Of all the games that Double Fine has developed so far, their debut is undoubtedly the best. Brütal Legend, Broken Age, Costume Quest – they were all creative, original games, but none of them can match Psychonauts. Nevertheless, it took a long, far too long time for Psychonauts to gain fame and honor: when it was released in April 2005, the action adventure sold slowly, despite great ratings from the trade press, It was only in the years that followed that it was able to win countless fans (also thanks to many sales) who attest to its cult status today – and rightly so.
Soul science à la Schafer
Tim Schafer (Grim Fandango. Day of the tentacle) developed for psychonauts (buy now) a fantastic basic idea. His genre mix of jump & run, adventure and action game tells the adventures of Raz, a young circus artist with ambitious goals: Raz wants to become a member of the Psychonauts, a fabulous association of super agents who are endowed with superhuman powers , In order to prove his skills, Raz cheats in the psychonauts' leisure camp, the idyllic Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, where he starts his training full of energy.
Source: PC games
Source: PC games
Raz's first and most important lesson is to immerse yourself in the minds of different characters. To do this, he simply claps a small door on the target person's forehead, their mind opens and takes us on an insane adventure: each of the (mostly neatly moved) figures stands for its own level with an individual graphic style and fresh concept. Double Fine ignites a real firework of ideas that would have been enough for several games! For example, Raz ends up in the mind of a depressed giant fish, where in Godzilla style he ruins an entire metropolis. Later he visits a level that is structured like a gigantic board game – amazingly well done! And the thoughts of Raz 'teacher Milla Vodello are reminiscent of a screeching disco, in which Raz is shot through the area like a pinball and delivers breakneck races. Perhaps the best part is the legendary "Milkman" level: In the spirit of a neurotic security guard, Raz explores the front yards of a small US town on wonderfully knotted level railways, solves typical adventure tasks and unravels a secret. Funny, atmospheric and completely crazy!
Hop, fight, think
At first glance, Psychonauts is reminiscent of typical Jump & Runs, because Raz is usually busy jumping up, climbing, or swinging back and forth on swings. Often, however, crunchy puzzles have to be solved, because then Tim Schafer's adventure roots flash through. And now and then a few opponents are waiting to be rubbed off, for this the young acrobat deals with telekinesis skills and huge psycho-fists. All in all, Psychonauts is clearly more action-adventure than a pure bouncy game, the mere name Jump & Run simply does not do the game justice. As Raz also learns new skills over time, such as jumping higher, shooting opponents, making himself invisible or setting things on fire, Double Fines designers effortlessly conjure up new ideas from the hat until the successful finale. Psychonauts just never stands still! With about 15 hours of play (or more if you want to discover everything), the scope is more than fair.
Source: PC games
Adventure in Whispering Rock
Between his bizarre excursions of thought, Raz can also freely explore the atmospheric holiday camp. Whispering Rock is a semi-open venue, full of secrets, funny details and motivating collectibles. For example, Raz is involved in a scavenger hunt, searches for hidden treasures or looted crystals with which he buys new equipment from the dealer. Particularly valuable are the rare cards with which he rises in rank and thus improves his abilities – a simple reward system that is really motivating!
Source: PC games
On his exploration tours, Raz also meets many other children who fill the camp with life and engage it in discussions that are full to the brim with good gags and strange ideas. Despite all the cheerfulness, Psychonauts is not a pure comedy game, because it also shows a lot of heart, takes time for the concerns and hardships of its characters and sometimes strikes a very serious note. For example, in some levels we can discover well-hidden safes in which the characters hide their darkest memories and fears. As a result, the characters and their bizarre universe quickly grow to their hearts, a typical feature of Tim Schafer's stories. In order to implement all these loving details, however, the team had to survive a long, stressful development period full of money worries – in this video Double Fine gives you a little insight into the tedious implementation of psychonauts.
Despite all the effort: the game is not perfect! Some levels seem a bit stretched, the controls are far from the accuracy of a Rayman or Mario. The boss fights are mostly shaky and some jumping sequences are a test of patience. The last level of the circus was particularly negative at first, but at least Double Fine weakened the part later with a patch.
Most points of criticism fade, however, in view of the wonderful characters, the heartwarming story and the creative diversity that have made Psychonauts a modern classic. Because the colorful, comic graphic style is still very attractive and both the speech and soundtrack have lost nothing of their class, Psychonauts is still worth a thick recommendation even today.
It is therefore no wonder that Tim Schafer has been implored by fans for many years, that he should please develop a successor. His usual answer was then: If the necessary money can be found, he would love to push a second part. But the project couldn't be done without a willing publisher – and so Double Fine turned his attention to other titles for a long time.
Many years later, however, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel: Psychonauts 2 is coming – and it looks really good! Double Fine raised the necessary money in 2015 via the co-founded fig.co crowdfunding platform, and in June 2019 it was also announced that the previously independent developer studio had been bought by Microsoft. In 2020 Psychonauts 2 should finally appear – after almost five years of development. VR headset owners can get a little taste of the mini adventure Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin fall, which ties directly to the end of the first part and builds the bridge to the successor.
Does that still work today?
Psychonauts is still available through various digital platforms as well as for Xbox One and PS4. The PC version has now been upgraded with a patch that complements the symbols of the Xbox controller. Widescreen support is also provided, but the highly compressed cutscenes are in 4: 3 format and are stretched over the width of the screen.
I don't have the game yet! Where can I buy psychonauts?
Psychonauts is often available in sales at a reduced price. Unfortunately there is no switch version.
PS4 and Xbox One:
What are your favorite memories of psychonauts? Write us your thoughts in the comment section! And do you fancy even more retro specials on classic games? Then you will find it here.
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