Psychonauts 2 is a game five years in the making. Announced back in 2015 as a crowdfunding campaign, the development path of Psychonauts 2 is one that traditionally would be concerning. The developer, Double Fine, was purchased by Xbox and the most information everyone got about the game is that it was still in production.
Video games don’t typically take five years to make and usually, it’s a bad sign when a purchase of the development studio occurs mid-production. But none of these traditional problems stood in the way of Psychonauts 2. This is a game that was lovingly crafted from beginning to end, tells a heartfelt story, and leaves the player watching the credits feeling like they just went through a really good therapy session.
Psychonauts 2 begins only three days after the events of Psychonauts. The player is once again playing as Razputin Aquato living out his dream of being a member of the Psychonauts. All is not well within the gang, though. There is a mole among the organization and finding this mole is going to be a top priority, because if not the mole is going to reawaken a legendary force that has the potential to destroy the entire world. The journey that follows is one the developers describe as a story about empathy and healing. Raz is going to meet a lot of familiar faces, some new ones too, and it’s up to him to help a lot of people overcome their internal struggles.
The idea of a game being about mental health isn’t all that new. If anything it’s kinda trendy now, but few handle it with the care and understanding that Psychonauts 2 does. Pretty much every character Raz meets in this game is going through some kind of internal struggle whether it’s a failure to protect someone they cared about, the inability to handle stress, or grief from sins committed in their past. What’s nice about how Psychonauts 2 handles that though is that it goes beyond the surface level. It would have been very easy for the game to say “Well mental health exists, anyway here’s a cool platforming sequence.”
Instead, they go all-in on tackling the issues these characters are facing in very healthy ways. Characters are never forced to change or become someone they previously weren’t, and instead reach healthy solutions on their own with the assistance of Raz. The true mission of a Psychonaut is to help someone and that is one of many lessons Raz (and the player) learns on the journey.
The way Raz assists, of course, is by entering everyone’s mind. The ability to go explore the human mind is what makes Psychonauts unique, and it allows the developers at Double Fine to create unique worlds that can’t be found in other 3D platformers. Every world is themed after what that character is suffering from and the directions they take Raz in creates some really fun and cool environments.
Unfortunately, while the theming is incredibly unique, the gameplay itself is pretty standard. The actual 3D platforming in Psychonauts 2 doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking or unique, but it’s hard to recreate the wheel in a genre that has been perfected so many times already. There are collectibles, bottomless pits, and an objective to get from Point A to Point B or C. It’s exactly what someone would expect out of a 3D platformer, but that isn’t a bad thing.
The fun in Psychonauts 2 is in seeing what the world is going to throw at you next. It isn’t too difficult to reach the credits, but like any good platformer, the real challenge comes in 100 percenting the game. There’s momentum pushing you forward as a player, and very few worlds feel boring or lack polish, although a couple had themes that were kind of frustrating. Thankfully, they can all be reaccessed at a later point so there’s never pressure to stay too long in one level.
The biggest dividing point in this game is likely going to be in the combat. Like the rest of the gameplay, it’s nothing groundbreaking but personally, it was a lot of fun trying out the different powers. Some might feel they overstay their welcome though and get too far away from the meat of the game. Thankfully there’s plenty of ways to make combat easier and Raz more powerful so it only has to be as challenging as you want it to be. The game is plenty of fun outside the combat and will keep anyone pushing through even if they don’t care for it.
That’s really the key in everything about Psychonauts 2. This is a game that constantly creates a desire to see what’s next. Whether it’s a new world, the next hysterically funny line, or the next power to play with in combat. Psychonauts 2 had big shoes to fill — the original was a cult classic and crowdfunding often brings an even higher expectation to make something special. It will be up to the fans biggest die hards to say whether it met those lofty expectations, but it’s hard to say anything truly bad about it. The love and thought put into every scene can be felt throughout and it is an experience everyone should at least give a try.
Psychonauts 2 was provided to us by Xbox/Microsoft for review purposes. The game was played on a PC through the Xbox App.