Astro Bot hands-on report

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Astro Bot hands-on report

Astro gets new abilities, battles the eight-limbed Wako Tako, and crosses paths with Kratos.

Astro is back with his biggest adventure yet, and I had an opportunity to play about 40 minutes in an early preview. Team Asobi’s colorful platformer is brimming with stages featuring empowering new abilities, inventive obstacles, and exciting PlayStation character cameos. 

The demo packed five fun stages to explore including full levels, smaller hardcore challenges, and a wet ‘n’ wild boss fight. While only some stages were available to play in this preview, the galactic maps hint at the scale of the final game — Astro’s new adventure hosts dozens of diverse stages and tons of cameo bots to rescue.

Let’s dive in.

Dependable platforming controls

If you played through Astro’s Playroom, you already know that controlling the little bot is a tight, responsive experience. Astro still has his trusty jump, attack, charged spin attack, and versatile laser-hover ability. If Team Asobi has made major updates to the core platforming mechanics, they’re too subtle for me to notice. But if it ain’t broke…!

A galaxy of various difficulty levels

Astro Bot’s overworld (“overuniverse?”) consists of multiple galactic maps. Once within the specific galaxy shown in the demo, myriad colorful planets dot the galaxy, each with their own levels. Helpfully, hovering over each level reveals its difficulty level (Easy, Normal, Hard). 

Sky Garden

One of the galaxy’s “easy” levels, Sky Garden is a vision of idyllic paradise with pink robo-flamingos wading in inviting blue ponds. Cherry blossom trees dot the landscape, with their petals floating atop the water. Astro explores across multiple connected floating islands in this stage.

Inflated Astro

In Sky Garden, Astro can collect a new item that pumps him full of air, swelling him to rotund proportions. Not only does this help you reach new hidden heights, it’s also adorable. 

Swimming robot

Astro must have received a software update since Astro’s Playroom because he can now explore underwater for hidden bots and treasures. The controls are simple, with Circle button to descend and X button to ascend.

Hidden secrets

Speaking of swimming, plunging into a pond revealed an underwater area protected by the effects of water by a bubble dome. Defeating the enemies within reveals a hidden hole. Inside, a bot-themed after Rivet from Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is held hostage by a group of enemies. Defeating these goons and draining the pool frees Rivet for a quick rescue. Subtle secrets like this underwater nook suggest players will be consistently rewarded for exploration.

Construction Derby

Astro heads to a miles-high construction site for this normal-difficulty level (could the name be a reference to the early original PlayStation game Destruction Derby?). Cranes, i-beams, scaffolding, and other equipment reach above the clouds, making for precarious platforming. A sumo-bot guards a helipad halfway through the level, forcing Astro to target his vulnerable backside. 

Dog jetpack

Like Sky Garden’s inflation ability, Construction Derby hosts a unique and cute gameplay mechanic. A new robot dog friend clings to Astro’s back, granting a jet-powered boost serving both as an effective attack and lateral mid-air boost. The powerful dash also allows Astro to blast through specific walls to progress.

Unlocking Hard stages

One planet within the galaxy, Swinging Sentries, was marked as Hard difficulty. The deceptively simple, bite-sized course features multiple platforms with enemies swinging spiky ball-and-chain weapons. Don’t let the cute visuals and relatively short stage length fool you, Astro’s Hard difficulty will challenge seasoned platforming fans. Thankfully, quick respawns after each failure makes it easy to keep playing.

Finishing this stage triggered a new comet to streak across the galaxy map, which exploded and took the form of another Hard level. In Slowdown Showdown, Astro throws an hourglass item to slow down enemies, platforms, and environmental hazards that move impossibly fast. 

As a fun nod, both the Hard stages were themed after the PlayStation sacred symbols, Circle for Swinging Sentries, and X for Slowdown Showdown.  

Playful stage design

Levels are bursting with fun details and trinkets that exist just to be played with. Bouncy inflatable balls roll down a waterslide with you in Sky Garden, and Construction Derby is littered with gooey paint buckets, shiny bolts, and colorful spray paint cans. Knocking these trinkets around is fun for the sake of it, and the detailed physics add to the joy

PlayStation character cameos

Rescuing bots is one of Astro’s prime directives. Like past titles, these helpless friends are hidden around levels, hanging from ledges, hidden in bushes, or otherwise stranded. A game menu indicates how many bots are hidden throughout the stage, and PlayStation symbols mark special cameo bots. This subtle, fun wink lets players get excited to see what familiar reference may be discovered around the corner. I won’t spoil the cameos here, but just know that there are many, many more than Astro’s Playroom.

Rescued bots take a ride in your onscreen DualSense controller. Using the controller’s motion sensing to make these buddy bots tumble and bounce around is a pure delight.

DualSense controller immersion

Astro’s Playroom served as players’ introduction to the PS5 console when it launched as a pre-installed title on consoles back in 2020. Team Asobi continues to wow with its expressive implementation of the DualSense controller’s haptics and adaptive triggers. 

The haptic effects convey terrain texture as Astro pitter patters across swishing grass, gritty paths, or splashes into a pond. One fun moment in Construction Derby involves a puzzle where Astro runs across a path made of circuitry, feeling for a secret switch via responsive haptics.

Robot octopus boss battle

The big boss of the galaxy featured in the demo is a massive octopus named Wako Tako. The aquatic stage begins with Astro landing on a shipwreck, getting a new item for the upcoming fight. These extend-o frog boxing gloves allow Astro to punch from afar, swing from grapple points, and grab onto posts to perform a slingshot-style maneuver. Without giving away the boss fight’s twist and turns, these gloves come in handy when destroying Wako Tako’s snorkeling mask. Rest assured, Team Asobi’s penchant for bombastic boss battles is thriving in Astro Bot.

Mythical new companions

The preview ends with a sneak peek at new friends themed after Santa Monica Studio’s latest God of War games. Astro discovers a capsized canoe floating in the water. Knocking the boat upright reveals adorable bot versions of Kratos and Atreus, and the crew takes flight together on the Dual Speeder.

I’ve been lucky to play a good deal of game demos in my career, but rarely have I loudly groaned in disappointment when the good times came to a close. Team Asobi is cooking up an expansive and delightful game bursting with the lifeblood that defines great platformers: variety. Get ready to explore Astro’s universe when Astro Bot launches on PS5 September 6

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