“Souls” games don’t hold your hand. They don’t care about your feelings. They want to kill you over and over again. We’ve written a bit here about the excellence of these games, but this is actually the one that started it all. Developed by FromSoftware for the PlayStation 3, 2009’s “Demon’s Souls” launched the franchise that would lead to three excellent “Dark Souls” games and the masterful “Bloodborne,” one of the best games of the PS4 era. While the inevitable “Bloodborne 2” will eventually destroy gamer patience on the PS5, the first game like this out of the gate is a rebuild of “Demon’s Souls” from the ground up, retelling the story of Boletaria, a land dominated by creatures who just want to see your lonely hero dead. The brutality of the first game was so intense and reviews so mixed that Sony didn’t even initially release it in the United States. Over a decade later, the “Souls” games have a loyal fan base, but if you’re new, it’s worth noting that this game is very much like “Dark Souls 3” in tone and style. It has some of the visual thrust of other PS5 games in its backgrounds and details, but these titles aren’t really about graphics as much as they are gameplay and atmosphere. I’m only getting started on my “Demon’s Souls” adventure, but I’ve killed a couple bosses, and I was reminded how success in these games just feels different than other titles. They make you work for it. And I was reminded how much I can’t wait to play “Bloodborne 2.”
The Ultimate Edition of “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” includes a remastered edition of the 2018 game that launched this franchise and it’s a stunner. The hit title about Peter Parker’s first adventures in New York City has been remastered to take advantage of the new controller, and has been fully upgraded visually, making for one of the best-looking games on the PS5 (the trophy probably goes to one of the Spidey games or “Valhalla”). The game feels more fluid than ever with combat sequences that play out with the seamlessness of “Miles Morales.” The story of “Spider-Man” is engaging enough, but the real draw of this game is the way it turns New York City into a playground. Swinging through the streets and running up its buildings has never looked more remarkable. It’s such a strong remaster that even people who finished the game on PS4 will be encouraged to play through it again, especially as a wonderful companion to the experience of “Miles Morales.”
The days in which new gaming systems came with free games seemed to be far behind us. So it was a bit of a surprise when Sony announced that the PS5 comes preloaded with a platformer called “Astro’s Playroom.” At first, it feels like little more than a controller tutorial—a fun way to teach players how much that fancy new toy in their hands can do. And that’s certainly part of the artistic drive here, but “Astro’s Playroom” is a clever, well-designed game on its own terms. It could have just been a controller tutorial but it’s unexpectedly creative and unpredictable across multiple worlds with different themes. And the collectibles have a fun twist for true Sony fans in that they’re all based on the history of the company. For example, Astro finds artifacts like a PS2 or a PS VR as he travels through his digital world, turning the experience into something like a joyous romp through a PlayStation museum. It’s a really fun tone-setter for the PS5 experience.