A genuinely sophisticated, fun and engaging platformer with a great sense of humor. Who knew there was such a thing!?!
This is quite simply an "A-list" title in quality and craftsmanship that seemed to be a complete commercial failure. I tried this game on the suggestion of almost every critic I've read on the topic of "ten best Xbox games of all time" etc. I thought it'd be good, but I was pleasantly shocked to see that was very high quality, on the level of a Mario Galaxy.
Yes, this game is as innovative and graphically impressive as Mario Galaxy.
I said it.
The problem was that it was a completely new franchise with zero recognition by younger players. The cover states: "From the mind of Tim Schafer". This means nothing to anyone really, except those who have played the "point and click" adventures from Lucas Arts: Full Throttle and Grim Fandango among others. These were published a long ass time ago and anyone under 25 won't even know of them let along have played them. I am a smidge older than this and happened to play them as a kid. They were great for their time for sure, with excellent art work and very unique premices and style, with clever dialogue. The same quality in art, unique style and dialogue made it to Psychonauts. The problem is that the people that played Grim Fandango when it came out and were fans enough to know Tim Schafer are not the type of people that'd play a run and jump platformer where you collect items. Add this to the the aforementioned fact that this was a completely new franchise and it's kind of obvious why it failed financially.
Anyways, without giving anything away, or rambling on and overintellectualizing, the game has a really unique and diverse collection of influences. This is an American game to its core (but with the quality of a Japanese title) and has the following Americana pop-culture references as environment themes:
-Summer Camp complete with log cabins and confusing sexual tension you felt as a kid towards girls but never really knew how to define it. It's got kind of a cartoon Montana look to it.
-Those uber tacky Mexican paintings on black velvet of mariachi's and castonete girls that you see at flea markets and garage sales.
-Bahaus design (seriously).
-Austin Powers like cheesy Euro Dance club (which isn't really American, but an American interpretation of how cheesy Europeans are)
-a 50's type all American neighbourhood that is twisted upon itself so that the streets are almost in knots featuring stereotypical secret service agents in trench coats.
-A dark nightmare on the scale of something from Tim Burton.
-A staged play with multiple paths of the story in a place that reminded me of the Muppets Theatre.
-A hexigonal war strategy map set in the times of Napoleon (yes, again, seriously)
All the environments throughout have kind of a hand sculppted look to them, there are no symmetrical, jagged polygons in this game. The graphics are amazing, even by today's (three years later and next gen) standards.
The gameplay is great too. You can explore every nook and cranny with hardly any pop in or glitches. It's also pretty long. It took me about seventeen hours to finish wihich is really long for a platformer. It is really top friggin' notch. A class act. They must have play tested the hell out of this thing.
Overall, just take my advice and play this game. You will be very pleased that it is as deep and surprisingly interesting (and funny) as anything you've ever played. Again, its graphics were kind of ahead of its time so it's still pretty to look at. No wonder all the critics recommend it. This is ten times the the game of others that are ten times as popular.