THE WASHINGTON POST – Astro’s Playroom comes installed on every PlayStation 5 (PS5), and at first glance you may mistake it for a 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, such as ‘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, such as 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.
There’s also an incredible attention to detail, making me stop in my tracks multiple times just to marvel at an easter egg. Astro’s Playroom is a love letter to PlayStation, in which you find collectibles based off previous consoles and accessories made by the mega publisher.
The experience is filled with callbacks to specific games, too, from recent hit Ghost of Tsushima to classics such as Final Fantasy VII.
I loved the feeling of discovery, and the aha moments these nuggets provide.
Despite beating the game, I find myself returning to Astro’s Playroom for its pure joy.
With so many secrets hidden in its deepest corners, there are still collectibles and missed moments for me to uncover.
But most of all, it’s an experience that feels especially “new” in how it plays and feels.
There’s no other platformer like it.