The Peanut Gallery Reviews "Psychonauts"
Typically, it takes a lot to make my brain nearly implode. Due to my own personal experiences (not to mention some of the friends I choose to associate with), my senses have become dulled to shocking, absurd, and insane occurrences. I can listen to a friend seriously talk about his New World Order featuring a death penalty for people wearing flat-billed caps knocked to the side and laugh without concern. I can watch a congenital amputee fight an MMA match and – GASP – lose without shock at society’s gradual degradation. Sure, these things are stupid and should spark some sort of reaction from me rather than “how can I make that sound any funnier”…you know, some sort of worry, some sort of mind-numbing due to confusion…something!
…and then I encountered a secret service agent brandishing a plunger like a trumpet claiming to be working on the neighborhood sewer system, one of his many brilliant disguises concocted to hide his search for the Milk Man...that popping noise you just heard was your brain retreating into itself via the black hole of nonsense this statement just caused.
Psychonauts is a bizarre mash-up of Super Mario, drug induced hallucinations, one too many trips to the neighborhood psychiatrist, bacon, Godzilla, summer camp, hippies, circus acrobats, metrosexual super spies, Napoleon, Mexican Luchadors, and old school adventure games. Part of me wishes I could cook something like this up…then the other part of me realizes I’d be certifiably insane should such things be rendered capable of emerging from the depths of my already slightly demented mind. The fact that someone – in this case Double Fine Studios – managed to create this explosive cocktail of mental romping AND convince a game publisher to try selling it as a viable product is astounding. It’s epic failure to sell is not quite so astounding.
You see, Psychonauts is in many ways a flawed flawed game. It’s appearance is that of light hearted kiddie game of simplicity. Yet it’s control scheme is convoluted, its themes only fully appreciated by older gamers, and it’s weirdness so over the top it’s hard to initially want to start playing. It’s as if Double Fine is trying to teach appreciation of MC Escher and Carl Jung to a pack of 8 year olds. Thus, it is not surprising that only gaming critics seemed to actually want to play the darn thing.
It’s a damn shame, too, because Psychonauts is a damn fine game. How many games can you think of that have you wrestling cats resembling Rey Mysterio, investigating a cover up worthy of 9/11 conspiracy nutjobs, battling Napoleon, wrecking an entire metropolis of fish people, and trying to find the right timing to kiss the girl…all the while collecting fellow campers brains along the way?
Yes, I did just say that. Yes, all that happens in this game. Yes, you should play it...just make sure you have a security blanket nearby for those mental breakdowns caused by migraine-inducing controls and flunky deaths.