Review

Astro Game Room Review – A Welcoming Celebration

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Astro’s Game Room comes preinstalled on every PlayStation 5, so when you first start it up, you can assume that this is a tutorial designed to introduce you to the capabilities of the system. This assumption is not correct. Yes, gaming is a great centerpiece for the PS5’s DualSense controller, applying its haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, and motion-sensing technology to a variety of inventive situations. But Astro’s playroom is more than a tutorial; it’s a cheerful and polished platform game that ushers in a new generation of PlayStation hardware with a big smile. Astro is a cute little robot who runs, jumps and flies through colorful worlds – each based on different components of the PS5. You splash into the cooling unit, climb through the SSD, and explore the GPU forest. Like other pet platforms, you also have to collect items along the way, some of which float in plain sight while others require minor effort. In terms of structure and basic mechanics, Astro’s rec room is not surprising; it adheres tightly to a comfortable formula. But that familiarity doesn’t slow down the experience, as the DualSense controller adds novelty in fun and surprising ways. Every function and feature of the controller gets a little time in the spotlight. Ubiquitous and distinct rumble effects steal the show, from the tiny feel of Astro’s footsteps to thundering moments like an Indiana Jones-style boulder chase. The triggers provide resistance when you load your jumps into a frog suit or flip the levers on a toy machine. Swiping your finger across the touchpad lets you direct your movement as you roll into a ball. The list goes on, and while some mechanics feel like gimmicks (steering with motion controls will never be fun) the majority of them are cool. More than that, they make a substantial difference in your connection to the action, conveying an incredible tactile sensation of the world. But like I said, Astro’s game room isn’t just a superficial excuse to show off the DualSense. Even without the tech behind it, it’s a fun platform game with a satisfying mix of variety and charm, and all levels stand out in unique ways. Some have an open-world playground feel, where you search every corner for hidden areas and collectibles. Light combat against a small selection of enemies keeps you from having complete free rein, but these levels are more about exploration than aggression. I had fun hunting down treasures and interacting with the surroundings, although everything is achievable and obvious enough that I hesitate to call them “puzzles”. Other stages are linear platform challenges that use Astro’s laser hover jump. These portions are also pretty forgiving, with generous checkpoints and obstacles that offer just enough resistance to make you pause for a while, but not to the point of getting stuck. You’ll also find various costumes and vehicles in sections that allow you to climb walls or navigate deep space; these are the parts that seem the most fanciful and unreliable, but even so, they are rarely long enough to cause real frustration. Plus, it’s hard to get too angry with the game’s infectiously optimistic soundtrack in the background. Even though Astro’s game room is relatively simple, it kept me entertained for about five hours with its array of challenges and entertaining Easter eggs. During Astro’s walk through the guts of the PS5, you come across all kinds of PlayStation references and memorabilia. Whether it’s seeing bot versions of iconic characters (like Kratos and Solid Snake) or collecting old peripherals and consoles, the journey is full of “I know that!” flashes that punctuate the light and accessible gameplay. At its best, Astro’s Playroom picks up the magic of my favorite Lego video games – except the license displayed is the PlayStation trademark instead of something like Star Wars or Marvel. Cameos are plentiful and fun, with franchises that go beyond the first-party catalog, as well as surprisingly deep cuts that make me feel very old. But in the midst of all this stuff, Astro feels like an adorably fresh face; I am happy to see the character breaking out of the limits of virtual reality and reaching a wider audience. Astro’s Game Room might not be the deepest or most ambitious game on PS5, but its humor and playfulness is simply delicious.

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