video games

‘Astro Bot’ hands-on preview: A bigger, bolder Astro

Kyle Chua

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‘Astro Bot’ hands-on preview: A bigger, bolder Astro


From the brief demo I played, I would dare say Astro has all the potential to be Sony's answer to Nintendo’s Mario.

I don’t think anyone would argue when I say there’s yet to be a PS5 game that takes full advantage of the DualSense controller’s features better than Astro’s Playroom. After all, that was what the pack-in game was originally developed for – to serve as a brief tech demo to give you a taste of all the cool tech inside your shiny new controller – and it does that very well.

But it’s also a great platformer – one that took many PS5 owners by surprise with its irresistible charm and imaginative ideas. It’s just that, being a tech demo, the game is rather short and leaves you wanting more – a lot more.

Sony probably saw how well Playroom was received, and gave the Japan-based first-party studio Team Asobi the green light for a full-fledged Astro game. So now we have Astro Bot, a bigger and bolder platformer that builds on the gameplay design and ideas of Playroom.

I got to spend about an hour with a demo build of the game at Sony’s PlayStation office in Singapore, and I was very impressed with what I played. So impressed that I would dare say Astro has all the potential to become Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s Mario.

Again, Astro Bot is very much a full and complete game. While the demo I played was limited to three levels and a couple of smaller challenge levels, I did catch that there are at least six worlds to explore, each having a dozen or so levels. I also spotted a God of War-themed level in one of the worlds, which hints that there are entire levels featuring motifs and perhaps even gameplay mechanics that celebrate PlayStation properties.

Astro Bot
ASTRO-KRATOS. Astro takes on Kratos’ look from the ‘God of War’ game series.

The three levels I played were fairly short and linear. They, however, are tremendous showcases of the creativity of Team Asobi, with each one having a unique power mechanic that plays into traversal, puzzles, and combat.

In one of the levels I played, for example, I encountered Barkster, the Bulldog Booster, who Astro straps on his back to gain the air-dash ability, which I used to smash through glass obstacles and enemies in my path. In another level – one centered around a boss battle – I equipped the Twin-Frog Gloves, which gave Astro the ability to stretch his hands and punch further than he could before, alternating between rights and lefts using the L2 and R2 buttons of the DualSense controller.

These new powers are not only mechanically-sound but also incredibly fun to use. On top of that, like Playroom, they use the different features of the DualSense incredibly well. When you use the Bulldog Booster power, the controller rumbles almost as though there’s a jet engine inside.

At first I thought these sensory flourishes would eventually get old, but they never did – at least not during my playthrough. And I attribute that to how varied the sensations and sounds produced by DualSense are. When you walk on grass, for instance, the rumble is subtle, almost soft and just barely perceptible. When you walk on metal, on the other hand, there’s a tactile clink that you feel and hear with each step. These sensory flourishes dramatically enhance the overall experience and I think make the game well worth experiencing even for those who aren’t fans of platformers.

You shouldn’t let the vibrant visuals and the energetic animations fool you; Astro Bot can also cater to hardcore gamers just as much as kids and families. The challenge levels in particular can be very tricky and can put your finger dexterity, reaction times, and patience to the test. I wasn’t even able to clear the first challenge level in the demo I played, struggling in a section that required precisely timing my jumps to avoid electric enemies.

But, for me, the mark of a great platformer – or a great game, for that matter – is when the movement and controls are tight and the challenge doesn’t feel impossible to beat. That’s what drives you to want to keep persisting after failure. “I got it now,” I kept telling myself with each failed attempt at the first challenge level. And I only had that unyielding drive because the challenge never felt too frustrating to clear.

Admittedly, I had no excitement for Astro Bot whatsoever before playing the demo, but that has since changed, and it’s definitely on my radar now. Because if what I played is any indication, platformer and PlayStation fans alike are in for a delightful and fun adventure.

Astro Bot hits PS5 on September 6 for a suggested retail price of P2,990 for the Standard Disc edition. –

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