Stevivor’s jumped into its first PS5 experience with Astro’s Playroom, a platformer that’s equal parts a love letter to the PlayStation legacy as it is a look at the PS5’s new DualSense controller. Light, wholesome and enjoyable, it features Astro of The Playroom and Astro Bot Rescue Mission fame in an adventure through the insides of the PS5 itself.
While the mission we were able to play – Cooling Springs – is meant to reflect the PS5’s fans and cooling systems, that didn’t stop developer Team Asobi from throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the area. Astro will jump off a long slide into an ocean before wading over to the nearby beach (and who thought sand was bad for electronics), eventually heading over into a frozen tundra complete with giant chunks of ice.
The changes to scenery really put the DualSense’s haptic feedback and onboard speaker to good use, with the two mechanics working in tandem to really sell the idea that Astro is swimming against a current, walking head-first into a sandstorm or skating on ice. The feel of the haptic feedback is extremely similar to Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers and the HD Rumble experience presented as part of 1-2 Switch – especially the mini-game in which you were tasked to move the controller back and forth to try to determine how many marbles were “in the” controller.
The speaker makes appropriate noises alongside the haptics, and there’s no denying it’s an essential part of the experience. While enjoyable, it does limit the fashion in which Astro’s Playroom can be enjoyed. Parents hoping to silently sneak in some gameplay at night will either have to hope the noise emanating from the DualSense isn’t loud enough to wake up children, or otherwise just turn the speaker off entirely.
Certain areas of the experience also show how different the DualSense’s triggers are to that of the DualShock 4. In these sections, Astro climbs into a giant suit spring, requiring a player to hold down a trigger to charge the it before using the controller’s motion-control functionality to aim and then launch. Here, the triggers turn up the resistance, making it more difficult to fully depress, making it feel like you’re actually compressing a metal coil. You can certainly tell the effect is there, but it’s not overly difficult to work the triggers. As Twitter has already pointed out, you can turn off the functionality – alongside vibration – if you’re prefer.
Astro’s Playroom is more than a DualSense ad, also providing some Spyro or Super Lucky’s Tale-style platforming to the mix. Astro can defeat enemies and scale environments to collect coins – used in an area outside Cooling Springs that we can’t discuss – and pull on exposed circuitry to continue exploring or uncover artefacts from PlayStation history. There are also many, many PlayStation Easter eggs to be discovered, each focusing on a different console or game. They’re worth tracking down just to see PlayStation heroes of old done in Astro-style if nothing else.
While Team Asobi has taken great care to work haptics into Astro’s Playroom, I wonder if other developers – especially third-party ones – will put in the effort to do the same. There’s literally a different haptic feeling for every single action Astro takes, or surface he walks over – usually with a sound to accompany it – and while it’s certainly immersive, I would imagine it’s a big undertaking. Alternatively, there’s a small danger in overdoing it – requiring a player to blow into the DualSense’s microphone to simulate a fan is one example of that.
While it’s one thing to hear how the DualSense changes the PlayStation, it’s another to actually experience it. You’ll be able to do just that for yourself when the PS5 hits store shelves on 12 November. For now, here’s an Astro’s Playroom video with Cooling Springs gameplay, completely devoid of haptics and the DualSense’s added sound effects.