Psychonauts 2 review — God of the mind
For a long time I didn’t think we would ever get a Psychonauts 2. But a little over a decade after the original release, a Kickstarter appeared which luckily proved me wrong. The next problem, however, was the hype. Psychonauts is truly loved for a lot of good reasons, so the odds that Double Fine could live up to any fans’ hopes for the sequel seemed like a tall order. Fortunately, Psychonauts 2 Not only does it successfully capture all of the original’s wacky character and joy, but improves almost every aspect of its gameplay and storytelling pace. It’s not only one of the best games of the year, it’s one of the best 3D platformer games out there.
Psychonauts 2 resume immediately after Rhombus of ruin (although he does pick up part of his ending in a jarring fashion), which himself picked up straight from the first game. Raz eventually made his way to the Psychonauts headquarters, only to be surprised that he had become a mere intern after eventually stopping Oleander’s brain tank plan for world domination. Truman Zanotto, who was clearly awake and speaking at the end of RdR, is now comatose due to said retcon. I guess the direction of the story has changed over the past few years.
Either way, the story here is fantastic. Even if Psychonauts 2 repeats the error of the original game of having too much of the cast gone as Raz jumps into some minds, the writing and vocals are all Pixar quality. The game is funny, charming, touching and purely entertaining from start to finish. The rule of thumb here is that there is a mole at HQ who works with individuals who wish to bring back a powerful foe from the Psychonauts’ past. This leads to mysteries and revelations that make the story constantly gripping. And unlike the first game, every Spirit Raz jumps into feels really important to the overall narrative, as opposed to how the Asylum felt like a recovery questline, despite this area featuring the best levels in the game.
Someone is checking my brain
As you might expect, Psychonauts 2 sees Raz traveling through many brains, often to help people overcome trauma or mental block. While the levels here may not have the same high level of sharp originality as classics like Lungfishopolis, Waterloo World, or Milkman Conspiracy (although time will certainly tell on this front), the level design in the whole is significantly better. One major difference is that pretty much all of the adventure game inventory puzzles are gone except for a section or two that will force you to think outside the box. It puts more emphasis on platform and combat, but they’re both improved so much that it’s a nice change.
The abilities used by Raz are very similar to those in the first game. He attacks with psychic hand throws, but the combat is extremely smooth and responsive in the sequel, as opposed to the awkward three-hit strike of the past. He no longer strains and dodge based on lockdown, and instead uses a dodge button to get out of the way. The fight isn’t hugely complex, but that’s exactly where it needs to be. Psychic abilities have all undergone a major overhaul as well.
Some powers, such as the invisibility and confusion grenades, have been completely removed, but the returning powers have become much more effective. Telekinesis now allows objects to be thrown at enemies to stun them, instead of just throwing the enemy itself. Pyrokinesis creates fire in an area, instead of burning a single target after a certain time. Marksmanship has a faster rate of fire and feels more immediate. These all have fees, so you can’t keep spamming them. Others, like clairvoyance and levitation, are much the same, although levitation has new facets, and Raz can no longer soar indefinitely.
Jump from yesterday to now
The first game is not appreciated because it is a very good platform game. The controls and movements were adequate, of course, but they couldn’t compare to other stalwarts of the genre. This is no longer true. Psychonauts 2 has wonderful platform controls that facilitate precision, and the movement is just awesome. Raz is an acrobat, after all, so it was the right choice to make sure he feels more like one this time around. From a pure gameplay perspective, the action and combat are mostly perfect.
The levels themselves are not left out either. Highlights include a hospital turned casino, a germ town with a bowling alley motif and, my favorite, a psychedelic ’60s musical journey that sees you bringing together members of a sense group to help a brain. to recover from sensory overload.
Psychonauts 2 is beautiful too, with many amazing sights to see through the levels and the outside world. The character animation is smooth and the models are detailed and full of personality. Instead of the original Whispering Rock summer camp, we explore the headquarters and surrounding areas, which are quite large and quite diverse.
There are also challenge cards and markers to find, as well as psitanium (plus problematic arrowheads) to collect. Raz can carry healing items, and these can be purchased from store kiosks with ability upgrades and new pins that modify his abilities. The levels themselves also contain hundreds of floating items, along with emotional baggage, health upgrades, and instant collectibles to find. Increasing your rank now gives you skill points that you can put into abilities, instead of just being added to certain ranks. There is a lot to see and finding it all won’t be easy. You’ll have to come back to levels again later to pick up some things, although the spider web duster isn’t making a return.
You are not my boss
The only nitpick I can really hit Psychonauts 2 with is that boss fights are rare and somewhat disappointing. Most of them can be summed up as “Raz has to dodge a giant enemy standing outside the arena” and “you hurt them by shooting them”. They’re still interesting, but on their own they feel like a step back from the last lap, at least mechanically speaking. However, the game is much longer. I didn’t do it 100% but beating it and exploring it on my own took me about 18 hours. The ending left me craving, as things end pretty quickly, but every major character gets a new dialogue once you complete the game, although some of them don’t offer as much closure as I do. wished.
Independently, Psychonauts 2 is an incredible game that not only manages to retain most of what made its predecessor so beloved, but also improves all of its gaming systems while remaining true to them. I wish there were more boss fights and they were more interesting and varied, but, as a fan of the first game, I’m incredibly happy with Psychonauts 2. It’s a worthy sequel and an easy contender for Game of the Year, and a must-have game for anyone who enjoys Pixar movies or platformers in general.
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