Psychonauts is an action-adventure game released in 2005, for the Xbox, PC, and Playstation 2. It has garnered quite a devout following over the years, with good reason.
All of those fans are also awaiting the long overdue sequel, slated for 2021. The sequel will feature voice acting and singing from Jack Black, of everything fame.
So before Psychonauts 2 comes out let’s talk a little bit about where it all started. This is my latest entry to the Gem Vault, Psychonauts.
What’s the message?
You are Raz, a perfectly normal child circus acrobat. Raz takes a little break from the circus to go to a perfectly normal summer camp. He spends his time there making friends, taking classes, and earning achievement patches. Just a perfectly normal time at camp.
Well, there’s also psychic powers but that’s barely important to the story!
For real though, Raz has psychic powers and the camp he has gone to is a training camp. He goes so that he can be trained to become a Psychonaut, that’s the name of the game. Psychonauts are basically a group of special forces made entirely of psychic warriors.
At camp Raz meets a lot of other kids that also have psychic powers going through the same training. There are plenty of shenanigans that ensue and Raz must save the day.
As always, I’m not going to go any further to save spoilers. There are plenty of people who haven’t played Psychonauts, and those people should.
The gameplay is mostly your typical action-adventure mechanics. You have your jumps and attacks, you’ll use these to get on things and break other things. The difference is that it’s all done with your psychic powers. Like creating a giant hand that slaps everything out of anyone in your way.
Psychonauts is heavily focused on mental abilities, for combat and exploration. It then makes sense that a lot of the games levels take place on mental battlefields. In a, well, really unnerving way, the game uses doors to enter one’s mind. If the eyes are windows into the soul, then a door is the door to someone’s mind? Or something.
Raz can attach a special door to certain characters, this will allow him to enter their mind. Each of these minds you enter will have you in a very different situation. The individual’s mental projections will run rampant.
An example would be in one mind, you take the role of Raz-zilla. Going through a cityscape, destroying people and buildings like an old Japanese monster movie. Another has you playing on a game board, trying to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte in a strategy game. There’s a lot of variety and each level is very different from the last. I personally never found myself getting bored by any of the settings.
The objective of the camp is to train young psychics to become potential Psychonauts. So you have a level and a selection of patches to collect. This all amounts to how much your psychic powers are able to grow.
Earning patches from the different classes or from leveling up will grant you new powers. Like the Levitate skill, this lets you glide around but also ride around on a psychic orb. I really like this power.
Then to gain levels you will collect projections whilst in another’s mind. These are just strange little 2D drawings that are found everywhere. Every 100 points that you collect will increase your level. Getting to certain milestones will allow you to either get new powers or upgrade the ones that you already have.
There are plenty of other collectibles too, like being able to unlock the mental baggage of the mind you’re in. Or you can unlock the memory banks, these give you a little viewmaster look at some potential memories of the host.
The point is, there’s some very clever takes on the classic adventure tropes. There’s a lot to collect and a bunch of things to try, and to collect. It’s pretty much all fun and feels. The collecting especially which I actually find is unusual in these types of games. It’s especially impressive given how old Psychonauts is.
What do I like so much?
The writing is fantastic, the gameplay and powers are all cool, the art style is my favourite. I love the artistic choices in Psychonauts more than anything. It looks spectacular, especially with the updated graphics for the enhanced Xbox One X version.
It gives off a very Tim Burton feel but much more twisted. I mean this absolutely as a complement too. Tim Burton’s style is incredible in it’s own right but Psychonauts takes it further. It was a perfect choice and I am seriously here for it!
Psychonauts is chock full of humour and the best kind at that. I’m not sure if this was intentional but it felt very English. The humour was often literal and dry, which in my opinion is the best way to do it.
The humour leads on to my favourite character, Linda. You meet Linda a little way into the game, so I won’t spoil this meeting. Just know that Linda is magical and noble.
What does it all mean?
The message to take away from this is Psychonauts is a fantastic looking game, with great characters, and amazing writing.
Psychonauts is an experience, one that every gamer should have without a doubt. With it available on modern console and PC there’s really no reason to not! Along with the fact that Psychonauts 2 is on it’s way, there’s no better time to get into Psychonauts.
It’s only real flaw, even with the updated version on Xbox, is that it’s such an unstable game. I don’t know that I’ve ever played a game that has crashed this much.
An interesting example of this was on the PS2 version that I have. Sometimes whilst trying to load my game, it would crash on the loading screen. To solve this, I had to open the disc tray, let the disc stop, and then close it again. After a couple of times this would make it continue loading. Strange times.
Do you like Psychonauts too? Did you have problems with it? Let us know in the comments section down below!
Psychonauts – Into the Gem Vault.
Written by Kyle Munn.
I like Monster and there are a lot of holes in my drywall… and I have been gaming pretty religiously for the last 2 decades. I am currently a Backend Developer working on an online fundraising platform.