Few games fit the outline of “cult classic” around Psychonauts. Released long ago in 2005, the sport would be a critical darling and quickly developed a devoted fanbase. But, it had been a sales disappointment (at first), making the possibilities of a sequel pretty low. However, after continued sales from person to person and a successful crowdfunding campaign a sequel was promised. Much happened after that, including Microsoft’s acquisition of developer Double Fine, but Psychonauts 2 was slowly and surely working its way toward release. And so here we are, a brief 16 years after the first game’s release, Five years after the Fig campaign, and 4 years following the VR side adventure. Psychonauts 2 is finally here, prepared to be played. Was it all well worth the wait? Pretty much, yeah.
Picking up right following Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, series star Razputin (Raz) has helped his heroes rescue head Psychonaut Truman Zanotto, completing the mission from the end from the first game. Now he’s ready to become the full Psychonaut that he’s always dreamed to be. But once he and the crew arrive at the Mother Lobe things be a bit more bureucratic. Instead of jumping right into these shoes of the true Psychonaut you’ll need to work your way through the ranks of the interns. But as usual, there’s much more happening here than expected and Raz will have to make use of all of his psychic powers to rescue his friends, and maybe the Psychnauts themselves.
The first Psychonauts gained its rabid cult fanbase off of its effective platforming stages and it is quirky, irreverent writing and characters. All that returns in Psychonauts 2 with some modern enhancements and improvements towards the core experience thrown in for good measure. Having a somewhat lengthy adventure with side quests, intriguing story developments, and Double Fine’s trademark writing and visual styling, fans from the first game are likely to find themselves feeling like they’ve jumped back to 2005 every time they boot up Psychonauts 2.
At least it will feel that way, but this is clearly a modern game in the design, and while players can get a nostalgic feeling, this game can also stand on its very own as a great 3D platforming adventure. While the story does play off of the previous games, as well as your link with the characters is going to be far better if you’ve played them, additionally, it does a great job of employed by newcomers who might pick this sequel as much as see what all the hype is about.
And that hype is deserved and needed with Psychonauts 2 delivering some truly amazing visual experiences as Raz explores the minds of various characters round the Psychonauts universe. The sport doesn’t even take its time introducing you to its world beyond a short recap before tossing you directly into the thick of things. Featuring worlds full of brains, disturbing thoughts, and teeth (which prompted a worrying phobia warning that I appreciated but also needed to ignore in order to get this review done), are all unique and filled with inventive ideas and charm.
Whenever you are feeling like Psychonauts 2 may have run out of fresh ideas you’ll enter a new stage to find something totally unexpected and/or unique. This is mostly true in the visuals, which stretch from dank, moist brain matter to bright, colorful explosions of visual flavor. Exploring these stages is equally enjoyable, because they feature plenty of collectibles and side areas. As you do this you’ll have to wield Raz’s many psychic abilities, either to defeat enemies or navigate the stages.
This is where Psychonauts 2 could use a bit more fine tuning, as the large number of abilities contrasts using the fast and fun platforming. You can assign as much as four powers to numerous buttons around the controller, which feels like it should be enough. And yet players will likely end up swapping powers more frequently than they’d like. This process takes you from the immersive platforming fun, while also kind of becoming a confusing mess if you aren’t diligent about which power would go to which button. Since you’re swapping them out often, and stages will need using a lot more than four abilities at different times, you can take damage or die due to hitting the wrong button or not having the right ability assigned at the time.
Some abilities are used for combat alongside Raz’s standard combo attack. This could create some interesting situations where you’re wielding different powers against each type of foe being thrown your way. However, there isn’t a ton of variety here in the long term, and frequently you can get away with spamming certain attacks or finding different ways to cheese combat. The sport sort of decelerates when it gets to be more combat focused, and there’s a feeling of relief when they conclude and you can return to exploring the platforming stages and figuring out the fun puzzles.
Psychonauts 2 could be a challenging game at some points, with bosses or swarms of enemies that may knock you out quickly. Thankfully though, Double Fine has included a good amount of toggle choices to make things simpler if you like to just explore and have fun. So as the default difficulty might be a little high at various points, the sport enables you to choose whether or not to tackle that challenge or simply breeze through to benefit from the characters, world, visuals, and story.
And all those things really are the stars from the show with regards to Psychonauts 2. The characters in the first game are back and as enjoyable as always, even if a number of them don’t have as much screen time as before. Most of the new characters also meet the pedigree set through the first Psychonauts, though a few feel underdeveloped or somewhat cliche. The voice acting is once more top notch, not surprisingly from Double Fine which particular cast. The world is just as quirky and different as before, with a few fresh ideas layered on the top to keep things interesting. The visuals may seem somewhat dated at some points, however the overall style and substance of the character and world design are fantastic. And the story is really a solid continuation while developing this world more fully of computer continues to be before.
Psychonauts 2 would be a long time within the making, but the wait has certainly been worthwhile. Fans of the first game and it is VR spinoff will feel at home with this sequel whilst finding a lot of new stuff to love. Those who have missed out on this series before may either dive into this new adventure or use it as an excuse to look at what all the hype continues to be about these past 16 years. Either way they’ll look for a fun and different platformer that is full of charm and hilarious, but also heartwarming writing.