It's been 16 years and we finally have a sequel to the cult classic 3D platformer Psychonauts so get your brain ready for an epic trip.
Psychonauts fittingly blew gamers' minds when it released back in 2005 and I even included it as #1 on my Top 10 Xbox Platformers list. Thankfully, Psychonauts 2 follows in the tradition set by the original with its psychological game world. Plus, Raz is back with some familiar chums and plenty of new faces as well. The story begins with Raz becoming an intern at the Psychonauts agency yet his peers jump at the opportunity to play a practical joke on him. Although this may set things off on the wrong foot, each one of these characters becomes fleshed out throughout the course of the campaign as Raz continues to prove his worth and begins to be seen as a friend. That being said, he does make mistakes (some of which are quite substantial) yet his "Golly, I didn't mean to..." personality persists.
All of this is accomplished through wonderful animation and top-notch voice work that really brings the entire cast to life. In fact, it can be just as fun to watch as it is to play. Speaking of which, the visuals are well-done, too, although not as outstanding as other recent 3D platformers but it more than makes up for that with its exceptional degree of imagination that allows every moment to shine.
Psychonauts 2's core gameplay is what you would expect from a 3D platformer but what makes it stand out as unique is its clever use of psychic powers such as the ability to levitate, set things aflame, change people's thoughts, and throw objects. Combat is well-adapted to these abilities and you also have a melee attack to fend off baddies that resemble negative thoughts such as doubts, censors, and such. Aside from fighting, you'll also use your powers to solve puzzles and master platforming sections which is all impressively varied. One minute, you'll be 2D platforming on X-rays and the next, you'll bounce down a giant Plinko board. It's this constantly-changing gameplay formula that's Psychonauts 2's strongest asset as it'll keep you consistently intrigued as to what's going to happen next.
With that in mind, Psychonauts 2 tends to follow a recent trend in games that I personally don't like which is that it holds your hand a bit too much. Simply going through the motions without any challenge isn't all that enjoyable to me and there are plenty of moments like that within the campaign. For example, when you have to connect 2 concepts to change someone's mind about something, it's always obvious as the characters basically tell you what to do. Now that I think about it, the only sense of challenge that I got throughout Psychonauts 2 is when I was fighting a boss because figuring out how to defeat them is actually quite a rewarding endeavour.
On top of the ever-engaging and well-paced campaign, there are also tons of collectibles to pick up and whether you're gathering items for a side-quest, ranking up to enhance an ability, unlocking pins to change an ability's appearance, increasing your maximum health, or trying to acquire the last few figments, nuggets of wisdom, memory vaults, or pieces of emotional baggage in an area; there's definitely a lot to keep you busy, especially if you're a completionist. On the other hand, if you're not a perfectionist then collecting stuff can feel a bit hollow because it's generally not a tough game so I didn't feel particularly motivated to search every nook and cranny.
Before wrapping this up, I wanted to mention a few minor issues. I played Psychonauts 2 on Xbox One X and it does have exceptionally long load times, jarring texture pop-in on some scene changes, and sometimes, the game seemed to have stalled when transitioning to a new area. It's still a mostly smooth experience, though, and I was impressed that you can play through long stretches without much loading. Anyway, some parts have camera issues, especially in tight spaces and platforming can occasionally be irritating such as when you punch an enemy only to see Raz unexpectedly fall off a ledge. I also thought the grind rail segments could have been more intuitive. Keep in mind; these issues only arise once in a while so Psychonauts 2 still provides a thoroughly enjoyable campaign overall.
As far as 3D platformers go, you certainly can't get much more consistently varied than Psychonauts 2 with its trippy environments and nifty psychic abilities. Throw in an excellent cast of characters and memorable story and you're left with one heck of an adventure.
- + Superbly-paced campaign full of imaginative scenarios, cool abilities, and variety
- + Great characters with excellent voice work
- + Loads of collectibles for completionists
- - Many segments simply have you go through the motions without much challenge
- - Occasional camera and platforming issues
- - Collectibles don't offer enough reward