An interesting exploration of modern psychology in (game?) form.
So, I'm like a million years late playing this wonderful game and reviewing it, but it doesn't much matter because I think this game will stand the test of time. That sentence may sound presumptuous or like hyperbole, but as long as 3D platformers don't kill anyone's baby I think it will. Psychonauts starts mildly enough with no apparent conflict in sight, save for the young protagonist, Raz, sneaking into a summer camp for psychic soldiers called psychonauts. However, this camp is not full of tough-willed or extremely intelligent, otherworldly beings. Rather, it's more of an X-men like training facility for children to hone and control their psychic ability. These children are all quite unique and colorful, but you won't really see how colorful until they lose something very important (Here's a hint: its on the box art) to that color that you then have to go and find. I didn't spoil what these characters lost because it is so integral to the plot which I can maybe, briefly describe?
But enough about the story, let's talk game. You play as Rasputin, or Raz, and you'll end up platforming your way through various levels based around the minds of the characters you meet. These can vary from a fancy disco party, to a nondescript cube out in space. The controls are mostly simple platforming fare, and there's really not much to write home about on the platforming side of things. However, there is a really cool leveling system in the game that will grant you all sorts of cool psychic power upgrades. Like a confusion grenade, a psychic blast, or clairvoyance to see what your enemies see (which can lead to a whole lot of funny moments). These help you move around the various environments and destroy the various enemies and bosses.
Some of the said environments can be very difficult, I remember one particular case of a frustrating escort mission paired with difficult platforming at the very end of the game. Then there are those levels that feel like adventure game scenarios with 3D platforming conventions standing in for simple clicks of a mouse. Then there's the combat, and what a battle it is to get the camera pointed at the right enemy, not get swarmed by a ton of enemies, or not get knocked off into a insta-death pit by an enemy. The combat is great in the boss fights though, however that's is often because you've just stunned said boss before wailing the tar out of him.
Graphically, the game looks alright, but was a little janky, although that probably has more to do with my ineptitude handling PC graphics settings, than the games lack of polish. The voice work is spot on for almost all the characters, although there will be some samples that will repeat and get annoying.
So now that we're at the end of my horrible review, I get to tell you what I really think of this game. I really enjoyed the characters and story, but the difficult platforming, and the holdovers from adventure games don't make this as good a "game" as you would think. Don't get me wrong this game was enjoyable on almost every level, but I always preferred the character moments and interesting scenarios to the often difficult platforming and combat. Don't get me wrong the platforming is well worth playing and extremely fun, I just cursed at my most recent death too many times to enjoy the latter half of Psychonauts.