Archives by Day

Psychonauts 2

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Xbox Games Studios
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2021


As an Amazon Associate, we earn commission from qualifying purchases.

PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Psychonauts 2'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 19, 2021 @ 6:00 a.m. PDT

In Psychonauts 2, Raz fulfills his dreams and visit the Psychonauts Headquarters as a fully established agent. When he gets there, he finds it's not the perfect place he expected, and he quickly realizes that the Psychonauts need him more than he needs them.

Pre-order Psychonauts 2

I loved Psychonauts from the moment it came out. I preordered it based on the strength of the demo, and I still have the free Psychonauts-themed playing cards that came with it. It was such a quirky and immensely memorable game that it quickly became one of my favorites. It was also the very definition of a cult classic, and any future games seemed impossible. Here we are 15 years later, and Psychonauts 2 is just around the corner. We got some hands-on time with several of the levels, and we can summarize it with three words, intended in an entirely positive way: It's more Psychonauts.

Psychonauts 2 opens up just after the VR spin-off, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin. Raz and his fellow psychic spies have rescued Raz's sort of-girlfriend Lily's father (and head of the Psychonauts) Truman Zanatto from the evil Dr. Lobato. Unfortunately, Lobato appears to have been a patsy. Raz's well-earned reputation for saving the day doesn't mean squat at the Psychonauts HQ, and he's promptly shuffled into the intern program with other young would-be Psychonauts. Things start to go wrong, and it is up to Raz to prove to the Psychonauts that has what it takes to be among them.

The core gameplay in Psychonauts 2 is incredibly similar to the first game. You veer between the real world — in this case the Motherlobe, Psychonauts HQ — and the fantastical dream worlds that live inside people's minds. Psychonauts 2 is best described as an old-school collect-a-thon platformer. Your goal is to explore the strange worlds and collect the emotional baggage, figments, and hidden secrets that lurk within, which allow Raz to power up and gain new and stronger psychic abilities.

Of course, there are a host of psychic powers that Raz can manifest. A number of powers return from the first game, and we played around with a few new powers. Effectively, Raz begins at the same base level of power that he had reached at the end of Psychonauts, barring some of the bonus upgrades. He has clairvoyance, levitation, PSI blast, psychokinesis and telekinesis, which all function similar to the first game. The major change is the ease of using them in combat. All powers run on a cooldown, so you can effortlessly swap between the powers in combat. It's especially nice for the PSI blast, which no longer requires ammunition so you can just blast away.

There are plenty of new powers, too. The first one that stands out is the mental connections power, which functions as sort of a grappling hook. There are little white floating orbs that you can grapple to access new areas. In combat, you can use it to pull smaller foes toward Raz or to pull Raz toward larger foes. The twist comes in how the power interacts with a character's psyche. You can use mental connections inside a character's brain to alter how they think or feel by connecting two concepts, which are represented by tiny floating bubbles with a word inside. You can use mental connections to adjust a character's mindset to solve puzzles. It also unlocks some hilarious dialogue, so it's worth making bad connections just to hear what happens.

The second major power is time control, which slows down time. It works on everything from enemies to the environment and can be used to make platforming and combat significantly easier. The way the powers work means it also isn't a very limited resource. You can use it regularly, which makes it a valuable basic tool rather than a special rare resource. It also gives whatever is slowed a delightfully trippy rainbow aura, and who doesn't love that?

Another cool power is the archetype, which allows Raz to create a smaller, two-dimensional mental image of himself to serve as a sidekick. He runs around freely but can be ordered to certain locations. His 2D nature means he can get through small cracks and holes that the fully formed Raz can't. Having a second Raz allows him to be in two places at once, which can be handy. In combat, he serves as a decoy but can also be upgraded to provide a healing aura and other bonuses, so he's useful in crowded fights.

Psychonauts was so memorable for its quirky humor and the elaborate set pieces that made up the core game, and Psychonauts 2 seems on track to be just as memorable. We sampled a small selection of levels, but they all were distinctive. The tutorial stage takes place in a mental construct of an orderly office that is invaded by Dr. Lobato's own psyche and becomes a hellish combination of the everyday office and the inside of a mouth, completely with ... ugh … "tooth zipper" doors. It's a solid opening stage that sets the mood and humor extremely well and gives a quick reintroduction to the gameplay and world.

The next one after that is the Lady Lucktopus Casino, which is a horrifying amalgamation of hospital and casino created by some ill-advised mental connections. This one is fairly neat, as your overall goal is to make enough money to get past a locked door, which involved playing games of chance while adjusting mental connections to break the addictive nature of gambling. It's a cool concept and sells itself very well.

The next stage is the set of a cooking show that's judged by puppet versions of several major cast members, and the audience is comprised of sentient foods and cooking implements. This latter element leads to a ton of amusing but very dark humor as the ingredients cheer you on when you toss them into boiling water or throw them into a blender. (One particularly grim but hilarious joke involves the pig-themed cutting machine's disgust when you need to chop up a pig.) The actual show is timed and involves you properly pathing your route to the various cooking implements, so you can have time to cook to earn cool prizes. This is followed by a boss battle that is disgusting in a cheerfully cartoony way, and I won't spoil it for newcomers.

The last stage is set inside a strange library where the different facets of a character's personality are split up and kept under lock and key by one of the more forceful parts of her mind. This is the stage that introduces archetype, and it plays around delightfully with the idea of every person having multiple aspects of their personality that comprise the whole. Can't forget the bees. If I could insert a Nicholas Cage gif here, I would.

Of course, it wouldn't be Psychonauts without a hub area to explore. While Psychonauts 2 moves away from the summer camp theme of the first game, it maintains the idea with its new hub, the Motherlobe. The home base of the Psychonauts, it's a bizarre corporate environment full of individuals and side-quests. It even maintains a good bit of the summer camp feel by having Raz's fellow interns serve the role just as well as the campers from the first one. Much like the first game, the Motherlobe also changes as the game goes on, with new environments or character dialogue changing commonly, based on what we saw.

Psychonauts 2 looks like more of what made the first game so fun. In just a few hours of gameplay, we saw quirky characters, hilarious dialogue, and memorable level design. It might have been over 15 years since the original game came out, but Psychonauts 2 slides into place so smoothly that you'd think no time had passed. Add to that the fact it'll be available Day 1 for Xbox Game Pass, and you've got one heck of a deal. Barring any sudden surprises, Psychonauts 2 will be the sequel that fans are looking for. Thankfully, we're a little over a month away from seeing the full game for ourselves.

More articles about Psychonauts 2
blog comments powered by Disqus