This is part of my Steam Challenge Series (the full list is here).
Time played: 19.5 hours
Ahhh, the days when Double Fine was building loyalty and goodwill with its fanbase, rather than squandering it. Psychonauts was their first game, and they set the bar really damn high. I have Brutal Legend and Stacking waiting in my library, and I hope desperately that they are even nearly as good as Psychonauts.
For a game that is almost ten years old, it doesn’t look too shabby at all. The highly cartoony art direction is probably a major reason for that. I think the voice acting is spot on, and the dialogue writing is very good. The highlight for me, though, would have to be the level design – specifically, the psychic worlds. Throughout the game, you must enter the psyches of various characters, and each mental world is so different from the others, so original, it is just a joy to play. Each world has its own brand of humour – my favourites have to be stomping around a tiny city as the kaiju Goggalor; and the absurd conspirators in The Milkman Conspiracy (“I am the milkman. My milk is delicious”).
There were only two issues I had with the game. First was the controls – they weren’t super tight for a platformer, and with odd camera positioning it made some parts of the game a little harder than they needed to be. Certainly not game-breaking, but noticeable. The other issue was that the story started off almost too slowly. It began with a bang, but then tapered off with some vague directions to explore and maybe collect stuff for a bit, to be sure you’re up to the challenges ahead. But I ended up a little too lost, not sure where I needed to go next and if I’d prepared well enough. After a break from the game for many months, I came back to it late last year and things ramped up again fairly quickly, which was good.
Psychonauts will always have a place among the Classics for me. It’s not perfectly polished, but it is so much fun that you don’t mind forgiving it for that. I think everyone should play this game.