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Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Double Fine Productions


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PS2 Review - 'Psychonauts'

by Hank on July 21, 2005 @ 3:28 a.m. PDT

Psychonauts follows the story of a young psychic named Razputin in his quest to join an elite group of international psychic secret agents, the Psychonauts!

Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Double Fine
Release Date: April 19, 2005

Buy 'PSYCHONAUTS': Xbox | PC | PlayStation 2

Rather than the simple, carefree summer camp you would expect it to be, Psychonauts is all about developing your abilities to become a psychic warrior. You play as Raz, and your first mission is to complete a basic training course that's located inside the mind of Coach Morrie Oleander. You learn about the basics: figments, emotional baggage, jumping and double-jumping, climbing up ropes and poles, sliding on railings, shimmying, and lastly, how to use your standard attack, the punch. For me, a successful game is one that is both nicely put together and enjoyable, and Psychonauts delivers on both counts.

Once Raz passes the basic training (aka "basic braining"), he can then gain new abilities, and this is where the real fun begins. There are a total of five maps, and within some of these main areas will be special locations or smaller maps. Each mission essentially takes place inside someone's brain, and Raz must run, jump, climb, shimmy, and punch through these levels, collecting arrowheads (Psychonauts' currency), cobwebs and emotional baggage along the way.

Sasha's laboratory is not only the place where Raz will gain a merit badge for marksmanship, but it's also a teleport location which allows you to go back to previous missions and gather any emotional baggage or cobwebs that might have been overlooked the first time around.

As time goes on, Raz will gain merit badges for each skill, and most of the time, the newly acquired skill is required to pass the stage or section. The skills are: Pyrokinesis, Telekinesis, Invisibility, Marksmanship, Levitation, Shield, Clairvoyance, and Confusion. As a quick word of advice, abuse levitation as much as possible because it is the most useful ability.

With the large variety of moves and skills, it makes it kind of tricky to figure out the next move, but all in all, the puzzles are solvable. If your character ever does get seriously stuck, he can use some of the extra items. One awesome item is the bacon, which calls Ford Cruller, who then gives some helpful tips on how to pass the particular section or boss. Certain portions may also call for a specific item in order to move on, like the milkman sequence, which requires masks. Finding these specific masks can be a pain, but it's this perfect difficulty level that makes the game fun.

Abilities such as Marksmanship, Shield, Invisibility, and Pyrokinesis are great when facing enemies, but they're not as helpful for the platformer sections. The only downside is that none of these abilities are infinite. Even if Marksmanship is your favorite skill, you'll need to pick up items called "Mean Little Balls of Hate" to refill your power when depleted. Other power-up items can be picked up throughout the game, with the benefits ranging from refilling your health to increasing the number of grenades you can carry.

Within the main campgrounds, there is the main lobby, where Raz can purchase all of his Psychonaut needs, like the Cobweb Duster, PSI Cores, Dowsing Rod, PSI Energy Colorizer, Dream Fluff, and Mental Magnet. The player will need a good amount of arrowheads to buy the better items, such as the Cobweb Duster, which costs 800 arrowheads. It's quite a hefty price, but collecting the cobwebs helps you to gain more PSI points and level up.

Once Raz is equipped with enough merit badges, he is ready to take on those pesky enemies. Censors look like tax auditors and are the easiest foes in the game, and demons are self-exploding grenades. The worst are the rats, which also explode, and not only do they take away your health, but they also confuse Raz, causing him to lose his sense of direction and ability to fight back. The most fearsome enemies are the bosses; some are really easy, but figuring out the tactics to beat them is key. If you can easily find the pattern, the bosses can be beaten pretty quickly, but if not, your character will be running around for a good amount of time (just be smart and use the bacon).

Psychonauts has one of the better stories I've seen in adventure titles, and the wonderful voice cast certainly doesn't hurt. They found the perfect group of voice actors to match the characters' expressions and personalities. Additionally, the wonderful script contains comical one liners and punchlines, which help the gamer to enjoy this title so much more.

The game has one of the most interesting bunch of characters ever. The main character is a boy wearing a jumpsuit and pilot goggles, the camp director is dressed in a full soldier's uniform, and the other characters certainly have the most unique appearances. Even the start menu is interesting; you see Raz on a brain, and he has to walk to the various selections, like start, load or options. Sadly, this wackiness does not apply for the main background, which is completely normal; the main campground scenery is identical to what would be seen at a place like Yosemite. Though the regular background is normal, the mission environments – which take place in people's minds – bring it to a whole new level of funkiness.

The game does implement a free camera, but the player is usually given a locked view at first, providing us with the most ideal angle. Sometimes, it's helpful to move the camera around to see the next obstacle or platform, but that opens the door for bad camera angles, which is a problem frequently found in other games. The occurrences are so minimal that I can't even consider it as a negative factor.

Overall, I have to say that Psychonauts was a very pleasant surprise. I had heard good things about the title, but I certainly wasn't expecting something of this caliber. I didn't really have many problems with the game, other than the sound getting out of synch or going away completely when I played it too much (I guess that just tells me not to play for six straight hours). The game can supposedly be beaten in 12 hours the first time, and the story and makes it well worth the time. A small issue I had with the game is the replayability; while you can go back and clear out all areas, there is no real payoff for doing so. Even with these minor issues, Psychonauts definitely comes strongly recommended.

Score: 9.1/10

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