The PS5 offers fast load speeds, engrossing 4K graphics and a zippy SSD, but the DualSense controller might be the most exciting thing about it. Based on our time with Astro's Playroom, a colorful platformer preinstalled on every PS5, Sony's new gamepad offers a level of immersion we simply haven't seen on previous consoles.
Gameplay-wise, Astro’s Playroom is a simple Super Mario 64-esque 3D platformer that has you run, jump, float and punch your way through a series of colorful levels. However, by using the DualSense’s built-in speakers, haptic feedback and adaptive triggers in concert with one another, the game delivers a tactile experience that’s unlike any I’ve felt before.
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During my time in the colorful Cooling Springs level, I encountered tons of different gameplay scenarios that were elevated by Sony’s immersive new controller. For example, the grainy rattle of an in-game sandstorm perfectly matched the little pelts of vibration I felt when walking through it, as did the sounds of ice scraping with the subtle gliding sensation I felt while skating over ice.
The haptics proved especially impressive every time I pulled on a rope in-game. The controller did a great job of simulating a feeling of resistance every time I yanked one to progress through a level. Speaking of resistance, the controller’s adaptive triggers took center stage when I jumped into a spring-loaded robot suit, swiped on the touchpad to zip myself up and used the triggers to guide Astro left and right.
While I was in the suit, the triggers took far more pressure than normal to actuate, successfully replicating the feeling of pushing down on a spring and releasing it to send it flying. Once again, the sound effects and haptic feedback complemented the springy side-scrolling platforming of this part of the game perfectly.
I also had to tilt my DualSense left and right to get Astro to his destination, creating a very physical gameplay experience that used every part of the unique controller. In a later segment, I even had to blow on the controller in order to propel a platform of ice forward while navigating a river.
While Astro’s Playroom largely positions itself as a tech demo for the DualSense, it’s also simply a fun game. The art style is adorable and vibrant; the platforming and combat are accessible and tight. There are also some really neat collectibles and easter eggs that will make hardcore PlayStation fans smile.
We’ll have more to say about Astro’s Playroom closer to launch. But Sony’s pack-in platformer is well worth checking out as soon as you boot your PS5 up, and has me excited to see how other developers tap into the vast potential of Sony’s unique gamepad. Fast loading times and ray-traced graphics are great, but the added layer of immersion provided by the DualSense controller feels like one of the most truly "next-gen" things about Sony's new console.