Promotional image for Astro Bot
(Team Asobi)

This Game Came Out of Nowhere To Steal PlayStation State of Play

To watch the May 30, 2024 PlayStation State of Play was to be underwhelmed. The general consensus from fans and influencers alike is that the 30-minute presentation was mediocre. At best. But if you stayed for the whole presentation, there was a burst of light at the end of the tunnel. That light was Astro Bot.

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To understand why Astro Bot set people’s hearts on fire, it’s helpful to understand the previous thirty minutes. The State of Play started off with a cinematic for Concord, which featured four characters so similar to the Guardians of the Galaxy, I’m genuinely worried they’ll encounter legal trouble. Marvel look-alikes started destroying pagodas for no apparent reason. Did I just see two different samurai-flavored, soulslike-flavored game trailers in a row? Why am I listening to a horror film version of Eagle-Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight”?

Even the big headlines failed to catch the big spark as Sony was surely hoping for. The Silent Hill 2 remake footage boasted an image quality that, from the outside looking in, seems underwhelming. Monster Hunter Worlds looks like it’s probably cool, and that’s about all I have to say about that.

In short, except for the uncanny Guardians of the Galaxy-alike that kicked it off, the State of Play was utterly humorless. Every game showcased could be easily described by comparing it to another game. There was nothing that felt truly exciting or inventive. There wasn’t even much color.

And then, at the very end, an adorable robot woke up in the desert. As he perked up, a music note flashed across his helmet. He then summoned his ship, which is just a souped-up PS5 controller, and beckoned invitingly, joyfully, for you, the viewer, to join him.

Immediately, before we saw any gameplay, Astro Bot proved such a welcome, stark contrast to everything else in the State of Play. The result: All hail Astro Bot. Astro Bot is all.

Why Astro Bot is suddenly my most-anticipated game of the year

Astro Bot is a series of games made by a Japanese studio subsidiary of Sony’s called Team Asobi. “Asobi” is the Japanese word for “play.” And in a presentation called the freaking “State of Play,” Team Asobi truly showed they understand their namesake.

And yes, Astro Bot is a series. You might remember that Astro’s Playroom was a pack-in game with the PS5. Or maybe you don’t, because like most people, you immediately jumped to Elden Ring or Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart or whatever. But the general reception to that game was, “How the hell is this so good for a pack-in game?!”

The only other Astro Bot game—Astro Bot Rescue Mission—was VR. So with the simply self-titled Astro Bot, Team Asobi seems to be launching the series “for real.” And they seem to be doing a hell of a job.

Astro Bot looks colorful, bright, fun, and inventive. It even looks silly. The fights look like a highly frenetic blast, the character designs are delightful, the music seems fantastic. I can’t wait to switch between zooming around on that little spaceship and hopping across the Mario 3D World-like terrain.

In other words, everything about Astro Bot‘s trailer makes it look like a joy to play. The legacy of PlayStation games like Ratchet and Clank, Spyro the Dragon, and Crash Bandicoot seem to shine through, but there’s also the body-warping tinge of Kirby present, too.

As the State of Play itself showed, Sony has recently been going all-in on darker (tonally and visually), more “adult” games. Maybe they figure it’s Nintendo’s job to do the “kid stuff.” But the gleeful reaction to Astro Bot demonstrated that adults love a solid, colorful adventure game, too.

For both the better and worse, one central feature of Astro Bot seems to be its many references to the PlayStation itself. Astro Bot’s ship is a souped-up PS5 controller. The mothership is the PS5 itself. There were also tons of references to Sony characters—from Uncharted‘s Nathan Drake to God of War‘s Kratos. And was PaRappa the Rapper in there?!

As long as these references don’t interfere with gameplay, I think it’s fun. It shows the kind of light-hearted self-referentiality that we get all the time from Nintendo, but that Sony has utterly lacked in recent memory. (Is my judgment getting slightly foggy just from the joy of Sony remembering that PaRappa exists? Yes.)

Astro Bot launches as a PS5 exclusive on September 6, 2024. I cannot freaking wait.


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.