There has been a wealth of options when it comes to new releases recently, this week I’ve taken an acid trip down into the crazy wacky world of Psychonauts 2 from Double Fine and Xbox Game Studios.
The sequel has been subject to a large number of delays, as it was first confirmed way back in 2015. Psychonauts 2 was originally funded through a Kickstarter campaign before Microsoft acquired Double Fine in the summer of 2019. This had led to some issues sounding the different versions of the game being released which I’ll touch on later.
NOTE TO READER. This is a spoiler-free review and will only be based on gameplay and graphics and performance.
The first game featured the main character Raz in his effort to try and become part of the “Psychonauts”, a group of spies with psychic abilities. The story followed him meeting full members of the Psychonauts and helping them overcome fears and memories from the past and game worlds are set exploring the minds of characters in the game.
The sequel picks up right at the end of the first title, (and the VR only Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin from 2017) when the Psychonauts find that the issues are deeper than they originally thought and will follow Raz once again, continuing on his journey of becoming a full member of the team.
The game is available on most platforms, Microsoft Windows, Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. Players on PS5 can play the game via backwards compatibility with the PS4 version. This has caused some backlash from fans as there is no native PS5 release.
Depending on where you play the game has different targets relating to both resolution and frame rate.
This review is for the PC Gamepass version of the game, but I’ve also been able to try the game running on Xbox One X, and Xcloud with touch controls to give some comparison.
First off, if you haven’t had a chance to try the first game, you’ll be welcomed by a quick catch up of the story so far. Although this isn’t essential it’s well done and worth your time to watch. (the original is also available thru Gamepass PC and console if you want to try it first).
Early levels are a walkthrough of the controls and abilities on offer. They also set up the back story for the big bad of the game.
Controls are great and feel extremely natural. Even without the game telling me, I could have worked them out in about 30 seconds. There is a mix of melee and psychic abilities to defeat the enemies you’ll be facing. Along the way, you’ll complete tasks and collect items that will allow you to upgrade said abilities. So far the new abilities are an improvement on what was offered in 2005 and it’s been enjoyable having an element of customisation to my version of Raz.
Jumping is responsive and can be extended with both a double jump and a floating mechanic. I’ve had a few issues with the wall jump not working right, however, this could be my issue that will get better over time.
The early levels are a fantastic showcase for the world that has been crafted. It was the same for the first game and it’s a shame that we’ve had to wait so long for Double Fine to bring us back. I read earlier this week that the original game only sold around 100,000 copies on release. This was heart-breaking to learn and I truly hope that more players jump in this time around.
A bright and bold colour scheme, paired with irregular shaped buildings and objects has left me desperate to see more. The only way the game could seem crazier would be via illegal methods and having Dark Side of the Moon on in the background. The world of Psychonauts is one that everyone should try at least once.
Likewise, the voice work and writing is some of the best I’ve experienced in a long time and it had me chuckling along as I played. During some interactions with other characters, you can choose dialogue options that give more back story and information. It has helped me get more involved in the world and characters while the story gives more information on what lies ahead.
The game is honest about what it is. It’s a collect-a-thon, right from the start. Some players may find this hard work, but the old school feel of the game works well for me. Some of the best platform games ever (here’s looking at Rare and Nintendo during N64 time), were exactly the same. It’s more of that feel here but the controls and camera have been brought up to date for a more modern experience.
Now on to performance. So far the game has been near perfect on PC with only slight dips in framerate during loading. Playing off an M2 SSD load times for each level have been in single digits at all times. Being able to play with a high refresh rate makes the platforming sections of the game a blast and is where you can really feel the benefit.
On both Xcloud and Xbox one X performance is also excellent the only difference being load times are a little longer and FPS on base consoles is locked at 30. It is, however, disappointing to only see HDR being on offer for the Xbox Series consoles.
Maybe I was just having a good internet day, but the performance on Xcloud deserves a lot of praise, it has been one of the best performing titles I’ve experienced on the service so far. EVEN WITH TOUCH CONTROLS…...
Players often note that new versions of historic titles look the same way they remember from childhood. That being that as we get used to jumps in graphics and TV clarity we forget that games weren’t as sharp and clean as they can be now. Psychonauts 2 is a prime example of this and it wasn’t until I jumped back into the first game I really saw the changes and improvements.
Once the story is completed, the game finds a way to get you back into the previously explored worlds and let you mop up any collectables that have been missed. I’ve put around 7-8 hours in so far and a full play thru should take around 12-13. For the Platinum and Achievement hunters out there 100% completion looks to clock in at about 20ish hours.
Psychonauts 2 has been one of my favourite games of the year so far, my hope is that more people give it a go this time around and we don’t end up waiting for another 15 years for a sequel again.
On the strength of this, Microsoft should get Double Fine straight to work on their next project, whatever that might be. (Please note, it should be Banjo-Kazooie, please Microsoft give the bear and bird to Double Fine.)