Psychonauts came out at an odd time for me. While I was into gaming, I never found the time to give it the attention it deserved at launch. I have since rectified that and feel the connection to the Lucasarts games of old that Tim Schafer was known for woven through the fibers of the experience. It was wild, strange and engaging in a way that never got old. So, when I got a chance to preview Psychonauts 2 I was excited. How had the world changed, and what new and insane concepts could the team at Double Fine craft with the aid of the tech now available?
I have now experienced around three hours of the game, looking at the world, the design and what players can expect when they finally dive in, and it feels like the sequel that the series needed. Once again taking the reins of series protagonist Razputin (Raz) as he finds himself now a part of the mythical Psychonauts. This is his dream, and something that the events of the past instalment have led to. Psychonauts 2 wastes no time thrusting the player into the off-the-wall universe of the brain levels.
For anyone not familiar with Psychonauts, these are the sections of the game that throw logic out the window, and imagination reigns supreme. Anything is possible, existing in a state of dream logic rather than the (somewhat) grounded world of the series main cast. With Raz being able to use psychic powers, this gives a playground for the creators to explore what being a Psychonaut actually means, how they can dive into characters’ heads, and what this could be used for.
Starting things off in the most body-horror style dream world, Loboto’s Labyrinth acts as a tutorial section to the game, giving the tools to explore the game, along with showing the extent the creative visions at Double Fine were given room to build the impossible. From teeth-based puzzles to the ability to open doors by literally opening zipper mouths, Loboto’s Labyrinth is a way for the creators to throw you into the deep end, and let you see what Psychonauts 2 is all about.
I will be blunt; I have never been a fan of 3D action platformer style games. I enjoyed the Alice titles, along with Super Mario 64 and the like, but I have never found platforming and battle rooms to halt progress as the best way to make a game. That being said, Double Fine has made the world feel natural, with each challenge working to push the player into learning more about how the game works and what is possible. I feel some design elements seen here can feel clunky, taking away from the story or the concepts at play, but the studio have balanced this attempt the make a faithful follow-up with the advancements in design and execution.
This was just one of the minds I got the pleasure of experiencing, these ranged from a casino, an odd cooking game show, and even a world built around books and creativity. Each world managed to bring unique ideas to the table, mixing the formula to experiment with what is possible in the game. Each have new gameplay mechanics that force you to expand on what you already know about the game.
Even in my short playthrough, every segment gave a taste of how the game could play out, and what new and old fans of the series could expect when they dive in. The characters of the universe are vast and different, and it tackles each with the level of care and attention this sort of title needs.
“The real showstopper with Psychonauts 2 is the writing and outlandish concepts the studio has brought to life.”
The real showstopper with Psychonauts 2 is the writing and outlandish concepts the studio has brought to life. Tim Schafer is known as a fantastic and funny storyteller, and the team at Double Fine seem to bring their A-Game in this platformer though and though. Even with the insane concepts and outlandish settings, there is a true humanity to all the actions on screen. These feel like characters that have been given life, with the player taking control for a brief moment of their lives. This is also a universe that is bonkers in the best possible way, giving you new ways to experience the mundane, making even the most menial tasks fun and exciting.
Like any sequel, Psychonauts 2 must play a balancing act to try to cater to the fans who love the series, while offering enough to ensure new players don’t ever feel left out of the conversation. The game manages to give a good recap to let you in on motivation and how the world works without feeling like a daunting dump of information.
Even though it is a quick overview, it should be more than enough to set players on the right track to enjoy this instalment. From what I have played, the game is careful to never alienate players by expecting too much knowledge of past games. That could change when the game is out, but from talking to the team, they want this to be an accessible entry point for the series and will be better equipped to judge when the game finally hits consoles later this year.
I was skeptical that Psychonauts 2 could stand in the modern landscape of gaming, but from what I have seen, I was wrong. Double Fine have crafted an experience that is wild, mind bending and heartfelt, while still bringing hours of gameplay that most people should enjoy.
Filled with some of the most outlandish visual concepts I have seen in a long while, Psychonauts 2 feels like something special that fans new and old will enjoy. While it is hard to say how the final game will look, if the first segments are anything to go buy, anyone on Xbox Game Pass should be excited, since this is an experience that will keep them entertained in a way only Double Fine can. Hitting all major platforms later this year, Psychonauts 2 is a mind bendingly funny title I am excited to dive into.