It has been many years for fans of the original Psychonauts since they last got to experience their adventures into the human minds with Raz, in fact I believe it’s been around 15 years since the last proper Psychonauts game! Needless to say then the sequel has been subject to an incredible amount of hype and hope that Double Fine haven’t lost their touch over the years. I admittedly came to the series rather late having only played the first game rather recently this year so that experience was still fresh in my mind for when I tackled the long-awaited sequel. Can this entry match up to the high bar set by the original Psychonauts? Let’s find out!
The story takes place after the VR entry bizarrely of all things (which I must admit I didn’t know actually existed until I played this game) in which Razputin, our strapping young psychic hero, successfully rescued the head of the Psychonauts organisation from the clutches of Doctor Loboto and is transporting him back to HQ for recovery and to find out from the evil dentist as to who hired him to kidnap the head of the group and find out the greater conspiracy behind all of these events. This then eventually reveals the fact that their is a mole inside the Psychonauts that is planning to bring back a powerful water-psychic known as Maligula. It’s up to Raz then to figure out who the mole is, figure out the events transpiring in the background and travel into the minds of many people to help fix their problems and gather information. The story is in many ways quite similar to the first as Raz must prove himself to the greater organisation by rising through the ranks and taking on missions whilst also seemingly being one of the only people who has any understanding as to what is going on. Your adventures also take you into some dark and interesting spaces that bring along a lot of themes of guilt, mental illness and coping with bad decisions and they are handled beautifully in both the environments you visit and the characters you interact with. The story is obviously very cheesy 60’s era sci-fi with silly characters, over-the-top locations and so many things beginning with the prefix of psi- that you can’t help but smile at each mention. The humour too throughout the game is top notch and I found myself really enjoying some of the new and returning characters, I don’t think I have laughed at a game like this in a while. While it may re-tread some of the older themes and story points as the first entry I would still say it does enough to make it distinct and an absolute blast to learn about and experience for yourself.
The presentation of this game is, in no amount of emphasis, absolutely gorgeous. The artists and environment/character designers need some kind of award as the game is absolutely brimming with interesting world, fantastic set-pieces and an incredible amount of visual and audio variety that you will find yourself in absolute awe at some of the levels you visit. In one instance you find yourself travelling through an office complex that is filling up with teeth and mouth imagery that would make H.R. Giger blush while in another you take a psychedelic trip around a sensory-themed concert space and there are so many other interesting locales and places to see that I do not wish to spoil anything else here. The game is an absolute treat to witness and seeing the amount of creativity on display is nothing short of incredible. I would even dare to say that the variety of interesting places outmatches that of the original game, though I would say that there are nothing that quite reaches the heights of the famous Milkman Conspiracy of the first entry. The soundtrack too is wonderful with an emphasis on 60’s sci-fi tropes and appropriate tracks for when inside each of the unique levels as nothing really feels out of place. Even some of the more sombre tracks work nicely with the environments to create a really relaxing and enjoyable experience for your senses. Characters too are very well designed with almost all of them being distinct and having good personalities that I was interested to learn more about. The voice acting too is top notch with Raz being especially fun to listen to and give commentary on whatever situation he found himself within. Ultimately the presentation of this game is absolutely one of it’s selling points and it’s worth checking out simply to see the amount of stunning creativity on display.
Gameplay wise if you’ve played the first game then you will feel right at home here. Psychonauts 2 is a third-person action-platformer with a huge emphasis on collecting items, combat and navigating through unique environments. One thing to note is that the combat is hugely improved from the first game as Raz feels far more fluid and his hits land with more emphasis. Alongside this powers are better integrated into combat and overall it feels as though it is a more important aspect of the game. While some powers are missing from the previous entry there are a few new ones that are a welcome addition such as the ability to slow down time on certain objects or enemies. These all work on a more fluid system of swapping out powers on the fly and can even create unique opportunities to chain together powers to make them far more useful such as slowing down time on an enemy to make it easier to hit them with a blast of fire. Platforming is also improved as Raz is given most of his unique movement kit from the start of the game allowing him to experiment and get used to moving around the environment at a much earlier point than in the first game and it overall works much better in getting from one place to the other. There is also a far greater enemy variety which have to be dealt with by using specific powers which helps to make you use each of your different abilities and encourage creativity in both combat and while platforming or searching for items in the environment. There might not be many huge developments in how the game plays compared to the original but honestly it just feels as though it was tightened up and made far more fluid and up to modern standards which is all I really wanted from this entry so I am happy with that.
The game isn’t perfect though and while these complaints are relatively small in comparison to the rest of the game they are still worth talking about. The biggest issue I found is that there is a general lack of polish in some aspects of the game as my experience had a fair amount of crashes, freezes and getting stuck in terrain while doing some exploring in the overworld. While it is nothing that ruined my experience there were some odd things that I wonder how they were not noticed before the game went out such as how looking at the descriptions of certain objects in your inventory can cause your game to freeze or how the game continued to run as a program in the background of my PC even when I had fully closed out of it requiring me to brute-force end the task. Alongside this some of the characters introduced in this entry fell a bit flat for me such as the introduction of The Interns who were clearly meant to be this game’s version of the campers from the previous entry and unfortunately only a couple of them felt interesting or fleshed out to me. The ones I did like however had me laughing and interested in them as characters but unfortunately this was not the case for everyone introduced. I also feel as though the game was aiming for a bit of a younger audience with how Raz sometimes audibly explains things that you should already know or have figured out what to do by that point which brought me out of the experience at times. Finally the game can feel a bit short as if you don’t do many of the side activities you can be finished the title quite quickly which for a full priced game could feel a bit disappointing. Still as mentioned this was by no means a deal breaker and the technical issues will no doubt be dealt with in future patches so take those issues I had with a grain of salt.
In the end then I had a fantastic experience with Psychonauts 2. In many ways this game surpasses the original and has cemented itself in my mind as one of the best game of this year. There is almost nothing else like it available at the moment and it is truly an experience to play that you will not forget any time soon. If you are a fan of games as art, platformers or even just games with great dialogue and characters then I cannot recommend trying out Psychonauts 2 enough. The human mind is a mysterious thing as this game likes to mention but I feel this game comes pretty close to capturing the imagination that the mind can provide.