|Release Date||August 25, 2021|
**A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Xbox for review purposes**
I’m one of the few people that hasn’t played the original Psychonauts game from 2005 which is weird because I love platformers. The one thing I’ve noticed throughout the years is that this game has a huge following that has been clamoring for a sequel and 16 years later their wishes have been granted. Sure, there was a 2017 VR game called the Rhombus of Ruin but this is the full-blown sequel everyone has been waiting for. The wait is well worth it from my perspective as Psychonauts 2 was a joy to play through from beginning to end.
If you haven’t played the original game or its VR sequel (like me), Psychonauts 2 catches you up very well at the beginning with an animated recap of previous events. This recap does a great job at exploring the protagonist Raz’s family and the history of the Psychonauts. The whole game is very story-heavy and explains a lot of things in detail in a way that will never have you guessing what’s going on even if you haven’t played the other games in the series. There’s something to say about that because not many games out there are quite as good at tying everything together.
The characters are split between the adult agents of the Psychonauts, the interns like Raz, and Raz’s family which have decided to camp out in The Questionable Area which is a wooded area outside The Motherlode. I had a lot of fun talking to random characters in the world who are all voiced fantastically with each having their own distinct personality. His brother Dion was particularly entertaining as he was still angry that Raz left them to join the Psychonauts. Lili was also a highlight with a whole lot of attitude and emotion. Every character has little nuggets of information that pull the story together and it was fun to go around to each of them to see what they knew.
The whole hook of Psychonauts is that the real world is only part of what you get to explore. You’ll be tasked with going into the troubled minds of some of the characters that you meet. The brains are very reflective of the people you meet and are VERY creative. The first brain you go into is that of a dentist named Dr. Loboto. There are teeth gums and dental instruments everywhere and it’s a really fun level to look around in. A later level features Raz having to ride around on a bowling ball with gameplay like Super Monkey Ball because he’s not allowed to cross over the foul line.
Levels follow a pretty similar formula across the board with there being a ton of collectibles to grab, a bunch of platforming and puzzle-solving, and a boss fight. One level had me cooking a bunch of food within a certain time limit while another had me in a life-size pachinko machine trying to get the top prize. There’s even a music stage where you’re accompanied by a ball of light voiced by Jack Black. Each level tied into the story well so even if it seemed completely absurd, it still made sense. If there’s one complaint I have about these levels, it’s that some of them can be particularly long and that can burn you out when playing a platformer. It’s nothing crazy but there were a few times where I did find myself going, “Are we moving on yet?”.
The platforming and combat are generally pretty responsive in Psychonauts 2. There are some of the normal platforming issues such as being unsure whether Raz will grab a ledge or a bar. There have been some times that enemies haven’t quite reacted the way I’d expect with some of my powers too. None of this is anything that will diminish the enjoyment of the game. The checkpoints are forgiving, the health is abundant, and those new to the genre can even use invincibility mode or choose no fall damage if they just want to go through the story without worrying about combat.
The combat itself is a mix of melee moves and your own powers. There are a nice mix of different enemies with Censors trying to stamp you out, flying Regrets dropping anvils on you, Panic Attacks speeding around that you have to slow down to hit, and Doubts that slow you down and need to be burned. Most enemies are weak to a certain element of your arsenal so it’s pretty easy to know what you need to do in combat. If all else fails, dodging and attacking is also pretty effective against most enemies.
You’re only able to equip 4 of your abilities at once and it drove me nuts at times. Sure, it’s easy to swap on the fly very quickly but I feel like you could have mapped at least 6 abilities at once with the buttons available and made it not so necessary to swap so often. Levitation is almost always used so I don’t even see why it needs to take up an ability slot, it could easily be mapped to a button all the time. My abilities in the game are the Archetype ability which creates a paper companion for Raz that assists him and the Mental Connection ability that allows you to travel between dots in the air. There are 9 abilities in all and the game really requires you to use swap between them to get through most of the levels.
Players can increase their rank to improve their abilities permanently by grabbing certain collectibles in each level. Psitanium can be found around levels and spent to acquire pins to modify your abilities further and offer certain cosmetic features. This is all well and good but the economy in the game makes very little sense. It takes a long time to acquire Psitanium and you have to pay to hold more. You also have to pay for healing items and Psi Cores that you need to use the Psi Cards that increase your rank. You can also only equip 3 pins at one time so you have to choose between cosmetic pins and pins that might help you in battle which means you’re probably not going to bother with some of the cool custom options available.
Psychonauts 2 doesn’t over-stay its welcome and I felt like its 12-15 hour story was a pretty good amount of time to get through the game. You can collect anything you missed after the main story is over and more conversation options open up as well. I personally had a great time playing the game and wanted to keep on going as long as I could because the whole experience was so fun and the cast of characters were interesting and funny to get to know. This is one of my favorite games of 2021 so far and it’s a definite must-play!