My first ever “console” was the Nintendo Gameboy. However, my fondest memories of gaming have come from playing on the PlayStation consoles, from the original Tomb Raider, Gran Turismo or Toca Touring Cars, however, the games that are usually pre loaded on new consoles, I’ve never really played. Except for Wii Sports, which I think we’ve all played. Astro’s Playroom has been designed by Team ASOBI to showcase the bells and whistles of Sony’s next-gen DuelSense Controller, it’s surprisingly fun. It demonstrates the DuelSense’s haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, microphone and more. I really does pay homage to the history of the PlayStation.
Astro’s Playroom follows in the footsteps of the PSVR’s Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. Much like that adventure, which was built around VR, this has been built around the DuelSense controller. You could potentially play this game without any of the controllers new features, which I did turn off the microphone, where you have to blow into to get a boat going… I couldn’t do it to save my life, and started to go light headed, but other than that, it was great to learn how the new DuelSense controller worked.
Astro’s Playroom is somewhat amusingly, “inside” the PlayStation 5 console, where you get to explore 4 different worlds, Cooling Springs, GPU Jungle, Memory Meadows and SSD Speedway, all feeding off your main area, the CPU Plaza. Each “world” offers a unique look at what’s inside your PlayStation 5, but as mentioned, it also targets one sensation of the new controller. Mostly, I found that I was just getting used to the basics of running, jumping, spin attacking. The controls were fairly simple and were easy to grasp, so all age levels could play this game. But whilst keeping the controls simple, Team ASOBI managed to keep the content exciting, and I couldn’t stay away, I just wanted to carry on playing the game. It really did draw me away from some of the gaming worlds AAA games (Fifa 21).
Fundamentally though, the game is tied around the fun of using the DuelSense controller. As this was the first real showcase of using the haptic feedback, which allowed me to get used to it before going into other games. I could really feel the difference in walking through mud, or being on water and grassy plains, Astro bot really does an impressive job of showcasing the variety of what it can pull off. Water emits a light, wavy pulse through the controller to mimic Astro swimming, whilst ice offers a light, consistent taps of rumble that are coupled with a simulated ice sound coming from the controllers speaker.
Before you head into each world, you will get the chance to go round the world’s lobby. Which by the way, is just a simple animation, and no loading screens, you get to see the sort of terrain you will be encountering in that world. So before you hop into Cooling springs, there’s a small pool to splash around in, and a few collectables and puzzle pieces for you to collect. But once you do dive in, there really is no shortage of joy that comes from game surfaces, objects and movement into different DuelSense sensations. Hitting your bot on the head causes little pops of rumble all around the controller, the pull of a bow and arrow requires added pressure on the trigger and a plunk of release as the arrow shoots. But team ASOBI really pulled it out the bag when you are going against the wind or swimming through water as they managed to combine multiple DuelSense features to produce a greater result than the sum of its parts.
Some of the sensations are really simple, like running a finger up the touchpad to zip up a new suit, whilst a realistic sound of a zipper clinching up plays. Or it can be a bit more complex, like the Memory Meadows-specific mechanic of a little spaceship suit Astro can wear, which uses both the adaptive triggers to control the velocity of your ship’s thrusters, which there is also Haptic feedback to indicate how much the ship is rumbling. The Haptic feedback really does play a big part in all of this, like when raindrops start falling harder on Astro’s head and the pitter patter tremble of your controller simultaneously grows, but the noise of rain drops getting louder from the speaker makes you want to speed up to get out of the rain.
Some of the world-specific gameplay mechanics are where some of the studio’s genius mostly lies. Mixing fun with DuelSense’s coolest features. Each playroom is structurally the same: two sets of alternating levels, the first and third featuring more traditional 3D platforming and exploration, whilst the second and fourth offer a world-specific suit for Astro to wear.
What I really enjoyed about this game though, not the fact that the game is largely focused on its use of the new controller, but Team ASOBI’s dedication in turning this into a sort of mini-museum of PlayStation history the hidden puzzle pieces come together to form a wall art tracing PlayStation console history all the way back to the original, whilst each of the main 4 worlds hold hidden artifacts belonging to the four respective ears of past PlayStation hardware, and yes that does include the PSP and Vita consoles). Some of these are more expected pieces, like recreations of the DuelShock 4 or the PS2, but there are some appreciable deep cuts, like the PSP GPS plug-in, or throwbacks like the PocketStation. All of them are put on display to be looked at or hit to produce sound effects, pop open disk trays and more.
Running around each world, you will see historic memories from the era’s, and other Astro Bot’s holding cameras and wearing blue caps. It’s a signal for a reference to a PlayStation game, and the levels are littered with them, IE a robot being eaten by a dinosaur. They are mostly there for a bit of fun and they all made me smile, and reminisce of old games, but they don’t really do anything to the gameplay.
Running at a very smooth 4K 60FPS, Astro’s world may not be massive and require huge draw distances or populate the screen with hundreds of enemies, but it is certainly pretty. Natural environments come together with the PS5’s internal parts and other pieces of hardware in a beautiful blend of the environment with the technology. A grassy plain looks beautiful in 4K, with the plants being topped with PlayStation face button symbols rather than flowers. A rocky wall you need to climb has cliffs jutting out that… are actually recreations of trigger buttons. It's just another sign of Team ASOBI’s dedication to the nostalgic feel of the PlayStation of old.
- The entire game – I really couldn’t just name three
- Using the MIC to blow, was impossible I found
- Graphics 0
- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
- Audio 0
- Technical 0