Psychonauts 2 review: A triumphant return for Double Fine Productions

[ad_1]

Psychonauts 2Source: Windows Central / Double Fine Productions

Windows Central Must Play AwardWindows Central Must Play Award

In April 2005, then-new game developer Double Fine Productions unleashed their first brainchild onto the world — Psychonauts. This platformer told the story of Razputin Aquato, a young runaway acrobat who dreams of joining an organization of psychic secret agents, the titular Psychonauts. It was in many ways ahead of its time with imaginative 3D level design, clever writing, interesting characters, and polished gameplay — with a thoughtful message about mental health — a topic which was rarely discussed so openly back then. What’s more, Psychonauts still holds up today.

For over a decade and a half, fans have wished for a sequel to this cult classic, and now their wish has been granted. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, and the good graces of Microsoft’s backing, Psychonauts 2 has finally been released for the Xbox Series X, Series S, and Windows PC, as part of Xbox Game Pass.

VPN Deals: Lifetime license for $16, monthly plans at $1 & more

As someone who’s only recently become a fan of the first game, I was excited to play Psychonauts 2 and see what new mind-bending adventures were in store for Raz. With over 15 years of expectations to fulfill, does Psychonauts 2 have the mental fortitude to succeed? Well, let’s pick the game’s brains and find out.

Stop the Deluginists!


Psychonauts 2 BoxartPsychonauts 2 Boxart

Psychonauts 2

Bottom line: Psychonauts 2 is a wonderful, masterfully crafted platformer exploring complex themes while providing tons of fun gameplay. It retains the movie-quality writing, thoughtful character development, and artistic expression of the original Psychonauts while refining the platforming and combat systems.

Pros:

  • Engaging story that explores themes of mental health.
  • Endearing characters.
  • The art direction and level design is some of the best in recent times.
  • Tight platforming controls and gameplay.
  • Vastly improved combat system.

Cons:

  • Dodging can be finicky during the chaotic later levels.
  • The map doesn’t display your current location making navigation needlessly tough.

Psychonauts 2: Presentation

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2Source: Windows Central / Double Fine Productions

Category Psychonauts 2
Title Psychonauts 2
Developer Double Fine Productions
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Genre Platformer
Game size 28.5GB
Playtime 15+ hours
Players Single
Launch price $60
Xbox Game Pass Yes

If there is one defining aspect of Double Fine Productions’ games, it’s their presentation. The art direction of their games has always been a unique feast for the eyes, even if they were held back by a low budget and limited tech. Psychonauts 2, however, is perhaps the first time that the developers have been able to really push the art of their craft, exploring the scale of their creativity with a beefier budget, and they spared no expense using it.

The stylized character designs of Psychonauts 1 make a return, and they have been given an HD makeover. Seeing these bizarre and yet appealing cartoon characters animate with such rich graphical fidelity was really fun to watch. At times I felt I was watching a big-budget Pixar or DreamWorks movie, given how expressive and detailed the character designs are.

At times I felt I was watching a big-budget Pixar or DreamWorks movie, given how expressive and detailed the character designs are.

But Double Fine Production’s knack for visual creativity really shines when you telepathically tap into a person’s mind. The devs go to town on showcasing the inner workings of a person’s psyche using all sorts of surreal metaphorical imagery, music cues, and even gameplay mechanics, creating rich dreamscapes that defy the imagination.

On the first level, I was platforming through the twisted mind of a dentist where the walls of a normal office mutated into masses of teeth and gums. And the next level, I was spelunking through the mind of a gambling addict whose memories of a hospital have been warped into a paradoxical casino/hospital hybrid. Those are just the first two levels, and I dare not describe the rest of Psychonauts 2’s levels because I don’t want to spoil the surprises — they have to be seen to be believed.

The segments where you are exploring the real world are just as impressive. With bright colors, meticulous attention to detail, and memorable landmarks that give the impression that you have entered a futuristic world where psychic powers are the norm.

Psychonauts 2 Media Screenshot

Psychonauts 2 Media ScreenshotSource: Double Fine Productions

The audio presentation is also top notch, with superb performances of the voice cast bringing the characters’ personalities to life. Psychonauts fans will be pleased to know that the entire voice cast of the original game has returned to reprise their roles and they sound just good as they did back in 2005. The game also features an eclectic soundtrack containing multiple genres of music to compliment the setting of the levels, complete with remixes of Psychonauts 1’s soundtrack to tickle a fan’s nostalgic funny bones.

The cherry on top of this visual psychic sundae is that Psychonauts 2 runs flawlessly at 60 FPS with HDR and 4K resolution support thanks to the power of the Xbox Series X. It’s no slouch on the Xbox Series S either, outputting the same frame rate albeit at a reduced resolution. Double Fine leverages ray-tracing and HDR effortlessly to elevate the game’s presentation, adding an extra dimension for players with new-gen hardware. For every sense, Psychonauts 2 is absolutely gorgeous. Although, I’m glad that you can’t smell some of the levels.

Psychonauts 2: Story

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2Source: Windows Central / Double Fine Productions

The story picks up literally moments after the first game, just a day after Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin. If you’re entirely new to Psychonauts, the game starts with a video recapping all the events that led to Psychonauts 2 to get you caught up.

After helping the Psychonauts rescue their leader, Truman Zanotto, who was kidnapped by Dr. Loboto, Raz is taken to the Psychonauts HQ, the Motherlobe. Raz’s dream of finally becoming an official Psychonaut get summarily stalled when the acting CEO, Hollis Forsythe, appoints him to be an intern, not a full agent. Not only that, but Raz also has to contend with other psychic interns looking to become Psychonauts, and these teens are more mean-spirited than the kids back at Whispering Rocks Summer Camp.

But high-school hijinks will have to wait. The Psychonauts deduce that a mole is hiding amongst their organization, feeding information to a dangerous cult called the Deluginists. These cultists are trying to resurrect Maligula, a powerful, murderous, evil psychic who took the combined might of the best Psychonaut agents to defeat. And on top of all that, Truman has been unconscious ever since his kidnapping. Suffice to say, Raz has got a lot to deal with on his first day on the job, but he’s going to give it everything he’s got.

Psychonauts 2

Psychonauts 2Source: Windows Central / Double Fine Productions

Psychonauts 2’s story retains the movie-quality writing, insightful character development, witty dialogue, and intriguing world-building the first game delivered, albeit elevated to new heights. Trying to piece together the clues to identify the mole and seeing Raz learning what it truly means to be a Psychonaut had me hooked throughout the main storyline.

Conversing with the interns and Psychonauts of the Motherlobe was also engaging. The various characters always have something new and insightful to say after every mission, giving the game’s world and characters added depth. Conversations with the various veteran Psychonauts agents will offer a deeper appreciation for the game’s world and characters, while also throwing in witty banter and comedic moments that delight at every turn.

Psychonauts 2 Media Screenshot

Psychonauts 2 Media ScreenshotSource: Double Fine Productions

The most elegant aspects of the story, once again, tackle themes about mental health and healing. Without going into spoilers, many of the characters you connect with telepathically are blighted with various mental hang-ups and trauma, complete with tons of emotional baggage (and not the cute, collectible kinds, scattered through various levels).

If, like me, you see yourself in some of these emotional sequences, you may end up feeling a little healed too.

Psychonauts keeps it light-hearted in this regard, but each mindscape tells poignant stories that showcase events that shaped their lives in different ways. One level whose story I relate to personally in particular to is the fear…

[ad_2]

Read More:Psychonauts 2 review: A triumphant return for Double Fine Productions