Astro’s Playroom is one of those games that doesn’t really need a review. I mean, it comes free and pre-installed on every PlayStation 5, so it’s not as if you need to determine whether or not it’s worth spending cash on – you can just give it a quick try and decide if it’s for you. Simple.
However, whilst it’d be easy to dismiss Astro’s Playroom as a freebie/tech demo that’s meant to give you a taste of the capabilities of the PlayStation 5 console and its new DualSense controller, it’s SO much more than that. This is a game that deserves the attention of every PlayStation 5 owner, with it easily standing out as one of the most delightful gameplay experiences that I’ve ever had in my many years spent with the PlayStation brand.
It also turns out that Astro’s Playroom is a little tricky to review; not just because I don’t want to spoil the nostalgia-fuelled goodness of the platforming romp, but also because one of its main features needs to be experienced first-hand in order to appreciate. I’m talking about the DualSense controller features, which don’t only utilise the rumble in a variety of wonderful ways but also cleverly implement the adaptive triggers creatively to make for one heck of an immersive experience. Believe me, whether you’re pulling the lever on a prize machine, blasting away at enemies with a funky gatling gun, or launching your way through caves on a miniature rocket, you’re going to feel it in a way that you never have before in a video game before through the DualSense controller. It’s wonderful.
I don’t want to say much more about the controller features than that. I loved seeing every creative way that they were used when playing through Astro’s Playroom, with new surprises constantly catching me off-guard. Heck, even simple things like rolling across gravelly ground or having rain fall upon you feels incredible and unlike anything else I’ve experienced with a controller. Can you imagine the potential if features like this were utilised in all of the big AAA games on the horizon? Astro’s Playroom shows that it can really be a gamechanger, and believe me, it certainly kept a smile on my face as I played through the game.
Want to know what else kept a smile on my face? The sheer amount of nostalgia that’s found in Astro’s Playroom. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much here because uncovering these things for yourself feels so special (especially if you’re a long-time fan of the PlayStation brand), but collecting old consoles and peripherals and then getting to see them on display and interact with them in different ways just felt special. I’m a big fan of the original PlayStation, so jumping around on a perfect replica and launching bots off its disk lid with a button press never stopped being charming. Oh, and don’t get me started on the way that each level ends… it almost brought a tear to my eye on the Memory Meadow level.
One thing you’ll want to keep an eye out for throughout each level are bots carrying blue video cameras, with the action that unfolds in front of them giving a nod (and sometimes a very subtle one) to one of the many video games that have graced the PlayStation platforms over the years. This isn’t just restricted to exclusives either, with plenty of iconic sequences to encounter that’ll certainly bring back some happy memories. It’s definitely worth trying to find them all in a level and figure out what game they’re referencing, with some a lot more difficult to work out than others. I guess my favourite would have to be the Final Fantasy VII scene, though seeing a certain Silent Hill villain made me chuckle too.
I guess I should mention that the core gameplay of Astro’s Playroom revolves around 3D platforming, with each level spread across four different areas that bring with them an array of platforming challenges, collectibles to seek out, and coins to collect to spend on additional bonuses at the prize machine. The platforming itself is solid throughout and will feel familiar to anyone who played Astro Bot Rescue Mission on PlayStation VR – it keeps things simple and easy, but its always fun and oozing with charm.
It shouldn’t take too long to get through the game’s four levels, though there’s enough variety within them to warrant additional playthroughs. Whilst running, jumping, punching, and hovering is at the forefront, you’ll also find yourself climbing a mountain, rolling across tricky terrain in a hamster ball, and even using a little space ship to get around, just to name a few of the mini-games found within the game – each of these different tasks utilise different control methods via the DualSense controller too, so they all feel uniquely satisfying in design. Add to that some quick challenges where you can compete with other players via an online leaderboard (and that can also accessed in around three seconds via the Activity Cards) and you’ll quickly find that there’s plenty of imaginative and varied tasks to dive into in the game.
Whilst the game isn’t too long in length, there’s plenty of time to be spent finding all of the collectibles, collecting enough coins to grab all of the prizes, and discovering all of the secrets that are found across the world… you’ll just WISH that it was longer. I mean, it’s hard to complain when it’s free a game, but when it’s of such a high and wonderful quality like that found in Astro’s Playroom you’ll just want to see more and more of it.
Oh, and it’s bloody gorgeous too. Whilst you’re not going to find detailed visuals like those seen in your typical AAA releases, the world design of Astro’s Playroom is utterly adorable and looks beautiful in 4K. This really is a special little gem of a game.
Astro’s Playroom is more than just a tech demo that demonstrates the PlayStation 5’s power… it’s an unmissable nostalgia-fuelled platforming romp that’s full to the brim with charm and imagination. I had such a good time playing through each of its varied and cleverly-designed levels, whilst seeing all of the nods to PlayStation hardware and video games over the years kept a huge smile on my face. And those DualSense features? It gives players a real taste of what next-gen is going to FEEL like on the PlayStation 5. It’s awesome.
This is the sort of title that I’d have happily paid for, but for Sony to offer it for free is a real treat for PlayStation 5 gamers. Honestly, do yourself a favour and make sure you play through Astro’s Playroom – you will NOT regret it.
Developer: SIE Japan Studio, Team ASOBI!
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation 5