It’s now the Duck’s turn to cover my game of the year! While I didn’t exactly play a lot of games released in 2021, the few that I did were quite memorable indeed. After perusing my choices, however, the most logical pick would have to be Psychonauts 2 thanks to its creativity and unique premise.
Funnily enough, 2021 also marked the year I first played the original Psychonauts, where a boy named Raz runs away from home in order to train his psychic powers at Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp. Soon enough, he finds himself the last person left who can stop a plot that involves a deranged dentist who has been stealing kids’ brains! Though the gameplay itself was a bit lacking, the more time I spent thinking about the game after its completion, the more I came to appreciate all the areas that it got right, from the creative mindscapes that made up the worlds, the great sense of humor, the excellent characters and quirky story, not to mention some very unique (if flawed) gameplay using Raz’s various psychic abilities. There is nothing quite like Psychonauts, nor will there ever be…unless you’re counting the game’s sequel, which had been released mere months prior to my experience with the original game.
Though Psychonauts 2 came out a whopping 16 years after the original, it still managed to keep a lot of what made the first game amazing. The creativity is still intact, while improving on the original’s flaws. Gameplay is much more fun than it used to be, which is further helped with the addition of new moves, such as mental connection and the ability to slow down time. (Still miss the shield and invincibility moves, though….) The pacing issues of the first game have been resolved, as well, and they also did a great job expanding on the world building, even if this game, too, takes places in a fairly small location.
I’m not entirely sure what else can be said that I didn’t already cover in my review. But when thinking back on the games that I played in 2021, Psychonuats 2 just seems the most deserving nominee for game of the year because it’s easily one of the most unique platformers you’ll ever find. Plus, considering my interest in the field of psychology, I really enjoyed the way the franchise deals with the complex world of mental health in a manner that is respectful without being depressingly serious. It’s clear that Double Fine is passionate about the Psychonauts series. And seeing as the original game didn’t get the recognition it deserved, I’m glad the series has another chance to be enjoyed by both a new generation of gamers and those who, like myself, simply missed it the first time around.
image from the Psychonauts 2 Steam page