PS5 game Astro's Playroom is 'a love letter to PlayStation', says director Nicolas Doucet

Astro's Playroom is the one game that will be pre-loaded onto every PlayStation 5 console when they're released around the world next week.

It will demonstrate all of the features of Sony's much-hyped new DualSense controller - but its creators say it's more than just a tech demo.

The game is an old-school platformer which will take hours to complete and is packed with homages to the PlayStation brand and various games from its 25 year history.

Astro's Playroom is being developed by Asobi Team, the division of SIE Japan Studio that previously released The Playroom and Astro Bot Rescue Mission.

Studio head and game director Nicolas Doucet says the team took "real pleasure" paying tribute to the Japanese gaming brand. 

"Astro's Playroom is a great showcase of the DualSense controller, especially the haptic feedback and adaptive triggers. But it's also a great tribute - it's a love letter to PlayStation, celebrating 25 years of fun history," Doucet tells Newshub.

"So to all the PlayStation fans in New Zealand, we're hoping to touch their hearts with this and put smiles on their faces."

Nicolas Doucet chats Astro's Playroom.
Nicolas Doucet. Photo credit: PlayStation

He says there are hundreds of cameos and collectibles related to PlayStation throughout Astro's Playroom, but that it also has areas that have large, painstakingly crafted virtual recreations of every piece of PlayStation hardware ever released.

The game itself also all takes place inside a fantastical version of the PS5 hardware.

"When you do a pre-installed game, there's an inherent idea that you're going to be really attached to the hardware," says Doucet.

"Since Astro and his mates previously lived inside the PS4 controller, it made sense that a bigger space for them to explore should be the one place we know everybody has in their home: the PS5 console.

"We also expanded it to this PlayStation history with character cameos, collectibles, all of that becomes one cohesive world."

While he doesn't want to give away all of the cameos - Doucet did talk about a few to expect.  

"It was really fun thinking about where we'd put all the PlayStation characters. With Nathan Drake we thought, OK, we'll put him in the jungle. Then with the Helghast from Killzone, we put it in the futuristic world part. There were so many to choose from too, sometimes we had to expand levels in the game just to fit in everything we wanted."

Astro's Playroom Cooling Springs stage.
Astro's Playroom screenshot. Photo credit: Asobi Team / PlayStation

Pre-installed games can be pretty forgettable, but they can also be iconic - think Alex Kidd in Miracle World for Sega and Wii Sports for Nintendo.

Asobi Team is confident that anyone who plays Astro's Playroom will quickly get an idea of the scope of it.

"We're hoping that this will be the first stop for many PS5 buyers anyway, who will quickly discover it is a whole world they can explore. Within minutes they'll realise there's more to it than just a demo," says Doucet.

"When you dive inside the console and launch, it's a familiar feel of an action platformer game and you'll go, 'Hold on, how far does this go?'. Then you'll play through one world, two worlds, three and it's still going and eventually you'll get to the final boss. So there is a narrative in there as well."

He says it'll take around four or five hours, conservatively, to complete, but that getting all of the collectibles will take much longer.

But even though it's not just a tech demo, it still functions as one. If this is the first thing a PS5 owner does with their new console, it definitely will showcase the new features of the controller well.

Astro's Playroom screenshot.
Astro's Playroom screenshot. Photo credit: Asobi Team / PlayStation

Doucet says because Asobi Team is based in Japan nearby the PS5 hardware engineering team, they were able to collaborate closely together as the DualSense was developed.

"The mechanical team was able to research features they felt would offer something new in terms of ways to play, but there was a back-and-forth process between that team and our team. So we created over 80 tech demos that used all the various aspects of the controller."

Once they'd played around with the features in all those demos, a select few were chosen to remain in Astro's Playroom.

"In order to get the best out of the haptic feedback, you have to create contrast. So every surface we have in the game has to serve a purpose, not just graphically but also for the haptic feedback," says Doucet. 

"Because the game takes place inside the PS5, we wanted no surface to be purely organic, so every element and every material has to be something you could find inside a product. For example, there's no wood - but we do have manufactured plastic wood.

"We decided on about 12 key surfaces and built the entire game with those. Then we have to design every level with a sort of choreography, so the contrast of the haptic feedback as you're moving through each part feels right and the overall combination feels as great as possible."

Astro's Playroom screenshot.
Astro's Playroom screenshot. Photo credit: Asobi Team / PlayStation

The way the controller gives physical feedback to the player's hands is clearly going to get an initial reaction with players. But Asobi Team reckons they'll stick around for everything else the game offers.

"Further down the line, it has to make a group of people like a family happy and be delightful in more than just a technical 'wow' factor," says Doucet. 

"Early on, perhaps there's going to be a strong attachment to analysing the haptics and the adaptive triggers. Later on, perhaps with a more casual audience, it'll be the charm and the humour that keeps them playing."

Anyone who gets a PlayStation 5 will get Astro's Playroom for free on their console when it's released on November 12, two days after Microsoft's Xbox Series X.