Astro’s Playroom is a game full of little moments. The sequel to the magnificent Astrobot: Rescue Mission, which is widely overlooked due to its VR exclusivity, can enjoy an incomparably larger number of players, because Sony has simply pre-installed the platformer on the PlayStation 5. And so it is almost without alternative to dive into the levels of the secret new PlayStation mascot as a console new owner and bump into eyewitnesses from 26 years of PlayStation history almost every second. That’s because at the start of the next console generation, Astro and its robot followers take a loving look at the past. You could fill our Moments section with moments from Astro’s Playroom for almost weeks. If you look closely, you’ll discover game scenes from well-known and lesser-known PlayStation classics in almost every corner of the levels. The worlds themselves reference the console’s interior. And while you jump through circuit jungles and over memory cards to collect 3D models of consoles and controllers, the grandiose soundtrack sings the praises of the GPU in some weird kind of Daft Punk cover song.
However, one moment of gameplay especially stuck with me — and it was not a reference to earlier times. While running and jumping through the “Memory Meadow” section, a storm is coming up and it starts to rain. Actually, it’s just an atmospheric effect, but now the Dual Sense gamepad comes into play: Thanks to haptic feedback, I can feel every raindrop splashing on Astrobot. I intuitively slow down and look for shelter. Thanks to 3D audio in my headphones, I literally feel left out in the rain. Good thing Astrobot has an umbrella ready, I think! And in this moment I realize that I reacted according to my senses and my feeling instead of just continuing to play the game.
Astro’s Playroom doesn’t play differently, but it feels different than anything I’ve experienced before. It’s one of those rare moments when I feel like I’m playing a very special game. Because while Astro’s Playroom looks almost constantly into the past, it presents me with the future. Somehow you get the feeling that developer Asobi Team had actually planned a demo for the Game Developers Conference, which then accidentally turned into a great gaming experience after the show was cancelled. The combination of techdemo, nostalgia and outstanding gameplay is perhaps more creative than the rest of the PlayStation 5 launch lineup as a whole. And so it’s a free add-on game that makes me feel more confident about the promise of the next years and the new video game generation than Spider-Man, Kratos or Aloy.
Astro’s Playroom from SIE Japan Studios is pre-installed on every PlayStation 5 – giving Astro the attention it deserves to climb the 3D platformer throne with Mario. This is great praise, but well deserved for the creative and technical masterpiece.
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