Summer Game Fest: LEGO Horizon Adventures and Astro Bot previews

With both LEGO Horizon Adventures and Astro Bot on the cards, here's how my PlayStation previews went for these exciting new titles.
Astro Bot PlayStation Team Asobi

My Summer Game Fest kicked off with a PlayStation appointment first thing on day one. With both LEGO Horizon Adventures and Astro Bot on the cards, here’s how my previews went for these exciting new titles.

Read: Summer Game Fest 2024: Full event schedule and showcase roundup

LEGO Horizon Adventures preview – Tactile and fresh

Playstation SGF Previews - Lego Horizon Adventures
Image: Guerrilla Games

Immediately after being ushered into their weird basement space, I was introduced to a developer from Guerilla Games who greeted me with an excited congratulations – I was about to be the very first person from outside the company to play the just-announced LEGO Horizon Adventures.

It had been a while since I’d touched a LEGO game, having been too majorly bummed out by the fall of LEGO Dimensions, back when the toys-to-life genre crashed. I’d also bounced off of Horizon Zero Dawn after the first couple of hours, due to being thoroughly burnt-out on third-person open-world action games at the time. Truly, I was undeserving of this world-first honour.

As I sat down for a co-op session, I was instantly struck by how absolutely gorgeous the game is. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following my work here that I’m a total freak for tiny worlds – and the degree to which the team at Guerilla have made LEGO Horizon Adventure’s levels feel as if they’re an actual sprawling brick diorama is quite remarkable.

I was told by the developer that they were determined to not put anything into the game that couldn’t be made with actual, existing LEGO bricks, and that they paid close attention to The LEGO Movie as a guide for how they wanted everything to be animated. The results are really something. There’s a more tactile, plastic feel to everything on screen, and the action manages to feel fully responsive while appearing to occur almost in stop-motion.

The demo was something of a re-interpretation of Horizon Zero Dawn’s opening village sequence, and I asked if the game was specifically a LEGO-ified remake of that first game. The answer? Both yes and no. While he told me that there’s nothing to be found in the game from its sequel, he stressed to me that LEGO Horizon Adventures will be very much doing its own thing in regard to how it handles the events of Zero Dawn.

Structurally, the adventure is built around the home village, which you can customise and upgrade heavily using all manner of stuff from other LEGO realms. Not from other licensed ones of course, but Cities, Pirates, Space, and all the rest of the core LEGO lineup is on show. This extends to the character customization too which allows you to re-skin Aloy and her friends as you see fit.

Unlike other LEGO games, you don’t get any special powers with these outfits, but I couldn’t help but pop a massive smile when I came across a Pirates minifig among the selection that I owned as a kid in the 90s. They’ve dug lovingly and they’ve dug deep.

From the hub village you embark on the kind of linear levels one would expect from a LEGO game.

As for the actual gameplay, well again it’s a LEGO game, and it isn’t reinventing that wheel. Most of what makes it feel fresh is the aforementioned animation style, but for me that’s enough. These games are primarily built with kids in mind, and they really don’t warrant complex combat systems as such.

By the end of the demo I was itching to play more, which *really* surprised me.

Astro Bot preview – A delightful joy

Astro Bot PlayStation
Image: Team Asobi

I’m a bad person. I’ve owned a PlayStation 5 for years, but I have never actually gotten around to playing the beloved Astro’s Playroom tech demo. It’s okay, I’m mad at myself about it too. When the trailer for its full-fledged sequel Astro Bot dropped during last month’s State of Play, it actually mildly irritated me.

Yes, the game looked delightful, but the degree to which it packed itself with Astro-ified versions of beloved PlayStation characters like PaRappa and uh, Bloodborne Hunter, just made me frustrated that we’re not getting new sequels to those games on some level. Given how many of the internal studios that built PlayStation’s legacy have now been closed, it struck me as more like rubbing it in than it did a celebration of these characters, but I digress…

Having now actually played through two of Astro Bot’s worlds, two of its short, challenge-gauntlet levels, and one of its boss fights, I’m in. I dig it. It’s like the weird offspring of LittleBigPlanet and Sonic Adventure that I didn’t know I wanted, but am now entirely all about. It feels like a Dreamcast game that got lost in the warp for 25 years, and I mean that as the highest of compliments.

It uses every gimmick imaginable in its level design, but it never feels gimmicky. The sense of exploration through the worlds is a joy, and hunting down all of the lost Bots in each one is addictively satisfying.

Even after the deeply pleasant time I had playing it, it still left me sad that this is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a new PaRappa the Rapper. Who knows, maybe we’ll finally get PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale 2 though. I can live in hope.

What pleased me the most about PlayStation’s Summer Game Fest showing was how counter it is to their typical direction of the last decade – two bright, colourful, family-friendly adventure games and no prestige drama grimdarkery. With the kind of budgets Sony typically work with to create bleeding-edge AAA games now reaching alarming levels, it’s fantastic to see some bread-and-butter Video Games for a change.

When can we expect these PlayStation preview titles to drop?

LEGO Horizon Adventures will release on PlayStation 5, PC, and Nintendo Switch later in the year. Astro Bot is scheduled to release on PlayStation 5 on September 6th.

Jam Walker is a games and entertainment journalist from Melbourne, Australia. They hold a bachelor's degree in game design from RMIT but probably should have gotten a journalism one instead. You can find them talking entirely too much about wrestling on Twitter @Jamwa