REVIEW: Astro’s Playroom
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REVIEW: Astro’s Playroom

Well, the PlayStation 5 is finally here and a new generation of console gaming has begun. 

It seems that every launch cycle there exists a glorified tech demo designed only to show off what the new console is capable of—and to a certain extent that’s exactly what Astro’s Playroom is. 

You see, Astro’s Playroom is the game that comes pre-installed on every PS5 designed to show off the console’s lightning-fast loading speeds and, more importantly, the new DualSense controller’s many bells and whistles. And while the game primarily serves that purpose, it also does much, much more.

In Astro’s Playroom, you play as (you guessed it) Astro, who is on the hunt for relics of PlayStations past. The game takes you through four unique environments, each full of puzzles and platforming sections designed to capitalize on the DualSense’s motion control, microphone, touch pad, and haptic features. As you travel through the various worlds you’ll encounter robotic foes, nostalgic collectibles, and more than a few blasts from the past.

As far as tech demos go, this game is impressive. The DualSense’s new features (especially its haptic feedback) were heavily hyped leading up to its release, and Astro’s Playroom is a great example of why that was the case. From the opening menu, your controller vibrates with every button tap, rumbles with every bass note, and responds to every one of Astro’s footsteps. Gaming hasn’t felt this physically immersive since the Wii launched and it sets a lofty precedent for what this console can really do—whether it does or not is yet to be seen.

Gameplay is one of two areas where Astro’s Playroom goes above and beyond your standard tech demo. Whether it’s punching out robotic foes, collecting coins for the artifact slot machine, or hopping into one of Astro’s many suits, the moment-to-moment gameplay of Playroom is very reminiscent of recent Mario franchise entries. The platforming itself is nothing to write home about, but it features enough creativity and diversity to keep you engaged for the game’s brief runtime.

The real treats are the aforementioned segments where Astro hops into one of his four suits, each of which are designed around one of the DualSense’s many features. His jetpack suit capitalizes on the controller’s haptic feedback, rumbling and shaking as you press in the triggers. Another highlight is his rolling ball container, which uses both the built-in motion sensors and touch pad to control movement. These segments are exciting, original, and totally kinetic; the controller’s feedback is completely immersive. If you want a showcase for what this console and controller can do, this is a perfect way to do so.

The second facet of Astro’s Playroom that sets it a cut above your average tech demo is how effectively it utilizes nostalgia to create atmosphere and propulsion to see levels through. At the end of each world, you enter a stage that is reminiscent of each mainline PlayStation console—complete with startup music and visuals. Companies like Nintendo and Sony are no strangers to borderline weaponizing nostalgia, but I’ve rarely seen it used to such potent effect. You might even stumble upon some familiar items and faces from the console’s stories past!

Astro’s Playroom may not be a killer app at launch, but to have such a surprisingly enjoyable and well-rounded experience bundled in with the PS5 should be commended. It’s an experience that everyone can have as soon as you plug the console in, and that is a wonderful thing.

Its standard platforming may not push the genre forward in any ways, but the portions where it utilizes the DualSense’s new features are truly exciting and feel groundbreaking in their own sense. Top it all off with some rewarding nostalgia trips and excitement for the future of the console and you’ve got one killer launch title. 

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