Review of Astro’s PlayroomDecember 29, 2020
“Astro’s Playroom” comes installed on every PlayStation 5, and at first glance, you may mistake it for a technical demo, or even a tutorial to introduce you to the DualSense controller. While “Astro’s Playroom” succeeds in that regard, the delightful 3D platformer is much more than simply a technical showcase: It’s a must-play.
There’s something uniquely Nintendo-like about the game: It has an excellent balance of charm, nostalgia and carefully-tuned difficulty that feels just right. The DualSense controller’s haptic feedback and adaptive trigger elevate the experience, too, bringing a unique, tactile feel to platforming. Combined, these elements make it an unexpected next-gen hit.
“Astro’s Playroom” has you exploring digital worlds inspired by hardware components of the PS5, like “GPU Jungle” and “SSD Speedway.” Each area has a controller-specific gimmick, like using gyroscope features to control a spaceship or the adaptive triggers to feel the tension in the pull of a bow string. Every level has enemies to kill or obstacles to climb, but the most fun comes purely from movement.
With every step and jump, the DualSense controller responds. A powerful gust of wind can be felt in the palms of your hands. Lasers shooting out of your feet, allowing you to hover, produce a low hum from the controller’s speakers along with a subtle vibration. Surfaces, like grass and mud, produce a distinct feel through the controller’s effects: A muddy hill, for example, astounded me in how it actually felt like a slippery slope. These moments are technical marvels, showing the potential of how the DualSense controller can change how we interact with video game environments.
“Astro’s Playroom” elevates DualSense-specific features by placing them into a game that is genuinely a blast to play. I loved every moment. Each area felt like an attraction at a theme park: In one, you transform into a huge ball that rolls down a series of slides, which you control with the touchpad. In another, your feet become a spring, and you can feel the tension of the spring through the adaptive triggers as you find the proper level of compression to clear a gap.