Published on September 5th, 2012 | by Arlin0
Arlin Plays- Psychonauts
Psychonauts has most certainly been one hell of an adventure. We’ve followed Razputin from his initial intrusion into the otherwise uneventful lives of the Whispering Rock campers, up through his coming into his own as a full fledged Psychonaut. Strangely enough, it all takes place over the course of one day, two nights.
I’ll start with the things the game does rather poorly. The game’s difficulty seems too easy much of the time, but spikes enormously in the final level and subsequent fight. That said, the game doesn’t set the expectation for being difficult, or even aiming to be challenging, so the relative ease of most of the game is perfectly fine. But having a final boss sequence with inordinately harsh consequences is out of place when it is done to this degree. The collection was set out as entirely optional, and for the most part it is. But looking at it, my thoroughness in collecting everything and reaping every reward possible is the only thing that mitigated this large jump in difficulty.
Fortunately, the list of things the game does well is far longer, and what it does well, it does with flying colors well above most games even today. First up, level design. It’s tricky to build a 3D Platformer with levels that are interesting to explore and look around. With Psychonauts, each mind is crafted in such a way as to not only be intriguing to work through, but be appropriate to the characterization of the owner of said mind. Even then, each mind is quite unique, carrying little over between each other beyond basic mechanics and some reuse of enemy assets. It leaves the game with a high level of playability and replay value. On top of the physical layout of every level, there is a soundtrack that is highly appropriate for every single level. While none of them stand out to me as songs I will remember forever, none of them were out of place, and none of them detracted from the overall experience.
Related to the level design is the game mechanics. In a game where the entirety of the gameplay revolves around getting from one place to another, it is absolutely imperative that getting around is fun. Here, the game does well. It gives multiple forms of movements, each with distinct advantages and disadvantages. In fact, as you gain more movement capabilities, the game seems to accentuate the ones you already have rather than rendering them obsolete. True there were some areas that were somewhat frustrating for one reason or another, but through a combination of fun movement and interesting locations, these were minor.
Next up, humor. Humor in games is especially risky, as everyone has a different sense of humor. If someone doesn’t find a part funny, it greatly detracts from their experience. Psychonauts has just the right combination of exaggeration, unexpected comments, and one liners that give it a charm that is wide spread. This humor is everywhere, from the level designs to the spoken lines, and especially in the characterization.
Characterization is where this game shines, I feel. From the high quality voiceovers to the tiny details present for each character found in the game, Psychonauts gives an amount of depth to each person that is rare in games, even today. The details are sprinkled in throughout the experience, so they don’t get tedious or annoying. Even when many of the campers are minor characters at best, each one is different. What starts off as a random group of non playable characters in the opening cutscene resolves into a very three dimensional group of individuals, and the game benefits for their efforts.
Overall, this game has shown time and again the thoroughness of the minds behind it. Every character reacts to what you do, even if you shouldn’t have a given power yet, there’s recorded lines for all of it, and the amount of detail here is staggering. I recommend this game to literally every gamer out there, and even to people who are just casual gamers. If you haven’t tried it, go get it on Steam and play it. Right now. It’s easily in my top ten of all time, and I know you’ll appreciate it too.