Nostalgia is a powerful thing, and it sits at the core of Astro's Playroom, the free game packaged with every PlayStation 5. Astro may have made his debut as an underdog mascot on the PlayStation 4 - while figures like Nathan Drake and Kratos took center stage - but here, he's given the sole responsibility of ushering in the next generation of Sony's console. Needless to say, this was a big job for our small boy, but Astro's Playroom is proof that a lot of heart can put the widest smile on your face - and for roughly three hours, I was constantly grinning from ear to ear playing one of the most delightful launch titles on the PS5.
For the most part, it could be argued that Astro's Playroom is merely a demonstration of the PS5's capabilities: fast loading times ensuring quick traversal between levels (with almost zero loading screens, I might add), and overall being a fantastic showcase of the DualSense's adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. However, it works as both a demonstration of the PS5 and, surprisingly enough, its own compact standalone game, filled to the brim with irresistible charm.
When I reviewed Astro Bot: Rescue Mission on the PSVR, I instantly fell in love with the Astro Bots for being some of the most adorable mascots I've seen in PlayStation gaming. They're quirky without being overbearing, charming without being annoying, and have perfectly timed comedy that more often than not, stuck its landing. In Astro's Playroom, you take control of the titular character, Astro, as he explores a strange new mechanical environment. It quickly becomes evident that you're actually playing inside the PlayStation 5's hardware, albeit fantastically recreated to be more of an adventure/platformer.
There are a couple of hub areas to explore. The first is a the Labo (not sure if that was a shot at Nintendo Switch), which houses "artifacts" from PlayStation's long history in the gaming industry. As you explore the environments and complete levels, you unlock every bit of PlayStation hardware ever released. They're stored in the Labo as giant monolithic structures surrounded by different Astro Bots constantly polishing them, dancing around them, and overall just being adorable to the tenth degree. You can even interact with these gigantic artifacts in-game, such as sliding open the PS3's final slimline model disc tray or flipping up the PS1's disc tray to send some unsuspecting bots flying into the air. If that sounds cute, trust me, it is.
This deep dive into PlayStation's history is further explored when you're out in the levels and come across various Astro Bots recreating some iconic video game moments from Sony's past...
Pulling back on R2 creates a realistic sensation that emulates the feeling of pulling a bow, while the gattling gun shatters the vibrations and makes your finger dance on the trigger button.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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SIE Japan Studio
Sony Interactive Entertainment
13 November 2020
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