Did you get a brand-new PS5 during the holidays? You’re no doubt tempted to play games like God of War Ragnarök, Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon Forbidden West. There’s nothing wrong with that, seeing as how they’re some of the best PS5 games. But I’d urge you to play the unassuming title that came free with the PS5. Namely, Astro’s Playroom.
Play a pack-in game before any of the big AAA blockbusters? I understand your skepticism. Heck, I was all but ready to dismiss Astro’s Playroom myself when I first got my PS5. I’m glad I didn’t as it was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in years. In fact, if I could somehow erase my memories of Astro’s Playroom and re-experience it for the first time, I totally would. It’s truly that special.
Below, I’ll discuss why Astro’s Playroom should be the first game you play on PS5.
A showcase for the DualSense controller
The PS5 is one of the most powerful video game consoles ever released. It can play games at up to 4K resolution and 60 frames per second. Titles like Destiny 2 even support 120Hz refresh rates. On top of that, games load lightning fast thanks to the system’s zippy Solid State Drive (SSD). While all of that is certainly impressive, I’d argue that the PS5’s most “next-gen” feature is its DualSense controller — and no other game utilizes it better than Astro’s Playroom.
Astro’s Playroom is a platforming game similar to 3D Mario games like Super Mario Odyssey and is effectively a tech demo for both the PS5 and DualSense. Visually, the title looks phenomenal since it runs at full 4K and in 60 fps. The fast loading times are also impressive. But the game’s magic lies in how effectively it demonstrates the DualSense’s various features.
You’re treated to a brief tutorial before diving into the game proper. Here, you’re taught actions such as shaking the controller, swiping on the trackpad and blowing into the controller’s central speaker. It’s absolutely silly, but it’s a good summary of the actions you’ll take during the game’s brief 2-hour playthrough.
The controller delivers different rumble sensations, depending on the level you're exploring. For example, the icy environment of Cooling Springs gives you the feeling of trudging through thick snow or sliding down icy paths. You can almost feel the sand underneath your feet or the water rushing over you on other levels. The DualSense’s rumble, along with sounds provided by its speakers are what simulate these sensations and it all works wonderfully.
The controller’s adaptive triggers come into play whenever you have to pull on objects. You’ll feel resistance when drawing a bowstring back or yanking a rope. The accompanying sounds and haptic feedback from the controller serve to enhance these actions. Using the controller’s gyro sensors to balance on precarious ledges also works exceptionally well.
Loveletter to PlayStation
Beyond being a showcase for the DualSense controller, Astro’s Playroom is a massive love letter to all things PlayStation. If you’ve been a fan of Sony’s consoles from the beginning, then you’ll appreciate all of the Easter eggs found in each of the five levels. You’ll see nods to the first PlayStation demo and to nearly forgotten peripherals like the Pocketstation or the PSP GPS plug-in. There are also numerous cute robot versions of classic PlayStation characters around every corner.
PlayStation collectibles abound within every level — all of which get sent to a museum of PlayStation history after you've collected them. This whimsical reverence for PlayStation history is the reason why I adore Astro’s Playroom since it takes me back to a time when games were still somewhat innocent.
Don’t skip Astro’s Playroom
I know you’re itching to play God of War, Ratchet & Clank, Horizon and all those other awesome PlayStation exclusives. But trust me, you’ll want to check out Astro’s Playroom first since it brilliantly demonstrates what Sony’s latest console is capable of delivering.
Not only is Astro’s Playroom a fantastic showcase for the DualSense controller, but it’s also a fun platforming game that’ll make you feel like a kid again — especially if you grew up on PlayStation consoles. Do yourself a favor and play this game the instant you turn your PlayStation on. You can thank me later.