In the recent past, the Duck wrote a rather…critical review about the original Psychonauts from In the recent past, the Duck wrote a rather…critical review about the original Psychonauts from 2005. While I praised the game’s characters, story, and creativity, I was a lot harsher when it came to the game’s clunky platforming. With that said, I may have given the impression that I disliked the game, which is simply not true. I have since replayed it, and despite its flaws, I grew to love the original Psychonauts so much that I was left with no choice but to buy the sequel at full price (I rarely ever buy digital games until they go on sale).
Despite having to wait 16 years in the real world, Psychonauts 2 takes place almost immediately after the first, though I would recommend at least watching a playthrough of the VR game Rhombus of Ruin (it’s only about an hour long) to see what happens between both games (it also includes some interesting backstory for a certain crazy dentist…). Considering that Raz was training to become a Psychonaut in the first game, it makes sense that the next logical step would be for him to become…an intern at the Psychonauts HQ, the Motherlobe. Of course, a new threat arises, and it’s not long before he’s thrown right back into the action.
One positive that I noticed right away was that this game gets started much more quickly. Frankly, the first half of the original game kind of felt like a tutorial, whereas in the sequel, you get reacquainted with most of your old abilities in the very first level. You also gain brand new abilities as the game progresses, which are all worthy additions, as well, but I won’t spoil them. (My only complaint in this regards is the fact that the Levitation ability only allows you to hover for a limited time now.)
My biggest issue with the first game was the clunky platforming, which seems to have been fixed this time around. Raz seemed to control much better, and platforming no longer felt like a chore. What was very tedious, however, was the combat. There is a greater variety of clever enemies, such as Regrets, Enablers, and Panic Attacks. But regardless of what I was fighting, the enemies seemed like they took way too many hits to defeat, even after I upgraded my abilities. I don’t think anyone plays Psychonauts for the combat, so I do wish there had been less of it.
On a random note, money is way easier to come by, and you can combine PSI cards and cores together in one location instead of two. There is also more freedom in respect to the pins you can equip to affect your abilities (though I totally forgot to make use of these), plus ranking up gives you points to spend towards upgrading whichever ability you choose instead of granting you a predefined ability.
Strangely enough, I felt like the consequences of dying were more severe. The first game had lives, and if you lost all of them, you got kicked out of the world. This was usually not a big deal, though, because you could just return to the world and teleport back to where you left off. In this game, Dream Fluffs act kind of like lives, which you can buy in the store. If you get a game over, though, I usually had to repeat a greater portion of the level than I would have in the first game, which included collecting figments and other items all over again.
From a technical standpoint, I played this game on the PS4, and I encountered a few issues. The most notable of these are the absurd loading screens. This wasn’t so bad when I was visiting characters’ minds, but when I had to navigate the real world, I actually dreaded every time I needed to traverse between different parts of the map. The game also slows down from time to time, sometimes grinding to a complete halt for a second before jerking back into action. Once again, this was the worst in the real world, but I did occasionally notice cut scenes slow down for a second or two, as well. The game also crashed once during the first boss battle. My PS4 installed an update for the game the very next day, though, and I experienced no further crashes, so…maybe that’s fixed?
As expected, this game has a whole new cast of characters, including the Psychic Six (the founders of the Psychonauts) and the interns, the latter of which serve as the replacement for the camp kids from the first game. To be honest, I really didn’t like the interns. They just seemed to be a nastier bunch overall compared to the kids from camp, and to make matters worse, they seemed to play a greater role, too. I think what bothered me most was that Raz seemed to have lost some of his spunk. He stood up to the camp bully, Bobby Zilch, in the first game, making Bobby’s obnoxious behavior more tolerable because I knew Raz wouldn’t put up with it. It’s possible that Raz is just more intimidated by teenagers than he is kids his own age, which is understandable, but that didn’t stop me from getting really annoyed every time Raz had to interact with them.
In general, Psychonauts 2 is certainly a much more polished experience than the original. With that said, I can’t help but feel more fondly towards the first game. And no, I don’t have nostalgia clouding my judgement because I literally played both games for the first time within about a month of each other. I just enjoyed the humor more in the first game, and I preferred what I felt was a more whimsical tone, with the summer camp and the deranged dentist stealing kids’ brains. The sequel, on the other hand, has a more serious, mature story, and while that may not be a bad thing, I still can’t say I enjoyed it as much. Last of all, though the levels in Psychonuats 2 are certainly creative, none of them really stood out in my mind like the Milkman Conspiracy or Black Velvetopia.
Alas, while I may not love this game quite as much as the original, it’s easy to see that Psychonauts 2 is definitely an excellent sequel. And if you haven’t yet played the original, then I feel more inclined to recommend it than I previously did, because the story, humor, and creativity really stand the test of time, even if it’s held back by clunky gameplay. And if you’d like to read a review from a long-time fan, please check out Hatm0nster’s review!
Image from the Psychonauts 2 Steam page