Despite being a generally light-hearted adventure, Psychonauts has some genuinely scary moments. For me some of the most memorable are the Nightmare creatures and the Nightmare Prison in Milla’s mind. From their loud whispers to their revolting appearance, everything to do with these things makes me shiver involuntarily. Other things though, things like The Brain Tumbler Experiment that also meant to be scary instead wound up being rather spoopy instead. Perhaps that was the intent, but it’s honestly a bit difficult to tell.
The Brain Tumbler Experiment is the second level in Psychonauts, and it takes place in what can only be described as some sort of bizarre dreamscape. It’s the embodiment of all those mostly forgotten fever-dreams one has over the years. You those right? Those dreams that you can’t remember but still evoke a small shiver every now and then. That’s this stage: all the leftover confusion, bewilderment and even fear from those dreams given form as a level in a video game.
Thankfully, Psychonauts doesn’t go whole hog with this (think of how genuinely scary it’d be if they did) and throws in plenty of silliness to help cut the uncanny feel of it all. It’s a dreamscape comprised of the all-too-familiar dark woods with plants that may or may not actually be alive…and large cuts of steak. (what?) There’s even rotten steak that gives-off warm air (stink?) for Raz to ride with his levitation balloon. It also helps that the centerpiece of the whole place is a small tower with an even smaller version of a mad brain doctor who thinks he’s a dentist.
My favorite part of this whole thing is actually one of the Memory Vaults running around the base of the tower. It contains a little slideshow called “The World Shall Taste My Eggs!” which stars a little brain character traveling to different places (no eggs though). It has absolutely nothing to do with anything (well, mostly nothing), and I absolutely love that it’s included. It’s like I’m not the only one who has random absurd thoughts rolling around in his noggin (and thinking most of them are freaking hilarious)! Admittedly, I don’t get the joke, and I don’t think anyone is supposed to. Only the maker truly understands it, just like all of our own little private jokes.
So yeah, the Brain Tumbler Experiment just shapes up to be one of those things that could have been genuinely spooky, but ends up just being wonderfully spoopy instead. It’s something I was hoping to see in Psychonauts 2, but, unfortunately, I guess lighting really doesn’t strike twice. Anyway, Spooptober is just getting underway so stay tuned for more!
What do you think of The Brain Tumbler Experiment? Can you think of anything that evokes a similar feel?
Image by the Duck of Indeed