While the Super Nintendo was the console that introduced me to gaming, it was the Sony PlayStation that gave me my gaming foundations. From Final Fantasy to Tekken to Twisted Metal and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, so many of my first gaming memories came from the PlayStation. A system I never realized I’d loved this much, until playing Astro’s Playroom.
Developed by ASOBI Team and published by PlayStation Interactive, Astro’s Playroom released on November 12th for the PlayStation 5. A nostalgic tribute to the history and evolution of the PlayStation console, Astro’s Playroom actually comes free with every base PS5. I didn’t even realize I had this game with my console and had accidentally deleted it. Yet after finding and trying it out for the first time, I was immediately hooked. Because if you like PlayStation (which I assume you do if you somehow obtained a PS5) you should definitely play this gem of a platformer. It may just be the greatest companion game with a console launch since Wii Sports.
Wall-E’s EVE + Kingdom Hearts’ Heartless = ASTRO BOT
Astro’s Playroom is the sequel to Astro Bot Rescue Mission, a PS4 virtual reality game that was released in 2018 to showcase the newest features in the PlayStation’s VR headset technology. The game follows the story of Astro Bot, the adorable little robot living inside of a PlayStation-themed universe with its many robotic friends. There really isn’t a purpose or drive to Astro Bot outside of showing new PlayStation features and its titular character is about as sensible as an explosive barrel-throwing gorilla, or a mushroom eating Italian plumber who stomps on turtles and saves princesses. That is to say: neither the character or story makes much sense whatsoever, but its gameplay and world is a whole lot of fun.
Astro’s Playroom also has numerous callbacks to some of the best of PlayStation’s 25+ year history. From Cloud’s Buster Sword to an off-brand Crash Bandicoot appearance, there are hidden Easter Eggs galore littered throughout this video game. You’ll stumble upon robot after robot dressed as well known characters and adorably reenacting iconic moments from every critically acclaimed PlayStation game ever created!
An immersive experience you can finish in less than 4 hours, with 4K visuals, 3D audio, and a beautiful 60 frames-per-second framerate, everything about Astro’s Playroom showcases some of the best features of the new PlayStation 5. The only thing it’s lacking is showcasing some of the Ray Tracing and SSD features (though that’s why Spider-Man Miles Morales does well).
My Precious! My PS5 DualSense Controller!
The last time I saw this much attention to detail for a game controller was with Wii Sports and the Wii remote. Though I usually don’t really care for tutorials, learning all about the functions of the DualSense controller was nothing shy of a delight. For example, what’s unique about the DualSense adaptive triggers is the pressure sensitivity. A feature which can increase or decrease trigger tension, making it really feel like you’re actually drawing a bow string or firing an actual gun. Vibrations are also uniquely localized into different regions of the controller providing for a uniquely sensational experience. The DualSense controller also brings back the DualShock’s touchpad along with its 360 degree motion sensor, so with this, you can flick and rotate your new DualSense controller accordingly, depending on your game’s demands.
In Astro’s Playroom you will use a combination of all of these features to steer your rocket ship, aim your frog suit leaps, guide your hang glider, and even blow at windmills (you can blow into the microphone). You will also notice unique feats, such as Astro Bot’s steps while it is walking across different surfaces, where crossing across a metallic surface or platform generates unique sounding dings and vibratory steps as it crosses. The controller also adapts to the environmental and weather conditions in this game, increasing trigger resistances, and also affecting vibrations. All added features help to simulate the immersive experience.
It’s Super AstroBot Country
In Astro’s Playroom, there are four well-crafted level locations thoughtfully designed to be a reimagined exploration of the PlayStation 5’s internal hardware: GPU Jungle, Cooling Springs, SSD Speedway and Memory Meadow. Each new level is uniquely designed according to its theme. GPU Jungle takes place in a tropical jungle where you have to scale trees and mountains. Cooling Springs is a waterfront spa, beach resort, and ice level. SSD Speedway is a superhighway and rocket ship level and then Memory Meadow is a sky pinball adventure set in the clouds. Outside of the exploratory levels, there is also Astro’s Playstation Labo, a place where you can look at all of your unlocked achievements and, more importantly, play with all the hardware you’ve uncovered in the game. All in a gigantic PlayStation-themed playground that fills up the more you unlock.
Okay, Let’s Play!
Gameplay in Astro’s Playroom sees you control the adorable little Astro Bot as you jump across platforms, explore levels, and collect PlayStation coins. All in a fashion similar to Mario but with no time limits. You can also use Astro’s foot-powered jetpack to cross platforms or burn enemies. Though Astro does come with a basic punch, if you hold it Astro performs a twirling tornado-like super punch that repeatedly beats down enemies, and sometimes, unlocks certain in-game puzzles. Astro can also pull loose wires to reveal pathways or disassemble enemies.
Each of the four chapters has a unique suit Astro Bot can put on, whose functions serve a similar model as the ridable animals in Donkey Kong Country. You’ll even find hidden rooms of coins by exploring the map with some of these rides, also like in DKC. In Astro’s Playroom, you can suit up to be a tree scaling monkey, a spring footed frog, a round controllable pinball, and even a mobile rocketship. On top of this, you can also plug your headset into the controller to fully embrace the PS5’s 3D audio technology. So while you play, you can have Astro dance along with the game’s catchy rhythms and techno songs that are honestly on par with some of the best of the Donkey Kong beats ever created. It’s no exaggeration I’ve had some of the game’s songs stuck in my head for several days.
Three Cheers For Cheevos!
Every collectible from Astro’s Playroom is an homage to PlayStation history visible in Astro’s Labo Room. As artifacts in the game are actually old school PlayStation hardware like PSP’s, the playstation multitap, memory cards, and VR headsets. Likewise, the in-game collectible puzzle pieces, when fully collected, turns into a beautiful sprawling mural dedicated to the evolution of the PlayStation over time. And beating each of the game’s four chapters unlocks a new PlayStation console from previous generations. Unlock all of them and beat the game’s final boss and you can then unlock the Sony PlayStation 5.
Finally, this game features a lot of coins that you can collect in-game to play a 100-coin prize machine that pops open more unlockables (seen above). And if you have PlayStation Plus, this game also features video guides on how to attain every trophy so you can platinum this game in a day. If that’s not enough of a challenge, there is also the game’s Network Speedrun mode, where you can compete for the fastest speed run times across the world.
If You Get A PS5 You Should Definitely Play This Game
Everything about Astro’s Playroom is fantastic and it’s a shame that PS5’s are still so inaccessible, as I believe this game would’ve brought it to the forefront of many gaming conversations had there been more people able to attain a console. With all around fantastic gameplay, graphics, design, and just overall fun, I’d argue that under different circumstances, this could have even been considered a game of the year contender. I never realized just how much the Sony PlayStation had influenced my life until I played this game.
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: Playstation 5 (Reviewed); Developer: Japan Studio (Asobi Team); Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment; Players: 1; Released: November 12th, 2020; ESRB: E for Fantasy Violence; MSRP: Free with Purchase of a Playstation 5
Editor’s note: Author Received Copy With Their Console