It’s been nearly 16 years since Double Fine released the mindbending action platforming game Psychonauts, and ever since then, fans have been holding out hope for a sequel. Six years ago, the team announced it would crowdfunding the long-awaited Psychonauts 2, and we’ve been waiting with bated breath ever since. Between the sequel’s announcement and now, Double Fine has gone through some changes, most notably its acquisition by Microsoft in 2019. It’s been a wild ride to get to this point, but the time is upon us, and Psychonauts 2 is here. The mental gymnasium is open.
Psychonauts 2 Review | A Feast of Senses
Psychonauts 2 is a superb example of what a sequel should encapsulate. It both improves on its foundation and ventures into a grander experience. A lot has happened in 16 years with technology, and it’s incredible to see the world of Psychonauts brought to life with such stunning visuals and creative design.
Every mind you enter is bombastic, teeming with small details and over-the-top thematic elements. From the weird dental world of Dr. Loboto to the high rolling casinos of Hollis Forsythe, acting head of the Psychonauts, each level feels distinct, intriguing, and most importantly, fun.
This is, of course, elevated by the eccentric cast of both returning and new characters. Your favorites like Sasha, Milia, and Coach Oleander return for the adventure, but the game also introduces you to new members of the Psychonauts, and that’s where the cast shines.
Taking place the morning after the PSVR game Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, you’re quickly shuffled back to The Motherlobe, home of the Psychonauts. You’re then inducted into the Intern Program and introduced to your classmates. These classmates aren’t keen on your arrival and cause some trouble for you, but add a much-needed fresh perspective on things. They serve as the primary side-quest givers of the game, and you’ll find them scattered all over the world getting into trouble.
My biggest gripe is I wish the game utilized your classmates more because of how amusing and lively this bunch is. It felt like a heist movie whenever we were teaming up, but I just didn’t get enough of them. You’ll meet even more characters outside of that, but I don’t want to spoil the surprises the game has in store for you.
I would have loved to spend way more time with a character like Morris, who runs a secret radio show out of his treehouse bunker, or grinding rails with Gisu on that sweet sweet hoverboard. That being said, your fellow interns’ personalities do radiate through the different quests and tasks they hand you. I just would have loved for the focus to be more on them joining Raz on his missions in the main story.
Psychonauts 2 is all about exploration and the sense of adventure. Each world is filled with collectibles, from figments of the imagination to emotional baggage. It rewards you for checking every nook and cranny of the mind. These collectibles go for the overworld as well. Some of the best parts of the first game happen in Whispering Rock Summer Camp and the discovery from poking around.
This time you have the entire Motherlobe to explore as well as the outside areas like the Quarry and the Questionable Area around it. You’ll be looking for similar collectibles like Psi Challenge Cards, Psi Markers, and even a list of scavenger hunt items like the first game. While The Motherlobe acts as a hub area in between story beats, it’s a fully explorable place with its own secrets to discover and characters to interact with. It’s filled with winding corridors and there’s something around every turn. Maybe you want to check out Sasha’s Lab or maybe you just want to go bowling.
It’s a stark contrast to Whispering Rock Summer Camp, which was filled with fresh children psychics looking to hone their powers. This time, you’re walking amongst the greatest psychics in the world, and seeing a much larger picture of what’s to come. You’ll have to use every tool in your arsenal to see everything The Motherlobe has to offer, and you’ll be properly rewarded for doing so.
All of these collectibles work towards ranking up your level, which in turn will allow you to spend points to power up your psychic abilities. Each ability has four upgrades you can obtain; some are useful for traversal while others are combat-focused.
Not every upgrade feels useful or even that interesting, but you rank up at a quick enough clip that obtaining the more valuable upgrades never feels like a chore. The new abilities added in Psychonauts 2 are extraordinary and allow you to interact with the world like never before. Of course, the favorites like Clairvoyance and Pyrokensis are still there.
Psychonauts 2 also introduces a robust Pin system into the game. Pins allow you to alter the properties of your psychic abilities. Some are cosmetic like the color of your Levitation Ball, while others add effects like long burn time or increased stun duration to certain attacks. It adds an added layer to how you want to customize your tool kit and is something I had a lot of fun experimenting with.
Of course, psi blasting and Pyrokinesis are great for fighting enemies and bosses, which Psychonauts 2 has in abundance. The enemy variety in the sequel is a huge step up from the first game. Each enemy depicts a different ideology of what makes our brains feel bad. Enemies like Bad Moods are expressed as big black rain clouds, or enemies like Regrets weighted down by burdens.
These concepts are both on theme with everything present in the game and have unique in-game ways of dealing with these enemies in combat which feel true to their real-life counterparts.
The boss fights are memorable, have different mechanics to match the theme of each mind you enter and are a sight to behold. There was only one boss fight about midway through the game that I felt was clunky and unintuitive. Outside of that, though, I found each boss fight to be exciting and lively.
Outside of combat most of your time in Psychonauts 2 will be spent jumping, rolling, and levitating through platforms large and small. Raz, after all, comes from a long line of acrobats so it’s no surprise he is as fast and flexible as ever. The controls feel tight and responsive and I never felt like I was stuck on a difficult platforming section for too long. It feels good to control Raz and using his abilities like levitation and his dive to complete tough obstacles.
Every level is designed around using these abilities to the fullest and will test even the most veteran platforming champions. Raz leaps through the air with a carelessness that only a small child could have. I’m jealous of his acrobatic capabilities as I, a 26-year-old with a body held together by scotch tape and a dream, could never do.
You’ll also get some new tools outside of abilities, and one of them is a photo mode! With a world that looks as unique and vibrant as this one, I found myself using the photo mode quite a bit. Its robust features come within filters, poses, and other options for you to get the perfect shot and something that is always appreciated.
On top of this, Double Fine has also added a ton of accessibility options in the game. You can turn off fall damage, turn on invincibility, and even turn on increased damage if you just want to enjoy the story.
Text size options include a larger UI, camera shake intensity, and a colorblind mode. You can remap the entire controller as well, which is something every game should do.
The story of Psychonauts 2 is the heart of the game. As usual, I will avoid story spoilers for those not wanting to know any pivotal scenes or moments. The game’s plot is far more ambitious than that of the previous game, and it sticks the acrobatic and contorted landing.
For those who may have skipped the first or PSVR game, the beginning of Psychonauts 2 will get you up to speed with a recap video. It sets you up to jump right into the action without having to read any outside of information to feel caught up.
It’s a story of dealing with the parts of yourself you hate the most and how you can overcome them. The game depicts abandonment, depression, compartmentalization, and more but with an understanding and careful hand. While some of these moments can be heavy, the humor in the game gives every situation much-needed levity.
The jokes in Psychonauts 2 are easily one of my favorite parts of the game. They rarely miss and often feel modern without feeling like they will be dated in a few months from now.
The character’s delivery of these moments is always spot on, providing the right level of sarcasm or ignorance to help the humor thrive. It’s a very tricky mental cobweb to weave and one that Psychonauts 2 does exceptionally well.
Razputin Aquato may only be a ten-year-old kid, but he is intelligent, witty, and determined as a protagonist. He works as both an audience surrogate for information and someone who is always seeking out knowledge and is never afraid to jump headfirst into danger, even if it means getting himself into trouble. He’s a fun character to be and one I enjoy playing as.
Psychonauts 2 is an adventure I won’t forget anytime soon. It’s filled with moments of laughs, tears, and even some confusion, but that’s what makes it unique. Fans who have been waiting for this game since finishing the first game 16 years ago, you’re in for a real treat.
Psychonauts 2 is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PLayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.
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A copy of this game was provided by Microsoft for review.
- An exciting and vibrant world filled with exploration and discovery
- A Memorable cast of characters both old and new
- A funny and sad story about the things we carry
- One unintuitive and clunky boss fight
- A few upgrades don’t feel worthwhile