Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox Series X , Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: 27 Aug 2021
Price: $99,95 AUD – Available Here $59,99 USD – Available on Steam and GOG
You know, it’s hard to get excited for games nowadays. And I know that I’m trying. I reviewed a lot, played even more and I’ve been burned too many times in order to still have faith in new releases. It’s just how it is. I remember one particular game where devs said they would never add microtransactions and then a few years later they did exactly that. I remember even more Kickstarter promising more that would put even Peter Molyneux to shame and after securing funds, they would release a barebone product of what we expected. Then we have obvious cash-grabs, sequels piggybacking on the fame of the originals, and so on. Considering that, it’s no wonder how a person can turn jaded and cynical. That’s why I was reserved when approaching Psychonauts 2 and partially expecting the worst. So, did I get the absolute worst or the absolute best? Read on and find out (how’s that for an incentive?)
The game pretty much continues where the original game left us. Raz is finally a member of the Psychonauts, no more internship for him. Our first task is to figure out what is happening to the head of the Psychonauts, Truman Zanotto. Ever since he was kidnapped and rescued, he hasn’t been the same. And to make things even worse, later we find out that there might be a mole in our organization. And to make things extra uncomfortable for Raz, his family is making an appearance in this game. Can he successfully reconnect with them after running away from home? Who is the mole? What is happening with Truman Zanotto? Questions, questions. The answers to those (and some more that you never bothered to ask) are hidden deep within the game.
First of all, Psychonauts 2 is a self-contained sequel. It might seem weird, but having played the first game is no requisite to fully understand the story here. Although, if you haven’t played the original game yet……..why not? Go do that right now and come back then to finish reading this. In any case, playing the original is not necessary even though is highly recommended. Raz now has new powers, new abilities, and new enemies. But the good news is that the fluidity of the movement and smoothness of the platforming is as good as before. If you just finished playing the first game and jumped right into the sequel, it will feel like the same game in terms of the gameplay and controls. Everything is here just as you left it 16 years ago. Enemies now have health bars and some might be more tedious than the others (looking at you, Panic Attack) but once you unlock a complete set of your powers, all of the enemies become nothing more than a nuisance. The sequel is now introducing sidequests as well. As you imagine, they’re not mandatory, but completing them will reward you with new moves, skill points and just give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy knowing that you helped someone. One particular sidequest will reward you with new costumes, so if you want to see Raz looking mighty suave in a business suit, you know what to do.
I rarely get to play a game where the creativity of the devs is so well presented in the level design, but Psychonauts 2 is surely one of those. One particular level where you help the musicians to get together as a band is so unique and trippy and psychedelic that I’m already seeing it as the new Milkman Conspiracy. You know, the one that it’s so good that it has its own Wikipedia page so I think it’s just a matter of time before PSI-King’s Sensorium gets one later as well. There’s no one word that I could use to describe all the levels in the game and “creative” is simply an understatement. Depending on the worlds, they range from bizarre to trippy to downright disturbing but they surely leave a long-lasting impression on the player. I already 100% completed some of them (gathered all the figments, vaults, bags, etc) but I still replayed some just to admire the level design and the familiar absurdity that could only be found in Psychonauts.
Usually, when I get to this section it’s where a game (almost any game) loses its momentum. Not Psychonauts 2, however. The voice acting is top-notch, the humor never feels forced and flat. The soundtrack is amazing but it’s not like I expected anything less and the sound effects on some levels (along with the narration) elevate the gameplay to a whole new level. I only miss how this time the levitation ball is less “boingy” (is that even a proper word?) compared to the first game cause that sound of the bouncing around really grew on me.
Sometimes miracles do happen. A game comes out that’s not a full cash grab and it’s doesn’t want to squeeze its player for the last dime. Sometimes there is a game where its sole intent is to make you feel good, to get you to have fun and enjoy the gameplay as much as you enjoy the story. Psychonauts 2 is one of those rare gems. A game with immense creativity, a game with a heart, and filled with love and passion through every level. It’s one of those games where after you complete it, your first wish is to have your memory erased so you could experience it again for the first time. If there is one game in this year that you shouldn’t skip, it’s this one.
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