Psychonauts 2 Review
Psychonauts 2 delivers superb platforming, mind bending visuals and quirky characters that combine into a unique experience, my full review.
It’s been 16 years since Psychonauts’ 2005 debut turned the action-adventure genre on its head. After the original’s incredible level of creativity, quirkiness, and fun, the sequel needed to be something special to meet its predecessor’s pedigree.
Thankfully, Psychonauts 2 checks all these brainy boxes delivering a modern platformer that still is chalk full of the series’ unique charm. Developer Double Fine Productions lead by industry veteran Tim Schafer (Full Throttle, Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle) has delivered one of the most unique games of the year. Let’s dive into the id, ego, and super-ego of Psychonauts 2 and conduct a deep analysis of all it has to offer.
Psychonauts 2 Details
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4 and PC Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Developer: Double Fine Publisher: Xbox Game Studios Genre: Platform Modes: Single-player ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Story – Subconscious spelunking
The story continues almost exactly where it left off, only a few days have passed since the conclusion of the first game. Things pick up immediately after the virtual reality adventure Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin and our hero Razputin "Raz" Aquato has saved the day. I’ve glanced over a lot of details here to avoid spoilers in case you are thinking of playing through the first game. If you are looking for a faster way to get up to speed on the story, check out this (spoiler filled) "Psychonauts: The Story So Far" video.
Fast-forward to Psychonauts 2…
Raz has conquered the evil Dr.Loboto, but the celebration will need to wait. The puppet master behind the doctor is revealed to be the far more dangerous Maligula. Moreover, there is reason to believe there is a mole in Psychonauts’ operation feeding information to their enemies. It’s up to Raz to enter the minds of the “Psychic Six” to uncover who the traitor is. Each level takes place in the mind of a character, offering unique platforming and some incredible level design. You must explore and uncover deep secrets around the Psychonauts veteran members to reveal the traitor.
Gameplay – A well balanced, refined experience
Psychonauts 2 is an action-adventure platformer, and a tremendously creative one at that. The level design and gameplay mechanics change up and refine the original formula, keeping things fresh throughout your playthrough. While venturing through the minds of characters you’ll be faced with their mental ailments such as addiction, anxiety of PTSD. The game deals with issues of mental health in a sensitive manner, challenging the player to overcome these manifestations in different ways.
"The game deals with issues of mental health in a sensitive manner, challenging the player to overcome these manifestations in different ways."
The platforming and rail grinding action return along with your toolset of ability-based attacks. These include Telekinesis, PSI Blast, Pyrokinesis, Levitation, Clairvoyance and more. Each one of these skills has seen upgrades and refinements from the first entry that make them feel great. The variety of enemies and their varied skills means you’ll get a chance to use all of them. This makes the combat challenging, yet a lot of fun. These skills can also be upgraded as your adventure progresses via collectables, so keep an eye out as you move about the world.
Graphics – A twisted beautiful world
In a gaming industry obsessed with hyperrealism, it was refreshing to see Psychonauts 2 forge its own visually stunning path. It stayed true to its original, more playful aesthetic, which a lot of fun to playthrough and explore. Double Fine’s art direction in Psychonauts 2 is beautiful and unmistakable, creating a distinct mark all its own. It mixes in elements of abstract art, Tim Burton’s macabre films, and zany curiosities that look like they’ve been dreamt up by Dr. Seuss himself. Every environment piques your curiosity, packed with details and oddities that reflect each character. The design also lends itself to more organic exploration, this is a fun world to get lost in for hours. There are bright colourful areas that twist into darker realms to reflect each individual’s mental state. The powerful artistic direction works in conjunction with the plot to create a very satisfying cohesive experience.
"It mixes in elements of abstract art, Tim Burton’s macabre films, and zany curiosities that look like they’ve been dreamt up by Dr. Seuss himself."
Sound Design – An aural journey
Along with the stunning visuals, the soundtrack, voice acting, and audio effects go a long way to make Raz’s world come alive. Legendary video game composer Peter McConell (Brutal Legend, Grim Fandango) has delivered over three hours of original music to accompany players on their mind-bending journey. Along with McConell’s arrangements there is even a Grateful Dead inspired track, “The PSI KING” that Jack Black of Tenacious D provides the vocals for. The excellent audio design doesn’t end with the soundtrack, the voice acting is also terrific. Much of the original cast has returned including Richard Horvitz (Fallout 76, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart) who has voiced Raz for the past 16 years. Having a lot of the key voice actors reunite really added more continuity to the universe and allowed things to pick up right where they left off. The voice acting in Psychonauts 2 is top of class and is another incredible layer of this loveable adventure.
"Along with the stunning visuals, the soundtrack, voice acting, and audio effects go a long way to make Raz’s world come alive."
Final Thoughts on Psychonauts 2
I really enjoyed the unique charm that Psychonauts 2 delivered, it offered some excellent platforming fun layered with rich storytelling. From the returning voice cast to psychedelic arrangements the experience is a feast for the eyes and ears. The quality and care that went into the game is apparent with each distinctive level. Psychonauts 2 is hands down one of the year’s best platformers, don’t miss out on Raz’s mind games.
"Psychonauts 2 is hands down one of the year’s best platformers, don’t miss out on Raz’s mind games."
Psychonauts 2 PROS
+ Beautiful, creatively told story that grapples with difficult subjects like mental health and addiction
+ Gameplay refinements really modernize Psychonauts platforming experience
+ Levels are incredibly varied and interesting to explore
+ An excellent supporting cast of characters
Psychonauts 2 CONS
-The number of collectables is a little too daunting
-Some boss fights are anticlimactic
Overall Rating: 35/40 (90%)