Psychonauts has style and storytelling in spades which helps you forget its faults.
kayn83 wrote this review on .
The brainchild behind Psychonauts is Tim Schafer. LucasArts' goto guy for Adventure games in the 90s, Schafer was already an established name when Majesco recruited his newly formed Double Fine Productions to create a game for them. The result is Psychonauts, a twisted adventure that really is out of this world.
Psychonauts stars Rasputin aka Ras, a carnival runaway who has psychic powers. His destination is a summer camp dedicated to psychics. While there, his psychic power grows and he uncovers a plot surrounding brain stealing and other nefarious doings. The game's story is surprsingly dark, funny and lined with satiric flair that only a mind like Schafer could come up with.
The sound is also well done in this game as well. The dialogue between characters in genuinely funny and it's complemented by well done voice acting. The music in the background is simple orchestrated stuff but it also works pretty well to set the mood. Psychonauts' excellent storytelling and sound design help to alleviate most of the game's flaws which will be addressed moreso later on.
It should be noted that I own this game on the PS2 so the graphics do look noticeably worse in this version. There is a slight slowdown and a choppiness especially when jumping. The textures appear grainy and dull as well and definitely don't do this game justice. After viewing Xbox screens, the game does look better on that console but not a whole lot better. Psychonauts' art direction is very eclectic and varied. There are tons of variety and it never makes the game feel repetitive or boring. The graphics are a mixed bag but they compliment the game.
The overall gameplay feels very fresh compared to other games mostly due to the excellent story and sound. The gameplay consists of typical platforming stuff including jumping and collecting items. The difference comes primarily in the psi powers that Ras learns throughout the game which include telekinesis and invisibility. These powers help Rasputin overcome obstacles and fight bosses. Ras travels to different areas by going into peoples' minds. Because the mind isn't a concrete and definite concept, many of the levels are abstract and extremely unique. These can vary from a dance party to a theater stage to a meat circus. This gives the game a very fresh feeling when compared to a typical platform game. Other than that, the game isn't very innovative but a good game doesn't need to be innovative to be good.
I noticed some annoying flaws in this game that did hamper my experience. Platforming is at times tedious. Ras appears to small on the screen and timing jumps can be awkward at times. Platforms themselves can often be small and hard to notice due to an awkward camera. This game could be easily a much better game if there was a little more time spent developing and simply fine tuning the game, some of the problems could have been alleviated.
All being said, Psychonauts is an enjoyable while flawed experience. Solid and genuinely funny storytelling is complimented by unique gameplay mechanics. While the game does have some issues like slowdown and tedious platforming sequences, players will want to progress because of how entertaining the package is. Psychonauts is now available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for $15. If you want a hard copy, you might be able to find the game cheap but it might require a bit of searching. Nevertheless, this is a pretty solid title that is worth the price of admission.