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Psychonauts (Windows)

87
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Jack Lightbeard (2653)
Written on  :  Jul 28, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

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Summary

Project your psyche into Psychonauts!

The Good

Psychonauts is the craziest, most deranged and one of the funniest games I have ever played. You take control of Raz (short for Razputin), a kid who’s run away from his circus family to sneak into Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp for psychic kids to become a member of the famed Psychonauts. The cast of characters be they your fellow camp psychics, the teachers, or the many people running round inside people’s minds that you'll bump into - all are fantastical or horrendously stereotypical and most are hilarious. There’s Bobby Zilch, the camp bully or Dogan, an extremely short chap who wears a foil hat because he blew someone’s head up “well, once kinda,” you don’t want to see what happens when he gets cornered by squirrels. Much of the story or happenings are bordering on insanity.

Your first task is a basic training level, Coach Oleander sucks you into his mind and barks orders and 'encouragement' as you leap crevices, get blown up and run for cover from machine gun fire, all to the sound of a WWII bombing campaign, vintage style projections of falling bombs light up the walls as you clamber up camo-netting, you’ll catch up with plenty of your fellow students as you go. Each level, or mind, that you enter is heavily themed. One of the most surreal is a twisting mess of suburban roads, hedges and identikit houses (gravity changes to which ever way happens to be down for each section), cartoon 'spies’, shifty chaps with high coat collars, red eyes and fedoras are busy going about their undercover business. At one section, they claim to be the road crew "We are the road crew", “We work on the roads", “My back is killing me”. You’ll need an item to get through each section to prove you’re one of them. Another involves matching a theatre play with the right set and mood (good or bad) - sounds kind of run of the mill, but like much in this game its unexpected and bonkers. Not to mention Lungfishopolis.

Between the story, which is mainly told through humorous cut scenes (I laughed out load many times, there’s always something hilarious, even if it's just the perfectly executed reaction on a characters face), the action is of a uniformly platforming style but with vastly different tasks to perform, huge boss battles are common and are, traditionally, at the end of each level.

Raz acquires psi powers such as levitation - a ball of energy you can bounce on and turn into a balloon type thing to float down slowly and ride up drafts, invisibility and telekinesis, to name but a few, as he gains ranks, the powers also increase as you go. There's plenty to collect, each mind is populated with figments - 2D sketches of stuff, usually crazy looking stuff, that are either just lying about the place or floating through the air, collecting 'em helps you gain those ranks, there's also mental cobwebs that can be cleared with the mental cobweb duster (available at the camp store) these can be redeemed for psi-cards (which you’ll see bobbing about from time to time) combine enough psi-cards with a psi-core (also available at the camp store) and you gain an entire rank. Smashing stuff can yield positive mental health, aggressive psychic energy (used for psi-blasts) and arrowheads, the camp currency is arrowheads as Whispering Rock was founded on an ancient Indian burial ground. There’s also emotional baggage, wailing suitcases and purses and the like which you’ll need to find the corresponding tag to clear, clear them all and you can access primal memories from Raz’s journal, which appear to be concept art for the game, and hopping vaults, punch these and you get a memory reel (comic strip style story board). Memory reels and cut scenes can also both be accessed from Raz’s journal for each level.

The camp consists of several different areas that you can travel freely between in-between missions, if you decide to take some time out to collect arrowheads, visit the camp store or just explore.

The music and voice acting are superb, spot on voice acting for the characters and very very funny, I particularly liked the adventurous secret agent style Psychonauts theme that plays in Ford Cruller’s underground HQ.

The Bad

The platforming can be awkward at times, as per usual.

The Bottom Line

Brilliant, the furthest out game I've played, so to speak. While it’s a completely different game in many ways than Grim Fandango, Creative Director Tim Shafer's previous game, it’s got a similar quality of style to it. I don't suppose there’s much chance of the sequel, but I'll be looking out for Double Fine’s second game sequel or no.

One third genius, one third insanity and one third hilarity!