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Astro Bot Marks A "New Beginning" For PlayStation's Burgeoning Mascot

Though this is the third Astro Bot game, Team Asobi feels like it's Astro Bot's true coming-out party.


In the music industry, a band often uses a self-titled album years into its career to denote a reinvention. "This is who we are now" is the intended and unspoken message. PlayStation's Astro Bot uses the same naming convention to signal a similarly fresh start. Following a 2018 VR exclusive with obviously limited reach and a 2020 game that Team Asobi's studio head and creative director Nicolas Doucet considers a "tech demo," 2024's simply titled Astro Bot feels like it's ready to launch the cutesy robot to the top of the crowded PlayStation pantheon.

"Astro's Playroom is actually called [that] so it wouldn't be mistaken for an Astro Bot-sized game," Doucet told me following a demo in which I beat several levels, rescued many PlayStation characters reimagined as robots, and beat a boss in the form of a boxing cephalopod. "A lot of people actually don't know the Astro universe outside of Astro's Playroom, so starting [here] with the name Astro Bot made a lot of sense as a new beginning."

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Now Playing: Astro Bot Finally Unleashes A Full-Scale Game

Doucet said that the VR game's success convinced the team to revisit the Astro Bot world with the PS5 pack-in that followed it, and they thought if a wider audience was still falling in love with the mascot and their world at that point, then they could go biggest of all with something else. Astro Bot is that something else.

From what I played, the differences between Astro Bot and its predecessors are obvious in some ways and subtle in others. The diverse levels I experienced took me across beaches like those in Astro's Playroom and a construction yard hung high above the clouds just like in Rescue Mission, but these familiar landscapes were clearly denser too, and the overworld seemed more like something from LittleBigPlanet, in which I could pilot a jet-propelled DualSense from planet to planet as I unlocked levels, bonus challenges, and more.

My favorite part of the game is its ability to feel almost clairvoyant. Every time I'd experiment with the environment by smashing up certain parts of it, climbing way up high, or tucking away into a corner expecting a secret, I would find one. The levels have a masterful way of guiding me down their correct paths, but also signaling where I may be rewarded for dashing down the B or C or even D paths. I'd find coins to spend or more bots dressed like Ratchet, Rivet, Kratos, and more of the game's 150+ cameos, which is a number Doucet revealed to me.

This perpetual cycle of exploration and reward pairs very well with the game's mechanics, which remain as tight as before and bring a few new DualSense toys with them. I don't just want to turn over every stone for the secrets I may find; I also just want to keep playing the game because it feels so good to play.

With more than 150 cameos in the game, virtually every beloved PlayStation character can be discovered.
With more than 150 cameos in the game, virtually every beloved PlayStation character can be discovered.

"We've doubled down on the use of DualSense," Doucet said, adding that the game adds about 15 new power-ups in total, with only "three or four" shown in the debut trailer. One of those is the ability for Astro Bot to turn into a sponge, which uses adaptive triggers as you wring the robot dry to give you a feeling of becoming lighter. In my demo, I also equipped a rocket-boosted dog in a backpack, which shot me horizontally across some of the larger gaps or allowed me to smash through some obstacles. In my hands, the triggers kicked back forcefully to imitate the thrusters.

But the most clever use-case I learned of--though I didn't experience it in my demo--is a trick with the texture of some objects. Walls can hide hollow points with secrets on the other side, and as Astro grazes against these borders, reaching out and touching them like Nathan Drake passing through a doorframe, the feedback on the controller may indicate these secrets. For completionists, I suspect these will prove to be the trickiest, but perhaps most fulfilling, collectibles in the game. "We don't use it, like, tons and tons," added Doucet. "We use this feature just a bit, but enough to create that magic moment."

After two games that were beloved but constrained in different ways, 2024's Astro Bot seems destined to be full of magic moments. It launches September 6, exclusively on PS5.

Mark Delaney on Google+

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