REVIEW: ‘Psychonauts 2’ Is Everything it Should Be (Xbox One)

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Psychonauts 2

After a successful Fig campaign and the acquisition of its developer, Double Fine, by Xbox, Psychonauts 2 has released 17 years after the cult-classic original. With such a large gap between the two titles, there were reasonable concerns leading up to the title’s release that it would not capture the character, charm, and quality of its predecessor. Thankfully, the opposite is true, as Psychonauts 2 has only improved on what made the first game so great.

The first Psychonauts followed a young psychic from a family of psychic-hating circus acrobats named Raz. A super-fan of the ritual Psychonauts, a network of super-agent psychics,  Raz runs away from home to attend a summer camp for psychics, where he falls into a sprawling campaign that sees him venturing through the minds of others to explore their phobias and personalities. 

After a short VR title bridging the two games, Psychonauts 2 follows Raz as he joins the Psychonauts as an intern and finds himself trying to find a mole within the organization helping a cult to resurrect Meligula, an extremely powerful psychic and mass murderer. The story adds a variety of new characters to the series cast. While the lack of most of the wonderful characters from the first game is disappointing, the new characters are worthy substitutes full of their own character with fleshed-out backgrounds and personalities. 

Much of Psychonauts 2 revolves around delving into the minds of these characters and exploring their history and what impacts they have on them. These mind-delving levels are the highlight of the series and are continued in full form with Psychonauts 2. Each character has its own traumas for Raz to discover and solve, and each one is well written in a compassionate and understanding way. Some players may be uncomfortable with some of the themes that the game’s subplots explore, but they are done so with incredible tact and respect. 

The levels are also incredibly imaginative, both visually and mechanically. Every level is completely unique from all the others, whether it be one covered in teeth or based on a cooking game show. There are some incredible levels that players will run through, and they each play differently enough to bring a breath of fresh air to the game whenever a player runs through another one. 

Psychonauts 2

The great design of the levels is further boosted by how gorgeous the game’s stylized graphics are. The series has a very unique cartoon art style, and Psychonauts 2 evolves that art style to modern hardware very well. The game manages to keep its low-poly count look with disproportionate features and sharp angles without feeling dated, and the levels, in particular, are consistently gorgeous.

The first Psychonauts has some iconic levels that are some of the most memorable and original in the platformer genre. Remarkably, Psychonauts 2 has managed to capture lightning in a bottle twice and has a possible even stronger set of fantastic levels that continually push the envelope with the kit of abilities that players have. 

As for what abilities Raz can equip in Psychonauts 2, players start with most of the psi-powers they had at the end of Psychonauts and slowly are given new psychic powers trickled to them throughout the game. Powers can also be upgraded four times each this time around, which strengthens them, although some of the upgrades aren’t nearly as useful as others that are the same cost. 

The majority of Psychonauts 2’s story outside of characters’ minds occurs in its hub world at the Psychonauts headquarters. The area expands quite a bit as players progress, but it is largely one of the weaker sections of the game. Loading its different areas can cause the game to seize up momentarily or drop a lot of frames, and traveling back and forth through its areas is either a repetitive exercise or a lot of long loading screens when one utilizes its fast travel system. 

However, the overarching narrative in Psychonauts 2 is on par with the original, although it is far from the highlight in either title. The main attraction to the series is its creative and solid platforming challenges, imaginative levels, and how it explores mental health topics in creative, digestible ways. 

In this way, Psychonauts 2 is absolutely everything it should be. It does not do everything perfectly, but it builds on what fans loved about the first Psychonauts in a way that keeps the spirit of the series alive and well. 

Psychonauts 2
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

In this way, Psychonauts 2 is absolutely everything it should be. It does not do everything perfectly, but it builds on what fans loved about the first Psychonauts in a way that keeps the spirit of the series alive and well.