Psychonauts 2: Hands-on Preview
In my mind, Psychonauts is an all-time classic title. For me, it is up there with the best of Mario for 3D platformers, a wonderful adventure of humour and amazingly inventive level design. It was a departure from what Tim Schafer and Double Fine had been doing for years, but at the same time, their DNA was all over it. The wild characters, the warped levels and the off-kilter sense of humour were all unmistakably from Double Fine, just in a new genre. It was one of the best games on the original Xbox and holds a place in my heart to this day.
Fast forward quite a number of years and we are finally on the precipice of Psychonauts 2, a game that feels like it has been forever in the making. A Kickstarter backed game originally, Psychonauts 2 was given extra time for polish and improvement thanks to the purchase of Double Fine by Microsoft and that time for polish has been put to good use. I have been playing a limited preview version of the game for a bit over a week and let me tell you right now, barring a major unforeseen disaster of biblical proportions, Psychonauts 2 is going to eclipse everything the first game did so well and then some.
The game kicks off straight after the events of the PSVR only title, Rhombus of Ruin, but don’t worry folks, Double Fine knows that a lot of people missed that one so there is a handy refresher to catch players up. The game hits the ground running with Raz running through the mind of an evil dentist, trying to discover who is behind the recent attempts to bring down the Psychonauts. The way this level plays out is pure joy, with powers from the last game introduced almost immediately, all of which are just inventive as they were in the first title. But Double Fine hasn’t rested on their laurels, the powers have all been tweaked and tightened so there is none of the inaccuracy and guesswork that sometimes crept in during the first game. There is also a fantastic levelling system that allows players to upgrade powers and a pin system that allows for adjustments to how the power’s function, allowing for quite a bit of customisation. As for new powers, I got to play with one which is called mental connection. It is used as both a traversal power and a puzzle-solving device, creating links in someone’s mind between two ideas and changing their outlook.
The preview gave me access to five or so different levels and as was the case in the first game, they are set in people’s minds and based around the psychology of that character. There was a mind of an Author which was a massive library that was hiding her books, a giant casino in the mind of a character that struggles with the notion of risk and the aforementioned evil dentist’s mind that was a collection of everyone’s worst dental experiences. The creativity shown in these levels is second-to-none and it looks like there will once again be a host of memorable locations to unleash your psychic powers in.
Speaking of the locations, I was lucky enough to attend a presentation with Tim Schafer from Double Fine where he explained that through their own research and resources provided by Microsoft, they were able to ensure that none of the mental conditions depicted in the game would be offensive to sufferers. Mental professionals provided appropriate advice and the fact the game is light-hearted in nature led Tim to believe that the game treats these conditions with the respect they deserve while still maintaining the series trademark humour.
That humour is clearly present in every fabric of the game. I can’t ever remember giggling as much in a game as I did in my time with Psychonauts 2. The writing I encountered was spot on, with wonderful one-liners coming thick and fast as I explored the world with Raz. In fact, stating that this is a game the world needs right now is no understatement. There is a sense of joy and wonder present that is severely lacking right now in the world at large and playing brought a huge smile to my face. It would take a hard, bitter person to not find a slice of joy in this game and frankly we could all use a bit of that.
My time with Psychonauts 2 was far too short, even though I had about 5 hours worth of content to play with, I am left with the overwhelming urge for more. It appears to me that Psychonauts 2 is everything fans could want from a sequel and more. August 25th simply can’t come soon enough for this long-time fan. There is only one question that remains….
Are you the Milkman?