The most significant thing I can say about Psychonauts 2 is that it is superior to the first, which was not a horrible game in the first place.
The first Psychonauts film was released in 2005. It was a delightful and imaginative 3D platformer. Those virtues helped to mask some of the game’s weaknesses, such as some uncomfortable pacing and a color palette that can appear a little… pukey at times. Psychonauts 2 is a sleeker and prettier experience, releasing on August 25 for Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It amazed me with its bright realms and flawless performance when I played it on Xbox Series X.
Thanks to a humorous script and a wide cast of memorable characters, Psychonauts 2 keeps all of the original’s charm.
It’s story time!
Most 3D platformers are primarily concerned with mechanics, with plot playing a minor role. In Psychonauts 2, the narrative is significantly more prominent. It tells the narrative of Raz, a young psychic who tries to join a telepathic agent agency. The game takes place immediately following the events of the VR experience Rhombus of Ruin, which took place immediately following the events of the original game. Don’t worry, if you can’t remember what occurred in the previous games, a video at the beginning of Psychonauts 2 will catch you up (or if you have never played the VR exclusive Rhombus of Ruin).
Because the focus is on the plot, you’ll have lots of opportunities to interact with the characters, allowing you to discover more about your fellow Psychonauts interns and mentors. You’ll also have to sit through a lot of cutscenes. I often wish there were fewer of them so I could get back to playing, but the cutscenes are usually amusing or fascinating enough that I enjoy them.
Psychonauts 2’s plot also sets it apart from other recent 3D platformers. Psychonauts 2 may not have as many acrobatic skills as Super Mario Odyssey or as fulfilling a challenge as Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, but it does provide a captivating narrative experience that most games in this genre fail to achieve.
It’s all in your head.
I don’t mean to imply that the 3D platforming elements in Psychonauts 2 aren’t intriguing or entertaining. You have standard skills such as a double leap and gliding (although they do have fun psychic themes tied to them, like how you slow your descent from a fall by holding onto a thought bubble that functions like a balloon). Other platforming abilities are more unique, such as zipping between stray ideas floating through the air, which allows you to reach regions that are otherwise inaccessible. You can also use this technique to connect different thoughts and affect a person’s personality, such as making them dislike cilantro on one level.
Because the levels take place within the heads of the characters, you’ll be exploring a distinct mental realm with some inventive themes in each one. One has you hopping your way through a hospital that has been converted into a casino. Another has you competing in a terrifying Iron Chef-style cooking tournament. Each stage provides something new, whether it’s a new power or a gimmick, such as having to roll through a metropolis full of sentient germs on top of a gigantic bowling ball.
It’s also fun to explore the universe outside of these self-contained phases. This includes Psychonauts HQ, which has a modern vintage atmosphere that will appeal to anyone who, like me, grew up loving Epcot in the 1980s and 1990s. There’s also the surrounding outdoor camping area, which hides a plethora of secrets in high locations or behind some amusing obstacles.
Psychonauts 2 contains a slew of collectibles, much like any other competent 3D platformer.
I appreciate how most things are designed to help you become stronger. You aren’t just amassing things for the sake of amassing them. Finding cards, mental ideas, and other trinkets can help you rank up, which means your psychic powers can develop. Your pyrokinesis, which allows you to start a small fireball, can gradually spread to a bigger area and cause more damage.
a few aches and pains
Psychonauts are often lovely and innovative, yet they have a jankiness about them. The flow of cutscenes can be disrupted by loading screens,
since you’ll find yourself looking at them in between sequential story elements. It’s especially strange on Xbox Series X, where the loading time is only a fraction of a second. As a result, you can watch an important moment,
then transition to a short animation of a beaver hanging out in the woods (the loading screen), and then proceed to the next part of the story.
Furthermore, as beautiful as the landscapes and character models are, the animation is mediocre. Movements can appear rigid and uninspiring. The game’s art design is reminiscent of a Tim Burton-inspired animated feature. I wish the animation was as good as that.
Nonetheless, 16 years after the first Psychonauts released, it’s comforting to know that the sequel was well worth the wait. It retains much of what made the first special so popular,
such as the humor and level of creativity, but with a more spectacular visual package.
If you liked the first game or just appreciate the notion of a psychic-themed 3D platformer,
I’m confident you’ll enjoy Psychonauts 2 and laugh a lot.
On August 25, Psychonauts 2 will released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PC. For this review, Microsoft sent GamesBeat a digital Xbox Series X version.