There was once a point in time where I had a plan laid out for my PS5 launch weekend festivities. I would dip my toe in a variety of games, swinging through the New York skyline in one moment and snaring devilish treats in the next. Instead, I found my attention stolen by just two games: the new Assassin's Creed, and the console pack-in, Astro's Playroom.
The former doesn't surprise me too much; I enjoyed both Odyssey and Origins, and Valhalla engages the same area of my brain that loves to see numbers go up. But I'll fully admit that I did not expect to enjoy Astro's Playroom as much as I did. Heck, I'm surprised I even booted it up, but I'm glad I did.
I expected Astro's Playroom to be a tech demo, sitting in the shade of industry-shaking console pack-ins like Wii Sports. Instead, Sony's bot-filled platformer comes closer to matching the best of Nintendo than anyone could have guessed. Taking place over four main courses, each tracing the lineage of PlayStation history, Astro's Playroom takes you on a whimsical, self-referential odyssey through time.
Seriously, it's strange to think of "PlayStation nostalgia" as a concept. Compared to the likes of Nintendo or Sega, Sony's still fairly young. In my view, it's struggled to establish a pantheon that can compare to those titans. Questions of "who is Sony's Mario" will populate gaming forums long after my lifetime. Astro's Playroom seems to embrace this conundrum however, and wield it to its advantage.
Rather than a character-focused nostalgia trip like the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection on Switch, Team Asobi's platformer embraces all that PlayStation is. Naturally, this means Ratchet, Kratos, and Nathan Drake, but it also means Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Gravity Rush, and Castlevania. Even multi-platform titles like Resident Evil or Tekken get their own spotlight, commemorating how important those games were to the growth of PlayStation.
Throughout the short runtime of Astro's Playroom, you take a guided journey through each PlayStation console's lifetime, framed by one of the PS5's internal systems like the GPU or cooling systems. Throughout each world, bots re-enact key moments from PlayStation games, culminating in one fantastic finale that I won't dare spoil. Suffice to say, Team Asobi digs deep for every bit of console nostalgia warmth it can pull to the surface.
Even I, someone who's often impermeable to branded nostalgia, was smiling at some of the references. How could you not? There's a tangible joy in what Team Asobi has put together. It's a capable platformer, and arguably the best showcase of the raw potential of the DualSense; every action is haptically reactive in some way, vibrating or rumbling in specific, fascinating ways. When I hot-swapped to Valhalla, I would get confused by the lack of constant feedback.
In the middle of a next-gen launch with fewer big-name games than one might expect, Astro's Playroom shines. I'm not saying you should spend hundreds of dollars to play this one, single game, but if you've already spent that cash and haven't yet booted up Astro's Playroom, you're doing yourself a disservice. It's easily the most memorable 3D platformer since Super Mario Odyssey, and it's a strong foot forward for Sony's alarmingly massive PlayStation 5. Seriously, it's become the focal point of my living room. It's a conversation piece. And now I'll be steering those conversations towards the majesty of Astro's Playroom.
Major Game Releases: November 16 to November 20
Here are the major releases for the week of November 16 to November 20. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate [Nov. 17 for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Switch]: Thank the Allfather, we are out of the next-gen release window. Y'all remember last week? What a mess, feels like a year ago. Anyways, Mortal Kombat kicks us off with a new version for the new konsoles. Rambo, Rain, and Mileena join the roster as part of an Ultimate Edition of Mortal Kombat 11, and Ed Boon's Twitter mentions are glad for it.
Star Renegades [Nov. 19 for Xbox One, Switch; Nov. 25 for PS4]: This turn-based RPG roguelike is finally coming to consoles, and I suspect it will feel right at home on the Nintendo Switch. After putting a good few hours or so into it earlier this year, I found its mish-mashing of different systems—from classic RPG battles to a rekindling of the Nemesis system—to be pretty neat. If you're hankering for a slower roguelike with some turn-based tactics, this might be up your alley.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity [Nov. 20 for Switch]: It is 2020, and I have never been so excited to be sad. The new Hyrule Warriors is a prequel to Breath of the Wild; you know, the Zelda game that starts by informing you that Ganon has already won. You get to live that out, in musou form, hacking and slashing away, knowing Link, Zelda, Impa, and the various Champions of Hyrule will all lose. I'm so eager to play this and see how the story plays out. The Legend of Zelda might be having its Halo: Reach moment, and I am ready to bawl my eyes out.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
Look, we're all very excited to play with our brand new video game boxes. But Microsoft would like to ask you to please stop vaping into yours. The company had to put out a tweet compelling users to stop blowing vape smoke into their brand-new Series X consoles for imaginary internet points. We get it, you vape.
The police operation that took place at Ubisoft's Montreal offices last Friday has thankfully been resolved with no injuries. Reports indicate that the 911 call that drew police to the scene may have been a hoax, and Montreal Police are currently investigating to find the root cause.
There's a new loot cave in Destiny 2. Truly, everything that is old will be reborn and made new again. I suppose if I'm going to jump back in with the launch of Beyond Light, I might as well brush up on my loot cave etiquette.
Arkane has set a new date for its time-looping shooter Deathloop, now targeting May 21, 2021. The looping assassination game has been on my radar for a while, especially due to its multiplayer aspect that might allow me to ruin other people's games for giggles. I'm sad it missed the console launch window, but a little extra time will hopefully only do this game good.
Twitch and its many, many streamers are still feuding over ongoing issues with DMCA claims on the platform. Last week, the streaming company put out some DMCA guidelines that were found to be less than helpful for those who make a living streaming their gameplay to fans. Many have made pointed jests and joke videos in response, but the issue highlights a fundamental weak point in Twitch's model. Hopefully there's a solution in sight.
Axe of the Blood God for November 16, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
We have an extra-long episode today, as two special guests grace the Blood God's airwaves. First up is Ash Paulsen, who breaks down the newest Kingdom Hearts game; afterwards, Nadia and Mike talk up all things Final Fantasy 14, as we bid farewell to the latter. We wish him good fortune in his new role at PC Mag, where he hopefully finds a new batch of colleagues to slowly convert to MMOs. You can check that all out here.