels. Finding a little bot dressed as pyramid head, Aloy, Solid Snake or Jin Sakai are absolute little delights. From references from a massive collection of games such as Heavy Rain, Ridge Racer, Vib-Ribbon, Bloodborne, Patapon, The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver etc there really are references for everyone, from every console generation to discover. You will have to look high and low to find them all though!
"The ending isn’t any more important than any of the moments leading to it." - Dr Rosalene
From the first little clink your controller emits after collecting your very first gold coin, to the completion of your entire collectable library, you will be in absolute awe.
There really is no gaming experience quite like Astro’s Playroom. Such a perfect blend of platforming, collectable hoarding and easter egg poaching all presented in a way that serves as the ultimate technical showcase for the PS5 Dualsense controller. This is more than just a mere game. It shines a spotlight on all of Sony’s gaming history, allowing you to recollect your fond memories of previous PlayStation consoles and the games you discovered along your gaming journey.
Astro's Playroom is not to be overlooked! Consider this a shining example of how future games can implement the new capabilities of the controller. It is a beacon for developers to take inspiration from. It is the quintessential experience to propel the start of your PS5’s gaming life.
I hope this has given you a good representation of what to expect in Astro’s Playroom, and hopefully, the gaming references I scattered throughout the article did not get left in the dust. Check this game out as soon as you get the chance, as no amount of words can ever hope to represent how it feels to play through this journey of discovery with the magnificent new controller!