Astro’s Playroom, pre-installed on all PlayStation 5, basically acts as an introduction to Sony’s new DualSense controller, brilliantly introducing its resistance triggers and mysterious tactile feedback. The game is not only a love letter to the PlayStation generation, but also a strong statement of Sony’s vision for the future of the game. I worked on this without knowing what to expect from the new controller, which is really exciting. In some respects, Astro’s playroom is Wii Sports for PlayStation 5. The control system feels new and special, and the game does a great job of marketing the benefits to new PS5 owners.
The game itself is also commendable-it may be included for free on all consoles, but this is more than just a tutorial or demo. There is a real game here and it’s a lot of fun. And beyond the amazing feedback from the controller, the main aspect that really stands out to me is the creativity on display. With innovative use of controllers, Playroom actually introduces many great mechanisms and concepts into the mix to help you instantly understand what DualSense brings to your table. The development team is really good at this-AstroBot helped introduce PSVR to players and eventually received a unique game that was one of the best virtual reality experiences ever. Perhaps not surprisingly, developers are devoting much of their work to this new game.
Perhaps the irony of Astro’s Playroom as the next-generation showcase is that, visually, it’s not a game that pushes the boundaries, but it doesn’t really matter. Still, it’s a gorgeous game with clean 4K output that supports HDR running at 60 frames per second. Beyond that, it’s packed with small details in every corner: water that reacts and undulates as you move it, physically driven objects often clutter your way and roll when you hit them, All small enemies and objects are very crafted.
We’ll also showcase PlayStation’s past beautifully modeled peripherals, such as the EyeToy camera with a small logo on a realistic plastic base. There is also a real PlayStation 3 with a working card bay flap. Really, this is tied to one of my favorites in the game: all callbacks to classic PlayStation hardware. At some point, you’ll hear the PS3 start up and turn around with the XMB filling the surrounding sky. This is a great moment. In fact, the whole game is full of fan service. This is a celebration of the entire PlayStation era.
But in reality, this is all about the DualSense controller. This new pad is bigger, heavier and more premium than its predecessor, but the next generation is in feedback. It starts with an adaptive trigger. Basically, the controller can apply different levels of resistance to the trigger to change the feel and tension needed to pull the trigger. In Astro’s playroom, you’ll jump to a “spring suit” (need a better name) and switch control systems accordingly. Pull the trigger to charge and put it back. I was really surprised because the way these triggers change resistance changes dramatically based on the action currently being taken. It has the same sense of force that you get from a force feedback steering wheel that applies only to the trigger. This simple tension can have a significant impact on the sensation of performing an individual mechanic. In this case, you can “feel” the potential energy of the coil spring.
This is also paired with the resurrection of the gyro function. Like PS3 and PS4, it is used to control certain mechanics in this game. But it doesn’t feel the same, it’s due to another change: the new tactile rumble feature. So, I’ve seen something like this on HD Rumble on Switch, but frankly, it feels like a next-generation endeavor. The level of accuracy and possible variations are simply impractical. When you move the controller, the developer gives the impression that the physical object is actually rolling inside the pad.
It is almost difficult to explain because there are so many subtle vibrations and sensations. You can feel the difference in the footsteps of AstroBot depending on the surface you are walking on. You can feel the difference when you dive into the water and swim or walk on land. When the astro gets caught in the wet mud, you can feel the resistance to push it through. When it rains, you can feel the water droplets land. This is all backed up by the controller’s built-in speakers. Sound and sensation work together to create amazing effects.
And that’s why AstroBot is a great choice for the PS5. It’s beautifully played and infused with the same level of creativity you’d expect from an Asobi Team, but in a fun way to quickly understand each feature of the controller. To be honest, it’s the best introduction to the new system since Wii Sports. It’s the same quality, fun and quick access, while showing you what you can do with the system. The preview of the game is limited to one level and there is more information, but I hope more users will come back to check out the AstroBot Rescue Mission on the PlayStation VR after playing it. Without a doubt, this is one of the best 3D platform games ever made.