It’s been 16 years since the original Psychonauts released on the original Xbox. Double Fine Productions, the publisher and developer of games like Brutal Legend and Grim Fandango Remastered, are back with the long-awaited sequel. Taking place after the VR-exclusive Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, you now deal with the aftermath of the kidnapping of Truman Zannotto after defeating Dr. Loboto.
Returning to the role of Razputin “Raz” Aquato, the son of a family of circus performers, your mission is to uncover a mole in the Psychonauts. Alternatively, you must also stop Maligula, a powerful but evil psychic killed by Ford Cruller. This robust platformer with mind bending abilities, deep mystery, and memorable characters returns, and it’s better than ever.
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Platforms: Windows PC (reviewed), Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S
Release Date: August 25th, 2021
Price: $59.99 USD
Opening the game, exposition is dumped via short flashback segment to catch you up on the events from the past two games. After recovering Truman Zannotto, the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, Raz and the others begin to force Dr. Loboto to answer who set him up. Before more interrogations, you arrive at Motherlobe, the headquarters of the Psychonauts organization.
Here, Raz is introduced to Hollis Forsythe, second head at the organization. After your first mission inside of her mind (combining a hospital with her gambling addiction), Raz discovers a secret room of information. Consequently, you stumble upon members of the Psychonauts and books about necromancy with plans to bring Maligula back to life once again.
Spoilers aside, Raz will travel into the minds of various agents to uncover the mystery of Maligula. On his way, he learns about the history of Ford Cruller, and the other members of Psychic Six. The plot is simple enough to keep you engaged and playthrough reasonably. However, it also is predictable to a degree, but fun nonetheless.
The standout elements in platformers are the controls and gameplay. The first game felt too loose to control and make precision movements, leading me to drop it. Needless to say, those issues are fixed, albeit 16 years later.
Psychonauts 2 isn’t a tough game, even when figuring out controls and powers. Difficulty is normal and some things present a challenge; for example Panic Attack, a quick moving enemy that can take advantage of your movements, is where difficulty spikes. After the initial encounter though, you learn a new ability Time Bubble to negate them.
Merit badges that grant you psychic abilities have a refreshed look to them, as well as a few new ones. PSI Blast, Telekinesis, Levitation, and other abilities are used throughout the game with puzzles and defeated enemies. Leveling them up adds more use for them.
In the case of Mental Connection, one of the new abilities, you can connect to dark nodes, useful for getting more collectibles. This adds for the need to gather collectibles to level up abilities for future fights with increasingly difficult enemies. After all, this game is a collectathon at it’s core. Collecting things such as PSI Cards and Figments aid in leveling up abilities, a first in the series.
Considering all of the new improvements made from the first game, I’ve enjoyed it so much that I want to go back to the original to test myself again. Abilities like Mental Connection, Time Bubble, and Projection add more to its arsenal to make this not only fun, but clever.
Some collectibles are locked off until you can get the appropriate abilities, which to me, is a weird stop gap. It’s a hindrance for sure, but it also forces you to progress the story further for those end game powers.
To compliment the gameplay, visual details including the zany art style and updated graphics from the first game sets this apart from others. Double Fine has stayed consistent with it’s character design between games, reminiscent of Tim Burton movies of the past. With the cartoony style, smooth edges on character models, and spectacular lighting; this is a worthy successor to the original- hands down.
Environments are massively detailed with lighting and excellent textures. Each mind or real life location feel huge and entrapping in the uncertain terrain. Additionally, in the case of Compton Boole’s mind, “Ram It Down” is a classic TV game show setting similar to The Price is Right. Easily, it can be included in one of my favorite detailed minds next to Hollis’ Hot Streak.
Atmospheric and filled with depth, even for linear levels throughout the game, feeling immersed naturally occurred. I find myself lost in the world and wanting to explore it more to make sure nothing is left behind.
From calm to chaotic, I enjoyed every moment of traversing the unknown in everyone’s minds, and wondering what platforms I might miss or fall from. Likewise, even after becoming familiar with areas, I still felt cautious for anything out of the ordinary.
Tonally, music in Psychonauts 2 hits perfectly in every location and situation. In the aforementioned minds, Hollis’ Hot Streak features Big Band instrumental music. Brass horns, pianos, and plenty of cymbals give the stereotypical Las Vegas feel of gambling, and I love it.
Alternatively in Ram It Down, the 70’s aesthetics take hold. I got thrown into a bed, faking a sickness, turning on the local syndicate channel to watch- I mean, play- some good gameshow.
In the same vein, sounds are very crisp to the ear. I can’t stress enough how excellent this sounded in my headphones. Each huge thud had huge movie theater quality bass behind it; in expansive minds, the ambient, cathedral interior effects give it much more depth.
There is also a fair bit of accessibility options, most with their share of scrutiny. You can employ all of them or none of them and you can still collect achievements or trophies. I never used these to complete the game, since they would have tainted my opinion slightly. Others can choose to use them if they so wish, as a means of accessibility or laziness.
Some options such as Narrative Combat makes Raz stronger to against enemies to defeat them quicker to focus more on the story itself. Invincibility, obviously, makes you impervious to enemy attacks. No Fall Damage as an option is useful, and from what I could tell, the first game featured as well.
While these options are available, not everyone will use them, probably for an authentic experience or maybe some will use it to finish the story quicker without interruption. I don’t necessarily mind this as most players won’t abuse this, but even if they do, no one will know or notice since it’s a single player game.
Overall, 16 years later nets you 16 hours worth of content at it’s base. Buying this for $60 USD is a steal for the spectacular time; even if you play this via Xbox Game Pass, it’s worth every penny. The message provided in this game helps you come to terms with things in your own life. In the world we live in, we need something like this that moves us to communicate with each other again.
Some loading stutters, some audio cuts, and small graphical glitches are noticeable; but barely detract from the overall package. Furthermore, the game is complete, almost rare in the current state of the industry. I highly recommend you play Psychonauts 2 as soon as possible. If there ever will a Psychonauts 3 I hope there isn’t another 16 year wait.