PlayStation Forgot To Be Fun – But Astro Bot Shows There’s Still Hope

I’ve always been a PlayStation fan, but there are only a few recent PlayStation Studios titles I’ve been able to see through to the end. I’ve owned every PlayStation system since the PS2, but little of that time has been dedicated to Sony’s first-party lineup, opting instead to go for the multi-platform titles with Sony’s box simply being my preferred way to play. I’ve had my problems with PlayStation’s first-party output for a while, but in the most recent PlayStation State of Play, I saw a robotic glimmer of hope.

After the mess of live-service titles, games that already exist being remade or ported, and VR games most will never play, the show ended with Astro Bot – and I suddenly got a lot more excited both about my PS5, and about the future lineup of PlayStation titles in the future. It may seem like an exaggeration, but for me it felt like a sign that Sony had remembered to make their games fun again. 

Astro Bot PS5 screenshot tree
The exhilarating first look at Astro Bot saved the State of Play for me.

Before we go any further, in no way do I want to suggest that Sony’s expansive lineup of exclusive games aren’t good. The Last of Us is a generation-defining title,I personally adore all the Marvel’s Spider-Man titles, and I’m sure I’d enjoy the Uncharted franchise too. Instead, what I have found is that a lot of the most recent PlayStation first-party lineup titles are sold based on their narrative premises, and these also tend to be just a bit bleak. In standalone titles (like The Last of Us) it makes complete narrative sense, but the broader we look across Sony’s modern-day exclusives, the more heavy narrative focus we see, set in serious and heavy worlds. 

Bloodborne I absolutely want to complete one day, but it’s dark and morbid. Horizon Forbidden West is a great open-world game with stunning environments, but is set in a post-apocalypse with Aloy fighting for her life. God of War has some cool mythological inspirations but uses the ‘sad dad’ character archetype for Kratos and can get grim and gritty. Ghost of Tsushima was a game I also loved, but it had a heavy story and a world of violence. These are all great games worthy of their successes, but there’s not a lot of joy to be found in their worlds, and they all put intense focus on their story (except Bloodborne which is perhaps more about combat). 

The Last Of Us Part I.
Whilst excellent games, the huge success of The Last of Us inspired a wave of darker, narrative-focused games.

For me, the PlayStation lineup slightly lacks a simple and basic form of joy, with very few games left that focus on their moment-to-moment enjoyable gameplay as the selling point. It has existed before in the Sony universe, with franchises like Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, LittleBigPlanet and more. It still does exist to some degree with Ratchet & Clank or Marvel’s Spider-Man, but it feels like the overwhelming focus from Sony was put onto these more serious, long and focused single-player narrative games. The Spider-Man games are very fun, but they still find themselves occasionally bogged down in the open-world gameplay loop, whilst Ratchet & Clank titles are few and far between.

Because of all these factors I’ve discussed, whilst the last bunch of PlayStation-developed and exclusive titles have been good, they still can miss the mark for me when it comes to offering something fresh. I do still enjoy focused narrative titles, and some of them are my favorite games of all time. From the lengthy The Witcher 3 with rich lore and an expansive world, to the interactive storybook of Life is Strange, there’s a lot to love. That being said, I also enjoy a change of pace with brighter, more ‘fun’ titles, such as almost all of Nintendo’s output. Variety is the spice of life, and that brings me back to Astro Bot.

Super Mario Bros Wonder
Perhaps a reason Nintendo has performed so well with the Switch is the variety it brings to mainstream gaming.

The first look at Astro Bot immediately reignited some of my passion for the PlayStation brand. It’s a joyous, celebratory game, that references the rich history of PlayStation’s titles both past and present, but wrapped in a game that’s something unusual for PlayStation to develop now. It’s a 3D platformer with a character mascot, akin to the legendary Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon. It’s not a demanding open world, it’s not set in an present or forthcoming apocalypse – it’s just fun! Making a game that celebrates all parts of the PlayStation brand, with a fun-focused linear game akin to those of Sony’s past, is an excellent approach.

The sheer existence of Astro Bot as a fully-fledged (and fully-priced) game gives me hope for the future of PlayStation’s exclusive catalog. The game itself is being marketed on the PlayStation Store on its humor and its “magic”, which are words that could never be used to describe the grim and gritty side of PlayStation’s output. It’s a sign that, alongside these great, prestigious and narrative-heavy titles, we can also have fun, level-based and silly games too. Both are equally valuable in the medium of gaming, but it hasn’t always felt that PlayStation sees this the same way. Now however, there’s hope.

Astro Bot PS5 screenshot Kratos
Ultimately what any platform holder needs is variety, and Sony offers something different with Astro Bot.

How did you feel about the Astro Bot reveal? Do you like the change of pace from Sony’s standard fare, or perhaps you enjoy the serious narrative-heavy games more than me? Whatever it is, let us know in the comments below, and keep your eyes on GameLuster for more gaming news and opinion pieces like this one!

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