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Better still, the team has used these levels to sneak in classic graphic adventure puzzles through the back door. Some are based around Raz’s growing roster of psychic powers –levitation, invisibility, pyro- and telekinesis – which he develops by ranking up through the Psychonauts programme. Others are a question of finding the right item to do the job, while others still combine both traits. This isn’t just a game about jumping, it’s also, rather appropriately, about using your mind.
So it’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s imaginative – is there anything that’s not top-notch? Well, not everything in Psychonauts is perfect. The graphics are full of beautiful cartoon design and work well within the spirit of the game, but I can’t say there’s much here with a real ‘wow’ factor. To be honest, though, if you’re prowling these landscapes looking for parallax mapping or fresnel reflections on the water, then you really need to think about the way you look at games. There are occasional problems with the camera, a couple of frustrating moments later on that really needed a little more playtesting, and some of the boss battles are annoying. But really, that’s about it. The controls work, the length is perfect, there are heaps of collectible bonuses, and even the audio is beyond reproach: the zany voicework puts other cartoon platformers to shame, and there’s a brilliant score that chimes perfectly with the game’s quirky feel.
Put simply, in a better world Psychonauts would (at the time of writing) be sitting pretty at the top of the games charts. It’s been out in the US for nine months or so, and nearly every magazine and website you might mention has doled out plaudits and awards to the extent that some critics would probably front you the money to buy it if you asked them nicely. (Note: I wouldn’t, but then I’m not so nice). The tragedy is that nobody seems to be buying it – the general games playing public would rather have the usual licenses and franchises instead. Well, that’s fine for them – just make sure that YOU don’t miss out. Like Ico, Beyond Good and Evil or Metroid Prime: Echoes, Psychonauts is one of those games that you’ll hear mentioned in cult classics corners for years to come, yet it’s so funny, so compelling and so darn straightforwardly brilliant that it deserves the widest audience possible. Go on, play it now while you have the chance.
A fantastic, imaginative, literally mind-warping platform adventure with heaps of idiosyncratic character and charm. If only a few more of you would buy it!