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Brain blast: A ‘Psychonauts 2’ review

| Monday, October 11, 2021

Doug Abell | The Observer

“Psychonauts 2, a video game by Tim Schafer released this summer, follows a smart yet optimistically naïve protagonist, Razputin “Raz” Aquato. Raz must utilize his psychic powers to find the mole within the Psychonauts organization and stop an evil, hydrokinetically-powered woman named Maligula from rising again. The story of “Psychonauts 2″ continues from where the first two games, the original “Psychonauts and a virtual reality spinoff, left off (the VR game explains what happened between the first two games and I was not aware that it existed until I looked it up). Fortunately for you, I didn’t play those two games, so I can’t and don’t have to explain the entire context of this game! What I can say is that you don’t have to play the first two games to understand and enjoy this series entry because the story is fantastic on its own merits.

For those of you who really care, though, here’s a quick summary — and before you ask, no, I didn’t steal the synopsis off Wikipedia. After rescuing the head of the Psychonaut organization, Truman Zanotto, from the clutches of Dr. Loboto in the Rhombus of Ruin, the game’s characters realizes that Loboto wasn’t bright enough to pull a kidnapping like this on his own. This means that in “Psychonauts 2, it’s up to Raz to find the mole within the Psychonauts and get to the bottom of the recent increase in Deluginist activity. The Deluginists, for context, are followers of the aforementioned Maligula, who was believed to have been killed by another group called the “Psychic Six.

As you can probably tell from this brief synopsis, the story in this game is great. It’s full of twists and turns that keep you on your toes, and the humor is top notch, serving up a creative blend of both dark and light humor that makes it perfect for pretty much everybody. While it’s all very good, my favorite part of the storytelling has to be the creative way the game’s creators handled the mental and psychological aspects of the premise. Characters and players are literally entering people’s minds as the game progresses, so I appreciated the light-hearted yet respectful way mental illness was approached throughout the story arc. Don’t worry, it’s not a super serious game: However, this makes it even more impressive (and surprising) that these topics were handled so well. Ultimately, the game contained a perfect balance between the serious and the comedic.

You may be saying “Okay, cool story, bro. But how does it play? It is a game.” If this is you, I have some good news! The only thing stronger than the writing is the gameplay! The game controls smoothly and platforming feels very natural. The combat, while second to the platforming, still flows very smoothly and is an integral part of the overall experience. The game also introduces a variety of enemies, all of whom are susceptible to different mental abilities that you accrue as you progress throughout the game; this accumulation keeping combat interesting. However, many of the mental abilities can feel useless outside of being occasionally used on a single enemy type. For example, clairvoyance is only used against bad moods, an enemy that you don’t encounter until the last act of the game, even though you have this ability as soon as you start the game. This means that until you encounter that specific enemy, clairvoyance is almost entirely useless.

I often found myself sticking to the same four mental abilities throughout the game, even after I had upgraded all mental abilities to their max potential; with that being said, I do admit that this was a personal choice, and you could mix and match abilities at your own leisure. One or two remain useless outside of exploration. Still the gameplay here is amazing and enjoyable! I never found myself frustrated at a mechanic or an enemy.

“Psychonauts 2” is also a feast for the senses. It’s unique, and the game’s cartoonish visuals always offer a fresh surprise for many of the levels with their distinct visual style and feel. Many of the environments feel unique and offer different challenges and collectibles. Even the soundtrack is fantastic, as it offers a distinct sound as well.

Overall, I’d say “Psychonauts 2” was well worth the 16-year wait (for those of you who played the original). If you haven’t yet, give the game a try, especially if you’re a fan of platformers or love a good story! It won’t disappoint! 

 

Title: “Psychonauts 2”

Developer: Double Fine

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S

Genre: Action/Adventure, Platformer

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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