Release Date: April 26, 2005 (PC)
Systems: PS2, Xbox, PC(Reviewed)
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Metacrtic Score: 87
In the 16 hours I spent playing Psychonauts I learned one thing: Gamers are all morons. In the last 8 years there have been 8 “Call of Duty” games, all of which are basically the same game and which have sold more copies than there are people in the U.K. and Canada combined. All the while gamers complain about wanting something new and original. But where were you in April 2005 when Psychonauts was released? If you really wanted new and original games you would have bought it, but we all know that didn’t happen. So, here I go, yet another internet review screaming into the void that people should play this who will ultimately be ignored while “Call of Duty: Yet Another One” and “Assassins Creed: Same Game Different Setting” makes money hand over fist.
You play as Raz, a young psychic who has managed to sneak into a summer camp made to train psychic youths to become part of the Psychonauts, a group of psychic spies. It turns out that Raz has run away from home in the circus due to his fathers hatred of psychics after a curse was put on their family. Unfortunately, with out parental consent Raz can’t stay and his father is coming to pick him up, but the camp leaders agree to train him in the mean time. Shortly into his stay, however, Raz learns that an unknown enemy is harvesting the brains of the campers for nefarious purpose. Soon every one but Raz has their brain removed, turning them into T.V. Hungry zombies, and it’s up to Raz to find the culprit and the missing brains.
This has got to be one of my favorite stories in gaming ever. More importantly this is my favorite story telling in gaming. All the characters are well developed and most are lovingly deformed, making each one distinct both visually and on a character level. The games story and characters just have a charm (in a very “Tim Burton” kind of way) that is noticeably missing today.
The game is also really funny. Now, a lot of critics and reviews have said that this game is funny, so I want it on record that I didn’t think it was a s funny as most of them say it is, but it is funny. See, I was grinning the entire 16 hours of play time, but there was never a big gut busting laugh for me. For contrast, I watched Donald Glovers “Weirdo” the other day, and I was laughing hard rather often, but there were times when a joke just didn’t work and I sat uncomfortably in silence. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: can a game that sells itself on comedy get by on just being grinning and big chuckles or does it need to shoot for those big laughs even if they don’t always work. Personally I found the game very much worth the time and money I spent on it.
The only issue I had with the game was the ending. It deals with Raz’s father issues in a rather anti-climatic way and the ending itself is pure sequels bate. Now, that last part probably wouldn’t have bothered me so much if people actually bought the game so a sequel may be possible, but that’s almost assuredly never going to happen.
Here things get a bit trickier. See, most of the people working on this game had cut their teeth on point and click adventure games and this is very much a platformer. So the first real hurdle is a huge lack of experience. So naturally the game didn’t play as tightly as, say, a latte “Ratchet and Clank” game. Then there is the fact that this was also clearly designed for the PS2 and Xbox, so playing on a PC made the game somewhat more difficult as the development team clearly were not sure how to format the game for a mouse and keyboard and I don’t have a controller for my computer. But honestly, as it was with “Silent Hill 2” I found that the story justified enough of these issues enough for me to look over them.
The main hook of the game is that most of the dungeons are really Raz’s metal projections into the minds of other people. Here you level up my finding figments of peoples imaginations, helping to sort their emotional baggage, cleaning up mental cobwebs as well as helping them over come what ever mental issues they may be having. For example, in one mind you inter everything is controlled, but when you stop his brain from being able to self-censor unwanted thought his mind breaks out into chaos. In another mind, someone is being brain washed and you have to help destroy the implant Godzilla style. It’s almost like the dev. team took a quarter of “psychology 101” then personified all the vocabulary words. And it’s awesome.
These segments are all fun and by having each mind reflect on the person who’s mind you’re in they each have a unique aesthetic that makes the simple act of wondering though each mind a joy. But, like I said, this is a platformed and it simply doesn’t control as tightly should. This caused me to fall to my deaths meany, meany times. Now, you can justify this by saying it’s dream logic or that Raz has only been training for a day or so and thus doesn’t have the skills needed, but it was still frustrating. Frustrating but not deal breaking.
The part that may be deal breaking is the often times stupid logic of the puzzles. Now, for those who never played a point and click adventure game, every puzzle works basically the same way: the dev. team finds the dumbest way to complete an obstacle, then treys to outdo them self. So when you are playing the game and using logic to help find solutions none of them work. For example, why use a grappling hook to get over a big hole when you can use a tooth pick and a bit of string.
So what does this have to do with Psychonauts? Well it seems like the guys at Double Fine were still in “adventure game” mode and thus made some of/most of the puzzles using the same batshit logic they used it their previous work. I did beat the game, so clearly it is possible to figure it all out, but damn I wish some of these were more strait forward.
None of this is really an issue until the last 1/3 of the game though, because right about then the game has a difficulty spike large enough to go from bottom of the ocean to the freaken moon! So yeah, the game play on its own wouldn’t have made this the classic it is, but if you give it a real try I think you’ll find the story and game play together really do make you want to complete the game. More importantly it’ll be stuck in your head for a while. I started playing the next game I plan of reviewing already and I caught myself thinking about what his head world would be like. If you do buy the game though, do yourself a favor and make sure not to break you’re controller. Or have a spare. Either way.
Game Play: 4/5
Music and Sound:
I’m honestly surprised how good the voice acting here is. Sure the lip syncing may be off, but the actual voices all sounded rather good. I wish I could say better for the mixing. See, before you sort a peace of emotional baggage it cries. Unfortunately it can be heard over cut scenes and over the character chatter and it becomes a real pain to listen too. On its own it would be an issues but it just wouldn’t stop until you you find the tag for that peace of baggage. Then you come across the next and…well….lets just say you’ll want to sort it all. I would also advise you to turn the music volume down, as I found it to become grating after a while as well. But if you do that, and you are left with just the sound effects and voice actors and the game becomes much more pleasant. Even with it all on the game is still worth playing, so please, do your self a favor and by this now.
Music and Sound: 4/5
Overall Score: 4.16/5
Who is this game for:
Easy: every one of you dipshits who missed it the first time. I literally kind of hate my self for not playing this when it came out, and I literally had absolutely no means in order to get my hands on it at the time. That is how good this game is. So, go open up Steam, spend the $10 and buy the damn game. You own it to yourself. And the next time something new comes out, maybe think about giving it a look, yeah? Maybe if we all tried something that isn’t the same old tried and true game every once in a while, maybe if we had a little faith that a creator we haven;t heard of may be able to make a great game maybe, just maybe, we could make the gaming world just a little bit better. And maybe if we could stop demanding every reviewer give every game a 9.5 because….why do you ever do that….then review scores can mean something and we would all have a real rhetoric for what was actually good and not what the review site was scared of losing traffic over!!!!!!!