Crazily, insanely awesome fun

User Rating: 8.5 | Psychonauts PC
I first heard about Psychonauts five years ago when it was reviewed retrospectively by Ben "Yatzee" Croshaw who essentially called it the best game everyone ignored. After that I forgot all about it until I saw it was on sale on steam, so I downloaded it right away.

Psychonauts feels a lot like the game version of the good kind of children's shows – the kind that grown-ups can enjoy as well. The graphics are a lot like an animated children's show and the characters are funny and have very distinct caracteristics, from the ladies man, to the drummer chick who likes to set things on fire and the Russian buy with a large fro who is overly obsessed with psychic bears.

The game starts off as the main character Razputin (or Raz for short) sneaks into a summer camp for psychic children. Raz has grown up in a circus, but have always wanted to become a psychonaut – a psychic special agent. He fled from home, and is in a hurry to prove himself, because the organizers will only let him stay until his parents come to pick him up. Luckily, Raz has studied a lot and shows exceptional talent in the basic braining, which is when an ex-military lets the children into his psyche to clear an obstacle course. Special agent Sasha Nein invites Raz to his secret lab to help him with some tests. However, after a little while Raz discovers that something is very, very wrong and he needs to rescue the other children and possibly the world.

The story in psychonauts is not very original, but it is really well paced and spiced up with a lot of humour. It is possibly the funniest videogame I have played to date.

The most memorable gameplay in Psychonauts takes place in the minds of the people in the game. You will among other people visit the minds of Sasha Nein, Raz himself and a giant, mutated fish being mind-controlled by the game's villain. Inside those minds you will either be training your abilities or trying to solve the character's conflicts. Raz' acrobatic experience comes in quite handy, so does his psychic powers like rolling around on a ball of psychic energy and setting things on fire. The minds are very different from each other, and it almost feels like each mind is a different game. The way the minds reflect their owner makes for incredible character development and great artistic design. Do you want to know what the mind of a wrestler turned painter who has turned depressed after his heart was broken and who has a strange obsession with pull fighting looks like? Hint: It looks awesome.

Sadly there are flaws as well. As much as I love the artistic design, the game's graphics are a bit outdated. The controls have some flaws in that it might fail to register my tapping space for a double jump in crucial situations. While you control the camera with the mouse, it sometimes automatically changes in the worst possible situations, particularly in a certain section in the final level. I didn't manage to get past that the normal way and had to resort to advance manoeuvres that seemed more like a glitch than anything else.

Oh, and there is one part early on where the tutorial doesn't teach you what button to use until after the first area where you need it. So the first time you get stuck, remember that F is the key you need.

Those flaws are very easy to forgive, though, because the game is both funny and fun to play, it has great visual design and music and a story coloured by good character development and a healthy dose of the good kind of insanity. There is really not any other game like this. The ten hours or so you will spend beating it is well worth the ten dollars or euros it will cost you on Steam and the developers deserve your money.

Lastly, a little warning: If you have a fear of dentists, you should consider whether or not you'll manage to play the game, because (SPOILERS) one of the villains is a crazy, blue-skinned dentists, with one glowing red and one glowing green eye and a claw for a hand. What he does is to steal the brains of psychic children by making them sneeze it out through their nose. You've been warned.