My first experience with a Psychonauts game was a few months ago when the first Psychonauts, released in 2005, came to Xbox Game Pass. After falling in love with the game, I was excited to be caught up on Psychonauts 2 in development, myself hearing the news long after its announcement at The Game Awards 2015. I was excited to begin my second journey with Razputin Aquato. Luckily, my expectations were exceeded once I jumped into the game on day one.
WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR EARLY GAME AHEAD. DO NOT READ IF YOU WISH TO GO INTO THE GAME BLIND.
Psychonauts 2 Has Some Familiar Faces
Psychonauts 2 introduces us to familiar faces from the previous game, including Sasha Nein, Coach Oleander, Milla Vodello, and Dr. Loboto. Before reaching the Motherlobe, the headquarters of the Psychonauts, the player is introduced to the very first level, or brain, of the game. Truman Zanotto was previously kidnapped by Dr. Loboto at the Rhombus of Ruin and was then rescued by Raz and his friends. Not believing that Loboto was working alone, the protagonists go Inside the mind of Loboto.
Here we get our first taste of level design and how Double Fine Productions has developed each level to mimic the occupations, traumas, hobbies, and characteristics of each character. For example, Dr. Loboto is an amateur dentist, meaning his brain is filled with slimy gum walls littered with chattering teeth and pools of mouthwash (I think). Another example of an early level involves multiple casino-like areas. These help to manifest the problems of gambling addictions in a lighthearted way. It’s awesome to see Double Fine maximize their imaginations and immortalize their ideas for level design into the game to produce a really immersive experience.
No Fear of Wide Open Spaces
Other than brains, Psychonauts 2 introduces the player to hub levels including the Motherlobe, the Questionable Area, the Quarry, etc. These areas involve more realistic design choices that we encounter in our own lives. Things like woodlands, lakes, cafeterias, and lobbies in big organizations. Luckily players can take a breather from all the action and explore these areas for collectibles. Such as PSI Cards that combine with a PSI Core to help Raz rank up and upgrade his abilities. Encountered within the hub areas are a cast of characters that Raz can also interact with.
Unlike the original game, Psychonauts 2 assigns dialogue options to specific characters, offering deeper character development and a more in-depth view of the lore surrounding Psychonauts. Some dialogue choices also enhance the personalities of the characters. Mostly by using humor, unique interactions, and different camera angles and shots. Each voice actor has portrayed their capability to bring their assigned characters to life. I don’t think there’s a single person in the game I haven’t connected with. Double Fine has managed to fabricate a special bond between myself and so many characters I encounter throughout the game. It’s almost like Tim Schafer himself is sending out a psychic link through my Xbox and controlling my mind…
The Enemies of Psychonauts 2
The enemies of Psychonauts 2 are portrayed as negative emotions that Raz must fight off whilst exploring the minds of the characters he enters. For example, Censors make a return from the original game, depicted as suit-wearing threats that aim to stamp out anything in the mind that doesn’t belong, including Raz. Unlike the first game, Psychonauts 2 has a plethora of new foes to tackle, including Regrets, depicted as flying creatures wielding large weights to drop on Raz and cause damage, and Doubts, sludge-like monsters that are vulnerable to pyrokinesis.
The game introduces new enemies all the way up to the late game, and many of them require different methods of combat to defeat. During combat, the player can mix into a fighting style of melee attacks and PSI abilities, including telekinesis, clairvoyance, PSI blast, etc. Most enemies are tough to stagger, so players can use Raz’s acrobatic moves to dodge around enemies to avoid damage. The actual control scheme for combat is pretty similar to the original Psychonauts, but whilst the designers chose to give players more options to defeat enemies more quickly in combat, it means every battle feels fresh and more fleshed out.
A Clutch of Collectibles
Collectibles make a welcome return in Psychonauts 2, and many will help Raz to rank up, whilst others will help to increase Raz’s maximum health pool. Nuggets of Wisdom are rare collectibles that can hide in hard-to-reach places. However, they’re well worth collecting as they allow Raz to instantly rank up by one level. Raz can also find Half-A-Mind collectibles, depicted as literally half a brain with arms, legs, and eyes.
If Raz finds the other Half-A-Mind piece, both merge together and form a new brain to add to Raz’s maximum health. Figments, Emotional Baggage, and Safes all make a return as well. There’s a lot of exploring to do to discover them all, so Double Fine made it a priority to craft many open-ended levels of the game much larger than their previous works from the original Psychonauts.
Our Final Thoughts on Psychonauts 2
In conclusion, this is one phenomenal game that I will remember for years to come. Double Fine has done an outstanding job, and the wait has been worth it. No game is perfect, but for me, there is nothing I can nitpick that made my experience feel shallow or not worthwhile. I may even go so far as to call Psychonauts 2 my game of the year.
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PC
Release Date: 25th August 2021