Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Only one post in all of October? I was really hoping to do better than that... Also, just a note, I've gone and edited past posts so that the entire article isn't visible on the main page, figured it made everything a bit cleaner. Unfortunately, not all of the posts were very easy to split up, so some of the splits might be a bit ugly, and I apologize for that.

Since the last post got me thinking a lot more about DoubleFine, I figured I might as well also talk a bit more about Psychonauts, because omgPsychonautsisamazingspaz. Anyway, on to the review thing!
Psychonauts was originally released in 2005 for the Xbox, PS2, and PC. In it, you are Raz, a young boy that has run away from the circus to join the summer camp for psychic children. In his quest to become a Psychonaut, Raz discovers a nefarious plot to take over the world (involving stealing brains and using them to power death tanks), and ultimately it's up to him to stop it. The story is bizarre and interesting, but where Psychonauts truly shines is its characters.

 Each character is unique and quirky, and though some of them may appear flat and boring at first, being able to enter their minds (more on that later) gives the characters a surprising amount of depth (more on this later as well). Throw in some hilarious scenarios and witty dialogue, and you have a truly lovable cast. And generally, the entire game is just wrapped in charm and DoubleFine humor. Agent Ford can be summoned out of Raz's ear to consult with by waving a piece of bacon by Raz's head. The giant monster lungfish is named Linda. Giant hands emerge from deep water and attempt to drown Raz if he gets too close because his family is cursed (by gypsies) to die in water, which is as sensible a reason for the player character not being able to swim as any.
Before I talk a bit more about why I think Psychonauts is so great, a bit about the gameplay. Psychonauts is primarily a 3D platformer, and though it's not perfect (there are occasionally control and camera issues), it works well. Or at the very least, it works well enough that I don't remember any major complaints from playing the game a few years ago. Throughout the course of the game, Raz will learn various psychic abilities (such as levitation, invisibility, pyrokinesis, and more) that will bring him one step closer to being a full fledged Psychonaut, as well as help him traverse the environment, solve puzzles, and fight. And most importantly, Raz gains the ability to enter the minds of various characters.

Throughout the game, Raz will enter the minds of around ten characters for a number of reasons, including training, healing, and intel gathering. Each level is structured to reflect the personality of the character, for example, the cold and calculating Sasha's mind is a sterile cube, while upbeat and bubbly Milla's mind is themed like a disco party. Each level is filled with collectibles, such as figments of the imagination, mental cobwebs to clear (the worse the mental condition of the character, the more mental cobwebs there are), emotional baggage to sort away, and memories to view.
The Milkman Conspiracy
In my opinion, it is these levels that make Psychonauts truly amazing. Each level adds a significant amount of depth to each character, such as the way repressed memories and emotions literally begin bursting from Sasha's cube when Raz overloads the test, to the dark room in Milla's disco party that reveals a tragic past Milla may still be trying to forget. Even more, each level is just wonderfully designed, and I honestly think that a few of the later levels of Psychonauts (starting from Lungfishopolis) are some of the best levels ever made in video games, period. To give you an idea of why I love these levels so much, I'm going to very briefly describe my three favorite levels: Lungfishopolis, The Milkman Conspiracy, and Black Velvetopia. So, uh, spoilers and all that.

Lungfishopolis (inside the mind of the giant monster lungfish, of course) casts Raz as Goggalor, a Godzilla-esque monster terrorizing a city populated by lungfish with the goal of destroying the mind control tower deep within the city. The Milkman Conspiracy takes place inside the literally twisted mind of a paranoid schizophrenic security guard, where Raz must utilize various tools to deceive the G-men and find the Milkman. Black Velvetopia takes place in a beautiful black and neon world, where Raz must help a painter build a house of cards to reach the sky where a crying woman is imprisoned and subdue the giant rampaging pink bull El Odio.
Black Velvetopia
I'm going to actually end this here, as I really don't have much else to say, and am hoping that my description of the levels will be a sufficient description/explanation of why I love this game. I don't think that Psychonauts is perfect, but what it does right it does amazingly well, which more than makes up for any minor flaws that exist. Between a charming cast, fantastic writing, DoubleFine humor, incredibly diverse and unique level designs, and only costing $10 on Steam (not to mention that it's available for both Mac and PC), you really owe it to yourself to try Psychonauts out if you haven't already.

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