I have spent most of my life waiting for this game to exist. I waited so long, in fact, that my expectations went from astronomically, impossibly high to deeply low to simply nonexistent. As the day of the game’s release drew ever closer, I simply turned my brain off and waited. Whether it was good or bad or middling, I was just happy that it was going to exist.
And now, after playing it extensively, I’m even happier to report that the game was, in fact, absolutely amazing.
Taking place shorty after the events of Rhombus of Ruin (a VR half-sequel to the first game and half-prequel to this game), Psychonauts 2 begins with Raz and his friends diving into the mind of deranged dentist Doctor Loboto, aiming to discover who hired him to kidnap Truman Zanato. While they fail to unmask their culprit, they discover that whoever it is is tied to Maligula, an extremely powerful psychic who broke Ford Cruller’s mind. Now Raz is set on a quest to defeat the most dangerous threat the Psychonauts had ever faced. But when he’s stuck in the intern program, will he even get the chance to do so?
The plot of this game is absolutely incredible! The mystery it presents is interesting and enjoyable, and the twists are both shocking and effectively setup. It fleshes out the returning characters and introduces all new, remarkably memorable members to the cast. When you combine all of that with Tim Schaffer’s legendary dialogue, you get one of the most engaging and enjoyable stories I’ve ever played through!
This is supported by some of the best level design in video games. Remember: every single level takes place within a character’s head. So when you go in there, the obstacles and enemies you’re faced with reflect their psychology. The levels themselves tell a story! And this one has some of the best I’ve ever seen!
You’ve got a level that’s a cooking show in an anxiety-riddled old man! You’ve got a psychedelic music video where you restore a man’s senses! You’ve got a library where each book contains that characters different personalities! There isn’t a single bad level in this entire game!
Still, I do have a few gripes with the writing. Primarily that the characters just don’t ever stop talking! There is almost constant dialogue. This was an issue in the first game, true. But it’s far more annoying here. That, and some of the new characters, like a half of the interns, lack any depth or just don’t have any screen time.
But you know what I have almost no complaints about? The visuals! Holy hell, dudes, this game looks phenomenal! It’s bright, colorful, the characters all look phenomenal in the unique style of the series, and the environments are so wonderfully varied and full of detail that every single second you look at the screen is a delight! This game’s presentation blows everything else on the market out of the water just in terms of sheer creativity!
And the music is also fantastic! You’ve got some James Bond sounding spy tracks, circus tunes, a chill piano in a library, and more! Each track feels completely different from the last and all of them are a delight to listen to. I cannot wait for the OST for this game to come out!
Unfortunately, I ran into more than a few frame dips across my playthrough. There were several points where the game started to chug, especially whenever I entered a new area. I guess those jaw-dropping visuals all came at a price.
Luckily, it doesn’t detract too much from the gameplay. Which brings us to the highlight: the actual game!
At its core, Psychonauts 2 is much like the first game. It’s a 3D platformer, wherein you use Razputin’s acrobatic skills and psychic powers to jump and fight your way through the minds of the characters. Along the way, you’ll collect various items to level up and upgrade your powers. Long time players of the first game will be right at home here.
But this game is definitely different from the first. And in many ways: better!
For one: the platforming itself. This time around, Raz has a few new abilities to vary things up, and his new abilities have been changed around. He can now bounce off of walls, dive through the air, and zip from point-to-point using his new Mental Connection power. However, Levitation has been nerfed; sure, you can still roll around at the speed of sound, but you’re levitation jump isn’t nearly as high and you can only float for a limited time.
When combined with the excellent level design, this makes for one of the most varied and fun platformers on the market! Every single level is a joy to bounce through, whether you’re going through a psychedelic music festival or the pages of a book!
Combat is significantly better than the first game as well. Battle-oriented powers have been reworked, the enemies are bulkier and more varied, and Raz’s melee attacks have been reworked. It’s not especially incredible combat, but it has much more depth and variety than the previous game.
Boss fights have been greatly refined as well. There aren’t many, but each one is uniquely challenging, cinematic, and creative. Some of them are actually pretty difficult! You’ll need to bring your platforming A-game to handle some of these. And, in the case of the final boss, your combat A game.
The powers are also a joy to play around with. Those returning from the first game have been completely reworked, and all the new ones are a delight! You can summon a paper clone of yourself voiced by Gir, so you can get mini-Invader Zim going on! You can slow down time in a bubble, or zip from though to thought! They’re a freaking blast to play with!
Still, it is a shame to see the powers that got cut go. I’m going to miss the ever hilarious Confusion Grenade and the ever useful Invisibility. Although I’m not that sad to see Shield go.
Of course, no collectithon platformer is worth your time if the stuff you’re collecting isn’t worth it. Luckily, everything here is super dope! Figments are back, as well as the Emotional Baggage and the lore-revealing vaults (although a good number of them contain information that’s revealed in the main story anyways). And now, we have the Nuggets of Wisdom, little golden trophies that change form depending on the mind that give you an instant rank-up, and the Half-a-Minds; get two of these and you can increase your total HP. And, of course, there’s the scavenger hunt in the overworld, which gives you Raz’s costume from the first game if you complete it!
Gathering these up is a ton of fun! However, if you’re going for that 100% completion, feel free to pull up a guide. Because scouring each level for a single missing figment can get really old really quickly. That was an issue in the first game as well, and I’m sad they didn’t introduce anything to alleviate the issue. Maybe give Raz some kind of radar to help the player locate collectibles they missed?
Despite its flaws, I absolutely loved Psychonauts 2! I had a big dumb smile on my face from beginning to end. It absolutely lived up to the legacy of the first game and improved upon it in many ways. This game was absolutely worth the wait and is, without a doubt or a shred of bias, my current game of the year!
And best of all: it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. So I don’t have to deal with being blue-balled for another sixteen years!
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