If you've finally managed to get a PS5 then congratulations; it's an awesome games console with a load of great games. But how do you show off your latest purchase to people who may not really 'get' games?
Well, this was a question I had to deal with recently. So read on for how I showcased the PS5 to my non-gaming partner and fell a little in love with Astor's Playroom all over again.
And so my tale begins...
A few weeks ago over a meal with my girlfriend, she mildly chastised me that I’ve never shown her my PS5, despite the fact she knows I’m a gaming-centric tech journalist. I retorted that as she was someone with no real interest in games, I thought she wouldn’t care; after all, I’d shown her Red Dead Redemption 2 as a showcase of open-world design and systems, to which she nodded off so quickly it took me a good 10 minutes to notice she was asleep alongside me.
Welcome! This column is part of a series in which members of the Tom's Guide staff share what they're playing and enjoying right now, with the goal of helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our previous entry, where we talk about Resident Evil 4 remake.
Nevertheless, I have the human equivalent of a puppy personality — I’m eager to please — so I committed to show her the power and next-gen splendor of the PS5. But then I hit another dilemma; what the heck would be a nice introduction into "next-gen" console gaming?
Now she’s not totally unfamiliar with games, having played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. But she’s also not fully versed in the so-called language of games that many people take for granted; think of this as similar to just knowing how the best phones work, even going from Android to iPhone, whereas people less used to smartphones need to learn that three vertical dots is a symbol for more options and so on.
I have a healthy selection of PS5 games, but I’m too far into Horizon Forbidden West or God of War Ragnarok for them to make sense to a newcomer. And The Last of Us Part 1 and Part 2 aren’t exactly the most friendly of games to dip into. Hitman 3 is incredible but needs an understanding of stealth and Deathloop isn’t for folks who aren't used to Arkane’s stealth and shooting mechanics.
So I was at a loss, until I suddenly remembered about a little game called Astro’s Playroom.
The best games in life are free
By default every PS5 comes with this charming platformer, so it’s easily forgotten about. But in reality, it’s actually an amazing little game that does a huge amount to show off the PS5 DualSense controller and the console's features. It’s also pretty gentle with how it goes about introducing such things.
And so I found myself booting up my PS5 and handing a DualSense to my girlfriend, no doubt with a slightly bemused glint in my eye. After a few bouts of seemingly jab-pushing the joysticks to move the titular Astro, she settled into more smooth movements, picking up on the idea of double-tapping buttons to do a form of double jump; something that’s almost backed into the lizard brain of more experienced console gamers.
Of course I played the role of backseat games journalist, explaining how the vibrations she was feeling through the controller subtly change to reflect the surfaces Astro is walking on. And how when the robot is in some form of spring-equipped suit that the tension on the triggers convey that of a coiled spring.
My girlfriend nodded along, transfixed with the action on the screen — and it was then that it really struck me just how good Astro’s Playroom actually is.
Nearly every feature from smart haptics and adaptive triggers to the microphone and touchpad are shown off in the game, each one with superb creativity. One element gives you a bow in which the tension of a drawn string is communicated through the adaptive triggers. Another uses the triggers to simulate getting a handhold when climbing a cliff, but also uses the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope to simulate moving grip from one arm to the other.
Each area is also a bounty of color and nicely rendered cartoon-esque vistas complete with a soundtrack that just makes you feel good. And at the end of each section, which are loosely themed around core components of the PS5, you’re granted an award in the form of a 3D render of one of Sony’s older consoles, which you can pour over to your heart’s content in the hub section of the Astro’s Playroom.
Not only was it a joy to see my girlfriend really enjoy Astro’s Playroom — to the extent that she asked me to make sure the game had been saved so that we can continue playing it for weekends to come — it was also great to see her uncover areas I missed the first time around.
Sure, Astro’s Playroom isn’t a game to showcase ray-tracing or the powerful 3D Tempest Audio — you’ll want Gran Turismo 7 for that — nor does it offer the depth of lore and exploration of the seminal Elden Ring. But for a game to give to non-gamers it’s wonderful, and well worth playing today; there’s a good reason that more than two years after the launch of the PS5, Astro’s Playroom is still on our best PS5 games list.