Combining quirky missions and mysterious conspiracies, Psychonauts 2 is a platform-adventure game with cinematic style and tons of customizable psychic powers.
Publisher: Double Fine
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Also available for: Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PS4, PC
Cast: Richard Steven Horvitz, Audrey Wasilewski, Stephen Stanton, David Kaye, Nick Jameson, Jack Black
Developer: Double Fine
Writen by: Tim Schafer
Art Director: Lisette Titre-Montgomery
For many, the original Xbox was the home of Halo 2, Perfect Dark and Conker, but for a small selection, it was the home of Psychonauts. Since its 2005 release, it has heavily flown under the radar of many, even with the strong credentials of Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions. Sixteen years later, and after a foray into VR, Double Fine now brings the Psychonauts back with Psychonauts 2 to Xbox Game Pass, Playstation 4, PC and Mac. With the backing of Xbox Game Studios, can this cult classic find a home amongst the Battle Royales and the triple-A epics of the modern era?
Psychonauts 2 picks up directly after the events of Psychonauts (2005) and Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin (2017), with Razputin (Raz) Aquato and the Psychonauts returning to Psychonauts HQ with the rescued Truman Zanotto, Head Psychonaut. But with their return comes plenty more questions for Raz as he joins the Psychonauts Intern program. Raz is tasked with unravelling what is going on within the spy organisation while dealing with some closer to home issues. Those new to the Psychonauts franchise should not be dismayed by the closeness this instalment has with the ongoing story. The team at Double Fine has done a fantastic job bringing players up to speed with the events of the previous two games within the opening moments.
Tim Schafer and the team at Double Fine once again show their writing credentials throughout Psychonauts 2. Its absurdist world is filled with interesting and well-developed characters, from the fractured creator of the Psychonauts, Ford Cruller, the cautiously pragmatic Hollis Forsythe and even the wonderfully estranged Aquato family. Thanks to these characters, the comedy naturally flows throughout each world and never seems out of place or forced, all a trademark of Double Fine Productions. Each character is given the time to grow throughout the game, beyond the strangely comedic characters they are initially introduced as, which creates connections with the player beyond the final credits.
Another trademark of Double Fine is the way they use comedy to explore much deeper topics. Each Psyche you explore, you begin to see how people deal with trauma in different ways. Character lines that make you laugh will take you a second to consider the meaning for each character and how it affects the world their Psyche has created. By the end of the twenty+ hour campaign, you’re left with plenty to think about, not only the fantastic twists and turns of the story itself but also how these absurd characters truly reflect people you could meet in everyday life and how they are dealing with their trauma. This ability to craft detailed stories beyond the surface throughout Psychonauts 2 is a shining light in a game full of them and hopefully an aspect that will see more Psychonauts tails bursting onto our screens.
A great story is not all that the team at Double Fine has to offer; Psychonauts 2 brings the adventure platformer into the modern-day as players find themselves running, jumping and floating throughout the world with a wide range of abilities that fit perfectly in any Psychonauts kitbag. With both the original list of abilities returning, including Levitation and Pyrokinesis and a selection of new abilities, Double Fine has found a way to integrate them seamlessly within both the world exploration and the high paced combat. Raz takes on enemies such as Regret and Panic Attacks, which take monster-like forms in the minds you’re exploring. Players are encouraged to cater their abilities to their playstyle with the ability to switch between them on the fly. Each ability can be improved as you rank up within the Psychonauts to provide a range of upgrades and perks. With any good platformer comes an array of collectables, and Psychonauts 2 certainly has enough to fill your nearby psycho isolation chamber. Figments fill each world to be collected to help you rank up, Psytanium can be found to buy a range of pins and items to upgrade Raz’s skill set, and Brain Halves can be found to increase your Mental Energy (health), just to name a few.
Another constant in the platforming genre is, of course, death. Misjudging that jump a tad too much, or your levitation pops that bit too early, and players will find themselves hurtling off the map to and at a loading screen to try again. With next-generation technology, the loading times in between were minimal on the Xbox Series X.
While Raz is not diving into fractured minds, there is also the beautiful overworld to explore inside the Psychonauts HQ and its surrounding areas. There are plenty of chances to catch up with characters and, for a wonderful distraction from the twists and turns of the main adventure, side quests to complete.