PlayStation 5 pack-in game Astro’s Playroom is pretty darn good. (Well, the level we’re allowed to tell you about is pretty darn good, anyway.) A big reason why this free game works so well is that it’s a love letter to the history of PlayStation, with levels full of references to past games, consoles, and peripherals.
Be warned: If you want to experience Astro’s Playroom entirely on your own when the PlayStation 5 launches next month, steer clear of this article. There are copious spoilers!
Take this bulbous fellow, for instance. He may seem unassuming at first, but as soon as you hit him, he breaks into smaller copies of himself before eventually reforming.
If you recognised this as a reference to LocoRoco, pat yourself on the back. This neat little platforming franchise got its start on the PlayStation Portable and spawned a PSP sequel, a spin-off on PlayStation 3, and a PlayStation 4 remaster.
Concrete Genie was a beautiful PlayStation 4 game that didn’t really get much attention after it launched late last year. But that didn’t stop Astro’s Playroom developer ASOBI Team from including an out-of-the-way Easter egg for the graffiti-inspired adventure game in the beach area.
OK, this one has some layers. As pointed out by Rebellion marketing executive Ben Maltz-Jones on Twitter, some of the little bots can be spotted playing a game called Dude Raider in the background further into the first level.
Some of the more PlayStation-focused readers may already know this, but Dude Raider was the joking name given to Uncharted by online denizens when it was first revealed, meant as a pithy reference to its similarities with the Tomb Raider franchise.
In the icy portion of Astro’s Playroom’s opening level, there’s a group of robots that look suspiciously like the group of teenagers from Until Dawn, the cinematic, player choice-driven horror game published by Sony in 2015.
Astro’s adventure eventually brings it to two large fish tanks, which include what might be a couple of vague references. The tank on the left (courtesy of Reddit user OnlyChaseReddit) appears to be a scene out of the virtual reality game PlayStation VR Worlds, specifically the level that puts you in the middle of the ocean in a shark cage.
For the tank on the right, it might be a stretch, but I couldn’t help but get flashbacks to the meditative save points of Abzû, the Journey-like underwater exploration game released by Giant Squid Studios in 2016.
While this particular reference was completely lost on me, Resetera user IIFloodyII spotted a reference to Puppeteer, a platformer published by Sony for the PlayStation 3 in 2013. Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo sang its praises years ago, but I have to level with you: I’ve never heard of this game in my life. That said, those giant, stylised scissors are hard to confuse for something else!
Astro’s Playroom is an incredibly nostalgic experience. And while there are several obvious references to games like God of War, Metal Gear Solid, and Resident Evil, it really shines when you take the time to fully explore its levels and pore over the background details. I can’t wait until hardcore PlayStation fans gets their hands on this neat little game and really dig into what’s on display.