Psychonauts 2 is a fantastic sequel to the original, and it’s a must-play for anyone who enjoyed the first game. It’s a great story that will have you laughing at some points, and crying in others.
Psychonauts 2 is a video game that was released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. The game is a sequel to the original Psychonauts, which was released in 2005.
Games are a big aspect of my existence, my personality, and my perspective on life, as someone who is nearly completely defined by the words “gamer” and “writer.” We’ve all had those games that profoundly influenced us in both big and little ways. Psychonauts, released in 2005, was that game for me.
Now, in 2021, Microsoft kindly gave me with a review code for Psychonauts 2 on PlayStation 5. It’s a strange sensation to having finally played a sequel to a game I thought would never be made. Not only that, but it’s nothing short of a miracle that it met my near-impossible expectations. Let’s get started with your Psi-pops and dream fluffs.
It’s As If Raz Has Never Left After All These Years
It was the year 2005. After visiting the local EB Games, I had just exited the mall. With little to no money, I purchased the most recent issue of OXM magazine in order to get a demo disc that I could use to pass the time until I could buy a new game.
That demo CD included the first level of a game called Psychonauts, and I can’t tell you how many times I played it and enjoyed every minute of it. I put through endless hours and days doing housework and other things to save money for a copy of the complete game.
It was really a once-in-a-lifetime event for someone who played any and all games he could get his hands on. What other game has a psychic summer camp, levels deep inside the protagonists’ brains, and psychic bears? You can’t, but Psychonauts’ real allure was how it combined unrivaled inventiveness with emotional characters and deep dives into mental health long before the topic became popular in video games.
Psychonauts 2 was and continues to be one of my favorite games of all time, so you can imagine my surprise and delight when it was revealed in 2015. I was like a Super Bowl fan, stampeding through my living room like a big geek hurling tables. I have no regrets.
Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to play Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, a PSVR game set immediately after the events of the original game. It was the first time we’d seen anything beyond the original game’s conclusion, and it just added to my excitement for the entire sequel.
Since then, Double Fine has been acquired by Microsoft, raising questions about whether the game will still be released for PlayStation systems. It will, and Microsoft sent me a PlayStation review copy to try out on the PS5, which has a better quality and 60 frames per second gameplay. The Xbox version has a few unique features that we’ll go into later, but the PS5 version is fantastic, so there’s no need to worry.
It’s finally here, my fellow gamers. Let me take you on a trip through this amazing experience, both for fans and for people who have never heard the name before.
The sequel to Psychonauts starts with a fantastic review of the previous two games, told by the protagonist, Razputin Aquato. It covers both the original game and the VR game, putting us right in the middle of the sequel’s events.
Psychonauts is a 3D platformer set in an universe where a secret organization known as the Psychonauts completes top-secret missions and infiltrates the brains of others to ensure the organization’s and the world’s safety. In the first title, Razputin, or Raz for short, aids in the unraveling of a vast plot to steal children’s brains, earning him the title of honorary Psychonaut.
The crew travels to the Rhombus of Ruin to track down the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, Truman Zanotto, who has been abducted and brought to a deep underwater facility. The sequel starts with the gang arriving to Psychonauts headquarters, appropriately dubbed “The Motherlobe,” after rescuing him in the VR game.
The plot of Psychonauts 2 expands on everything that happened in the previous game and in the VR game, bringing everything to a whole new level. The game gets you straight into things with a tutorial level set inside someone’s head before giving you a taste of the initial hub area, but everything goes quickly right away.
I’ll keep things vague for the sake of spoilers, but Tim Schafer, the CEO of Double Fine and the creator of all the Psychonauts titles, has really polished his craft over the years since the first.
The narrative of Psychonauts 2 retains the original’s charm while also diving far deeper into its characters and setting. It’s amazing to watch how smoothly things transfer into the new game, and how in-depth the narrative goes for the major characters like Raz, his family, and old favorites like Ford Cruller from the first game, even if it’s not necessary to play the original and VR game.
As the game progresses, you may travel the Motherlobe and adjacent regions in between stages inside different brains, enabling you to participate in discussions with optional speech that goes well beyond the exchanges provided in the previous game. It’s also entirely optional, but as someone who can’t get enough of this universe, the additional conversation and history was extremely welcome.
Some games make you laugh, while others make you weep, and yet others just take you away from your daily life for a few moments so you can catch your breath. Psychonauts 2 gave me a taste of all three. The witty banter, which was filled with puns, was always welcomed. The way the characters’ thoughts reflect their personalities and the narrative inside the level designs is also fantastic, demonstrating that Double Fine’s inventiveness hasn’t faded over time.
As the tale progresses, it becomes equally silly, absurd, and poignant. It also delves much further into mental health, loyalty, and the very real struggles that many people face on a daily basis. It’s not preachy, however; instead, it stays grounded in its narrative and setting while simultaneously delving into other topics as a natural extension of what’s going on right now.
I honestly couldn’t have wished for a better sequel in terms of plot. It’s more in-depth, has a broader perspective, and builds on everything that made the original so good. I would have liked to see more of the outer world or take part in Psychonauts missions all over the world, but the story’s concentrated nature nevertheless leads you to some strange places, due to the different minds you find yourself in.
So, now that we’ve covered the narrative, let’s move on to the gameplay. Psychonauts 2 reintroduces the traditional feel of a 3D platformer, similar to those from the genre’s golden age. While the original game had good playability, it had a terrible difficulty spike towards the finish, and the opponent diversity might have been more varied. In comparison to contemporary games, the controls in the original game seem a bit watery, but Psychonauts 2 fixes all of these issues.
The controls are quick and fast, the lock-on is almost always accurate, and the enemy diversity is great. Beyond monsters, your primary enemies in the original game were “Censors,” who were meant to stamp out undesirable ideas.
This lineup grows in Psychonauts 2 to cover additional areas of mental health. In the form of interesting and difficult opponent engagements, you’ll face off against Doubts, Regrets, Negative Thoughts, and even Panic Attacks.
When it comes to difficulty, Psychonauts 2 features a far superior difficulty curve that remains constant and offers a good challenge all the way through. The boss battles, in particular, are a standout, with some really unique designs and techniques.
In the sequel, the interaction between your psychic powers and the opponents is also improved. Doubts, for example, are extremely flammable, thus your Pyrokenesis is a successful strike against them, sending them fleeing and possibly setting other foes on fire.
I don’t want to give anything away about the fun of figuring out the best strategies, but enemies all have their own quirks that you can exploit with your abilities, which range from Psi-blast to Telekinesis, Clairvoyance, and a variety of other surprises that work well both inside and outside of combat.
The fact that you can only map abilities to the triggers hurts the combat experience, since it means you’ll have to visit your fast menu often during battle to switch out abilities depending on the opponents you’re facing.
The fast menu stops the action, but it did stifle the flow a little when I had to go from a traversal-focused game like Levitation to a combat-focused game. However, certain abilities, such as Mental Connection, may be utilized for both traversal and fighting, so never dismiss an ability since it might be a game-changer if employed correctly.
I’m sure fans will be curious to see how the levels compare to the original. The idea of jumping inside people’s heads opens up a lot of possibilities for unique designs and gameplay, which the original game did a fantastic job with. A level in the original game that pitted you against Napoleon in a table-top game where you could alter your size and manipulate the board to your advantage was a particular favorite of mine.
There are many levels in Psychonauts 2 that left me speechless, one of my favorites being one set in a gourmet game show, but it also includes a couple that seem more like typical platforming fare. Even yet, some levels succeed, thanks in part to the amazing graphics and designs that make them aesthetically beautiful to explore.
Collectibles, which were a big element of old platformers, make a comeback here as well. Currency, psi-cards and cores, figments of people’s minds, scavenger hunt goods, and other things will appear both within and outside the mental world.
Many of these items will help you increase your rank, which will allow you to improve your skills to add additional features and damage output. In the real world, vending machines sell healing products like Psi-pops, which heal you quickly in combat, and dream fluffs, which resurrect you after you die.
On top of that, you can now use pins to modify a variety of things, such as the color of your levitation ball or the idle animations that play while you’re standing still. Others will help you improve your skills or alter the difficulty level. The glass cannon pin, for example, increases the amount of damage you can inflict and absorb.
While I spent a good amount of exploring, I never had enough money throughout my playthrough to buy many of the pins. Although the game continues after you complete the narrative, you can go back and buy more of them, I believe the in-game economy should have been better balanced to allow for more money to be spent on things other than pops and dream fluffs.
However, the little annoyances that others may deem minor fade in contrast to the remainder of the experience for me. My expectations for this sequel were sky-high, and it somehow managed to meet and surpass them. I’m very aware of how seldom this occurs in any creative medium, so these little flaws don’t detract in the least from the entire experience.
A Work of Art on the Eyes, Ears, and Mind
One of Psychonauts 2’s biggest assets is its appearance. While the Xbox version is the only one with HDR and 120 FPS settings, Psychonauts 2 on PS5 has 60 FPS gameplay and a clear resolution that does credit to the amazing imagery. It’s difficult to put into words the vast variety of visual and audio genres that the game encompasses throughout all of its levels.
From a display perspective, each thought seems to be its own game. In every mind, there are just a few components, which is a degree of diversity I’m sure many players have never seen in a single game. It captures the distinct characteristics of each mind you visit and offers a wide range of visual styles and audio genres.
I’d want to wrap off my review with one more tale from Psychonauts 2. I was working at GameStop in 2009 when my Store Manager told me that Tim Schafer, the creator of the forthcoming Brutal Legend game and Psychonauts, would be signing posters at an upcoming conference.
He understood how much I adored Psychonauts, Tim Schafer’s work, and how much an autographed Brutal Legend poster would mean to me. When he returned from the conference, he informed me about his encounter with Tim:
“To whom should I address this?” Tim inquired, his hand poised to sign the placard.
My manager responded, “To my number one Psychonauts fan.”
“Is there a Psychonauts tattoo on him?” Tim was the one who inquired.
My manager responded, “No.”
Tim said, “Then he’s not my number one Psychonauts fan.”
That tale still makes me chuckle, but I still have that autographed Brutal Legend poster mounted in my office. He’s correct, which is why I’d want to say one more thing before I go. If you’re reading this, Tim, I’m finally going to get the Psychonauts tattoo.
Final Rating: 10/10
Bradley Ramsey is the author of this article. Insert date – August 24, 2021
- psychonauts 2 release date