Psychonauts 2 evaluation | PC Gamer
Have to know
What’s it? A mind-bending sequel to Double Fantastic’s most celebrated sport.
Count on to pay: £55/$60
Developer: Double Fantastic Productions
Writer: Xbox Recreation Studios
Reviewed on: RTX 2080 Ti, AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 6-core processor, 16GB ram
Hyperlink: Official website
You may inform so much a few sport’s soul by what it deems a ‘perk’. Fallout 3, for instance, thinks being higher at murdering girls is one. In Trendy Warfare it is dropping a grenade after demise like a smug ghost. In Psychonauts 2, Double Fantastic will promote you a ‘beastmastery’ pin badge modifier that permits Raz’s psychic fist—normally used for thumping and tossing—to stroke woodland animals. You spend cash to harm fewer issues. One other pin makes him groove when left unattended; dance like no person’s watching, when nobody is enjoying. Truthfully? It is a tonic.
As headlines go, “Tim Schafer sport favours silliness over sadism” is hardly a shocker. However it’s been 15 years because the unique; time sufficient to neglect how foolish Psychonauts could be, and the startling locations these jokes can take us. After all, for the sport’s inhabitants, it has been however three days: wannabe Psychonaut Raz left Whispering Rock Psychic Summer time Camp on a rescue mission—seen in VR spin-off Rhombus of Break—and we rejoin him in its aftermath. A video fills all that in, however first-hand expertise is really useful given the juicy callbacks all through.
And what a begin: a Mission Unattainable-style con to idiot a villain inside his personal thoughts, just for a dental fixation to contaminate the plan. With its heroes’ energy to enter and affect the psyche, I all the time thought Psychonauts did the Inception factor lengthy earlier than Inception, and this ESPionage solely hammers the similarity residence. After all, Psychonauts does not accept a dreamscape as humdrum as a rotating lodge hall. Right here you are using molars, zapping tooth fairies and descending throats. It slips down the gullet of this returning fan simply as simply.
Basically, not a lot has modified since 2005. OK, it has an eye-searing prettiness that comes from an additional 16 years of HD knowhow. However underneath ranges which can be variously knitted, hand drawn or printed on x-ray movie you continue to sense acquainted cogs. It is one other throwback to the 3D mascot platformers of the late ’90s. An explorable hub world siphons you into standalone ranges, all festooned with sufficient collectibles to offer even Banjo and Kazooie chilly sweats.
The hub is now Psychonauts HQ, which looks like The Incredibles and The Muppets chucked in a blender: its workforce of potato-faced oddballs spitting zingers, whereas stirring music and retrofuturistic decor sells you on the group’s grand mission. After 15 hours I nonetheless repeatedly quick journey to the atrium simply to get successful of its swelling theme. Composer Peter McConnell does unbelievable work all through the sport, turning his hand to extra genres than some may deal with in a complete profession.
From there, Raz hops inside heads to unpick private traumas that each infect and form the psychological landscapes. Image Mario 64’s self-contained worlds, if Tiny-Big Island was a metaphor for Wario’s impotence. On one hand they serve up the consolation meals of these older platformers. You hoover up a whole bunch of imaginary figments and earmark hidey-holes to return to with later upgrades. It is stable, commonplace stuff and can maintain completionists pleased for 20 hours. However ranges are far more than impediment programs to tidy up.
Each thoughts tells a narrative. And never within the hackneyed language of audio logs and ten foot-tall ‘HELP ME’ graffiti. That is stage design as exposition. For instance, one man’s familial alcoholism turns into a poisonous swamp the place his disgrace manifests as a riverbed of discarded gin bottles that you just navigate earlier than booze drowns them once more. One other standout sees a bureaucrat’s medical hospital of a thoughts hijacked by a on line casino. Exploring pill-filled pachinko parlours is a visible spectacle and could be appreciated as that, however the metaphorical dimension is simply as satisfying to decipher.
Crucially, there’s not a drained style trope to be discovered. Sick of slippy-slidey ice worlds? Strive a stage set on the marriage cake of a now-mourning widower. You do not see that in Crash Bandicoot (although I’ve not performed ‘The Wrath of Cortex’, so apologies if I am misrepresenting its psychological nuance). I like the section that revisits a relationship in an getting old, fractured thoughts, every reminiscence getting jumbled with the host’s stints as a barber, mailman and bowling alley attendant. It is wistful and tragic, all whereas conjuring disasters from human hair or a vortex of unread love letters. Weirdly, it additionally makes Psychonauts 2 a great companion piece to Yakuza: Like A Dragon as a story in regards to the turmoils of an older technology than tends to hog the gaming highlight.
This possibly paints Psychonauts 2 as extra dour than it’s. This is not a type of heart-on-sleeve distress fests you sagely nod at whereas secretly wishing you had been enjoying Peggle. It is a sport the place you discover a shoe whereas micro organism shriek about an antifungal extinction occasion. The most effective ranges nonetheless flip the principles as the unique’s did. One thoughts’s an archipelago explored like a miniature Wind Waker; one other, a cooking present that turns into a parody of Overcooked as you race to feed whooping strawberries right into a blender. I am undecided something tops the primary sport’s Milkman Conspiracy, however listening to an egg boast about its personal execution comes shut.
At moments I’m wondering if Tim Schafer, as the sport’s author, is enjoying a form of sport design Whose Line Is It Anyway?, drawing random phrases from a hat and making an attempt to roll with it. What recommendation would Shakespeare supply Raz? How does a rustic’s navy historical past sound sung as a chirping Disneyland ditty? Acquired any gags about funicular railways? Amazingly, these are the boring questions. Within the sport’s most audacious comedian set piece you are given a complete mind to rewire, with each attainable mixture of ideas leading to a punchline. It is a literal joke manufacturing unit, and I can solely think about the darkish nights of the soul spent making each combo zing.
I would go additional and say that as you wander the overworld and chat with fellow ‘nauts it begins to resemble a misplaced LucasArts journey. The puzzling is extra bodily, pushed by Raz’s evolving psychic skills, however the variety of weirdos you get to converse with, mining their dialogue bushes for each final snort, paints a world as vivid and alive as a Rubacava or Mêlée Island. I am head over heels for The Questionable Space, a daft hit of vacationer entice Americana the place you half count on to stumble upon Sam and Max, such is the highly effective oddness of its rickety points of interest.
One draw back to the novelty is that I miss the Whispering Rock gang. Bar Raz’s (possibly) girlfriend Lili, not one of the child cadets make the journey, and their replacements, Raz’s rival interns, do not have the identical influence. Their shared standoffishness blurs collectively, and the story sidelines them after a unbelievable first act. That opening stretch does such a great job establishing characters and stakes, and delivering a payoff (actually, it is like a Pixar movie in a sport) that it does not go away these relationships anyplace to go. Effectively, apart from providing mundane facet missions—a plodding little bit of zig in a world that all the time strives to zag.
It is a uncommon second of untapped potential in a sequel that improves on its predecessor in virtually each regard. Simply the act of transferring makes it simpler to suggest. If Raz entered my psychological scar tissue he’d discover the platforming from Psychonauts 1. A part of me by no means left the Meat Circus. In 2021 Raz is responsive, his rope and pole gymnastics are now not a multitude of button presses and the digicam has your again, or no matter facet you need it to have. Throw in beneficiant checkpointing and no life counter and it is as responsive and welcoming a 3D platformer as you will see outdoors of Nintendo.
Fight is likewise revamped, with a neater dodge roll and dollop of autoaim that unlocks the potential of psi powers I discovered too fussy within the unique. Simply with the ability to telekinetically lob surroundings with out wrestling with throwing arcs makes for rambunctious rumbles from the outset. And there is extra enemy selection this time as flying imps, mine-laying sprites and gavel-wielding judges give particular person fights a definite flavour and ensures each potential has an opportunity to shine. Remapping powers continues to be a faff, but when that is the value of significant brawls, so be it.
Given how Double Fantastic spruces up the thrashings it is maybe shocking how stingily it rations them out. Fights are uncommon in most ranges—non-existent within the hub world—which makes a brand new improve system barely superfluous. It is arduous to get enthusiastic about nimbler lobs if you use them so occasionally. It makes post-credits play significantly unusual: you are basically returning to empty worlds to push up your cadet rank and purchase upgrades and power-ups with no enemies to make use of them on. It is simply you and a complete lot of squirrels to scritch.
Perhaps it should not come as a shock that the locations Psychonauts 2 bows to conference are the place Double Fantastic is a bit more uncertain of itself. This has all the time been a workforce extra comfy taking inventive dangers—its studio brand is a child fired from a cannon, in spite of everything—and it is that side I select to have a good time. Not simply the wild comedian swings, however the truth that this can be a mainstream videogame that offers sympathetically with the messy enterprise of being human. Strip away the screeching eggs and bacterial prophets of doom and it is a story of regrets and the trail out of them. I do not assume enjoying Psychonauts 2 will develop into certainly one of them. So don that beastmastery badge: pats on the again for all concerned.