THE sequel to 2005’s cult favourite Psychonauts is about to launch on August 25, and a lot of people are going to be wondering if it’s been worth the wait.
Yes, yes it is.
Developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Microsoft for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation, Psychonauts 2 picks up literally right after the last entry in the series (Rhombus of Ruin) left off.
The game casts you as Razputin “Raz” Aquato, a 10-year-old psychic circus performer who has run away from his family to try and join the Psychonauts superagent team.
Psychonauts 2 opens with the organisation’s head kidnapped and Raz & Co trying to work out who did it and why – and what the potential return mysterious entity known as “Maligula” might have to do with it.
Raz explores physical world locations around Psychonaut HQ (known as “The Motherlobe”) and people’s psyches to unravel the mystery, developing his psychic powers and piecing things together, in an environment of fun humour, enjoyable gameplay and really interesting visuals.
In a very broad sense, think a family-friendly spy-fi themed humorous combination of Inception and Control, with some offbeat 90s animation art inspiration, and you’ll be in the same postcode, more or less.
I really enjoyed Psychonauts 2; it was funny, it was quirky, it was imaginative, and it was well designed all around.
The audio in the game is really good – particularly Richard Horwitz’s voice acting as Raz – and the visuals are particularly impressive; I reviewed the game on a Samsung QN900A Neo QLED 8K TV and it looked absolutely amazing; from the neon glow of the casino-hospital to the intricate detail on some of the character costumes, the game looked as nice as it played.
As with the previous game, the level design was excellent and imaginative – one of my favourites was a psyche that had warped into a combination of casino and hospital, while a psychedelic 1970s rock concert themed level was delightfully trippy too. I also really enjoyed a level designed to look like a theme park ride
Even within the levels, there are some great sub-sections; one where Raz navigates the pages of a book to reach key information was well done and fit nicely in the context of the level.
Raz has a range of psychic powers he develops over the game, including levitation, telekinesis, clairvoyance, and being able to make “mental connections” – all of which prove useful for solving problems and fighting enemies too.
At its heart, the game is a platformer – but it’s an inventive and imaginative one, with a cast of quirky and engaging people with some really interesting stories of their own too.
Psychonauts 2 gets bonus points for being family-friendly and accessible, too. While the “git gud” crowd on the internet might complain about the existence of an invulnerability mode, I loved that it was there because it meant combat didn’t feel like a frustrating obstacle standing between the player and the next experience.
The enemies Raz faces are all elements of people’s psyches – chiefly things like Censors (who look like bureaucrats with giant rubber ‘No’ stamps), Regrets (who are lumbered with heavy weights they like to drop on Raz) and Bad Moods (who have an attached ‘source’ which needs to be found and eliminated). They also change subtly depending on the psyche Raz is exploring – for example, the Censors in a level themed after a late 70s/early 80s TV cooking gameshow wear gold lamé jackets.
The fact the game still works well when you can’t lose at combat is testament to its solid level design, story and worldbuilding. The combat still has an important narrative purpose, and unleashing psychic powers one enemies is still rewarding, especially when you can do things like set one enemy on fire and watch as they collide with another enemy, setting them alight too.
The game’s story was surprisingly well done, covering a range of subjects, and even managing to work in some elements about alcoholism and loss that were handled well too.
I don’t have a lot of serious criticisms of the game – mainly, some of the characters are underused, and that to get the most out of the character jokes, you really need to have played Psychonauts. Fortunately, that’s available on Game Pass along with its sequel (you do have Game Pass, right?) and the game is absolutely enjoyable even if you haven’t played the first game.
It’s just a nice, fun game that doesn’t have anything objectionable in it, and the colourful visuals and quirky sense of fun throughout the game just add to the experience.
Psychonauts 2 is out on Game Pass on August 25th and I can’t recommend it highly enough – it’s a must-play and well worth your time.