Hi! You won’t believe what happened. Truman Zanotto, world leader of Psychonauts, has been kidnapped! And quickly rescued … The most eminent agents, the president’s daughter and some kid who is her boyfriend, went to the rescue. Nobody knows him, but he was reportedly included in the team by Ford Cruller himself. As is well known, Ford has gone mad after his historic fight with Maligula and it is hard to believe in the rationality of his decisions. Therefore, this strange kid, Razputin, was conditionally admitted to service in Psychonauts as an apprentice for his services in rescuing the president. I see! There are rumors that the kidnapper did not act alone and that someone is going to resurrect the cruel witch Maligula!
Psychonauts, released in 2005, was the debut production of Double Fine Productions studio composed of LucasArts veterans and the main star, Tim Schafer, the author of many respected adventure games. Schafer decided to go with the times and create a platformer instead of an adventure game. The crazy game resulting from this resolution quickly gained critical acclaim, but hit a sales flop. Although only three days have passed since the events of the first game in the world of Psychonauts, sixteen years have passed in our reality. The years during which the game has become a legend and has passed from the position of a hidden gem to the rank of a cult artistic classic that is simply to be known.
It was a strange production. But this is really screwed up. We played the role of Razputin, a teenager who ran away from home to spend his vacation at a summer camp, which was in fact a secret government facility that taught children mental skills. Throughout the game, we entered the minds of other people, often healthily twisted, which is why Psychonauts constantly changed the style and way of playing. So much so that from a platformer to a board game for a moment. The first edition ended in a semi-open manner, where our hero set off on a mission to save the president, although his path to becoming a Flesh and blood Psychonaut had already ended. Further events were shrouded in mystery.
Till this day. Psychonauts 2 is a direct continuation of the first part and begins exactly at the moment when the heroes return by plane with the rescued Truman Zanotto. Between these titles, there was also a spin-off for VR devices, which brought closer the course of this mission. As you can see, these games are closely related, so the question arises in someone’s mind whether they should be known at all before playing two. While the VR title can be omitted, the first one should be finished to recognize all the flavors and references. Admittedly, at the very beginning we have a summary video, but it is very sketchy and omits a lot of threads.
Because people who played number one will feel at home with the second part.Most importantly, the game doesn’t feel brute-force; that after many years someone decided to dig up a brand appreciated by players and go nostalgic. On the contrary! Psychonauts fits in nicely as a direct follow-up. It develops the world, adds a new story and has the feeling that it was all planned from the beginning, even though the previous edition was a closed whole. You can get the impression that not sixteen years have passed, but these three game days.
People who have played one and are still hesitating should stop immediately. Go and play, the above recommendation should be enough for you. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, I recommend that you start with the first part. Although boxed editions can cost thick coconuts, you can easily find it (just like Psychonautów 2) in Game Pass. And if I were lazy, I could quit writing at this point. However, there are still a few things worth talking about. Because if you go into the smallest details, you will find some other differences between the games.
As I mentioned before, number one was a healthily screwed up game. Especially in the fragments that took place in the mental institution. The creators were able to take an illness or trauma in an extremely creative way and create a whole level around this problem, which was distinguished from the rest by the climate and the way of playing. If you go to YouTube, you can find videos where people explain why Tier X was outstanding and what it did unique. For X you can set any level depending on the taste of the person creating the movie. And in the two it has been kept, the levels are varied and they still take up the problems of mental illnesses, only that everything has been … toned down.
The problem with number one was that the levels were uneven and their reception strongly depended on the player’s preferences. While for some they could be a real masterpiece, among others they caused at most a meh effect or frustration. There is no such thing here and each level is very similar in quality, but it had an impact on their design. We will not experience such jumping around genres, the game will not suddenly change from a platformer to a board game. Psychonauts 2 is mostly a platformer with small mini-games. This is a safe move, because how one genre change can completely ruin the fun of the game is proven by Brutal Legend from the same authors and the sudden transition from driving and beating to a horribly made RTS.
Psychonauts 2 is less creative fun with the gameplay, but for the benefit of all players. There is no risk here that any level will knock us out of the flow. In fact, the only major experiment is the culinary level, during which we have to make certain dishes by jumping on the kitchen utensils placed around the arena.The levels are really well made and encourage careful exploration, and in order to complete them in 100%, it is necessary to check them after completion to be able to unlock new passages thanks to the skills acquired in the later stages of the game.
I have the impression that the selection of mental disorders for this edition was not as hardcore as in the case of the first part, but despite everything the authors did with them is a real gem. The levels are great looking, creatively designed and just fun to play. Humor and fun with form are still top-notch, but I missed something in the game that would crush the armchair like the Milkman Conspiracy from one. A level that could genuinely evoke a feeling of hound in the recipient and make him feel like a persecutor for a moment.
It’s not here. The levels, while great, don’t hit the more serious tones. Even topics such as alcoholism or drug addiction are presented surprisingly lightly. Only the last level returns to the old tracks, but most of them are very … Comic? Nothing to overwhelm the player. As if the creators decided that during the first part they drove around the gang and could unconsciously aggravate someone’s mental health problems, so here they wanted to make everything less intense. The first mind in number one was turning the scout camp into trenches of the war. The first level in two, aside from the tutorial, is down-to-earth overthinking. It’s a bit like the toning of the climate between American McGee’s Alice and Alice Madness Returns.
The main story itself is more personal and focuses on Ford Cruller and the circumstances of the Psychonauts’ rise. Razputin, despite being the main character, sometimes steps back into the shadows and is only a relay in learning about the past. It takes the form of what if Hitler was your grandfather’s best friend. Not literally, of course, but I find no other comparison that does not go too far into the spoiler sphere. History grapples with the demons of the past and shows the human side of someone who is considered a war criminal all over the world. A very good story about trauma and attempts to deal with it, presented in a form that mixes seriousness with a large dose of humor.
Unfortunately, the game has a few flaws that should be mentioned. The biggest problem is that the hero sometimes gets wedged between objects and if he unfortunately falls during a jump, you can get out of such a wedge only by loading the level and losing a piece of progress. I also got buggy with one collectible and I couldn’t finish the level 100% until I saw the end credits. While playing the game on XONE X I also suffered from long loadings, but on Series X this problem probably does not occur.by introducing a map suggesting in which areas something else may be waiting for us. Currently, the figure counter will stop at e.g. 199/200 and fly around the level looking for that one hidden trash …
It took me 35 hours to complete Psychonauts 2 100%. It should take you about 15 to complete the main missions. This is an amazing game. It may not do anything revolutionary, but it proves that the formula from years ago can still be fun. Here you will get a very good story, unique and phenomenal levels, as well as the gameplay that perfectly affects what is most important in platformers. And although I consider one to be a more atmospheric game, two are better in every other way. Is this the best platformer of the year? It is quite possible, after all, there is simply no second such series. Smell the Universe! And may it not end with a financial failure this time, because I will consider the brand to be damned.
Review copy courtesy of Microsoft.