Astro’s Playroom (2020)

One of the biggest surprises when I started up my Playstation 5 for the first time was Astro’s Playroom. Not that the game existed, but simply how much effort and soul went into making it. I expected a short tech demo, showcasing the haptic feedback of the controller. Astro’s Playroom is much more than that, and despite it being a short game, it’s one that nobody who owns a PS5 should miss. 

Astro’s Playroom is a celebration of everything Playstation. It’s a platformer with a few short levels, but each of these levels is packed with references and homages to Playstation’s past. There are a ton of cute little robots acting out scenes from classic and obscure games alike. There are tons of collectibles that showcase old Playstations and their respective peripherals. Finding puzzle pieces unlocks murals that celebrate Playstation throughout the years. 

The levels themselves are creative, varied, and enjoyable to traverse. There are four main areas along with a small hub world and a final boss battle. Each of the main areas has four levels, and those levels alternate between traditional platformer and more gimmicky concepts. The levels are extremely short, but I found them to be great nonetheless. They are visually engaging and packed to the brim with secrets, collectibles, and fun scenes. The gimmick-based levels utilize the motion controls of the new controller in creative methods, and they work well.

I was impressed with how well Astro’s Playroom showcased the new features of the PS5’s controller. Even after playing a few more PS5 titles, few utilize the stellar haptic feedback like Astro’s Playroom. The dynamic rumbling can really add some phenomenal textural feedback to the player. I distinctly remember a certain part of the game when I was holding on to a moving platform because the rumble had a very distinctive clicking sensation. If it had just been a standard rumbling, it would not have stuck out in my mind at all.

Astro’s Playroom is a short game. It only took me a few hours to complete it and find all the collectibles. This is not a bad thing. It’s a short but sweet experience. I’d love to see a more expansive version of Astro’s Playroom, but there would need to be an overhaul of the movement mechanics. Movement is super simple, you can walk, jump, and briefly hover. This is fine for a quick and free title that comes included with the PS5. But to compete with other major 3D platformers, Astro would need more complex movement to keep traversal interesting.

Take for example the 3D entries of Super Mario. They are simple, approachable, and easy to grasp. However, there are plenty of extra mechanics like triple jumps, side flips, long jumps, slides, and momentum. Traversing the environments in Super Mario games is like exploring a playground. As you master the movement, you can find shortcuts and more easily navigate obstacles. Astro’s Playroom feels like it’s on rails in comparison. It’s not egregious since the game is so compact and there are plenty of gimmicky interludes to mix up the movement. If there were to be a longer sequel to Astro’s Playroom, I’d love to see some more intricate movement.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Astro’s Playroom. It’s an approachable, charming, and enjoyable bite-sized game. Not every game needs to be an expansive behemoth, and I love when games have a more focused approach. While it doesn’t have complex movement, Astro’s Playroom is a joy to explore. It is for these reasons I give Astro’s Playroom an 7.5/10. It’s not a game that is going to revolutionize platformers, but Astro’s Playroom is an excellent romp through imaginative environments.