16 years on from the original, Psychonauts has finally got the sequel that fans have been clamouring for and developer Double Fine has always wanted to make. Despite being a newcomer to the series myself, there’s no doubting that Psychonauts 2 is a roaring success of a sequel, with a fantastic narrative that delves deeper into the game’s lore and classic 3D action-platforming gameplay that is simply top class.
Psychonauts 2 picks up with Razputin ‘Raz’ Aquato realising his dream of becoming a Psychonaut. But, as the powerful young psychic joins the espionage organisation, a threat of a mole hiding in plain sight offers the potential of disruption at the same time as an ancient, powerful, psychic menace called Maligula returns.
The cast of characters you have come to know and love from the first game make a return, but with some new faces. Despite the new additions, everyone is expertly paired with smart and witty dialogue that never failed to produce a small chuckle.
Whether a dark joke or some witty business humour about the stresses of running an organisation as big as the Psychonauts, Tim Schafer has done a fantastic job at bringing everyone to life.
However, Psychonauts 2 doesn’t just produce laughs – it touches upon everything on the emotional spectrum. It’s what you’d expect really, for a game that’s all about delving into people’s minds and unveiling what they are hiding from the real world.
And, well, some of these state of minds you explore hit pretty close to home, and it gives the game an edge that I didn’t expect. We all know the feeling of feeling disconnected from the world or a group of friends, and to have that so accurately represented in a videogame is truly something special.
Taking a peek inside the minds of others is the main strength of Psychonauts 2
These moment of taking a peek inside the minds of others is the main strength of Psychonauts 2, each offering wildly different, but equally weird levels to explore. From a psychedelic world filled with more colours that you can count, or a stranded planet, filled with the remnants of an elderly person’s mind, they’re all vastly different and offer you unique insights into Double Fine’s world.
Exploring these state of minds can be pretty heavy, so to break up those escapades, you can take Raz on a journey through a number of locations in the game’s world including the Psychonauts HQ, The Motherlobe, and a forest called The Questionable Area. This luscious environment allows you to disconnect from Raz’s work and get to know his colleagues and family through a series of dialogue options, side quests, and activities.
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It’s worth saying that each and every Psychonauts 2 level I’ve played through looked stunning on the Xbox Series X at 4K, and their unique set pieces really help shake the narrative up and keep it fresh. My personal favourite from my playthrough has to be the sheer elation you feel when you reunite an old band by finding individual members over a period of time. There’s something so special about witnessing a reunion and Double Fine has done a great job at capturing those emotions.
For collectible hunters, Psychonauts 2 lives up to other 3D platformers, and includes hundreds of items for you to hunt down across the game’s 20 or so levels.
Combat is definitely the weakest aspect of the game
Whether it be Figments, which lie about the world and help you rank up and earn skill points, or Memory Vaults that scurry about until battered open, there’s a hell of a lot to do outside of the main Psychonauts 2 story, which took me about 12 hours to complete. By the time you factor in side missions, you’re looking at a 20-25 hour game.
While exploring is the name of the game in Psychonauts 2, you will be expected to fight every now and then. While the combat is fairly solid, it is definitely the weakest aspect of the game. Mental Connection, which pulls enemies in, or Pyrokinesis, which creates a bubble of fire around Raz, are by far the best abilities to use, but melee weapon combat felt hollow and unimpactful. No matter whether I hit an enemy for the first or fifth time, it never once felt like I was stacking damage.
In addition to that, upgrading abilities felt meaningless. While some provided entirely new options for movement, such as unlocking new points to teleport to with Mental Connection, the majority that were combat-based felt underpowered. In fact, by the end of the game, I struggled to see a difference between the ones I had at the start of the game – even though I had levelled them up several times.
Despite those concerns, combat is still fun, with a lot of diverse enemy types that force you to use your abilities. It’s clearly not the focus point of the game, but it does help to break up the experience.
A number of other small features help round-out the platforming experience. The Thought-Tuner can uncover secrets hidden from sight while exploring and pins can be bought to help enhance your strength, allowing you to deal more damage. This can also lead to you choosing a specific path, say a pacifist, where you can stun enemies instead of killing them.
All of this comes together to make Psychonauts 2 feel like a true 3D, action-platformer that is on par with Crash Bandicoot 4 and the Ratchet & Clank series. Psychonauts 2 doesn’t feel like a fractured platformer at any point and it’s clear that Double Fine, together with Microsoft, has finally delivered a worthy sequel.
Psychonauts 2 is one of the most diverse and memorable games of the year, and it signals the start of a whole new era for Microsoft’s first-party games.
Review code provided by Microsoft for the Xbox Series X|S.