Game Review: Psychonauts 2 (Xbox One/Xbox Series X/PC)
Psychonauts 2 is the sequel to the original Psychonauts game released back in 2005. The game follows on from the VR game, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin available on PlayStation VR and PC VR.
Apart from a quick dabble a few weeks ago, I was not really aware of the original Psychonauts game. Whilst the game has since gained quite the following, it was not very well received at launch. So, I passed over it back in the day.
The sequel requires no knowledge of the first game or the VR-only follow-up. Psychonauts 2 is a platform/puzzle game, very reminiscent of the platformers from the 1990s. That’s not to say the game looks at all dated, as it does not.
Players, once again take on the role of Razputin "Raz" Aquato, former circus performer and now an intern with the Psychonauts, a secret agency specialising in operatives with psychic powers. Raz and the other interns find themselves swept up in a conspiracy of double agents, a sinister foe, and a devious cult. To succeed players must uncover the secrets of the original Psychic Six, the founders of the Psychonauts by literally entering the minds of others.
The plot is an interesting premise although, starting with the rather odd trigger warning at the beginning of the game, seems to be a bit overly preachy when it comes to the game’s attempts at moralisation.
The developers seem to think that they are addressing mental health issues, which they are not really. Sure, the story has more to do with mental health than Mario Bros. has to do with plumbing, but not by much. Some of Raz’s monologues sound like they have been plucked from a 90s corporate training video. If you want a journey into the struggles of mental health, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice does a better (and more disturbing) job.
Psychonauts 2 is a rather old-school platformer that reminded me very much of early Crystal Dynamics games. I didn’t immediately warm to the game, probably due to feeling preached at. But as I progressed the more engrossed I became. The game mechanics are finely polished as is the entire game.
Raz has a selection of interesting psychic abilities that can be assigned to the trigger and bumper buttons enabling him melee, set things alight, possess others, float, etc. All these abilities come into play as Raz negotiates both the hub of the Psychonauts HQ and the various minds that he must enter.
With a lot of the game being set inside the various characters’ minds, the developers have had an absolute field day with the level design. Be it the toothy dental theme of Dr. Loboto's tortured mind or the gambling addictions of Hollis Forsythe, the levels are surreal and fun to play. There are loads of collectables and each of the brain areas can each be revisited, once complete, to hunt down any secrets not previously found.
The character designs are amazing and the developers deserve a lot of credit for the game’s unique art style. Even the areas outside of the fantastic brain levels are meticulously detailed and fun to explore. I did find the hub area a bit too big, but there is a fast travel network to help Raz get around.
Whilst exploring, players will find Psitanium to collect which can be used to purchase upgrades and items. All this is stored in a handy journal that also keeps track of objectives.
I played the Psychonauts 2 on PC and Xbox Series X in 4K and on Xbox One in 1080p. It performed very well across all the platforms, offering a nigh-on identical experience. On the Xbox One, the loading times were considerably longer, but not a game-breaker. The game is an Xbox Play Anywhere title, and so progress is transferable between PC and Xbox One/Series X.
Psychonauts 2 offers some old-school platforming with a very polished and stylish aesthetic that makes the game one of the most unique-looking games I’ve played in a while. Even as not the greatest fan of the genre, I found Psychonauts 2 a hugely enjoyable game. As a game free to Xbox Game Pass subscribers, you’d be out of your mind to not give it a go.