It’s a bizarre feeling to write my first ever PS5 game review, and I can’t think of a better title for it to be than Astro’s Playroom, the pre-installed platformer experience designed to showcase the capabilities of the PlayStation 5, most notably the DualSense controller. But Astro’s Playroom is so much more than just that. It’s a celebration of PlayStation history, reaching back to the very first PlayStation console to every weird little accessory and peripheral in between. It’s also a really fun platformer, never feeling “gimmicky” despite its intended nature of showing off multiple unique PS5-specific features.
When you first get your PS5, you’ll be able to set up the system, sign in, and immediately begin playing Astro’s Playroom. It’s already and installed and ready to go, giving you something to play while you wait for other launch titles to download. And it’s an excellent demonstration of just what makes the PS5 so special. You start out “inside” the PS5 system in a central hub area. Looking around here, you’ll notice the massive white PS5 faceplates flanking the curving black center piece that makes up the PS5’s visual design–only you’re on the inside of it.
Each of Astro’s Playroom’s four worlds are representative of a part of the PS5 console, from Cooling Springs to GPU Jungle to the SSD Speedway. The different themes of the areas stand out as starkly different biomes and environments, and even within each of the levels’ four subsections, there’s a notable amount of variety. Cooling Springs, for example, goes from a sunny beach environment to icy and snowy areas, everything themed around the “cooling” aspect of the PS5. Altogether it will take about 3-5 hours to complete, with a little more required to land that Platinum. For a “tech demo,” however, it’s an impressive runtime much longer than I expected.
The levels are packed to the brim with PlayStation Easter eggs and references; bots dressed up as iconic PlayStation characters in iconic scenery. There’s the red-tattooed Kratos bot with a smaller Atreus bot in a boat in the Cooling Springs beach area. Aloy bot fires her bow somewhere in GPU Jungle. You can also find iconic characters like Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter, as well as more niche PlayStation games like Vib-Ribbon. Discovering them all truly defines what it means to go on an Easter egg hunt, and I’ve barely scratched the surface with what I’ve mentioned here.
Astro’s Playroom Review – More Than a Tech Demo
But more than just a tour, both overt and subtle, through PlayStation history, Astro’s Playroom is a really great platforming adventure, showcasing the unique capabilities of the DualSense while providing a competent and fun game to play. It strikes that fine balance between serving its purpose as a pre-installed pack-in for new PS5 owners to cut their teeth on, and actually being genuinely fun and entertaining.
The first thing you’ll immediately notice is what everything feels like. And I mean everything. Astro’s little footsteps change depending on what surface you are walking on, accurately conveying the texture and feel of any changes directly into your hands. Stomping across metal feels different than plinking across glass, which are both different from enjoying a day on the sandy beach in Cooling Springs.
But it’s not just surfaces you are walking on. The level of detail and fidelity in the haptics is incredible, layering different feelings like attacking enemies and other environmental interactions on top of the feel of the surface you are walking on. Sliding down an ice chute and running into ice cubes. Pushing into a raging sandstorm. It all feels exactly like it should, a tactile experience a game has never given me before.
And when you factor in the adaptive triggers, adding relative tension and feedback depending on what you are using them for, it takes the feel of the gameplay to a whole new level. Pulling on a stretchy cord feels like you’d expect using both the haptics and adaptive trigger resistance that steadily gets tougher the more you pull. Compressing a spring similarly feels the same, and the sounds coming from the DualSense speaker for all of these little things add just one more level of tactile dimension to using this controller. (Of course, if you are using headphones, the PS5’s 3D audio engine turns the world into a veritable amusement park of sound, a whole different layer of immersion.)
And yet, for all the special little PS5-unique things Astro’s Playroom, it never feels like it is trying to hard to show these features off, save for a couple parts that do get borderline gimmicky (such as using the touchpad to swipe and roll a ball around a level). The four main areas consist of four smaller subsections that alternate between standard the more standard Astro platforming and a specific suit for each area with special mechanics. Cooling Springs, for example, sees Astro get into a springy frog suit, using the adaptive triggers to compress the spring and moving the controller to aim where it will leap to.
And it all culminates in—well, I won’t spoil it here. It’s an incredible throwback for longtime die-hard PlayStation fans that might be a tiny bit confusing for anyone who hasn’t followed PlayStation history, and a moment that actually made me squee out loud when it happened. I’d recommend watching From Bedrooms to Billions: The PlayStation Revolution if you want a nice refresher.
From a technical presentation, though Astro’s Playroom appears simple and “cartoony” at a glance, there are a number of instances that really highlight features like ray tracing and highly detailed 4K textures. Check out the texture on the inside of the PS5 faceplate in the main CPU plaza. Notice how the light reflects off of the various bots. Look at the extraordinary textures and details on the game’s many collectibles. While it may not be exactly a photorealistic game, it still benefits from the power of the PS5 in some pretty incredible ways. In motion, particularly when taken in concert with all of the features of the DualSense, it’s an experience unlike any we’ve had on consoles yet.
Astro’s Playroom Review – Perfect for PS5
More than just the DualSense though, Astro’s Playroom presents the perfect opportunity to check out PS5-specific features like the activity cards. While a relatively simple Platinum Trophy to earn overall without any kind of guides, if I ever missed out on a collectible, I could easily hop into the Activity Cards to see what I was missing, watch a short hint video, and load directly into the area where the collectible was. It was all instant too. Even from a cold boot, coming from playing a bit of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, I could start up Astro’s Playroom and be where I needed to be within seconds.
You can delete Astro’s Playroom once you’re done with it (and redownload at any time). It’s not bloatware that permanently takes up precious space on the PS5’s relatively small SSD. But even with the Platinum in hand (my first PS5 Plat), I’ve decided to keep it around as a brilliant showcase of what the PS5 and DualSense can do. It only takes up about 10GB of SSD space, and I’ll probably cull it somewhere down the line as examples of the PS5 tech evolve and improve, but it’s a solid enough experience that I’d be willing to pay for it. The fact that it’s a pack-in pre-installed on every PS5 and will most likely be the first thing everyone plays while they wait for their first games to download and install is a pretty amazing bonus.
Astro’s Playroom is the epitome of the PlayStation 5. It’s the foundational software kicking off the next generation of PlayStation gaming. ASOBI Team from Japan Studio could have just phoned it in with a handful of gimmicky levels to distract players while they wait for Miles Morales or Demon’s Souls to download, but they didn’t. They developed a full fun platforming experience that not only demonstrates the PS5, but celebrates 25 years of PlayStation history in some pretty special ways. It’s a powerful showcase that honors everything that led to the “5” in PS5, while also providing a pretty clear picture of what makes this new generation so special.
Astro’s Playroom review copy provided by PlayStation as part of the PS5 review unit. Reviewed on PS5. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.