Psychonauts 2 is ready – and it’s here. Tell that to someone in the late 2000s and they probably wouldn’t believe you. The original psychonauts, released in 2005 on the original Xbox, PlayStation 2 and PC, had a tortuous development process. Although he had Grim Fandango and Full Throttle director Tim Schafer at the helm, it was the first game for his new Double Fine studio. This resulted in all sorts of problems, resulting in Microsoft closing an exclusivity deal midway through production. Double Fine has found a new partner and psychonauts released to critical acclaim but found few buyers, forcing its new publisher out of the video game industry. No wonder Schafer struggled to get Psychonauts 2 off the ground – and that he’s had his own share of setbacks.
When Psychonauts 2 was first announced in late 2015, Double Fine said it was crowdfunding to cover partial development costs, just as it did with other games as well. The campaign was successful, and a few years later, the studio signed a publishing deal with Starbreeze Studios, the parent company of Payday 2. But problems soon arose. First, Double Fine delayed Psychonauts 2 for at least a year, and then Starbreeze swung into insolvency due to its own problems, forcing manufacturers to stop boss battles, Schafer admitted. So imagine that the savior turned out to be Microsoft – the company that dumped them for being “expensive and late” in the psychonauts – who acquired the studio while it was looking to build the main base of the Xbox. The miracles that time can perform.
Psychonauts 2 – which isn’t an Xbox exclusive despite Microsoft’s support, although it’s coming to Game Pass on day one as a free download – is centered on the talented young psychic Razputin (voiced by Richard Horvitz) who can skip to inside people’s minds. he returns from psychonauts and Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, a short VR title released in 2017 that brings together the story of the two main games. Double Fine knows that its virtual reality-only existence has limited its exposure (and it’s been many years since we’ve seen Raz), which is why Psychonauts 2 opens with a cutscene that reintroduces the protagonist and tells us what happened in the Rhombus of Bad. After this heroism, Raz and Co. arrive at the psychonauts’ headquarters, Motherlobe, where Raz sets out to solve a new mystery that may involve a mole, necromancy and (obviously) some bacon.
Building on the themes of its predecessor, Psychonauts 2 continues to explore the human brain: our thought processes, redefining neural pathways and being open to new ideas. In terms of gameplay, this manifests itself in Raz linking different words – one of the game’s smartest ideas. It teaches children important lessons (the main audience of psychonauts) as players discover how the same words, when paired with different words, can change their meaning as well as their thinking altogether. This can inevitably cause problems. Raz is told once that he must not manipulate someone’s mind in an attempt to bend it to his will – there is some Initiation in the narrative, yes – but Psychonauts 2 is contradictory because it keeps asking the player to do just that, because your gameplay loop depends on it.
But don’t think that it means it’s dark, sincere and serious. I may have presented it directly, but that’s only because I’m not Tim Schafer. Psychonauts 2 retains the crazy sensibilities of the first game and continually infuses lighthearted humor into its weighty topics. The game informs this in advance with a warning, noting that it presents “artistic representations of serious mental conditions, including addiction, PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety and delusions”. He jokes about other things too – you’ll hear a lot of that when you pass non-player characters (NPCs) – and Raz’s condition seems to be part of that. a cadet in psychonauts, he’s an intern on Psychonauts 2. Raz doesn’t make any progress no matter what he achieves – is this because adults think kids aren’t capable of much?
As for gameplay mechanics, Raz has a number of psychic powers, most of which come back from psychonauts. There is levitation, pyrokinesis, telekinesis, clairvoyance, PSI explosion and mental connection. PSI explosions are essentially energy projectiles that help ward off enemies and shatter objects. With clairvoyance, Raz can see the world from someone else’s perspective, which is both helpful and hilarious as everyone “sees” you differently. For some you may be a cartoon and for others you may be a garbage can. Double Fine says this will change as the story progresses. In Psychonauts 2, you can equip four powers to the shoulder and trigger buttons, every three. psychonauts. As before, you can switch between them quickly, and reaching a level is all about knowing which PSI powers to use.
As Psychonauts 2 is a game for kids and for kids, its gameplay features also reflect that choice. In the settings, you can choose one or all three options. This includes no damage when Raz falls from a height, making Raz too strong in combat to emphasize the story, and the ultimate: invincibility. This would allow children, who have not developed the necessary dexterity, to focus on fewer elements. Psychonauts 2 also helps you if you can’t find your way, ensuring that anyone, of all ages and with a strong vocabulary, can play. But in other cases, like boss fights, he doesn’t believe in helping him much. That said, I still haven’t found anything similar to psychonautsThe final level of, which was known for its extremely difficult nature, was corrected only years later.
The platform bits in Psychonauts 2 are enjoyable and easy to learn, though I won’t say I’ve seen anything innovative in my time with the game. This year alone, we’ve seen things like It Takes Two, an excellent co-op adventure that has borrowed and traded with legions of platform elements to create its myriad worlds, each one totally different from the last. as with psychonauts, the USP for Psychonauts 2 retains its eclectic nature, filled with all sorts of new and returning goofy characters. Add to that its visual aesthetic that mimics hand-drawn comic books, channeling an inner Tim Burton vibe, and like it’s been launched through a Technicolor post-processing system.
Performance was never an issue for me with Psychonauts 2. It looked and worked great on Xbox One X, delivering a consistent 30fps at 4K resolution. Honestly, it’s not a title that needs state-of-the-art graphics, although it performs better if you have one. Exclusive to Xbox S/X Series on next-gen consoles, Double Fine claims Psychonauts 2 will deliver 60fps at 4K on the mighty X-Series and 60fps at 2880×1620 on S-Series. You can also get 120fps, although resolution is degraded. The Series S/X version is also the only way to play Psychonauts 2 in HDR. On OG Xbox One and PS4, it’s locked at 30fps in full-HD. PS4 Pro owners will be updated to 1440p. You can run Psychonauts 2 on PlayStation 5 via backward compatibility – which also unlocks 60fps.
I just found a bug in Psychonauts 2, with Raz getting stuck in some places you can jump over, but then you can’t jump. Other than that, it’s been a refined experience, once again proving that games are better late than rushed. Psychonauts 2 faced a long and difficult battle, but its release is proof that some battles are worth it.
- Zany, goofy and eclectic
- Hand-drawn visual aesthetics
- embrace heavy ideas
- Presents concepts intelligently
- does not speak to the public
- Special game settings for kids
- NPC talk is a bonus
- Included on Xbox Game Pass
- Narrative conflicts with gameplay loop
- Platform Bits Are Not Innovative
- environmental insect
Rating (out of 10): 7
Psychonauts 2 is available August 25 on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs.
It costs Rs. 1,299 on Steam, Rs. 3,999 in Microsoft Store and Rs. 4,995 on PlayStation Store. Ultimate Game Pass (which includes Xbox Cloud Gaming) costs Rs. 699 per month.