Games that are free launch day pack-ins are thought of as a thing of the past, and after experiencing the tech demo that was The Playroom during the PS4’s launch, nobody expected Astro’s Playroom to be much different.
It turns out Astro’s Playroom is much more than a DualSense tech demo. It’s a nifty little platformer that charmingly honors PlayStation’s storied past.
What Is It?
All PlayStation 5 consoles come with Astro’s Playroom pre-installed. It’s absolutely free, but it doesn’t play like a freebie at all.
Much like Astro Bot: Rescue Mission on PlayStation VR before it, Astro’s Playroom is a solid little game with well crafted worlds. As revolutionary as the previous game was for VR platformers, Astro’s Playroom ushers in the ninth generation with a quality title that shows off what the DualSense is capable of.
Why Should I Care?
Here’s the biggest fact you’ll read in this whole review: Astro’s Playroom is the only PlayStation 5-exclusive release you’ll see over the next few months. Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Sackboy: A Big Adventure can both be played on the PS4. Even the launch’s biggest indie releases in Bugsnax and The Pathless are on the PS4 and PC respectively. Demon’s Souls? Yes, the remake was made from the ground-up for the PS5, but it’s still a remake of a PS3 game. Out of this entire launch lineup and at least for a few months, Astro’s Playroom is the only game that you can only play on PS5, and what makes it even better is that you don’t have to pay for it. As previously mentioned, it comes pre-installed with all new PS5 consoles.
Genuine exclusivity aside, if you don’t like platformers, Astro’s Playroom probably won’t change your mind, but if you’re curious as to what to expect from Sony’s revolutionary DualSense controller, this is a game you’ll want to experience, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
When you first boot up the game, you’ll be treated to a guide of how the DualSense works. At first glance, the DualSense is just a thicker DualShock 4, and that wouldn’t be an inaccurate statement, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Astro’s Playroom makes extensive use of the DualSense’s adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. Upon pressing on the triggers for the first time, you’ll feel different levels of give and sensitivity simply because of what you see happening on screen.
First time use of them gives you the feel of controlling a jetpack, and the controller does its best to make you feel like you’re really in control of one. The haptic feedback can easily be dismissed as typical rumble we’ve experienced since the days of the original PlayStation DualShock, but it couldn’t be more different. Nintendo sold the heck out of the HD rumble feature in their Joy-Con and Pro Controllers, but the DualSense haptics make this feel outdated. The controller demonstration at the beginning of Astro’s Playroom has players see a bunch of bots jump into your controller, and you’ll be able to shake and feel that same sensation. That said, while it wasn’t as accurate as the Switch’s HD Rumble, it’s close enough.
It all could’ve ended there, but it didn’t. Astro’s Playroom ends up being a full-on platformer with four full worlds and four little sub-levels in each, with each of the worlds honoring a different generation of PlayStation.
Astro will visit the beach, outer space, rainy meadows, and wild jungles each with their own unique gameplay features to accent the simple 3D platforming. You’ll turn into a slinky, a rocket ship, a ball, and a rock-climbing monkey with each transformation featuring a different method of control. The slinky will test your timing and ability to press the adaptive triggers, while the rocketship will also use the triggers as well as motion controls to guide it around space. The ball is controlled using the new and improved touchpad, and the monkey once again tests your skill with the adaptive triggers while using motion controls to climb skillfully and carefully. Some transformations are more enjoyable to play with than others, but none of them really overstay their welcome. Once you think they will, they end, making game’s pacing just right.
The worlds in the game hardly offer a challenge, but they’re cleverly crafted enough for players to put some effort in taking the time to explore every nook and cranny to find every collectible, and if you’re a diehard PlayStation fan, you’ll really want to find everything to get that Platinum Trophy.
Littered in each world are other robots dressed up as some of our favorite gaming characters that graced the PlayStation. You’ll find bots dressed as Nathan Drake (Uncharted), shooting things as Aloy (Horizon), Kratos on a boat (God of War), bots playing with remote controlled drifting sports cars (Ridge Racer), a Spyro the Dragon figurine, and even the Buster Sword (Final Fantasy VII) among all sorts of other charming nods… It’s Easter Eggs galore in Astro’s Playroom, and it’s a joy finding them. In-game collectibles include puzzle pieces that make up a mural as well as artifacts that are actually PlayStation peripherals and consoles. If finding these Easter Eggs or treasured items like the Multitap or the EyeToy don’t trigger your PlayStation nostalgia, reaching the end of every level as they play the startup music for the PlayStation, PS2, PS3, and PS4 should, and it’s more tasteful than it is corny.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Again, if you bought a PlayStation 5, you have Astro’s Playroom. It’s a “might as well” experience but one worth having. It’s honestly a game I wouldn’t have minded spending $40 for because it’s that charming.
Astro’s Playroom‘s purpose is to show off what the DualSense is capable of, and it does a fantastic job doing that. The jury is out on whether third parties will capitalize on its awesome technology, but whether they do or not, Astro’s Playroom is also a fantastic platformer that should be an honor for any PlayStation fan to experience. It also makes for an awesome first Platinum Trophy.