The cynic derides Astro’s Playroom for the PlayStation commercial it is. A shameless advertisement one at that. Astro’s world doesn’t tell a story; it’s just an adventure through all things nostalgia and PlayStation, the stuff Nintendo often gets away with. It’s not even the life rafts in the shape of triangles and squares, but even the rock textures, matching the plastic casing around Sony’s consoles.
But, Astro’s Playroom celebrates play more than anything. Stupid as it sounds, Astro’s Playroom is videogames at their most interactive. By that, the real world equivalent is one of those toddler toys with a bunch of buttons that all do different things. One button moos, the other clucks. In Astro’s Playroom, bouncing on something triggers a special animation, grabbing something shoots fireworks, while shattering another object exposes a trampoline. Everything does something. Astro’s Playroom isn’t about exploring to find things, so much as to do things, a lesson so, so many modern videogames can learn from.
Astro’s Playroom markets stuff, but also celebrates corporate history. The references never subside, the hidden gems keep coming, and at the heart, it’s a bouncy, joyful little platformer. Plus, unlikely as it is, one of the most matured games in this genre.
Sony’s always looked for a mascot. They have a bunch of maybes. In Astro, they have a certainty.