Alongside unboxing and checking out the PlayStation 5's hardware, we got our first taste of SP5 gameplay in Astro's Playroom. The game comes preinstalled on the PS5 and, besides being a trip into PlayStation history, is designed to show off what the new DualSense controller can do.
Right now, we're allowed to share experiences from one level: Cooling Springs, which in theory takes place in the PS5's cooling system but features beach areas, ice areas, and lots of water and breezes.
The game is cute and light. Astro is a small robot who explores a land rich with PlayStation easter eggs to explore, as well as light puzzles and platforming. The game looked nice on my 4K monitor, though it's not specifically the type of game that has so much detail that it benefits from that resolution.
I felt delight as the controller vibrated based on the speed Astro ran or shook in just the right way when the robot plunged into water.
Skating down an icy slope was a smooth vibration that reminded me of the first time I ever held a rumbling controller. It's similar to the "HD Rumble" in the Nintendo Switch, which does a good job at mimicking specific sensations. Sometimes, the controller vibrated in concert with sound from the PS5's speaker, which this game uses a ton to make sound effects seem closer to you than the noise that comes from the TV. (This doesn't work, however, when you have headphones attached to the DualSense.)
The triggers were best shown off during a part of the stage in which Astro navigates by zipping into a frog suit (with the touchpad) and then bouncing around the stage on a spring. You contract the spring by holding the trigger, which provides more resistance as you hold it down. This was paired with motion sensing to aim the frog suit, which felt like a gimmick. But I see potential in the triggers, like if a gun were to jam in a game.
Cooling Springs also used breath for one small portion to start a fan, but that, too, felt like a gimmick.
I do wonder how many games will use all of these features. On the PlayStation 4, the touchpad and speaker were the big new features, and they were used primarily in games from Sony's own first party studios. While those were some of the PS4's best games, third party studios also make games that go on Xbox and other platforms, and so may be less likely to customize.
But if this one level of Astro's Playroom showed me anything, is that the DualSense features do have potential, if developers choose to use them.
There are more levels to this game, but that's all we're allowed to say for now. For more, check out our unboxing and hands-on with the PS5 hardware, and stay tuned additional coverage.