Astro has somewhat become a mascot for Sony. The character was originally introduced on the PS4 as a free launch experience called Playroom. Sony then brought him back in Playroom VR which is another free experience but for PS VR. Astro then made his big 3D adventure in Astro Bot Rescue mission which is still the best PS VR game you could ever play. Now, Astro is back on the PS5 and while many believe the game is a short “app-like” experience, that is far from the case. Instead, Astro’s Playroom is its own fully-fledged 3D adventure that oozes personality but most of all, it showcases the magic inside the PS5 DualSense controller and there’s a lot of it to showcase.
Not only does Astro’s Playroom manage to deliver a fun platformer that touches on all the important tech inside the DualSense controller but it is also a tribute to the entire PlayStation brand. This was all quite clear the more I played the game. It is a love letter to fans and in a way acts as a welcome celebration to the era of PS5.
The DualSense controller is not your average gaming joystick. By now you know that the device packs some pretty fancy tech inside it. This includes a microphone array, adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. There are other things to enjoy too, such as the touchpad and sturdy design, but the triggers overshadow them. Astro’s Playroom kicks off with a demo of the DualSense controller. This was the first time I had ever experienced the remote in my hands and it made a great first impression. I have seen videos and read articles about the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers but feeling it all is a completely different story.
To break it down, the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers allows the L2 and R2 buttons to fight back against your finger. This is done in different ways throughout Astro’s Playroom and of course, other PS5 games. For example, pulling a bow results in a slower press of the trigger. Climbing a wall saw the trigger reach a certain spot, stop and then let go.
We then have the haptic feedback which also adds immersion to the gameplay. Instead of a one-note vibration which triggers every time something happens, the haptic motors allow for smaller and more precise rumbles. Anyone with an iPhone 6S and up can understand what I am saying here. The phones react with small nudges to your fingers and hands when performing certain tasks. Now put that into a controller and it feeds into your hands as you play.
This results in some rather spectacular experiences throughout Astro’s Playroom. Running through water not only sounds great but also delivers a short “splash” motion in the motors. Every footstep Astro takes is softly felt in the controller and not to forget the intense vibrations when fighting enemies.
These features are used as stepping stones in Astro’s Playroom to deliver some fantastic gameplay moments. The game is divided into four main areas as I got teleported inside the actual PS5 console itself (in the game of course). CPU Plaza acts as the hub, and there are four main gameplay areas with different sections to each one. Each of which revolves around a specific gameplay mechanic tied to the adaptive triggers. Sure, there are other moments when I had to blow into the microphone or use the touchpad to activate an item but these are far and few between. Most of Astro’s Playroom is either 3D platforming while controlling Astro or 3D platforming while inside a suit made to experience some DualSense feature.
Thankfully, no matter what I was doing it was fantastic. The gameplay is easy to get the hang of and running around smacking robots was fun and never got old. The same can be said for all the various activities that are there to show off the controller. My favourite has to be the GPU Jungle where I jumped into a monkey suit and had to climb walls. The L2 and R2 buttons acted like my left and right hand while the motion of tilting the controller left and right was used to stretch my arms to the next rock. At one point, I had to carefully press down the triggers to grab a brittle rock and pull myself up. Of course, this is all interpreted with excellent care in the controller’s adaptive triggers.
Throughout my time with Astro’s Playroom, I kept questioning the game’s “free” price tag. There’s so much to enjoy here at no extra cost. Some of the gameplay mechanics did become gimmicky after a while and but as soon as I got bored the level was over. For a free game, I got a good 4 hours out of it and I still had classic PlayStation items to find and collect throughout each area. The game also includes a full trophy set with a platinum trophy which is great.
Astro’s Playroom is, without a doubt a must-play for all PS5 owners. If you are not getting a console, ask a friend who is to show you the game. You really have to hold the controller in your hand and run through a stage to believe the tech inside of it. As for the game itself, it is free and delivers some great platforming and collectables to go back and find when it is all over. Whatever you do, don’t delete this off your PS5 until you have played it.