The first Psychonauts game ends on a very specific cliffhanger. Truman Zanato, the leader of the Psychonauts, is kidnapped and Raz and the gang fly off to save him. We were left to sit on that for over a decade.
Then, when the sequel was finally announced, we learned that that was not the story that would be told. Instead, it would be the story of the kind-of sequel: Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin. Which would be a… VR… puzzle… game…
Right, because when I played the first game, I remember thinking “Man, this game is good, but it would be much better as a VR puzzle game.”
For those of you who have read my reviews of Psychonauts 1 and 2, I’ll bet you think I’m going to praise the hell out of this game. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Honestly, I don’t think this is a very good game. It’s far from an awful game, but it’s definitely not a game I’d ever go back to. Nor is it a game I’d spend multiple hundreds of dollars to get a proper VR setup in order to play.
The plot is simple. Raz and friends head off to rescue Truman, as was teased at the end of the first game. Their mission takes them to the Rhombus of Ruin, a dangerous stretch of ocean containing psycho-reactive minerals. When the jet crashed and the team ends up separated, it’s up to Raz to complete the mission and save everyone! Again!
Kid ran away from the circus about a week ago and he’s already saved the world twice in the span of two days.
The narrative here is honestly not all that engaging. It’s just ‘go save everyone’, then a big reveal, followed by accomplishing your goal and the credits role. There is no substantial character growth for any of the main cast, as that’s all saved for the sequel. The only character that gets an arc in this game is, strangely enough, Dr. Loboto.
Which brings me to the one thing I actually liked: Loboto himself. Going into his head and exploring his backstory was a huge delight. It’s not as trippy and weird and fun as his level in Psychonauts 2, but it shed some light on a character that I’d wanted to know more about for years. So, no complaints there.
I do have plenty of complaints about the dialogue. Mainly that it is completely inescapable. There is virtually no point in the game where someone isn’t nagging incessantly at you. If you wanted a moment to listen to the ambient music and sound effects to get your head around a particular puzzle, sorry. But the nearest NPC won’t stop talking. It’s like training a new coworker who constantly nags you about stuff to the point where you can’t focus on your own work. Only instead of asking productive questions, they just ask you about inconsequential details like “What’s the fryer made out of?”
Presentation wise, this game is perfectly fine. It looks just about the same as Psychonauts 2, only it’s in VR. Which means that every little tremble of the headset on your head, every little crane of your neck, translates into the game itself. Which can get very nauseating. Still, the graphics are fine, the framerate is smooth, and the music is okay.
Not to mention uncomfortable. That headset is a bitch to wear for a prolonged period of time.
In terms of actual gameplay, it’s very simple. It’s a puzzle game in which you have to use Raz’s four powers, Psi-Blast, Telekinesis, Pyrokinesis, and Clairvoyance to solve various puzzles. Clairvoyance is basically your VR jump maneuver to avoid walking and look at a different part of the map, while the other three are used in various ways for the puzzles.
Here’s the thing: the puzzles aren’t especially fun. None of them are particularly challenging, nor are they very entertaining. Sure, they’re not as boring as the skippable puzzles in Spider-Man PS4. But none of them gave me that ‘Ah-hah!’ moment that I enjoy in puzzles.
And… that’s about it. Puzzles are the only thing there is to this game. Granted, I can’t expect much else from a 2-hour long VR game. But still, it does feel disappointing. You’re better off just watching a playthrough on YouTube than sinking the money in to play it yourself, given how little you get out of it.
It’s pretty easy to see why Rhombus of Ruin was forgotten so quickly. It was only really meant as a teaser, something to wet our appetites for Psychonauts 2 and set the story up. I don’t despise this game, but I’m definitely not eager to ever revisit it.
Sorry, but I came for 3D platformers. I’ll pass on the nauseating puzzle game.