With the launch of Sony’s newest console less than a month away, you can feel the excitement building. New console generations always bring the promise of experiences that players could only dream of in years past. These experiences can come from increased immersion from improved graphics and sound or by way of the controllers that typically launch alongside new consoles. The PS5 is bringing along the latest and greatest graphics technology, but also a revamped gamepad in the form of the DualSense. The DualSense promises to enhance gameplay by use of its advanced haptics and other capabilities. Sony is packing in Astro’s Playroom, a game built to show off the DualSense, with every PS5 console.
Getting my hands dirty with Astro and the boys
Astro’s Playroom serves the same purpose as other classic console launch software such as Super Mario 64 or Wii Sports. It aims to train new users in the various features offered by a new controller. In cases like Super Mario 64, the game slowly introduces the player to new mechanics and then aims to reinforce the lesson with some sort of payoff. In the case of Wii Sports, the controller interaction is designed to be more intuitive and the software rewards such use of the input device. Astro’s Playroom leans strongly towards the Super Mario 64 approach, though no one is gonna finish the PS5’s pack-in application feeling they experienced an all-time classic.
Things open up in a corridor where players must flick the DualSense touchpad to launch Astro out into the playing space. This hall serves as a hub for the various worlds, each designed around one of the console’s components. The first up is Cooling Springs, a short romp that extols the goodness of the PS5’s thermal solution. You enter the area by passing through a giant blue door that resembles a standard 5-volt PC fan.
Our hero Astro is then sucked through a portal onto a lovely beach full of gold coins, Astro-kin, and baddies. It all plays out in standard 3D platformer fashion, with light physics interaction. You can punch as well as hover after a jump by pressing and holding the X button after the initial jump. You can choose to explore the beach area and dispatch its foes or search for additional coins. Towards the back of the beach entry, a large fan blows over the sand and players guide Astro towards it. This section triggers various rumble effects in the DualSense until Astro gets under the fan. This leads to a combo sauna/swimming pool area with lily pads and rubber ducks. At the rear is a station where Astro can hop into a suit that kicks off the next section.
At this point, you will be confined to a suit that only allows movement via charged hops initiated by the L2/R2 triggers and must be aimed using motion controls. The design allows for a slight bit of post-launch control if you tilt the DualSense. Everything in this section is standard 2D platforming fare and after a few hops, Astro can open a door to an even colder chamber that houses a frozen section. In this section, Astro will find himself atop a floating ice chunk attached to a pinwheel. The player must blow air into the DualSense to get the pinwheel going, forcing the ice chunk to act as a rudimentary sailboat for a fleeting moment. Completing this section throws Astro back into the DualSense tilting jump suit for more 2D platforming that runs until the end of the Cooling Springs section of the game.
Visually, Astro’s Playroom looks very clean, almost to the point of being sterile. That said, all the effects on display are of very high quality, from the textures to the shadow resolution. The 4K HDR presentation may be a bit understated but is very cohesive. How fun is it to play? It’s got some value for the novelty of being something new to do with your next-gen console, but it would be a lie to say that it could not be outclassed by any number of clever mobile games. The real meat and potatoes here will be for trophy hunters and any completionists that will enjoy hunting for the admirable number of hidden items to find. Other sections of Astro’s playroom dive deeper into the DualSense’s capabilities and offer more collectibles, but information on those will come at a later date. While it may not stay on the PS5 hard drive for long, it will be a decent romp for anyone completely new to Sony’s controller philosophy or those itching to play whatever new software they can get.
Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Astro's Playroom: Cooling Springs hands-on impressions - Making sense of the DualSense
I'll definitely check this out, but it's like Chris said; it'll be more about trying new software and seeing how the DualSense works.