If you played the original Psychonauts, you’ve experienced a game that oozed creativity but lacked polish. I hoped that Psychonauts 2 would offer the creative genius of The Milkman Conspiracy, while also completely abandoning the frustration of the Meat Circus. While we didn’t get a Milkman Conspiracy moment, we still got a highly polished 3D platformer with top notch level design and creative story telling. Psychonauts 2 is an absolute blast. No Meat Circus moments, phew!
It’s amazing how progressive Psychonauts was for 2005. It addressed mental health issues in a creative and light hearted way. It’s funny but respectful. Psychonauts 2 continues that legacy with every new character introduced and every new brain level explored. In this follow-up you play as Razputin Aquato (AKA Raz) who aimed to become a Psychonaut. In Psychonauts 2, he graduates into the program as an official Psychonaut intern. Here Raz meets more professors and students, learns about pioneers of the Psychonauts, and even learns more about his own circus family: The Aquato’s. Even though Raz is just an intern, he is still somehow the main player in helping everyone manage their mental health issues.
A Psychonaut is someone who can use powers to navigate the brains of others. These brains are each represented as unique levels. Someone who wants to be a dentist has a brain level where you platform on teeth; someone who is addicted to alcohol has a brain level full of bottles and bile; others who may love sewing generate a level where the trees are crafted with yarn. So many of these levels are so imaginative and gorgeous. They loop and twist in trippy ways. Each level offers different activities and unique ways to navigate, making every moment of gameplay feel refreshing. There wasn’t a single moment of boredom or redundancy. This game is fun, magical, and will make you feel like a kid.
Raz navigates these brains using Psi-powers. He uses these Psi-powers to fight enemies, traverse, and solve environmental puzzles. Returning powers like levitate, pyromancy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and psi blast are used in more creative ways than they were used in the original game. New powers like mental connection, time bubble, and protection add even more variety to the gameplay and lore.
One of my main complaints about the original Psychonauts is how clunky the combat is and how most combat encounters do not involve much use of the Psi-powers. Psychonauts 2 improves combat by adding more enemies that could only be defeated with specific Psi-powers. You only equip 4 Psi-Powers at a time and you’ll need to switch them often. Switching them often takes you out of the immersion. I think having at least 1 button with a quick switch feature would’ve alleviated this a bit. The combat still remains to be the weakest part of the game, but it’s definitely improved.
It’s amazing how Psychonauts 2 maintained the 90s cartoon vibe of the original game. Even new characters fit in so well. The character designs are so quirky, they’re kind of like “Hey Arnold” from back in the day. The voice acting is so good and the humor will make you smile often. It’s amazing how — after all these years — Double Fine can maintain this amazing cast of quirky characters and keep the old school cartoon vibe.
You don’t need to have played the original Psychonauts to enjoy this game. You’ll get a hefty recap in the beginning and Psychonauts 2 does a better job in fleshing out the scope of these characters relationships. For those who did play the original, there’s a handful of Easter Eggs that’ll make you smile.
Psychonauts 2 may not be as graphically enhanced as modern 3D platformers like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart but that’s mostly because of this art direction. Characters are quirky and environments are trippy. I loved the designs of all the brain levels. Some are gorgeous and cool, others so detailed, it’s grotesque. The music supplements the environments very well, especially the level where you had to get a band back together in the brain of someone who loved music. What it lacks in graphics, it makes up for in stellar level design, creativity, and fun concept.
I give so much credit to Double Fine for addressing mental health in a light-hearted and creative way. Yet, they still gave disclaimers to protect their players who might be triggered by certain themes or visuals. I’m so excited to see what Double Fine does next. Their games have a unique charm and their level of polish is clearly improving. Give it a try; it’s on Game Pass. Even if it wasn’t, I would’ve still paid for it. I smiled so much throughout Psychonauts 2. 4.25/5.