Astro Bot Rescue Mission is my favourite Virtual Reality experience. It’s infectious fun, as you play as PlayStation’s newest mascot. Remember the PS2 era, where the PlayStation had three different mascots? Jak, Sly, and my personal favourite, Ratchet & Clank, were perfect representatives for video games as a whole and their potential for imagination. So the adorable little Astro Bot is a mascot alongside Sackboy for the launch of the PlayStation 5.
I can report that SCE Japan Studio‘s newest effort, Astro’s Playroom, is the perfect introduction to the potential of the PlayStation 5.
At this stage of graphical fidelity, there’s only so much you can do in terms of genuine improvement. The days of marvelling at the simple fact that games with realistic looking human beings actually exist and are playable are over.
Now we look to games to push the boundaries in other ways – namely, in inventiveness and imagination, along with stylish presentation.
Astro Bot is a platformer with smooth and tight controls, and just enough new platforming tools to keep you hooked and waiting to see what’s round the corner next, but not so much you are struggling to remember complex button combinations.
Astro Bot is a gorgeous looking game, showcasing the speed and vitality of the PlayStation 5 system. There’s basically not a loading screen to be seen, as you are sent hurtling through pixelated tunnels to travel to levels that contain countless homages to previous PlayStation titles.
Waves of memories and nostalgia end up hitting you on top of freshly dynamic and exciting platforming. You’ll see little astro bots dressed up as Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn, as fighters Heihachi and Kazuya Mishima from Tekken, and so many more! Ranging from the PlayStation 1 era, to the PlayStation Portable, and right up until some of the most recent PlayStation 4 releases from this year!
It’s clear that the team behind this game have genuine love for the PlayStation brand and the games it has created, and even the trophies are all styled after other PlayStation titles. So the fan-service is really strong, and the attention to detail is present throughout the entire experience.
Whether it’s the gorgeous animations, or the splashes of rainwater that turn out to be PlayStation symbols, or the un-lockable PlayStation hardware that you can clamber all over, Astro’s Playroom is just a joy to look around and explore. Every nook and cranny has a new, unique Astro Bot performing a unique animation, or just a little homage to something or another.
Where Astro’s Playroom separates itself from other platformers is the interactivity that the controller offers. As I discussed in my review for the DualSense controller, Astro Bot is built around displaying the great qualities of the PlayStation 5’s new controller.
They implement each aspect of the new controller in a great way. This ranges from running through grass being simulated by vibrations, to the sound of howling wind coming straight through the controller, to blowing into the microphone to spin fans.
The touchpad is used to control a bowling ball segment similar to the old Super Monkey Ball games, and the triggers are used to climb up fragile rocks, where if you place too much pressure on the triggers the rock grips crumble away.
Finally, motion controls are used in perfect conjunction with the microphone and the rumble to aim a bouncing spring-loaded robot frog. It doesn’t sound intuitive, but it is. Every single thing in this game is carefully thought out and polished. It’s not particularly difficult, but the way that every control has been carefully polished makes the game flow really nicely.
Every death is your own fault, and checkpoints are generous, so even if you do find a bit of platforming or guiding your rocket-ship through electric mines tricky, you aren’t sent too far back. Once you’ve passed a platforming section, you’ve passed it. No lives system here!
Astro’s Playroom doesn’t demand a lot from you. Especially since it comes free installed with every PlayStation 5, it serves as the ideal introduction to a new generation of consoles. It certainly helps if you’ve been involved on the PlayStation journey on some point or another.
But even if you haven’t, it’s a great way to get caught up on the history of the PlayStation’s technology, to see how far we’ve advanced, and to pave the way for the future of intuitive and engaging platforming games, utilizing the full power of both the PlayStation 5 as a console and the DualSense controller, which I maintain is a marvelous addition for immersion and gameplay, and I see great potential for future entries in this series.
It just made me smile the whole time I was playing it – I couldn’t put it down. Not every game needs to make you smile, it’s true – but isn’t it great anyway when a game does?
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