By now, you've probably had your mind blown and palms tickled by Astro's Playroom. The tactile platformer comes bundled onto the PS5's SSD, an impressive little platformer that acts as part tech-demo for the DualSense controller, part PlayStation love-in. But, Astro's Playroom is also secretly a hilariously nasty game. How else to explain an experience where you can smack an adorable robot into a black hole, pop a Locoroco as many times as you like, and watch a robot do what can only be described as the 'Booty Slap' dance move?
This is no bad thing in the slightest. In fact, it's part of what makes Astro's Playroom more than just a tech demo. It's been a long time since Sony had a platforming mascot, with Sackboy's last appearance before his (little)Big Adventure this year all the way back in 2014. And, as we've seen with Nintendo and Sega, mascots tend to set the tone of what you want people to think of your platform. But, where both Sackboy and Astro might look like they're cut from the same cloth – cute and approachable – Astro's wicked sense of humour helps make his Playroom that tad more captivating.
Laughs have no limits
That's mainly down to the way Team Asobi positioned its generous PS5 freebie as a love letter to PlayStation's past. As you work your way through the platformer's four, shortish levels, you'll discover all manner of trinkets from PlayStation past, from the memorable (the Eye Toy Camera) to the obscure (the PSP camera and PSP Go). Depending on your feelings towards Sony, it's either a soul-warmingly cheery walk down memory lane or PlayStation propaganda through and through.
Now if Astro had been as cute Sackboy, this might have come across as a bit too saccharine. It's one thing to celebrate your past, quite another to romanticize it. But Astro Bot takes a leaf out of comedies from the '80s, such as Gremlins and The Goonies, and adds just enough edge to make sure it's not too sickly. That's why I involuntarily burst out laughing the first time I saw a robot spanking thin air. Not only was it delightfully silly, but it was unexpected.
Astro is great, but, also pure filth pic.twitter.com/pIhvmorKpRDecember 1, 2020
And Astro chucks up moments like this time and time again. There's the aforementioned black hole trip for one unlucky bot, popping the balloons of others stranding in the air, getting smacked by a crumbled can when a gust of wind is being blown at Astro… It's the sort of charmingly mean-spirited comedy that stops things from getting too sentimental or clinical, giving Astro a welcome personality outside of it's PlayStation references and Dualsense tech.
Floor the players
That alone makes it impressive in its own right. Astro has become Sony's go-to when it wants to introduce new tech to its players, from the PS4's camera to PS VR. While Team Asobi has always done a great job of showing what your shiny new tech can do, the humour has also started to become more pronounced in each entry. Even if you don't enjoy the sight of a meticulously detailed digital PS1, it's hard not to giggle at some Three Stooges-esque pratfalls.
While we're not expecting the next game in the series to be called Astro's Tight Five, it does open the door for a new face and personality for Sony. One that doesn't mind shifting its tongue a little to the left and poking fun at itself, while acknowledging where it's come from. After all, you'll come to Playroom to see what the DualSense is capable of, but you'll stay to see what its impish star gets up to.