Psychonauts offers a bizarre yet wonderful adventure, as well as some of the most hilarious writing seen in video games.

User Rating: 8 | Psychonauts PC


Tim Schafer is known for creating goofy characters, what with the likes of Guybrush Threepwood of Monkey Island fame, whom he co-designed with his peers. However, with Psychonauts, it would be evident that his peers (e.g. Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman) are the ones who held his bizarre ideas in check. Without them, and with a studio that he has founded at his beck-and-call, Psychonauts was begat, and it is one heck of an entertainingly bizarre game.


Razputin is a circus performer who is well-aware of the superhuman psychic powers that he has, but his desires could not be achieved while he remains at the circus. Frustrated, he runs away to seek out a special training camp that takes in and train children with psychic potential, after having been informed of it by a mysterious stranger.

As a side note, it has to be mentioned here that in days of yore, there was a running joke that fictional children who run away from home typically joins the fictional circus that happens to be passing by; this game may be taking a spin on that joke.

Anyway, he does find the training camp, but he – and the player – would discover that the camp and its inhabitants are very, very far different from what one would expect of a camp for children. In fact, it is closer to a nuthouse, though this review would be going too far ahead by elaborating on this.

However, it should suffice to say that the start of the story would already hold promise of quite a grand – if bizarre – adventure. Psychonauts certainly fulfills that promise.


As to be expected, the camp's (adult) caretakers do not take kindly on someone simply stumbling into their supposedly secret camp, and that Razputin himself has realized some of his own potential on his own would raise more than a few eyebrows.

On the other hand, there is little else that they can do but to indulge his desire to learn while awaiting Razputin's parent to come over and pick him up, and this gives him – and the player – to learn a thing or two about being a trainee.

The first level acts a tutorial of sorts, with on-screen text bubbles telling the player how to move about the grounds of the camp. This is where Razputin's background as a circus performer helps, as he is substantially more agile than most other persons that he meets – especially the other children, who are mostly physically challenged in one way or another. He can jump and run around with gusto, as well as perform a double jump that gets him into higher places and launch himself off trapeze swings.

Of course, such control over Razputin would be nothing new to players who are experienced in platformers. However, it has to be mentioned here that the ratio of Razputin's jumping height to his body size is very generous, so the player shouldn't have a problem with Razputin's model blocking the view of where the player wants him to jump to.

However, the beginning segment of the game also reveals one of the game's setbacks: a less-than-clever camera. The player will notice this as he/she has Razputin jumping from one platform to another that is not exactly collinear or parallel; the camera often does not reset itself to a more convenient angle, so the player has to do this himself/herself by using the mouse, the movement of which is mainly used to orient the camera.

On the other hand, this only happens for optional platforming sequences, such as those that are needed to have Razputin reach some collectibles. For sequences that are of importance to the story, the game locks the camera to convenient angles, which helps to minimize frustration.

For the computer version of the game, the actual running and jumping that Razputin would do is done via the keyboard. The layout of the controls and what they do for Razputin would be familiar to veterans of platformers, e.g. the direction that he would be moving to when the player inputs a movement command is done with respect to his facing, and not the camera.

At some segments of the game, the controls are restricted to movement along a plane, usually for simplified platforming segments. The game does this satisfactorily, with rarely, if any, hiccups in collision detection or failure to notify the player that the controls have been restricted.

If the player is thorough and/or anal-retentive, he/she can be spending quite a lot of time in the first few areas to search for collectibles, which will be described later.

The only kind of movement that the player does not get to do in the game is swim. This is due to a certain quirk of Razputin's personality, which will not be elaborated here for fear of spoilers. However, despite the canonical excuse, some players may be disappointed by this omission, considering how more entertaining Psychonauts could have been if Razputin is able to swim.


Much of the zanier moments in the game happen after Razputin has sent his psyche into another person's mind; the tutorial segments of the game provides one such occurrence, using the willing mind of one of the characters – and what a mind it is.

Sometime later into the game, Razputin gains a device that allows him to enter another person's mind, albeit with or without their consent. This can seem disturbing, but the game makes light of this with witty remarks from characters whose minds are about to be infiltrated.

While the exact experiences of romping through these minds won't be described much for fear of spoilers, some examples would still be mentioned. There are psyches that have themes of butchery of the (somewhat) benign sort, with meat being the material used for almost anything in the levels that are associated with these psyches. Others are full of candy, yet said candy is also close to things that are far from edible and innocuous, whereas some others are a gamut of floating platforms and other objects that either hinder or aid movement (sometimes both, like springs that launch Razputin to where the player may or may not want him to go to).

Of course, such level designs would not be strange to players who are very familiar with the platforming genre, and/or who have seen even more bizarre level designs. However, these levels are coupled together with witty writing and voice-overs (which will be described later), which make them entertaining experiences.

As for the actual gameplay of these levels, the player will be doing a lot of running and jumping about, as to be expected of a game with platforming gameplay. However, there are also puzzles to solve, which involve more running and jumping around, albeit with backtracking and some hauling of objects around, with the aim of changing features of the levels such that obstacles are removed and the player character can progress.

Without the story-based context and hilarious writing that accompanies the gameplay, these would have been quite dull chores, especially for players that have played many platformers.

Almost of these levels end with either a more-sophisticated-than-usual puzzle of sorts that also happens to have a major hazard lying about. It is either this, or a boss fight that cannot be overcome by directly attacking the source of threat and which usually involves some more jumping and running to reach and use/destroy objects that would reveal and/or exploit the weakness of the boss.

If the player character is incapacitated within another's psyche, he has a supply of "extra lives" (called "Astral Layers") that can be expended to help him retain his presence in said psyche, though he respawns at checkpoints that are located throughout the levels (these checkpoints may well be different things from psyche to psyche, though all of them serve the same purpose). Some progress may be lost upon respawn, however, depending on how tightly designed the level is.

If he runs out of Astral Layers altogether, he is booted out of the person's psyche and has to try again. He does not regain lost Layers, but he can still return to that person's psyche, though he will be booted out as soon as he "dies" the first time if the player has not replenished his supply of "extra lives".

However, the game is not as generous when it comes to dealing with threats in the real world, though the game does provide some checkpoints to preserve the player's progress with.

Some time into the game, Razputin gains an item that allow him to immediately escape from almost any psyche realm, back into the real world. This is at best only useful when the player wants to simply quit the psyche world; sometimes, progress in a psyche realm will not be retained if the player quits them this way.


The game either makes use of parodies of psychological terms for the nomenclature of the health system, such as "mental health", but experienced gamers would recognize it immediately as a typical ages-old system of finite health that has to be restored with pick-ups. It is a system that has been proven to work before, and it works just as well in this game.

If there is anything refreshing with the health system, it is that health pick-ups do not appear in-game as static objects. Instead, they are slightly mobile entities, which make them a bit more interesting. Fortunately, they are not so mobile as to drop themselves off at hazardous places where they can be reached.

As to how health pick-ups are obtained, they are either retrieved from the environment or from defeated enemies after they appear from their disappearing corpses. The latter will disappear after a while though.

Perhaps unsurprisingly to players that have a lot of experience with all kinds of health systems, the player can improve Razputin's capacity of mental health by finding and retrieving life upgrades, which are very obvious glowing floating objects that resemble an obviously appropriate human organ, though they are often obscured by large objects.

Similarly, the player can obtain a higher capacity of "extra lives" by locating objects that resemble golden helmets, of all things that would increase said capacity.


Throughout the game, either in the real world or the psyches of other people, there are collectibles that can be collected to improve Razputin's capabilities, and/or to reveal more about the backgrounds of the characters in the game.

However, not all characters can have their minds delved into though, especially the characters that appear to have miscellaneous roles in the story.

Anyway, some of these collectibles are mainly found in the real world, such as Psitanium Arrowheads and Psi Cards, though they may be found in psyche realms too, due to their canonical dual-nature that lets them exist in both the real world and the minds of people.

Psitanium Arrowheads are almost always buried in the real-world (the reason for this is story-related, so it won't be mentioned here) and have to be tracked down, preferably with the Dowsing Rod, which can be purchased later. Psitanium Arrowheads are used as currency to purchase tools and upgrades for Razputin's benefit, but otherwise have little other worth (especially when the player has collected so many and bought just about everything that is desired).

In the psyche realms, Psitanium Arrowheads can be freed from smashing things up, as well as killing enemies. However, they do disappear after floating around for a while.

Arrowheads respawn in a level after the player has left and then returned to the level, so the player can attempt to farm Arrowheads to purchase something that is expensive. The only exceptions are the Deep Arrowheads, which are a variant that is limited in number.

Psi Cards float above the ground, but are often hidden behind obstacles that obscure them from sight. In fact, the player won't come across them unless he/she is curious enough to see whether there's anything behind that rock or wall (or he/she has looked at a third-party guide). Psi Cards can also be converted from "Mental Cobwebs" that are collected from a person's psyche. The benefits of Psi Cards will be elaborated later.

A set of collectibles that happen to be unique to the real world are the items in the secondary pastime of Scavenger Hunt, which is an activity that children's camps are known for. As to be expected of a scavenger hunt, the player has to collect various miscellaneous items that have been hidden all over the grounds of the camp. Each of them is bizarre and has a brief description, but otherwise has no other significance.

The collectibles that most players would appreciate more though are the ones that are obtained in other people's psyche. These include "Emotional Baggage", which, in said people's psyche, are sentient luggage containers of sorts. They are often located in hard-to-reach places, but are easily detected as they are often sobbing, crying and wailing, as well as having significant visual contrast with their surroundings.

However, finding them is only half the work and fun; they are often locked up and do not respond kindly to being approached (though their quips are often hilarious). To open them up, the player needs to locate luggage tags that match each specific type of baggage; there is one of each type of baggage in a person's psyche, so there will be one specific tag for each.

These tags are often hidden behind obstacles, though the player should not expect some immediate reward from finding them, as they are not sentient. However, they do bounce around and make squeaking noises, so this should somewhat help make finding them easier and also provide very brief entertainment.

Upon returning the tags to the right baggage containers, they will lighten up, utter hilarious statements and release their contents. However, to get anything worthwhile out of them, the player needs to find them all. The reward may be somewhat inappropriate though; instead of having something to do with the personality and past of the characters, they provide the concept art and design history of these characters (called "Primal Memories", oddly enough).

Mental vaults are another kind of collectibles that can be found in characters' psyches, and these are the ones that actually have something to do with the canon of the characters. These are somewhat easier to find than the rest, perhaps due to the fact that they provide exposition on characters' backgrounds and motivations. Hitting them releases the memories of other characters in the form of illustrations by Scott Campbell. However, there is no narrative text, though the illustrations should be enough for the player to figure out what has happened in the past of the characters.

(It is worth noting here that Double Fine had released a series of commentaries for these illustrations in 2011; Tim Schafer made a lot of pokes at Scott Campbell's decisions for these illustrations along similar lines.)

Figments of characters' imagination, which appear as floating 2-D projections of doodles, are also another kind of collectible that can be found in characters' psyches – they may be quite the chuckle or two when the player encounters them for the first time. They are floating, shining things that are usually easy to find, but there are many of them throughout a character's psyche.

Mental Cobwebs are collectibles that do more than just lying or floating around in the psyche realms; they actually happen to impede the player's progress through a level, or block access to other tantalizing collectibles. The player will need to obtain a device to obtain them though, as they cannot be obtained by simply walking up to them. This device can be a hassle to grind Psitanium for, unless the player makes use of a device that appears to have been designed just to provide a short-cut.

The game provides counters to assist the retrieval of these collectibles, including information on the total number of collectibles that are available in any level. These counters can be seen after bringing up the main menu.

Also, all of these collectibles are ultimately finite in number, as are some of the opportunities to collect them, so the player would have to be observant and determined enough to get them in the first place. For example, there is an opportunity very early on in the game to help another gifted child navigate some dangerous obstacles, in return for some Arrowheads.


The story will present the opportunity to enter characters' psyche for the first time as it progresses, but the occasion to do so will never be replicated again. For example, early on, one of the characters offers a "boot camp" of sorts to explore and get through, but will not do so again after the character has moved on elsewhere.

However, the game eventually introduces a convenient feature to jump back into characters' psyches, even without them knowing. This can seem thematically awkward, but for purposes of gameplay, it is certainly very handy.

This feature is presented through the existence of "teleporter creatures", which are creatures that can exist in both the real world and people's psyches, as if the latter is part of the real world itself. Their canonical design conveniently has them all aware of each other's presence, so the player can use them to move between the real world and psyche realms, between the real world and real world, and even between psyche realms and psyche realms.

They will come in handy when the player wants to revisit some levels and get more collectibles through the use of newly acquired powers, which will be described shortly.


The first few levels in the game and the harder-to-reach collectibles in them would reveal to the player that as acrobatic as Razputin naturally is, he does not have the capability to reach certain collectibles that float or sit in plain sight but cannot be reached via any logical means.

For purposes of combat, Razputin has learned on his own to bolster the power of his punches with psychic strength. For the most part of the game, this is enough to defeat most enemies and break through most obstacles, and he can throw as many punches as he likes without tiring himself out; he can even deliver telekinetic palm slams while jumping. However, eventually there are enemies that cannot be defeated with Razputin's default attacks.

Both limitations will suggest that he is going to need a lot more powers to deal with the problems that will be coming his way.

One of the means to earn more powers is to have Razputin earning ranks in the organization that runs the camp, mainly through retrieving collectables or completing objectives that advance the story. After earning enough ranks, the player can have Razputin report to one of the camp's caretakers and receive training and/or imbuement (it is not clear which) for a new power. The player cannot choose which power to receive first though, as they are received in sequence.

Razputin can also obtain more powers by earning Badges and turning this into one of the camp's trainers. The granting of these badges is a scripted occurrence, either naturally as the story progresses or after completing some optional endeavours, so this provides slight versatility for an otherwise rigid system of advancement.

On the other hand, just about every power will come into use sooner or later in the game. For example, the Clairvoyance power, which allows the player to see through the eyes of a person with a signature object that Razputin is holding, is used to significant effect against one of the bosses, which can hide itself from the sight of others.

Some powers grant Razputin ranged psychic attacks, such as the simply-named Psi-Blast, or attacks that simply hit any target within sight, such as Pyrokinesis, which cause an enemy in sight to simply burst into flames and panic, which can be a comical sight.

All of Razputin's offensive psychic powers, with the exception of his default psychic punches and Telekinesis, require the expenditure of psychic "ammunition"; there is one type for each type of offensive power.

For example, the Psi-Blast is powered by ammunition in the form of "hate", which can raise some eyebrows in concern. However, this is just a thematic quirk, as gameplay-wise, it is little different from designs for ammunition in other games. This light-heartedness is depicted through the way this ammunition is replenished; the player has to collect so-called "little balls of hate", which behave in similar ways to the aforementioned health pick-ups, but otherwise have no other behaviour despite their alarming name.

Razputin can only carry a limited amount of ammunition, but there are upgrade power-ups that the player can have him collect to increase his ammo capacity, though like the health upgrades, they are hidden away and obscured from the view of passer-bys.

However, perhaps the most interesting psychic power is Levitation, mainly because of how versatile it is and how it gels well with Razputin's acrobatic capabilities, both visually and gameplay-wise, and how refreshingly different it is from typical float-down-slowly powers that have been seen in so many platforming titles.

At first glance, Levitation appears to be yet another gravity-defying power that allows the protagonist to float down slowly in a fall, with control over the falling direction, as well as allow him to exploit vents of air to float up to higher places.

In addition to said powers, which are rather common in video games with platforming, activating the power conjures a telekinetic balloon that abruptly gives him a vertical boost, granting him a "third-jump" of sorts on top of his double-jump, thus increasing his jumping height. Alternatively, and perhaps more impressively, he can use Levitation to conjure a globe that he uses for a rolling globe act, which allows him to move over hazards like flame geysers and chemical spills at great speeds, or just for fast movement around.

This is a lot more impressive than just hovering around, as levitation powers in video games are wont to have the protagonist do.

In fact, that last property of the Levitation power, which is moving faster than running on foot, is used to great effect in the racing mini-games in Psychonauts, which will be described later.

Another noteworthy power is Telekinesis, though it would be noteworthy for how instrumental and useful it is than for how remarkable it is, which it is not. There are many things that can be moved about with the Telekinesis power, either to solve puzzles or chucking enemies into hazards. There is no duration for the use of Telekinesis, though there is a limited range in which it can be used, so the player should not expect to be able to abuse it.

Although the player will gain enough ranks and badges to have Razputin earn the right to learn the powers that will be needed to progress in the story, the player can have Razputin gaining more ranks in order to upgrade these powers to phenomenal levels. For example, the Psi Blast can be upgraded such that it can hit several enemies with one single charge and that it no longer needs ammo.

However, such infinite-ammo upgrades also render certain game designs pointless, namely the collecting of ammunition and capacity upgrades.


As the player progresses through the story and unlock psyche realms to be re-entered later via the Teleporter Creatures, the player will also unlock mini-games that can be won for prizes, or simply played just for fun. Examples include a shooting gallery that has different tiers of achievements, with the more difficult achievements yielding more rewards.

Each mini-game is usually preceded by some text pop-ups that briefly tell the player what to do in these mini-games.

Of these mini-games, the most entertaining is one in which Razputin has to compete with other children to win a race in the psyche realm of one of their instructors. There are plenty of obstacles to jump over and ramps to launch off from, which showcase the very entertaining physics for the rolling-globe form of the Levitation power. There are also side-paths that the player can take as short-cuts, or explore to retrieve some collectibles, though this of course means ignoring the race altogether.

On the other hand, the mini-games also highlight the lack of congruence between the open-world elements of the game and the progress of its story. Some of these mini-games pit Razputin against the other children, some of whom may be rendered indisposed as the game progresses (no elaboration will be given on this for fear of spoilers).

Yet, if the player rejoins these mini-games via the use of the Teleporter Creatures, the children will be there, competing with Razputin. The game does not appear to make any attempt to justify/explain their presence.

However, the game does have some lost opportunities for more mini-games. One of these lost opportunities is the chance to include a strategy mini-game in one of the psyche realms. Although the basics of this would-be mini-game have been thought out, they were merely used for more platforming and puzzle-solving gameplay, which can be a disappointment to players who have experienced a few hours of platforming by then already.


The enemies in Psychonauts appear to be named after terms or phrases that are more commonly seen in psychological studies and literature, such as "inner demons". These can provide a laugh or two when first encountered, but their names rarely give a hint about what they can do.

For example, "Censors" are named so because they happen to look like no-nonsense, no-fun men in suits, but their names would not tell the player that they are just determined brutes with large stamps that they use like mallets.

The first few enemies that the player character will encounter, after a short but significant amount of time into the game, are little spiteful creatures that are of little threat to an aggressive Rasputin; they can be dispatched with just a few punches. However, the later ones can be a problem, requiring a bit more thought. On the other hand, experienced players would not find them to be much of a surprise, at least in terms of difficulty.

Some enemies respawn indefinitely, as part of a scenario to put pressure on the player. Usually, these enemies are push-overs, or cannot keep up with Razputin's acrobatic skills. They are at best quite the nuisance, until the player gets rid of whatever that is spawning them, if that is possible.

The player will also come across bosses, which typically appear at the end of levels. These often require the solution of certain puzzles or the removal of obstacles before the boss can be rendered vulnerable. For example, a boss that is encountered early in the game can only be defeated after shutting down the machines that are creating its goons, which it consumes to restore its health. In addition, the player more often than not has to exploit objects in the environment to damage the bosses instead of directly attacking them.

As the story progresses, the times of the day will progress too; night-time provides more challenges in the real-world than day-time, such as certain nocturnal animals that have developed dangerous psychic powers and some others that have had the misfortune of experiencing more than just mental changes from exposure to the Psitanium in the camp site; these mutants happen to be some of the bosses in the game.

However, some of these boss encounters happen to highlight missing opportunities for more fun in the game. For example, one of the boss fights happen underwater, but in a massive bubble of air that conveniently allows the game to retain the usual platforming gameplay; straying into the water quickly results in a game-over and a trip to the loading screen. This boss fight highlights the omission of swimming as a type of movement, as mentioned earlier.


Sometime into the game, the player will be introduced to the laboratory of one of the characters, where Razputin can use Psitanium Arrowheads to purchase items that can be expended for benefits.

Examples of these include Dream Fluffs, which are portable healing items that completely refill mental health, thus making them very useful. Furthermore, they are automatically used when Razputin's health is reduced to a critical level. However, perhaps to balance against their convenience, the player can only carry up to three of them at a time; there is no way to increase this capacity.

The player will also come across the shop of a person who happens to offer the rare Psi Cores, which convert collected Psi Cards into more rewards than they already offer when they are collected, namely more ranks. However, the player will have to travel to the aforementioned laboratory to make use of Psi Cores, so there can be some backtracking involved.


It will be very difficult to refute that the story and its characters - the brainchild (pun not intended) of Tim Schafer and Erik Wolpaw - are the best aspects of Psychonauts. Most of them are of the bizarre sort though, so people who want to like this game would probably need to have an open-mind when it comes to the game's brand of humour, which is at the least, zany.

One of the main characters in the game happens to be practically a bunch of other characters (and this would seem quite obvious to the player, though this would not be elaborated), and the method by which the player can gain his help at any time can be rather hilarious.

Moreover, the game makes very amusing plays on the themes of insanity, emotional anguish and mental issues. It can seem mildly offensive and stereotypical at times, especially when the game makes exposition on the plights of the gifted but very troubled children. However, the game seems earnest in making light-hearted pokes at said themes.

The writing also has some discomforting themes, such as people not having much control over their own psyches. This is especially shown by the psyche realm of one of the characters in the game, who prides himself for having great discipline; in this level, Razputin messes things up due to his inexperience, much to the dismay of the character. This theme is presented with cartoonish and zany humor though, so only the most observant of players would experience said discomfort.

Although it is fitting that characters that do exist in the physical realm world have been given sufficient attention in design, the ones that appear in the psyche realm have been given attention too, despite being completely the product of the real persons' imagination. Most of them are just variations of goon archetypes of course, but some of them can be very entertaining, such as Psychonaut's take on Napoleon Bonaparte. It would be difficult for a player not to smirk when he/she realizes that some of them are spoofs or exaggerations of real-world persons.

The ranks that Razputin gain throughout the game do not merely grant the opportunity to expand Razputin's repertoire of powers, but also unlock more entertaining voice-overs and responses from other characters to Razputin's advancing position. However, it is not apparent when these changes occur, and not every character will have new voice-overs, so it can be difficult for a curious player to find and listen to them. However, the new responses may well be worth the trouble.

If there is a complaint about the writing of the game, it is that the game does not appear to have Razputin quizzing others about what he has discovered in their minds when he was exploring them, namely the contents of the mental vaults. Perhaps this can be attributed to Razputin's ample discretion (and the game does have moments where Razputin mentions his preference for keeping secrets about others under wraps), but it is also a lost opportunity for more dramatic interaction between the characters.


The aesthetic designs for characters, by Scott Campbell (who worked on many LucasArts adventure games), get a section of their own in this review, as they are so cartoonish yet hideous and are some of the sights that the player will see very early into the game.

Razputin himself is a character with surprisingly refreshing aesthetic designs. His get-up that resembles an airplane pilot, as well as his tendency to lower his goggles before a foray into another's mind, is a peculiar sight, and one that many characters will jab at, much to Razputin's sheepish chagrin.

Yet, Razputin can be considered as the most familiar-looking child in the game. Each of the other children looks terrifically odd by comparison. Beady and disproportionate eyes, lack of discernible noses and skins of unearthly colour, among other features that are rarely seen even among cartoonish fictional children. They can be difficult to appreciate at first, but they do make differentiating between the child characters very easy, as well as almost immediately recognizable.

The adults are no less bizarre. Although some may seem classy and familiarly cartoonish, such as Sasha Nein, Milla and Coach Oleander, the rest are the results of a creative mind gone wild (specifically that of Scott Campbell's), and would be no more bizarre than the children, albeit without the benefit of the doubt those child-like appearances provide. If the intention of their designs was to make them look unsettling, then this intention was certainly achieved – to the benefit of the game, of course.


The bizarreness does not end with the character designs. It also extends to the designs of levels, with the psyche realms being particularly noteworthy.

Each of the psyche realms is different from the rest, both in terms of layout and themes. Not only do they provide different eye-candy, they also make for different platforming challenges. For some examples, there is a psyche realm that has Razputin working his way to the top, passing through rings that float in mid-air, and there is another one where the player moves through a level where every other platform can be seen – albeit in mind-boggling, gravity-defying orientations.

The psyche realms are also very colourful, with each one using distinctively different colour palettes. They also have objects and terrains that are of very different shapes. All these designs, at the least, make each level refreshingly different from the rest.

Furthermore, each psyche realm has a small secluded section that is of very different aesthetics, and which happens to hide one of the two Mental Vaults, specifically the one that is harder to find. The significance of this different section will not be described here for fear of spoilers, but it should suffice to say that the player is very likely to realize it and appreciate it when he/she comes across this section.

Unfortunately, the peculiar beauty of Psychonaut's levels and character designs is held back by other aspects of the graphics that are disappointingly not of the same caliber, as will be described later.


The game may have bizarre models, a hilarious story, interestingly strange characters and great art direction, but they would not distract an observant player from noticing some of its flaws. One of these is its simply animated models.

Of course, one can argue that there are so many animations that this would be a poor point to argue, but an observant person would notice that the many animations are just a disguise for the mostly rigid models and polygons that are used in the game. If there are animations for these, they are just to rotate and translate them about; the player should not be expecting plenty of subtle animations like stretching of skin and other slight movements.

On the other hand, the exaggerated animations do fit with the cartoonish vibe of the game, though whether the cartoonish vibe was deliberate or not is debatable, as some other aspects of the graphical design of the game do not exactly contribute to such a vibe.

However, at times, certain actions are rather sparsely animated, and as such, do not do much to emphasize the significance of said actions. For example, the player will eventually obtain a piece of Bacon that is used to access a convenient feature of the game. However, the animation for using the Bacon is disappointingly sparse; Razputin only waves it around, and when he does, it highlights how rigid the piece of Bacon is.


The textures in Psychonauts are all over the place. Some of them are sharp, such as those used for characters' eyes, while the others, especially those for environmental objects, are muddled. Similarly, the textures for characters are muddled too, which detract from the charm of these characters. Setting the graphics setting to maximum does not appear to do much; the texture packs were already of low resolution.

(One can argue that this is the result of Double Fine creating the game to fit on all gaming platforms at the time.)

Some of the worst examples are the textures for pieces of meat. Although they are coloured as meat pieces would be coloured, their textures are so muddled that they cannot be immediately recognized even as cartoonish pieces of meat.

The shadowing and lighting of the game is the aspect of the graphics that is the most disappointing. The lighting in this game is just satisfactory at illuminating things, but often does a poor job of highlighting the cartoonish charm of the game. Peculiar features of a character or object can suffer insufficient lighting and be subjected to enveloping shadows, which makes them difficult to appreciate.


The voice-overs are the best aspect of Psychonauts' sound designs. Perhaps to one's surprise, some voice actors that are known for corny and sometimes uncomfortably zany animated shows have contributed to this game, and in ways that are not at all of detriment to it.

One of them is Richard Horvitz, who had roles for secondary characters in many shows and sometimes even miscellaneous, inconsequential characters. He gets to voice the lead character, Razputin, in his gig with this game. The result is mostly satisfactory, as Razputin does sound appropriately like a boy that is eager for adventure but may have bitten more than he could chew.

However, some of his quips and jokes can seem flat, though this is sometimes due to less-than-witty writing. One example is when Razputin tells another character that he doesn't imbibe alcohol with hesitation that seems out of place.

The more convincingly talented voice actors include the versatile Stephen Stanton, who voices two very different characters; it is worth noting here that he had voice-over jobs for characters that are far away from the limelight in the shows that they appear in.

In fact, many of the voice-actors and –actresses are people who work on shows, films and games of low- or average-profile, and even if they worked on the high-profile ones, they generally had minor roles.

Yet, Double Fine was able to cobble them together to deliver voice-overs of surprisingly more-than-satisfactory performance. Of course, this achievement can be partially attributed to the witty writing.


The soundtracks are the second-most entertaining aspect of the aural designs in Psychonauts, though not exactly uniquely memorable, especially to players that have played the adventure games that LucasArts once published. This is because they were composed by Peter McConnell, who has worked on many adventure games with wacky settings, so they would sound all too familiar to the less-nostalgic of such people.

However, there are some tracks that one would not immediately associate with Peter McConnell, such as a track for a disco-themed level in the game. The composition of electronic and some actual singing would have been quite the pleasant surprise for those that have been following McConnell's discography, and also speaks well of his versatility.

Most importantly, each soundtrack is distinctly different from the rest, which is appropriate as each is used for levels and situations with different themes and settings. This in turn contributes to the immersion of the game.


Being a game with such bizarre settings and themes of wackiness all over it, Psychonauts can afford to have sound effects that are apparently otherworldly or slightly disturbing. Examples are the various noises made by Razputin's psychic attacks, and the noises of Razputin's footsteps, the quality of which depends on the surfaces that he is walking on, which include slightly squishy noises from having him walk over large slabs of meat.

If the player has played many LucasArts adventure games before though, he/she would find many of the sound effects to be comfortably familiar. That is not saying that the sound effects have been lifted from these games that Tim Schafer has worked on in the past, but the quality of the sound effects in Psychonauts would not be far different from those in LucasArts' adventure games.


Psychonauts may not have gameplay designs that are terrifically refreshing at the time and its graphical designs are a mixed bag, but its best appeals are its bizarre themes and settings, as well as its zany characters and most importantly, the splendid writing and story that bind them all together.