Astro’s Playroom is one of the best PS5 experiences that I’ve had so far. It not only showcases the DualSense controller and capabilities of the PS5, but it also brings 20 years of PlayStation’s legacy to the forefront highlighting PlayStation’s best games, characters and hardware. The game comes pre-installed on all PS5 consoles and it should definitely be the first thing that you play.
We had the chance to speak to Team ASOBI Director, Nicholas Doucet about bringing the game to life and taking advantage of the DualSense controller.
Was Astro’s Playroom developed specifically for the DualSense controller or did you have plans for it before you knew about all the features?
Nicholas Doucet: Yes, Astro’s Playroom was developed specifically with the DualSense wireless controller in mind. It was born from our gameplay research with the controller’s prototypes, creating various tests and demos based on haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. Of course, you may recognise some elements from our previous game such as the main character Astro (of course! 🙂 and a few enemies. But pretty much everything else was designed from scratch, purposely for the new controller. That includes new enemies you pull out of the ground with haptic force, weather effects that you can feel through the controller, as well as brand new power-ups utilising adaptive triggers.
Astro has somewhat become a new mascot for PlayStation. Will we see him in more games in the future?
ND: Awww thank you! Really, this is not something we can discuss at this stage. Time will tell. But we’d be delighted to take Astro on more adventures!
In terms of length, how long do you expect players to play this for and is there a reason to come back to it?
ND: Astro’s Playroom is the biggest Pre-loaded game on any PlayStation system to date. It’s actually quite big with 16 stages in the story mode plus a final boss encounter, 50 PlayStation artefacts and 96 Puzzle pieces to collect. So I would say an average player will take 4 to 5 hours to complete, taking time to explore a little bit and spend your hard-earned coins in the Gatcha machine. But that’s not all. The game also features another 8 Speedrun stages especially created for online ranking that will keep competitive players back for more. Finally, the game features a full trophy set, including Platinum trophy so there a lot to do in this game for sure!
With the game being free, do you go into the game with a certain length and game in mind or do you just try and create the best thing possible?
ND: The latter, really. Our main focus was on making the best possible DualSense wireless controller showcase and that meant cramming as many of our cool ideas as possible in the game. It did get scarily big at some point but in the end I think we achieved a good balance of a variety of gameplay situations and quality. The good point about giving away so many of our ideas early on is that it hopefully inspires other teams to apply similar techniques to their games but also works as a motivation for us to push ourselves even further next time. I see this as a creative driving force, so our motto is that “it’s good to share”.
Are there ideas and themes used in Astro’s Playroom that you could expand out to an Astrobot sequel down the line?
ND: Again, this is a bit hard to talk about any sequel at this stage. However, I do think that haptic feedback and adaptive triggers can go on to become richer with time and be applied to a myriad of other styles. So we look forward to continue experimenting with those and create new ways of playing.
There’s a number of really cool PlayStation collectibles in the game. Where did the idea for that come from?
ND: Besides being an introduction to the DualSense wireless controller, Astro’s Playroom also celebrates the history of PlayStation. The game actually takes place inside the PS5 and each world you visit is based on one of the components of the console. For example, you will be taken to the lush GPU Jungle or the futuristic SSD Speedway. Along the way, the player will be picking up lots of artefacts from the various PlayStation systems: controllers, memory cards, accessories and even consoles! We really had fun making tributes for the 25 years anniversary of the brand.
As game fans ourselves (and collectors for some of us), paying tribute to this amazing legacy and sharing that with every PS5 user was a huge privilege. Besides artefacts, you will be collecting puzzle pieces unlocking a fresco in the PS Labo taking you through the entire PlayStation history. But what would a PlayStation tribute be without the games, right? These are what are most fondly remembered so we hid over 60 cameos of famous PlayStation game characters everywhere around the levels. These were a blast to work on for our animators, the Bots re-enacting famous scenes from games act all silly and have funny reactions when you punch them.
Finally, there are literally hundreds of finer details borrowed from the PlayStation history in every structure, objects, flowers etc… even rain drops make cross, circle, triangles and square shapes as they hit the ground. We really wanted to make this game the biggest PlayStation celebration ever.
There’s obviously quite a bit of difference between the DualShock 4 and DualSense point of view. How do you feel that DualSense pushes games forward?
ND: It’s night and day from an immersion standpoint. The haptic feedback and adaptive trigger really are the stars of this new controller: they allow such incredible sensations. It’s always difficult describing these with words; you really have to try it yourself. I personally think there will be a before and an after these advancements. It’s easy to imagine shooting games, driving games, flying games, horror games and any open worlds featuring various terrains and climate benefiting massively from these new features. Of course it’s all about using these in good amount, combining them with each other in particular ways to makes it feel special.
Was Astro’s Playroom designed to be the first thing that you play when you turn on your PS5 console?
ND: We’re hoping so! It was intended to be the first stop for players and because it will remain so for many years, we had to be careful about making content that could appeal to early adopters (we’re in this phase now) but also consider different audiences who may jump on PS5 some time down the line. It has been an interesting journey to try and design a game that fits all types of players. It has to have some technical wow but also a more accessible, charming style so that it can truly be enjoyed by anybody.
Do you see Astro’s Playroom as a way for adult gamers to maybe introduce children or partners who aren’t heavily into gamers to the new console?
ND: We’d certainly hope so. The gameplay is simple enough to be accessible so a young player could run around the beach and have fun. We also make sure the humour remains accessible and sometimes works on 2 layers where adults can laugh at subtleties while children would enjoy the slapstick comedy alone. However, areas like the final boss or the many speedrun stages will require some skills so there is also a real challenge for gamers in there. Team ASOBI’s games have always aimed at making cutting-edge technology feel like simple, fun magic. If we get that right, then we can truly appeal to everybody, we believe. Have we managed this on this occasion? That’s for the players to judge!
Astro’s Playroom comes pre-installed on every PS5 console.