During an otherwise underwhelming PlayStation State of Play Thursday event, the sleek, tiny robot platformer Astro Bot seemed to stir the most excitement. In many ways, Astro is everything PlayStation needs at the moment.

Astro Bot is a sequel to Astro’s Playroom, the short, charming adventure that came free with every PlayStation 5 back in November 2020. The original worked as a tech demo for the graphical capabilities of the then-brand spanking new PS5 and its fancy, haptic feedback-laden controller. But it was also a surprisingly deep compact experience that encouraged players to improve their times running through levels, becoming one of the few games to properly take advantage of the PS5’s competitive social features. Friends can notify each other that they have broken records and a new challenge awaits them.

In a year otherwise devoid of the big first-party PlayStation experiences we’ve come to expect, revisiting the world of Astro is the perfect remedy.

The first Astro game on PS5 had so much worth expanding upon in a sequel. The platforming genre isn’t something big publishers are looking at these days, particularly outside of Nintendo. Some wholesome, simple gameplay that harkens back to the golden PlayStation 2 era is a welcome departure from the prestige, AAA third-person action game Sony has become infatuated with over the last decade.

Some of the more niche aspects of the first game, such as the time attack aspects, incur replayability. While there has been a breadth of excellent indie games released this year, I think there’s plenty of room for a big-budget time attack game for players to become obsessed with. Without it being a pack-in widely perceived as a showcase for a new piece of hardware competing with more technically impressive launch titles, these elements can truly shine as developer Team Asobi meant it to.

It would only be right for the new Astro game to use the PS5’s DualSense compellingly. It’s been a long while since we’ve seen the impressive controller get used in a meaningful way that didn’t feel tacked on and iterative of other games. What better way to remind players and developers alike that these features can add to the experience instead of being the afterthought it’s been for the majority of games?

Finally, this standalone Astro game is the perfect time to build this charming little PlayStation mascot into something bigger. Without Naughty Dog’s Jak and Daxter or Sucker Punch’s Sly Cooper appearing regularly on PlayStation platforms, Team Asobi could take the crown until Insomniac cooks up another Ratchet and Clank. Who (or what) is Astro Bot? What is he looking for? What are his goals and why should players care? Yes, this sounds absurd, but there is potential for a smaller character to join Sony’s pantheon of heroes alongside Kratos, Ellie, and Uncharted’s Nathan Drake.

Which brings up the one thing developer Team Asobi should wrangle with. As neat as it was to physically play through PlayStation’s hardware history in his 2020 game, it would be nice to see the little robot move beyond being just about nostalgia and easter eggs. The trailer showed some fun nods like costumes emulating Parappa The Rapper and Shadow Of The Collosuss’ Wander, and the occasional appearance of old PlayStation hardware. But maybe it should be limited to just that.

It’s not to say he can’t do that again down the line. But relying on PlayStation nostalgia to carry players through more than 8 hours of gameplay may be a tough sell, especially the second time around. Instead, this release should be treated as Astro’s long-overdue time in the spotlight.

This year being Astro’s time to shine was not something most gamers had on their 2024 bingo cards. But as the industry recalibrates after 2023’s packed year and prepares for 2025, PlayStation’s friendly little robot has the world at his feet.

Astro Bot is coming to PlayStation 5 on September 6.

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