2020 / rated E / developed by Team Asobi / published by Sony / Playstation 5 /
Bundled in free with a Playstation 5 is the unassuming, adorable Astro’s Playroom, a small, brief, platformer that serves as an advertisement for the very system you just bought, a victory lap for Sony through 5 generations of Playstation consoles and a tutorial for some of the odd and unique features of the PS5 controller. Given all that, it’s a delight to find what a purely fun and honestly well made game it turns out to be. Astro is an adorable little robot with a double-jump that shoots out lasers from his boots that give him a little extra height and the ability to hop into pods that let him fly, swim and spring across the landscape. He lives inside the Sony PCU with a race of little robots and journeys from one hub world to the next discovering Playstation game artifacts. No more story required. He also collects coins because that’s what you do in games like this. Yes, Astro is part Super Mario 64, part Vectorman.
Sony takes many cues from Nintendo here, Astro follows their easy to learn, hard to master formula. The game’s graphics are retro but always appropriate and delightful, full of clever little world building details. The music is catchy and tuneful the way an old 16-bit Nintendo game music used to be. Best of all, Astro himself is incredibly responsive. The controls respond on a dime always giving us enough options to tornado-spin or laser-jump our way out of a tight situation. The deaths are legitimately earned from a last second screw up on the part of the player.
What the game reveals about the Playstation 5 controller is a set of tools I’m curious to see if any developer will even use in the future. In one bizarre moment, we learn that we can actually blow into the controller causing Astro to blow into a fan, spin it and break open new platforms. With the D-pad going unused in a lot of these games, it’s curious that it uses the Touchpad at the top to fling Astro out of his egg pods or launch his hang-gliders into rings. There is a motion control in the on the controllers that results in the game’s most strained and awkward puzzle as Astro dons a monkey suit and you have to rotate the sides of the controller to force each of it’s arms to reach and scale walls.
What Astro’s Playroom lacks in originality and coolness, it makes up for in sheer entertainment. It’s a tuneful, crisply made and very fun game. Will be a breath of fresh air from the survival horror and doom and gloom coming down the gaming pipe.