Psychonauts 2, we tried Double Fine's unpredictable platformer!

Psychonauts 2, we tried Double Fine's unpredictable platformer!

Psychonauts 2

In a genre dominated by a few, but indestructible, pillars like that of the platformers, the first Psychonauts was a singular work to say the least. Very difficult to frame, the game of Tim Schafer and his Double Ends was a successful blend of various formulas - including collectathons and action platforms - which consciously chose to put the 90 load on narrative, variety of levels and more artistic than to focus on the basic mechanics. Not an easy bet to win in a world where the finesse of the gameplay usually represents 90% of the value of each production, but still successful by virtue of an enjoyable background system and an overview that is nothing short of overwhelming. able to make the work a true cult among fans.

A "cult", however, is not automatically a great sales success and, despite Psychonauts being acclaimed by critics and loved by a large community , he also failed to break the market, plausibly precisely because of his desire to move away from the formulas of the more famous names. His fans, however, have never given up their hopes for a sequel, so much so that they are able to realize them by actively financing a second chapter through the crowdfunding platform Fig (not without stumbles, by the way).

After years of work, and the acquisition of the talented team by Microsoft, the long-awaited sequel is finally in the pipeline. Here are our first impressions after several hours of trying Psychonauts 2.

It's all in the mind

If you've never played the first Psychonauts, the release of the sequel could be a great opportunity to do so, as the game starts right after its predecessor and summarizes it in detail with a long video before even starting. In short, you take on the role of Razputin: a brilliant little boy with psychic powers and victim of a curse who, fascinated by the legendary team of Psychonauts (a sort of psychic FBI whose deeds are even narrated through comics), had succeeded to infiltrate one of their training camps for young promises and later join the team.

Or at least ... this was what Raz believed: after a remarkable introductory level set in the head of Loboto (the bad guy from the first game), in fact, Raz suddenly finds himself an intern at the organization's headquarters, and grappling with an enemy far more dangerous than that of the previous chapter.

A scene from Psychonauts 2 Now, the peculiarity of Double Fine's work is mainly one: the levels are mostly constructs created by minds of those who are "invaded" by psychonauts; ergo, considering the incalculable variety of the human psyche, they can offer all kinds of experiences - from psychedelic to the limit of horror - depending on the head explored. The first Psychonauts already managed to make the most of this idea, with some of the most creative maps ever seen in a 3D platformer, but this sequel takes further leaps and bounds in this aspect.

Improvements to the technical sector help , of course, but the developers have really indulged in the creation of the new locations, and not only have they cleverly structured the various chapters to introduce the various mechanics properly, but they have greatly diversified them, all without abandoning the roots of the title original.

The complexity of an ego

A scene from Psychonauts 2 Put simply: the levels contain everything from markedly platforming stages, to environmental puzzles related to Razputin's powers, up to exploratory sections and time trials. That wasn't enough, the collectathon element is kept in every phase, so there are "fantasies" to be collected to complete everything 100%, hidden chests that contain secret memories of the "explored" individual, and bags with corresponding labels to be found. . A real boon for completists.

The same mechanics, then, boast a general increase in complexity due to new psychic powers. Raz can still slap his opponents with his mind, glide and acrobatics on an energetic sphere, set fire to things and people and hurl rays from a distance, but in this chapter he is also endowed with the ability to slow down time, and can modify the thoughts of others by creating mental connections (which translate into the game in the ability to teleport to some specific points).

In addition, an entire level we tested was focused on the possibility of creating a nice paper clone of one's personality, designed to pass through too narrow cracks and interact with distant levers. Consider what has been described and also add other skills that we have left out, and you will easily realize how many tools Double Fine designers had at their disposal to structure the campaign.

A scene from Psychonauts 2 In fact, the more verbose moments have been removed - on the other hand, this title too has a very accurate narrative, and is full of dialogues and brilliant characters - Psychonauts 2 boasts a truly enviable rhythm, and puts the player constantly to the test with new gimmicks or tests of increasing difficulty. Even a strange culinary test we faced at one point, and initially weak, quickly turned into a race against the clock that was anything but underestimated.

New loves, old problems

A scene from Psychonauts 2 All excelled then? Not exactly. The game is indeed extraordinary artistically, and already seems brilliant in many aspects, yet it retains several of the deficiencies in the controls of the original. Even here, in fact, Raz's control scheme, although solid, is far from perfect, and for example, it is rather annoying having to constantly change certain powers in battle due to the limitation to four skills, and the specific weaknesses of the types of enemies. The platforming itself, then, is not yet flawless, albeit more precise than in the past, and many of the maneuvers are activated in a fairly coarse way when you need precise operations.

For heaven's sake, it does not spoil what we described above, and the addition of some two-dimensional sessions and phases of pure combat helps to stir everything up worthily, however it is sorry to see how sometimes the gameplay doesn't seem live up to the wonders that surround it.

A scene from Psychonauts 2 The progression system has also been maintained and expanded, since Razputin's intern status leads him to accumulate cards and ranks to improve his powers, and even allows him to customize them in many curious ways to special distributors in the Psychonauts headquarters. We haven't focused much on this aspect, but it's nice to see a sharp evolution here too. Little to say instead about the technical sector: the game may not be the most beautiful platform in circulation, but as we have already pointed out it is very inspired, and boasts a variety of settings and exceptional situations already in the early hours. A few bugs encountered here and there also don't worry us particularly, as the build we tested was not yet final, and still turned out to be pretty stable outside of a single crash and a couple of minor bugs.

Psychonauts 2 is clearly a dry evolution of its predecessor, which wants to significantly improve its characteristics by pushing even more on the creativity of levels and situations. The game's gameplay doesn't seem to have evolved hand in hand, but it still felt solid to us, and overall Double Fine's work has what it takes to be a truly memorable sequel. All that remains is to wait for the full version, and find out what surprises the developers have in store for us.


Extraordinarily creative and inspired levels Narrative and well-kept characters Excellent technical and artistically excellent sector Mechanics solid ... DOUBTS ... but once again not very refined Have you noticed any errors?

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