Psychonauts 2 is the tale of Razputin Aquato, a skilled acrobat and member of the Aquato family circus, and to his family’s dismay a very powerful psychic. An action-adventure platformer Developed by Double Fine Studios under the Xbox Game Studios banner, it follows the adventures of Razputin as he tries to cement his place within the international psychic organisation that he has wished to be a part of for many years, the Psychonauts.
Psychonauts 2 takes a very user-friendly and more relaxed approach to the very serious matter of mental health and even offers a mental health advisory to its players upon loading the game. It remains very true to its predecessor in terms of gameplay, artistic style and humour and is a direct sequel to the original Psychonauts made way back in 2005, presenting a short story recap upon starting a new game, which can be seen below.
The story goes that Truman Zanotto, Grand Head of The Psychonauts, was kidnapped by Dr. Loboto, but Loboto was not working alone, and it is up to the Psychonauts to get to the bottom of it and find out the true mastermind and reasoning behind it all. There are a lot of story twists and turns and I would be lying if I didn’t wrongly accuse multiple characters of any wrongdoings. To unravel the story, Razputin enters the mind of many different characters with intentions of uncovering any truths or by altering ideas withing that character’s mind. With this concept the developers were given a lot of creative freedom and so the level design is incredibly unique and there were many times where I had to rub my eyes to be sure that I was seeing things correctly.
My play time of just under twelve and a half hours with a fair amount of exploration, and though Psychonauts 2 has a fantastic and engrossing story with very unique and lovable characters, the story can at times burden the game with its slow pacing. I personally play with subtitles and if I read a sentence quicker than a character speaks it, I like to skip to the next line, being that I am a working Dad and am not always blessed with gaming hours. Players in Psychonauts 2 cannot skip single lines of dialogue, only whole conversations.
The first mission sends the player on a chase which gives them a chance to become familiar with movement and combat, as well as the basic psychic powers which include:
- Telekinesis – Lift objects to carry or throw.
- PSI Blast – Blast beams of psychic energy to cause damage.
- Pyrokinesis – Conjure fire to inflict damage.
- Levitation – Move quickly and jump higher with a levitation ball or summon it in the air to slow a fall.
There are a number of other psychic abilities that are learnt through the progression of the game that include:
- Clairvoyance – See through the eyes of other people or animals to get another perspective.
- Mental Connection – Used to grapple between thoughts.
- Time Bubble – Slow down objects and enemies.
- Projection – Summon an archetype to distract enemies and assist with puzzles.
Intern credits are earned through completing missions and the many optional missions, which can be used to upgrade the power and usefulness of Razputin’s psychic abilities.
Each of these psychic abilities have their own use, whether it be in combat, to complete puzzles or make it to those harder to reach areas and for those completionists, they are all a must have. Along with these abelites, Razputin offers his acrobatic skillset in order to climb certain walls or objects and swing from poles that protrude out of various walls and surfaces, as well as a double jump.
While exploring the world of Psychonauts 2 players will come across a number of items that can help them along their travels such as:
- Psitanium – A currency that is collected through defeating enemies and destroying objects which can be used at an Ottomatic machine to purchase upgrades and consumables.
- PSI Cards – Challenge cards that can be found throughout the world of Psychonauts and can be combined with a PSI Core to receive a rank upgrade.
- Figments – Figments of imagination can be found while exploring a character’s mind and once collecting a certain amount the player receives a rank upgrade
- A number of items that go towards progressing to a higher rank inside and outside of explorable minds
The Ottomatic offers consumables that will restore Razputin’s Mental Energy (health) in small increments or when fully depleted, as well as a number of more expensive pins that can be equipped to give boosts to various attributes and abilities like upgrades in damage from the PSI Blast ability or increased damage to punches. Players can also purchase the PSI Core’s that are combined with the PSI cards to gain rank. Psychonauts 2 suggests stocking up on these consumables’ multiple times throughout gameplay but I never really found that they were needed as there is plenty of health on offer throughout the world and there is no real punishment to depleting all health.
Psychonauts 2 does not come with any difficulty settings but it is far from a difficult game. It focuses more heavily on its story and so for any players that wish to breeze by the combat there are settings that allow the player to turn on or off:
- Fall damage
- Narrative combat – Gives Raz a significantly large damage output so to focus on the story
Enemies can have a particular weakness that can be exploited with certain psychic abilities and they all come in a range of shapes and sizes, from small flying enemies that drop damaging objects on top of the Razputin, to slime that can teleport to the players position and also leave blotches on the ground that slows the players movement speed. It is only unfortunate that for the amount of combat within Psychonauts 2, there is a serious lack of variety when it comes to unique enemy types.
The combat starts to get more interesting when taking on one of the many bosses. Bosses are often the last defence at the tail end of a character’s mind. Most boss fights offer a platform where the player will need to quickly avoid incoming attacks and take small windows of opportunity to make an attack of their own. There are also times during a boss fight where weaker enemies will spawn and force the player move their focus away from the task at hand, though they are often light work.
As mentioned earlier in this review, Double Fine Studios have made it one of their goals for Psychonauts 2 to remain very true to the original game and they have done a fantastic job of delivering a very nostalgic world that runs extra smooth and without hiccup, especially on this new generation of consoles. Psychonauts 2 has one of the most vibrant worlds that I have explored in a game and because some areas are set within the minds of multiple characters, each has such unique and distinct characteristics to them that at no point did ever think to myself “I feel like I’ve been here before”.
Psychonauts 2 sounds fantastic and is even better with headphones. The combat is where the game sound really shines, with every psychic ability having its own unique sound when being set upon enemies, and incoming attacks met with grunts and thwacks. As expected, there is a lot of dialogue in this game, whether it be within a cutscene or spoken during gameplay and for the most part it tends to be compiled of a lot of dry humour.
There are some adult themes hidden within Psychonaut 2’s gameplay and story but I do not believe that it would be distressing to any younger audiences and while there is a lot of combat there are no particularly frightening images that could deter the kids. In fact, my five-year-old really enjoyed watching me play, especially when in the really colourful areas. The game can be easily paused if any parental duties arise, and it will not have any negative effect on the gameplay.