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#1 Posted by Reisz (1623 posts) -

I've been replaying my backlog recently, and after about an hour of playtime back on PS2 the year it came out, I'd only ever heard the sky high praise of my close friends when it came to Psychonauts. Fast forward to last year and I picked it up during a mega cheap steam sale, under the impression that I really enjoyed it back when it came out and would love to go through and play it now.

Well I got around to it pretty recently and I realised that I was mistaking my own opinion of the game with the praise of my friends. I don't like Psychonauts, at all. It has a quirky art style and I like the premise, but nothing about how it plays the characters or even the presentation make me want to keep playing.

This is fascinating to me because I am usually able to clearly see the merits of a game even when I don't enjoy playing it. Something about Psychonauts just doesn't capture my attention.

What do you guys and girls think about it? What elements of Psychonauts elevate it to the levels that I see it being discussed on.

I'm genuinely interested.

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#2 Posted by McTangle (161 posts) -

I don't, duder. I played about an hour of it after a Humble Bundle a few months back and damn. The voice acting is irritating at best, the controls are clunky and the game just looks bad - which is to be expected from an 8 year-old game.

Still, it's a novel concept. I like the idea of Psychonauts a lot more than I like Psychonauts.

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#3 Posted by Winternet (8408 posts) -

Good writing. Funny writing. And I think that's it. It's also a game about going into other people's mind. So there's that.

I too am not a Psychonauts apologist, but I tend to explain that by the fact that I did not play it when it came out (only two years ago or something) and the fact that I am not a Tim Schafer/Lucas Arts fan either.

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#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36564 posts) -

Tune in tomorrow. It's the subject of my next blog. I'm not kidding. But as for a preview:

Loading Video...

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#5 Edited by Ghostiet (5832 posts) -

Good writing, the game has a nice, quirky atmosphere, the gameplay is fun (although it has problems with the endgame) and the locations are well-designed and very interesting.

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#6 Posted by MariachiMacabre (7097 posts) -

I played it on release and loved it. I loved the characters in all their Burton-esque weirdness and the concept of a psychic summer camp is still really funny to me. I also just genuinely enjoyed playing the game. I haven't played it since I came out but I thought that game was fantastic when it was new.

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#7 Edited by Tearhead (2447 posts) -

Also like you, I missed it when it came out and played it last year when I got it through the Humble Bundle, but I enjoyed it. The premise, plot and writing was really well done. Actually playing it wasn't as great, though, but I never really liked how 3D platformers played. I had many issues with controls, camera and spacial awareness.

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#8 Posted by GunstarRed (6044 posts) -

I found it really, really funny, but hated the way it controlled.

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#9 Edited by Morbid_Coffee (974 posts) -

Because it's a better game than Yoshi's Island.


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#10 Edited by Cold_Wolven (2523 posts) -

I like the quirky art style and the whole summer camp setting but most of all it's the clever writing that kept me coming back to it.

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#11 Edited by casper_ (915 posts) -

i think there were some major gameplay/control hang ups but i liked the characters, humor and setting a lot. also some of the level designs (like the milkman and napolean stage) are really creative and great. that said i did get super frustrated at points and the meat circus is notoriously fucked.

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#12 Edited by ZeForgotten (10368 posts) -

Interesting level design, funny writing, a lot of great characters.

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#13 Posted by Daneian (1308 posts) -

I think the writing and story is clever but don't really like playing it.

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#14 Posted by Elyk247 (417 posts) -

The platforming is awesome for one, but the basic idea of entering people's minds is just genius. I love it because the the characters are all memorable in their own sort of way, like Dogen, who is the coolest character in the game. It's the little touches too, like getting the ability of clairvoyance and seeing what people really think you look like to all the safes that are locked up in people's minds that you open up and learn about their pasts. Mila's suppressed emotions are one of the scariest things I've ever seen in a video game.

I won't argue that Psychonauts is perfect, because I think that last level is horrible. But once I was thrown into the Lungfish City, the Milkman stage and when you enter the Bull-fighting stage, it was hard for me not to get hooked. It's one of my favorites, no doubt.

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#15 Posted by Jaqen_HGhar (1316 posts) -

It has a great art style, humor, voice acting and cool new ideas. But the thing that made the game one of my all time favorites is how it deals with different psychological disorders. Sure, it is fun in a weird way when you find "emotional baggage", or when you dust up cobwebs from areas of a persons mind. But when you find each persons "safe", where they keep memories they would rather soon forget (some of the safes are like that at least)... it gets dark. Very dark.

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#16 Posted by Justin258 (14848 posts) -

Tune in tomorrow. It's the subject of my next blog. I'm not kidding. But as for a preview:

Loading Video...

...I sure hope that's less embarrassing in context. It looks like something I might have seen on Nickelodeon because I was too lazy to find the remote three shows after Hey Arnold went off.

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#17 Edited by Video_Game_King (36564 posts) -


....Goddamn it. I actually make a Hey Arnold joke in tomorrow's blog. Is the future leaking into the present?

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#18 Edited by BeachThunder (14850 posts) -

Let's not pretend that the gameplay is anything other than a complete turd - horrible camera control, some very frustrating platforming sections, farming for collectibles, etc...

However, I love Psychonauts for the visual style, characters, story, setting, humour, and just general creativity.

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#20 Edited by mracoon (5106 posts) -

Eh, I think people exaggerate the problems with the platforming somewhat. It wasn't the best but it was certainly playable. The only time it became overly frustrating was in the Meat Circus but I heard they patched that when the game was re-released on Steam, although I've yet to check myself.

What sets Psychonauts apart for me is the level design. It has some of the most creative and unique levels that I've ever played. The Milkman Conspiracy, Waterloo World, and Lungfishopolis are my personal favourites but each level brought something completely new which both expanded on the world and the characters whose minds they represented.

I'm of the mindset that if a game has a great narrative then that's enough make up for mediocre gameplay. So few big budget games take any risks with their stories so when a game like Psychonauts comes along and is so far left field from anything else out on the market, then it's no surprise that a lot of people latch on to it as a must play game.

Also, I will never stop finding this hilarious.

Loading Video...

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#21 Posted by Getz (3764 posts) -

The game is hilarious, with some ingeniously designed levels and though the game-play isn't all perfectly polished there's never a moment where you're stuck doing the same thing for very long. One of the best games of the previous generation. More than the sum of it's parts.

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#22 Posted by myketuna (1930 posts) -

I love the game because of the writing, the art style, and the characters. The controls I thought were good enough. I don't remember struggling with them. Nor do I remember struggling with whatever stage everyone doesn't like toward the end. It was a smooth experience all around and I enjoyed my time with it.

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#23 Edited by Svenzon (946 posts) -

Funny and really gripping writing, great storytelling with really well done characterization and great atmosphere.

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#24 Edited by project343 (2895 posts) -
  • Great writing
  • Inventive mechanics
  • Spectacular level variety
  • Really cohesive design (a fun, frolicky level will have a beautifully energetic soundtrack, delightful and silly mechanics, and a light-hearted art direction, for instance)

When taken together, the variety of the levels, and the cohesiveness of those levels' designs really come together to make something special. You won't be doing the same thing twice, you won't be seeing the same thing twice, and you won't be hearing the same thing twice; more than that, unlike something like Mario Galaxy (which I, personally adore), the variety doesn't feel convoluted for variety's sake. It all feels consistent with the world that they have created.

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#25 Posted by JasonR86 (10182 posts) -

It's been awhile and I played it after it had first released. I thought it was neat but not the sort of thing that blew me a way. It was really inventive and fun up to the part where you have to buy the web gun (as I did not have enough...whatever the currency was to get the gun and had to grind) then it was fun again and then the last level happened. But all in all it was a neat little game.

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#26 Posted by HaltIamReptar (2038 posts) -

It's a good example of artistic expression in games. There's a lot going on. Not everyone's jam.

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#27 Posted by turboman (9269 posts) -

Great writing and terrifically made environments. I'd say keep with it until you get to the insane asylum and see how you like it then...

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#28 Posted by unequivocable (241 posts) -

I remember being uncertain about the opening and the first mind-level, but as I got in further i fell in love with the characters and the writing and the very imaginative levels. Some of those later levels are really ingenious in how their look ties into the character who's mind you're in.

Also, kids camp! I totally was taken back to the charm of being at camp.

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#29 Posted by turboman (9269 posts) -

You also probably haven't unlocked all of the mechanics yet...

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#30 Posted by jdh5153 (1097 posts) -

I've never played it but I just picked up the Humble Double Fine Bundle (for $1) and have it in my Mac Steam library now. I might try it out, but I don't like platforming games or games that look cartoony, so it's already not looking very promising.

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#31 Edited by Laiv162560asse (488 posts) -

Generally I'm not a fan of platformers, especially 3D platformers, nor am I all that hot for cutesy zany humour featuring wackily-deformed, Nickelodeonesque characters. Psychonauts is one of my favourite games ever. So either my brain completely short-circuited in this one instance and compelled me to love something which is utterly misaligned with my tastes, or there is actually some ingenious writing, design and gameplay here.

As others have mentioned, the writing is clever, the humour's snappy and the locations are superb. There are some impressively dark undertones at play in the dream worlds you visit, along with evidence of real psychological awareness in the way these worlds hint at the personality flaws and secrets of the dreamer. There's a certain secret room which terrified me because of how unexpected it was. Schaffer's talked about the possibility of dynamically generating levels for future games based on psych evaluation tests performed by the player, but in Psychonauts you can already see how Double Fine were delving into cool psychological themes with their level design.

The summer camp hub-type area is cool too. It gives the game the atmosphere of some kind of kids' coming-of-age movie or adventure movie from the 1980s, an atmosphere which gradually darkens as the game progresses. Correspondingly, the kids are all genuinely funny, likeable character archetypes.

It's not perfect. It took about an hour's open-minded play before I realised I wasn't playing some interactive version of mediocre children's TV. The music is kind of obnoxious and unsubtle; it has the kind of soundtrack that tries to mirror every single onscreen action with wacky sequences of notes, which I find occasionally dilutes the genuinely great humour. Finally, some of the platforming bits are frustrating.

However I think the criticisms of the gameplay are overblown. My memory of the platforming is that it's generally really tight and responsive. It's especially satisfying once you get the levitation skill, which allows you to gamble on moving faster and jumping longer, which saves time if you're skilful enough. The psychic skills give plenty of combat options. For my first play, I even used mouse and keyboard and didn't have a single complaint. Apart from the Meat Circus. Fuck the Meat Circus.

Dammit, just discussing Psychonauts makes me want to play through it again. Happens every time.

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#32 Edited by BisonHero (11005 posts) -

The biggest issue is that the first three levels are kinda bad. The boot camp level, the giant white cube, and Milla's weird 60s dance party; those are the 3 weakest levels in the game, both in terms of not having a particularly striking concept, and in terms of the camp instructor person guiding you through their own mind.

It gets good once you get past that, to messed up minds that you have to fix on your own, and I think the concepts of those levels is much more interesting (though Gloria's Theater level just felt a little too trial and error in terms of figuring out what scene you have to mess with).

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#33 Posted by Nightriff (7178 posts) -


I wanted to really like the game, I enjoyed the characters, art, story, humor, pretty much everything but playing it. I've thought about just watching someone else play and beat it because I am interested in it

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#34 Posted by OfficeGamer (1119 posts) -

It was just one hell of a ride, everything about it made me wanna keep playing, and that to me is a good game!

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#35 Posted by EpicSteve (6908 posts) -

I think Psychonauts is incredibly overrated. It was cool, but fuuuuuuck it isn't great.

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#36 Posted by Tylea002 (2382 posts) -


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#37 Edited by Laiv162560asse (488 posts) -

@bisonhero I dunno, I liked the cube and the dance party, partly because you're exploring the summer camp and progressing story stuff while unlocking those levels, but yeah, the boot camp is a turnoff and not representative of how cool the game gets. Geometrically speaking, one part in that level is particularly horribly designed, leaving no hint as to the way forward. Since my last post I actually went off to see if anyone was streaming Psychonauts on Twitch. One guy was just starting up the game and playing Basic Braining - he kept screwing up and eventually had an early ragequit. Clearly it's not a compelling opening to the game.

Having said that, particularly with platform games, at some point people have to just fess up and realise it's not necessarily the game's fault if they stink at it. The guy I was watching suuuucked. For some reason he couldn't even figure out how to jump straight upwards while stationary - either he was inadvertently holding Shift down while jumping or there was some problem with his hardware input. He insisted on using M&KB despite his obvious discomfort with the controls. He ignored interactive characters, hammered a key to skip through all the dialogue as quick as possible and alt-tabbed out during cut scenes in order to eat pasta. If anyone asks that guy what he thinks of Psychonauts now, I'm sure he'll say it sucks, but... play a game in a shitty way and it'll be a shitty game, y'know?

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#38 Posted by SpencerBoltz (87 posts) -

I really thought it was funner than hell.

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#39 Posted by CrazyBagMan (1354 posts) -

Because most people enjoy good things.

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#40 Edited by ShaggE (8650 posts) -

I'm not as in love with it as most, but I adore the creativity. It's just such a great idea for a game, and it mostly pays off.

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#41 Edited by GrantHeaslip (1869 posts) -

It's been a long time, but I remember the actual platforming being kind of mediocre. It seems like one of those games that's way more about atmosphere and writing than mechanical strength, and I find myself kind of sick of that style of game and the way they're selectively praised. I'm not saying it's a bad game or anything -- I just find it suspect how almost all of the praise includes "the gameplay is fine". Fine's not good enough if you're trying to convince me a video game is amazing.