Psychonauts 2 – Review

Psychonauts 2 is the long awaited sequel from Double Fine and Microsoft and it doesn’t disappoint. The game is a tremendous amount of fun with a lot of heart where you are trying to unravel the mystery of what happened in the past that led to the current set of events. I’m not going to give out story details because I don’t want to spoil anything but I enjoyed it quite a bit and there were a couple of twists I definitely didn’t see coming. Psychonauts 2 is unlike any game I have really played before. At its core it is an action platformer but there is so much more to it than that. Each world is different, and I mean, really different. The variety was astounding whether I was in a postal center trying to help a letter get addressed, in a psychedelic music concert trying to get a band back together, running behind some x-rays at a hospital while the doctor and nurse were looking at them, and more.

Psychonauts 2 is a wild game and I mean that in the best possible way. It picks up immediately after the events of the first one. You are trying to figure out how Loboto kidnapped the head of the Psychonauts and who hired him to do so. To try and accomplish this, they build a mental construct and have you go inside his head, in hopes he’ll lead you to the responsible party. Of course things are never that easy. You get a glimpse of who might be pulling the strings from the shadows but you don’t really find out until much later in the game. This first mission is used as a tutorial to get you familiar with some of the controls and concepts you will be using throughout the game. Once you get through this it is on the way to Psychonauts HQ where your adventure is really set to begin, on a number of different levels.

You play the character of Razputin, a ten year old who is a lifelong fan of the Psychonauts who always dreamed of being a Psychonaut himself one day. The Psychonauts see him as a bit of a hero thanks to the events of the first game but the head of the Psychonauts doesn’t see him that way, at least not in the beginning. You have to prove yourself worthy of being an agent and it isn’t always easy, whether it is going through someone’s mind to fix whatever problem they may have, or dealing with other kids your age that have the same aspirations you do.

The overall premise of the Psychonauts and the reason they exist is to try and help people overcome some problems they might have. For one of the characters in the game his memory has been shattered so you have to go through different worlds to get the shards of glass that were scattered so that he can get back to being his normal self. Every Psychonaut went through a traumatic experience prior to the events of the second game and a large part of the game’s story is showing empathy and trying to help everyone recover.

The Psychonauts HQ acts like a bit of a hub world for the game, at least early on. This is where you will find many of the main Psychonaut characters. You’ll be able to stock up on supplies here and upgrade some of your equipment. You’ll be able to talk to different people to get more backstory on what is going on. There are collectibles to find that will allow you to raise your rank. As you progress further into the game you’ll be able to go outside and visit other locations such as the Psychoisolation Chamber, Abandoned Mine, the Questionable Area, and more. Every location will have a cast of characters around there and a bunch of items for you to find so that you can upgrade your skill tree and become a more powerful Psychonaut.

The collectibles in the game are a few different things. They are labeled as being a figment of that mind’s imagination and it is your (optional) job to collect them. For every 100 you get, you will earn another rank. There are also half minds to find. If you find two half minds and put them together you will gain another brain that is full of mental energy, your HP in the game. If your Mental Energy reaches zero then you basically “die” in the game and go back to the next checkpoint. Fortunately the checkpoint system works pretty well in the game so you really aren’t ever sent back too far. There are also a total of nine different powers that you can upgrade throughout your journey. There is Melee, Clairvoyance, Projection, Levitation, and more. As you rank Razputin up you will acquire one credit. These credits are used to upgrade the different powers. For me personally, I upgraded PSI Blast first as that was one of my favorite methods of attacking enemies. You can do it in whatever order you want but you will want to think about the type of character you are building and what your playstyle is before upgrading. There are also pins you can buy that will augment your character even further. For example, one of the pins I have equipped is the “Fever Reducer”. That pin has fire hazards and attacks not draining as much of my Mental Energy.

Speaking of attacks, there are a number of interesting enemies in the game. These enemies are manifested in the brain of everyone and represent some real world problems that some people have. For example, one of the enemies is called Regret. If a character has some regrets it can weigh them down so you need to try and eliminate them when you can. There are also censors that attack you. They see you as a thought that doesn’t belong in that mind and try to take you out any way they can. There is also a Panic enemy for when a character is having a panic attack and you have to destroy it to calm everything down again. There are a wide variety of enemies that represent different conditions or feelings someone might have and it helps the story be a little more poignant.

When you first start out Psychonauts there is a warning from Double Fine and Microsoft about the sensitive nature of the topic(s) covered in Psychonauts 2 since it deals with mental health and some other things. They also give you a resource to go to if you are dealing with your own mental health issues. It is an amazing idea by the developers and is only one of the many accessibility options you find in this game. Keeping with accessibility, there are a number of different options for you to choose from so that you have the experience you want. Some of the assist features, for example, include no fall damage, invincibility, and narrative combat. The first two are self explanatory but narrative combat turned on allows Razputin to deal significantly more damage during combat so that you can focus more on the story. Other options include being able to use larger subtitles and having increased font legibility, as well as color blindness compensation. The development team at Double Fine really thought about accessibility a lot and they are to be commended for all of these different features. It will open the game up to even more people who can play it however they want.

For me personally I went through the game on standard difficulty with most of the assists turned off. I think I had fall damage turned off but that was it. Going through the game I didn’t find it to be all that difficult although there were a couple of boss fights that took me a few tries to get past. There are also some areas in the game that can involve some tricky platforming where you basically have to just jump and hope you land where you wanted. If you miss your mark the game will usually start where you left off so you don’t lose any progress but it can still get a tad annoying at times if you think you did a good job but just fall short of where you wanted to land. As I was progressing through the adventure I also really came to appreciate the audio soundtrack here. As I mentioned up above, there is a tremendous amount of variety in the different worlds you will encounter and the soundtrack is a big part of that as well

Overall Psychonauts 2 is a wonderful game. Some of the themes they deal with might be a bit triggering for certain people you are dealing with some type of mental trauma and I once again applaud Double Fine and Microsoft for putting in that warning in the beginning, along with a site that you can go to if you are in need of help. The worlds are varied and vibrant which helps keep the game fresh and engaging as you try to figure out what is going on. If you are a fan of action platformers, be sure to check this out. If you are a Game Pass member, all you have to do is download it. Also, don’t worry about it if you haven’t played the original Psychonauts game. They have a video here that will bring you up to speed on important events that took place in the first title.

Score: 9/10

Originally posted on Gaming Target

Note: Microsoft provided us with a code for Psychonauts 2 for review purposes.

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