I can’t remember the last time I played a PlayStation game and felt this happy. I’ve loved plenty of first-party Sony games and their expensive melding of Hollywood cinematics, refined gameplay, and dense systems. Astro Bot is in many ways the antithesis of that. It’s no less refined, perhaps even more so. And it certainly doesn’t look or feel cheap. But it does play like a game unsaddled from the self-conscious baggage of an industry chasing the emotional weight of prestige TV and the content expectations of $300 million blockbusters. Astro Bot is whimsical, delightful, and most importantly, just a whole lot of fun.

I played four levels and some extra challenge stages from the upcoming PlayStation 5 action platform at Summer Game Fest. It took roughly 45 minutes with Team Asobi’s latest crack at the burgeoning robot series—which arrives September 6—for me to become completely Astro Bot-pilled. I didn’t play 2018’s Astro Bot Rescue Mission for PlayStation VR, and only briefly dabbled in the PS5 launch pack-in game Astro’s Playroom, despite enjoying what I tried and the near-unanimous praise it received. My time with the upcoming sequel, arguably the mascot’s first, full-fledged adventure, convinced me the Mario-inspired formula isn’t just ready for primetime but could become the next great series in Sony’s PlayStation Studios repertoire.

Astro Bot will feature over 80 levels across 50 planets in six different galaxies. The goal of each one is to rescue over 150 fellow bots that represent characters from PlayStation’s past and present, like God of War’s Kratos and Jak from Jak and Daxter. The stages I played were each fairly short and linear, but that didn’t matter. Every moment was bursting with satisfying animations or rewarding discoveries. While Mario Bros. levels and feel like mazes where abilities and secrets help you to unlock them, Astro Bot stages are like a children’s museum designed to maximize sensory experience.

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