Developer: Double Fine Ent.
Release Date: 4/19/2005
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The Good: Excellent delivery of voice acting, graphics, sound, and story, funny and witty dialog, memorable characters, decent length
The Bad: Platforming is a bit woeful, bosses are too easy, where’s the sequel?
I remember hearing so much about this game back in 2005. I wanted to play it really bad, but thanks to the poor release time of the year (Christmas holidays of ’05) Psychonauts was lost in the hype of all the fall and winter releases. I played the demo for PS2 and quickly realized I had to play either the Xbox or PC version to get a good experience because of the dumbed down visuals, poor frame rate and just overall bad performance on the PS2. So, now that Psychonauts has been an Xbox Original on the 360 for awhile I decided to spend the $15 and it was the best $15 I’ve spent in a long time. To start with the game’s strongest points are its visuals, story, and voice acting. The platforming is really fun and has unique ways of doing so, but there are extremely frustrating moments in the game that just make you scream!
You play as Raz who is a psycadet in a training camp for children trying to become Psychonauts. An evil dentist known as Dr. Loboto is stealing the children’s’ brains and another evil accomplice is behind it all and you need to find that out. When you start the game out you’ll notice how beautiful the world is (for a 3-year-old game). Everything is really bright and the shapes have a Nightmare Before Christmas type of style. Everything is shiny and twisty and it looks like an AAA cartoon. The voice acting is top notch and Raz is voiced by none other than Richard Levitz who plays the voice of Invader ZIM. The characters are very unique and you quickly learn to love them all. Accompanying the voice acting is clever dialog: It’s funny, witty, and keeps you drawn in.
When you explore the outside world you can hunt for Psi Cards, Arrowheads, and Challenge Markers. A challenge marker ranks you up so you can power up your psychic abilities (more on that later) if you collect 9 Psi Cards and buy a Psi Core from the store you can put them all together to create a challenge marker. Arrowheads are used as currency in the game but you need a Dowsing Rod to find the buried rare ones. The problem with this is that there never seems to be enough arrowheads in the game to buy everything. Small arrowheads are worth 1 and the rare ones are worth 75 yet there just doesn’t seem to be enough. Luckily, all your upgrades are acquired by ranking up so the only thing the store holds his life, and a few odds and ends (that are kind of useless).
Throughout the game, you’ll go inside people’s minds and try to solve their mental issues. This is what’s so unique about this game and most of the puzzles are more of how will you get from point A to point B using your powers instead of pulling levers and switches. There are 9 powers from Telekinesis, to Pyrokinesis, to Levitation, so a shield. All these powers are used very well and not one world is the same. Speaking of that the worlds are so unique that the graphics change in each level. One world has you in a war zone, one level looks like you’re in a painting, another level has you playing Waterloo against Napoleon!. The constant change in scenery is a huge plus and gets you excited for what’s coming next.
After about half way through the game, you’ll explore the main world hardly at all so when you do need to change in your markers or just get some more arrowheads there’s a warp system that takes you to each area. Once you finish a level and you want to go back and get some figments (these are floating neon 2D shapes that help you rank up: 100 and you rank up), cobwebs (these can be turned in for Psi Cards but you need the Cobweb Duster to get these), you can also find tags for emotional baggage (see what I mean? This game has very neat ideas: They are crying baggage of emotion and if you find the tag you set them free), find vaults (these have slideshows of why the person usually went mental).
There is a lot of collecting in the game, but it keeps you busy and something to do for completionists. What I liked so much is that completing the game 100% is not that difficult and you rarely need to resort to a FAQ. You always see everything it’s just a matter of what psychic power will get you there. The game has lots of action with great boss battles, but these can be a bit too easy (just a few hits they die) but overall it’s a tragedy that Psychonauts’ fate turned out the way it did and I hope there is a sequel soon! If it weren’t for the extremely frustrating platforming sections I would give this a 9.5, but that can really make things drag. The game is pretty long with about 12 hours of gameplay and even more of your a completionist.