Psychonauts 2 is fun, and wonderfully quirky, making it an ideal purchase for any fan of the original or gamer on the hunt for their next platformer. But, after years in development for well over half a decade its graphics and certain gameplay mechanics can feel slightly dated.
- Quirky, fun story
- Solid puzzle and platforming mechanics
- Fun for adults and kids alike
- Retro feeling combat
- Available on:PC, Xbox Series S/X, PS4, Xbox One
- Full controller supportPlus keyboard and mouse
- Single playerThe game doesn’t feature any multiplayer modes
Psychonauts 2 is the long awaited follow up to one of veteran games maker Tim Schafer’s most beloved games.
Psychonauts 2 continues on from the 2005 original as a puzzle-platformer, with a heart-warming entertaining story best described as what would happen if Tim Burton and Pixar made a video game.
It offers a charming, slightly retro, platforming experience that sees you navigate protagonist Raz through a series of different worlds, based on NPCs inner minds, using his various psychic powers to solve puzzles and traverse hazards.
The experience is fun, especially for those that played the first game, but its long development cycle means its graphics, and certain gameplay mechanics can feel slightly dated.
- The story follows directly on from the original game and is child friendly
- It features a catch up at the start for new players to get up to speed
- There are several returning characters and gags
Jumping into the world of Psychonauts, everything is instantly familiar. It sees you work as Razputin “Raz” Aquato in his continuing endeavour to join the Psychonauts.
It sees the counsellors from the first game return as they guide Raz to the psychonauts main base in an effort to figure out who instigated the attack on the first game’s camp.
This wonderfully zany cast of characters, coupled with a cheeky script, lets the game tow the line between dark humour and a child-friendly narrative with wonderful precision.
Navigating the world Raz, on more than one occasion one of the many NPCs littering the maps would spout out a one liner that made me and my niece genuinely giggle.
- Suitable for older kids, but a little too complex for younglings
- Excellent platforming and puzzle sections
- The combat is a little drab
This tone seeps into the gameplay and is one of the primary incentives that kept me wanting to move forward, despite some slightly frustrating retro segments and poor tutorials.
Psychonauts is a puzzle-platformer that tasks you to navigate Raz through a series of different worlds, existing in both the game’s “real” world and the minds of various NPCs.
Each world is wonderfully distinct and brings its own specific challenges and puzzles. Early on, for example, you’re tasked with changing a character’s mind by rewiring her brain’s connections through a series of puzzles. This is all while you jump, levitate and roll your way through the hazardous platforming sections.
The distinct aesthetic and humour adds to the experience, with the NPC narrating the new connections I was making with wonderful comedic timing.
In another psychoscape later on in the game, I was forced to take part in a horrific “cooking show” in an attempt to help another NPC overcome his trauma. This saw me have to lug “ingredients” using Raz’s telekinesis to various giant cooking tools while avoiding a series of traps.
Solid level design, with strong platforming mechanics help make the game engaging, but it was the ongoing tone that kept me plowing through. I’ve referenced Pixar as a clear inspiration for the story and I mean that with the greatest respect. Raz is a lovable character with good intentions, chief of which is to help people deal with trauma and protect his newfound Psychonaut friends from the imminent threat they face.
Not enough games manage to get this tone right. As we saw with Biomutant, many oversimplify things, creating a narrative and experience that is too simplistic for anyone older than 8 to engage with. By comparison, Psychonauts offers players a good balance, delivering a narrative that’s nuanced and full of enough hidden jokes to keep adults entertained, while remaining child friendly.
The game also adds an element of longevity by offering various hidden treasures and collectables. These are fairly close to what the first game offered, with each section having figments, emotional baggage and “half a mind” items to collect.
On top of this, there are custom collectables that relate to specific side missions that you pick up from the game’s various NPCs. These are similar to the scavenger hunts of the first game, seeing you trek around the map looking for random items.
As a further incentive, you can also find psychic upgrades that can be traded in to improve Raz’s powers. This is an important feature that can be used to access previously inaccessible areas of levels. For example, one upgrade lets Raz connect to “dark thoughts”, opening up entire new areas of the map as a result.
However, while Pyschonauts excels with the platforming and collectibles, its combat feels very dated, even with the customisation options and various powers at Raz disposal.
Outside of the game’s boss encounters, the enemies are all fairly straight forward, with each having a critical weakness that’s easy to exploit. Smaller enemies can be taken out with a basic punch or long-range psi blast. Others are extremely weak to fire (pyrokinesis). Once you figure out the patterns this makes the combat sections feel fairly dull and repetitive.
- Visuals look outdated
- Lacks support for ray tracing
Double Fine games always have very distinct art styles and that remains the case on Psychonauts, which features a cast of characters akin to extras in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
And for the most part this, plus excellent work by the animators, hides some of the game’s rough edges. But after a while it’s hard to not see, Psychonauts isn’t the best looking game around. I was never expecting photo realistic ray tracing or immersive HDR on a game like Psychonauts, but even playing it in 4K on PC there’s no getting around the fact it looks like it’s running on a Xbox 360.
The graphics are a far cry from what we’ve come to expect from new current gen’ games for the Xbox Series X. Numerous textures on occasion look lower res than they should and the light effects are very basic. The characters have reasonably good facial animations, but on more than one occasion I’ve seen cutscenes where part of the furniture is poking through them.
This doesn’t quite break the immersion, but it does make the game feel slightly dated, which is a shame as a little more polish would have gone a long way.
Should you buy it?
You want a to play a fun engaging platformer: Though Psychonauts 2 isn’t the prettiest game available, its fun narrative and solid puzzle and platforming sections make it a rare treat in today’s landscape, offering a game that both kids and grownups can enjoy together.
You want an action game:
Psychonauts 2’s combat is its weakest part. so if you want a game that’s heavily action focussed, you’d be better off looking at Nintendo’s Zelda series or PlayStation’s Ratchet and Clank.
Psychonauts 2 is a fun, endearing puzzle platformer full of quirky challenges and entertaining dialogue. If you’re a fan of the original, or just enjoy platformers, Psychonauts 2 is a great purchase. The only downside is that its graphics and combat mechanics can feel a little outdated.
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How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played through the entire campaign
Tested on PC
Psychonauts 2 is a single player game. There are no multiplayer modes.
The game does not support next generation ray tracing lighting effects.
You can play Pyschonauts 2 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S.