There’s this saying, “Sometimes you just can’t go back home again”. Knowing this, I was a little tentative about replaying Psychonauts,originally released for the XBox. Mere minutes into the intro any doubts melted away. Psychonauts is one of those delightful gems where it’s as good as you remember.
Psychonauts feels like an interactive movie and many elements contribute to this …the story…the plot and the dialog are unlike anything that you find in most games today. A huge chunk of Psychonauts charm is its art style that brings to mind something that Tim Burton would have dreamed up. The characters have a unique painterly look to them along with an unusual unexplainable and totally enthralling flair to the character design. Because of this, Psychonauts has aged remarkably well. There’s never a moment where I’m not immersed in and anxious to proceed through the levels to see what awaits me.
The story unfolds as we follow Raz, a young run-away circus performer who wants to become a great Psyconaut. Raz finds himself introduced to a cast of bizarre and funny children at a Whispering Rock Summer Camp. (Again akin to the eccentric mind of Tim Burton).This “camp” is a US government facility oozing with psychic wild life. What would a camp be without counselors, as you may assume the counselors are nuttier and crazier than the children. They are very powerful in the psychic realm and important to training Raz to become a Psyconaut.
Along with the very humorous dialog (I found myself quoting the Milkman during normal conversations) is the equally entertaining animation. Raz interacts with his fellow campers by entering their minds via a brain tumbler or throwing a small door onto the persons forehead. As all of our minds are different so are the worlds…but even more insane and unique than your typical kooky person.
One mind that Raz enters is a fish named Linda (what else would you expect a fish’s name to be). Inside the fish’s mind, Raz appears Godzilla sized where he punches down buildings, tosses tanks, and sadly squishes any fish that happens to be under foot. Having this particular mind feel even more like an Old Japanese movie is the very humorous unfolding cut scenes. Here you’ll hear the ramblings of a fish newscaster describing the utter chaos caused by Raz. Too funny! The most amazing thing is that I could mention any level and it will sound equally as absurdly creative and wonderful as this.
Speaking of…While the above mentioned mind is a heavy focus on combat, other minds are heavy in platforming creating a fantastically rounded gaming experience. Generally in the platforming levels, Raz learns new psychic abilities to help him progress through each stage and even acquires special psychic powers that aid him in his journey (IE: telekinesis, pyrokinesis, Psi Shield). When these powers are learned, Raz can back track to previously played levels and them to access different sections that were previously inaccessible. Or by golly, he can just play through it again with the option of new strategies (or to find previously skipped side objectives).
Psychonauts is an amazing game that is well worth multiple play-throughs. The more you play it, the more you’ll discover and unlock. This is one of the rare cases where mentioning everything would draw out the review and even spoil some surprises that are best left to be discovered. Let’s just say that there’s tons to explore whether it’s dusting memory cobwebs, finding memory vaults along with being able to do side objectives…whoops letting the cat out of the bag again. Overall just playing through the main campaign will bring you a joyous amount of gameplay.
The Bottom Line:
When Psychonauts was originally released it was praised for its outrageous story and creative Art style. Today I’m happy to report that this still rings true. Psychonauts remains one of the most amazing adventure/platformer games that you can play.
We’re not done with Psychonauts…
With the release of Psychonauts on the Mac AppStore, Double Fine Productions also released Psychonauts Vault Viewer! for the iOS. This not only contains all the memory vault stories that you can find in Psychonauts, but all new commentary from Tim Schafer and Scott Cambell. The comical insight from these guys brings yet a new appreciation for Psychonauts along with pointing out some small details that you may have missed in the still images. Plus its hysterical listening to Tim ragging on Scott’s artwork. Oh, and it’s free!