psychonauts 2 review worth playing pc ps4 xbox

Psychonauts 2 Review: PC, PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One

Whenever Raz enters someone’s mind in Psychonauts 2, he asks for their consent beforehand. In the one instance in which he doesn’t, he dives into the mind of the Psychonaut’s second-in-command Hollis Forsythe. He swiftly learns that this unsolicited meddling can cause terrible damage to the recipient; Hollis warns him that their job isn’t to quickly “fix” people but to help them tackle their demons on their own terms. She forgives him, understands the reasons behind his mistake, and offers him a second chance. And that’s Psychonauts in a nutshell; those working through mental health issues require patience and understanding, mistakes don’t necessarily make someone a bad person, and there’s?always?a chance for redemption.

Psychonauts 2 review for PC, PS4, Xbox Series X, and Xbox One

Psychonauts 2 picks up directly from the events of Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, the VR-only spin-off title that itself took place immediately following the original 2005 3D platformer. As such, despite the lengthy period of time between development, Raz is still a young aspiring Psychonaut who has just left?Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp to chase his dreams. Unfortunately for Raz, the reality of the Psychonauts for a newbie is far less exciting than he imagined, with him relegated to admin work over fun psychic spy missions. This inevitably changes when a brain-napping takes place and it’s ascertained that the culprit is a mole working within the Psychonauts.

It isn’t long before Raz is back brain-hopping, leaping into the minds of those around him in an effort to understand what makes them tick. Psychonauts 2 is split between the “real world,” which consists of the spy organization’s ‘Motherlobe’ headquarters and the mysterious woodland that surround it, and then the brains of the characters you dive into and investigate. Raz achieves this by placing a doorway on their head, which serves as a portal for him to telepathically connect with them. It’s basically therapy, but if the therapist were to explore your mind by way of physically hopping inside of it. Each brain you explore is an intricate examination of a character’s personality, their innermost thoughts, and — more often than not — their fears.

Raz learns that the mole is seemingly on a quest to bring about the return of Maligula, a super-powerful psychic who was thought dead after bringing about a cataclysmic event. As such, you must investigate the minds of those who knew Maligula, thus learning of the trauma that she inflicted upon them. This leaves you to tactfully explore their psyche, putting together the pieces of the puzzle by entering their minds and empathizing with them. The brain of a singer with abandonment issues will see you attempting to convince representations of his long-lost friends to rejoin his band. The brain of a socially anxious man who fears being harshly judged will transport you to a ruthless game show, where you convince him that he is capable of achieving things he believes he’s too useless to achieve. Each brain is littered with nods to that individual’s characteristics, and by opening memory vaults and solving puzzles, you’ll learn more about them and, in turn, Maligula.

psychonauts 2 review worth playing buying

The dream-like quality of these levels allows Double Fine to lean into absurdity and surrealism, with levels winding in on themselves like an Escher painting, while the perspective of your surroundings is routinely toyed with. You’ll be spoon-fed caviar, then suddenly find yourself hopping atop the fish egg and riding it to your destination. You’ll open a door to a seemingly small room that will transform Tardis-style into a whole other world. At their best, these levels are an engrossing combination of exploration, action set pieces, and unique visuals designed to draw you further into an individual’s mind, even if some do outstay their welcome and stretch on for longer than necessary.

Raz moves through each level with tight platforming, utilizing a combination of his PSI Powers and the acrobatics he picked up from his time in his family’s circus. Alongside returning PSI Powers such as Levitation, which allows Raz to ride on a ball to get around faster, and Pyrokinesis, which sets enemies on fire, you also have access to a selection of new abilities. Mental Connection lets you join two concepts together to create a new thought?— for instance, linking ‘death’ to ‘socks with sandals’ will cause the individual to associate the unfortunate fashion choice with their untimely demise. Then there’s Projection, where Raz conjures up a hilariously talkative paper-thin version of himself to access different areas.

In a post-Super Mario Odyssey world where movement in a 3D platformer was redefined by Nintendo, Psychonauts 2 feels deliberately old-school. Raz moves more slowly than many of his platform hero peers, and he has less than a handful of abilities outside of his psychic powers. There is an abundance of collectibles, too, harking back to the days where collect-a-thons were a dime-a-dozen with its Figments, Emotional Baggage, and more. There are so many varieties of things to collect?— probably?too many?— that completionists will get a cold sweat just thinking about it, with them contributing to things such as increasing your rank or your health meter, or providing currency to purchase upgrades for your PSI Powers, or fun little cosmetic additions such as Raz dancing when he’s standing idle for too long.

psychonauts 2 review worth playing buying 2

Combat has also been refined since the original, with melee combos and your PSI Powers combining satisfyingly to take down enemies. There are more of those this time around, too, with Censors?— angry men looking to stomp out negative thoughts?— now joined by the likes of Panic Attacks, Bad Moods, and Regrets. Raz can now pull in these enemies with a mental connection to dish out damage, crash on top of them with the Levitation ball, or use Projection to distract them.

While improvements have been made in this department, significant combat sections are mostly relegated to boss battles, which make up Psychonauts 2’s weaker moments. Most can be completed with relative ease, despite the game’s inconsistent checkpointing meaning that death can see you spawning at the very beginning of the confrontation, even before the cutscene initiating it. Given that these battles can stretch on for far too long?— Psychonauts 2 has an outdated preoccupation with everything having to be done three times — most feel like a test of endurance rather than an actual challenge.

psychonauts 2 review pc ps4 xbox series x

In truth, Psychonauts 2 doesn’t really need these boss battles at all, as it’s at its best when it’s leaving you to explore and admire your surroundings. While it isn’t a technical masterclass by any stretch of the imagination?— there can be some framerate issues, the odd visual hiccup, and the lack of a proper ultra-widescreen option is disappointing — it provides further evidence that a solid visual direction can take precedence over what’s considered “good graphics.” This becomes more apparent as its story rolls on, as while it’s not exactly a game of two halves, the vast majority of its best moments are in its latter stages.

This is largely due to its opening chapters either introducing or reintroducing players to its weird world.?I, like many others, missed Psychonauts the first time around, so only caught up with its story shortly before diving into its sequel. Forgivingly, a knowledge of the original isn’t required here, although it’s suggested that you at least get familiar with the characters to understand their relationships. Unlike other platformers where the story takes a heavy backseat in favor of jumping on enemies’ heads, Psychonauts 2 tells an intricate yarn full of twists and turns, with it not being short on cutscenes. This sets a slow pace in its earlier levels, which focuses too heavily on Ford Cruller. Its story comes into its own when it lets loose and the mystery of Maligula becomes much more ambiguous. Like everything in Psychonaut’s world, the answers to the questions its story poses can’t be answered in black and white; the mind is full of gray areas, and Double Fine explores those expertly.

Psychonauts 2 Review: Is it worth buying?

psychonauts 2 review pc ps4 xbox

Platformers have technically advanced a lot since the original Psychonauts, though they’ve never really grown up. Despite animated films from the likes of Pixar addressing depression, grief, and even dementia for a younger audience, games rarely explore hard-hitting topics in a way that’s palatable for kids. Psychonauts 2 does a terrific job of exploring mental health without the confrontational heaviness of the M-rated The Last of Us 2, while diving in deep enough to warrant lengthy conversations about its themes long after its credits have rolled. While its old-school nature can lead to frustration, I was far too enamored by its characters and their heart-warming empathy for one another to let it dampen my enjoyment of this long-awaited sequel.


Psychonauts 2 reviewed on PC. Review code provided to GameRevolution by the publisher.

  • A genuinely heart-warming story.
  • Visual direction is second-to-none.
  • Gets better as it goes on and saves the best 'til last.
  • Combat has been refined with plenty of fun PSI Powers.
  • Tends to drag out levels until they become a little tedious.
  • Spends too long with Ford Cruller.

9

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A genuinely heart-warming story. Visual direction is second-to-none. Gets better as it goes on and saves the best 'til last. Combat has been refined with plenty of fun PSI Powers. Tends to drag out levels until they become a little tedious. Spends too long with Ford Cruller.
A genuinely heart-warming story. Visual direction is second-to-none. Gets better as it goes on and saves the best 'til last. Combat has been refined with plenty of fun PSI Powers. Tends to drag out levels until they become a little tedious. Spends too long with Ford Cruller.
A genuinely heart-warming story. Visual direction is second-to-none. Gets better as it goes on and saves the best 'til last. Combat has been refined with plenty of fun PSI Powers. Tends to drag out levels until they become a little tedious. Spends too long with Ford Cruller.
A genuinely heart-warming story. Visual direction is second-to-none. Gets better as it goes on and saves the best 'til last. Combat has been refined with plenty of fun PSI Powers. Tends to drag out levels until they become a little tedious. Spends too long with Ford Cruller.

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