One of the most charming games ever!
Psychonauts is an experience like none other; I came in with over 300 played games under my belt, thinking I had seen all the tricks games could visually pull off with the currently available technology. Psychonauts slapped me over the face in that aspect and showed me I should never think such silly things. Because when I started playing it from the very beginning I realized that this game was different from other games in ways that only a Tim Schafer game can be, just look at “Grim Fandango”, “Full Throttle” and “Day of the Tentacle” for proof of this. Psychonauts this cartoony atmosphere that most games would either completely avoid or just really abuse to the point where the game becomes unbearable, Psychonauts however manages to pull of this style in every single aspect. The environments are completely crazy, the summer camp it pretty “normal” (as normal as it gets in this game I guess) where you can go around interacting with your fellow psy-cadets and look for certain objects that can make your progress through the game easier. Then there is the part that makes Psychonauts such a unique game, when you start diving into people’s minds to fix things and to get new abilities, etc. Every single mind in the game is completely different from the next and they all fell and look completely different in almost every aspect. You travel from the mental battleground in the mind of your coach to the scarred mind of a former theatre star and beyond. At the end of the game you will have seen places that you have probably never even thought of seeing in any game EVER. There are levels full of color inside the head of a Spanish artist, there is a level where you are on the sea floor and see the entire level through the eyes of a monster that’s chasing Raz. I don’t want to spoil any of the other great levels that make Psychonauts so great, so I’ll simply tell you that the color scheme in this game is different from anything else in the history of video games. My color spectrum has literally been altered since I finished this game and I now see colors from a different point of view.
By the end of the game you will have seen some really freaky stuff and really freaky colors used in even freakier ways, pink, purple, green, blue, orange, they all erupt on to the game screen in Psychonauts and it really makes this a memorable experience.
Then we have the characters. It’s pretty much the same thing as the environments, the characters all look so different that they make the whole experience more fun and interesting and even though many of the other children at Whispering Rock are nowhere near as detailed as Raz and some of the other main characters are, they all look really unique, all have different personalities and voices so that the entire game seems more authentic. The overall design of the cast seems to be a mix of Tim Burton’s stop motion movies, Pixar’s movies and Dreamworks’ movies (Raz looks a lot like Z from the movie Antz for example), and it all works really well, since as I have already said it makes all the characters look and sound really unique which of course contributes to the overall feel of the game.
The sound in Psychonauts is very good overall, the music is actually quite like the visuals in the sense that the music is never quite the same in two parts of the game. Since the sound is an important part in setting the mood it always follows the visuals and takes the same turns as the visuals are taking. For example in the head of Coach Oleander where everything looks like a war zone you get a sort of a marching theme that you would probably hear during a military drill, whilst in the head of the camp counsellor Milla Vodello you get this really weird psychedelic music that goes along really well with the overall theme of some sort of 60’s dance party. So overall the background music is pretty good, there are a few spots where it probably could have been a little better but nothing that really sticks out.
Then there’s the voice acting and before I get started I might as well say it; there is a reason why this game won the “best voice acting in a game in 2005” award on Gamespot, because the voice acting is just brilliant all throughout the game. There are no celebrities or fancy stuff like that, but a cast of professional voice actors that all deliver an astounding performance. Some had to do multiple voices but I honestly didn’t notice until I heard the talk about it on the “Best and Worst of 2005 awards” so I don’t think you will notice it either, unless you sit and listen for it that is.
Psychonauts is a platformer, different from the rest of the games on Tim Schafer’s previous games that have all been classic adventure games. Many people were sceptic when Schafer announced that him and his team Double Fins Productions would be making a platformer, let me assure you that those sceptics can eat there own words, because Psychonauts is an excellent platformer in all aspects. It controls pretty good, you use the left thumbstick to steer Raz, the right thumbstick to move the camera and the A button to jump. Then you have the X button which is used to attack, the Y button that is used to interact with different objects and the B button cancels things and puts items you might have out back in your backpack. You have your psychic powers that you equip to the right trigger, the black button and the white button in any combination you prefer, and then you can use the left trigger to lock on to a target and keep focus on that particular foe. Other than that Psychonauts is pretty much your average platformer when it comes to the controls, you can control Raz with ease I never really had any problems controlling him and the only thing I can think of that I would have liked to see would have been an easier way to change your psychic powers because even though the game normally only requires you to use 3 different powers at a time in a level there are a few points where you will need more and therefore might get tired of having to go in a change the buttons for your powers. Otherwise Psychonauts controls like a really good platformer, it doesn’t do anything new but manages to use all the standards we’ve come to expect from the genre in a really good way.
The story in Psychonauts is pretty bizarre; it starts out like something you would find in a cartoon. You just walk around Whispering Rock learning things from the counsellors and help your fellow psy-cadets with different things, but after a few levels, when you’ve learnt the basics of the game everything takes a weird turn. Brains start vanishing and you take on the mission of finding out what’s going on which takes you down a weirder path than you might think. Actually I don’t really want to say so much more about the story since this game has an enjoyable story which you will want to explore for yourself.
Psychonauts is one of the (if not THE) most enjoyable platformers ever. It combines all the things we’ve come to expect of platformers over the years with a great artistic visual style, good story, charming characters and brilliant humor that will have even the most cold hearted gamer cracking a smile every once in a while.
Psychonauts is an amazing experience that should not be missed, whether you have an Xbox, PS2 or PC you owe it to yourself play this amazingly fun game!