The first game from Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions was the original Psychonauts, a wacky 3D platformer with Tim Burton-esque character designs, innovative game mechanics, sharp writing, and a great sense of humor. Psychonauts was released to critical acclaim in 2005, but despite rave reviews, the game was a sales flop and plans for a sequel were shelved. Loyal Psychonauts fans have waited 16 years for Psychonauts 2, and their patience has been rewarded with Double Fine’s Best Game and Game of the Year contender.
Psychonauts 2 was worth the wait. Fans of the original game should immediately love the sequel, as it picks up right where Psychonauts left off in the Rhombus of Ruin VR game. No, the Psychonauts VR game is not required for those who want to enjoy the story of Psychonauts 2. In fact, one doesn’t really need to have played the original game to know what’s going on, as there’s a helpful, detailed recap at the start to get everyone up to speed.
In Psychonauts 2, Raz and his fellow Psychonauts successfully rescue Truman Zanotto, the Psychonauts’ grand boss and father of Raz’s pyromaniac girlfriend Lili, from the restless Dr. Loboto. They arrive at the Psychonauts headquarters, which serves as the new Hub world in the sequel, replacing the Whispering Rock camp from the original game. After clearing a few introductory levels, Raz is mostly left to her own devices, free to explore the headquarters and the wilderness that surrounds it, gathering collectibles and completing side quests.
It was a lot of fun exploring the world of Psychonauts 2 and figuring out the best way to utilize Raz’s psychic abilities, and the game opened doors for players to experiment, to complete platforming challenges and overcome certain obstacles. Raz retains many of the abilities he gained in the first Psychonauts game, but Psychonauts 2 adds some new ones as well. In addition to the usual telekinesis and levitation, Raz can now use levitating thought bubbles to travel around the game world, as well as create copies of himself to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Each new ability Raz acquires in Psychonauts 2 allows him to explore further not only in the Psychonauts headquarters, but also in the Brains he’s visited. For those who may not be familiar with the Psychonauts lore, the titular Psychonauts use small doors attached to their heads to enter people’s minds. These minds serve as levels, and in typical Psychonauts fashion, Psychonauts 2 isn’t content to repeat the usual stages players have come to expect from a 3D platformer.
Instead of your typical water, fire, ice world, Psychonauts 2 builds levels based on mental illnesses and disorders. Psychonauts 2 tackles gambling addiction in an earlier level, while the latter presents panic attacks as literal monsters that Raz must fight off. There’s a lot of traditional 3D platforming throughout the game, but each level has its own gimmicks to help it stand out. From start to finish, Psychonauts 2 has some truly genius level design and game mechanics for players to explore. Seeing what crazy, hilarious new ideas Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine come up with next is so exciting that it’s hard to put down the controller.
Players will find that the controls have been greatly improved compared to the original game, making exploring Psychonauts 2 levels a much smoother experience. The platforming feels great and is an overall improvement over the original game, while the combat has been significantly upgraded. There are many more enemy types than before, and a new dodge mechanic was implemented to make it more engaging.
Not only does Psychonauts 2 have better controls than the first game, but it also looks a lot better. A 16-year gap between releases is to be expected, but Psychonauts 2 still deserves praise for its visuals regardless. The game looks stunning on the Xbox Series X, with top-notch lighting, reflections, and environmental detail. It brings Tim Schafer’s vision to life like never before, at times looking like it could pass Hollywood-caliber animation moves. There are some small texture pops throughout the game, but otherwise, Psychonauts 2 has excellent graphics.
As players step into Psychonauts 2’s sights and collect all the goodies hidden in its levels, they’ll enjoy a charming, hilarious and surprising story written by Tim Schafer and his team at Double Fine. Psychonauts 2 is written among the best of any 3D platformer ever made, with a memorable cast of characters and a story full of twists and turns. It opens up the Psychonauts lore so much that players will be eager to explore more of the world as the credits roll.
But while Psychonauts 2 will leave players wishing for more games set in the world of Psychonauts, the final quarter of the game does suffer from some pacing issues. While a common criticism of the first Psychonauts game was its short length, Psychonauts 2 is a bit too long, with a couple of levels that are way beyond their welcome and collectibles placed in annoying places that will Inevitably forcing players to replay much of the stage.
The final hours of Psychonauts 2 also have a bad habit of constantly taking control away from the player to reveal cutscenes. There’s no denying that Psychonauts 2’s story cutscenes are great, and players will be interested in what happens next, but it still affects the pacing when players are only allowed to play for a few minutes and then watch another long cutscene. It happens too much at the end of the game and it will frustrate some people. But in the end, players will complete the story of Psychonauts 2 and they will once again be free in the game world to explore, complete interesting side quests and find all the hidden collectibles.
Any fan of the original game will likely enjoy Psychonauts 2, as it improves on all the good things about the first game. But newcomers should also take care to check this game out, as it’s a phenomenal 3D platformer and Game of the Year contender. While it’s worth every penny, Psychonauts 2 is also coming to Xbox Game Pass thanks to Microsoft’s acquisition of Double Fine, so anyone interested can give it a try without making a big financial commitment.
Psychonauts 2 launches on August 25th for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.
Game Rant reviewed Psychonauts on Origin PC’s Neuron 4000D. Origin offers a wide variety of customizable PCs to suit any gamer’s needs. Read more about neurons here.