Psychonauts

aka: The Most Excellent Game Psychonauts
Moby ID: 17451
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

At a summer camp for up-and-coming psychics, a young boy with an unusually high level of psychic ability inexplicably shows up. The boy, named Raz, is allowed to stay at the camp until his father comes to pick him up, but his arrival coincides with very strange circumstances. Soon, evidence that someone is psychically tampering with the campers' minds reveals itself, and Raz is the only one who can stop it. Raz must project himself into the psyches of several different people in order to figure out what is going on and who is behind the recent occurrences.

Psychonauts is a 3D platform game with a rather unorthodox style. The characters' inner worlds are the game's levels. Each world reflects the personality of the person whose psyche it represents, often resulting in unique, surreal creations, and influencing the gameplay style. For example, the psyche of a giant lungfish is presented as a large city populated by fish people, in which Raz himself becomes a giant monster who can destroy entire buildings; the psyche of a mental patient is a huge board game, where Raz has to command armies in order to defeat Napoleon, etc.

There are also many gameplay elements and tasks which are common for all the levels. These include Raz fighting the (not very numerous) regular enemies, defeating level bosses, collecting currency, "figments of imagination" needed to upgrade his powers, and bonus items such as complete sets of the character's memories and others. Many of the game's puzzles require the usage of psychic powers, which Raz obtains in a more or less strict order. These powers range from combat abilities such as Psy Shield to Telekinesis (moving objects without touching them) and Clairvoyance (reading other people's minds).

The camp itself serves as the game's "hub", in which the player can explore, interact with characters, search for secret areas and items, and so on.

Spellings

  • 意识世界 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

257 People (150 developers, 107 thanks) · View all

Creative Director
Lead Programmer
Art Director
Lead Designer
Animation Supervisors
Lead Gameplay Programmer
Executive Producer
Lead PC Programmer
Senior Graphics Architect
Programming
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 86% (based on 55 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 239 ratings with 8 reviews)

Into the head of Tim Schafer

The Good
Many of today's games are entertainment projects which don't fall short of movie productions, especially in terms of the artistic effort put into their visuals. Few games, however, are as convincing with their setting, characters and plot as Tim Schafer's Psychonauts.

This immersion is achieved on more than one level. Schafer creates a familiar little childhood world in which players feel at home - a summer camp. The twist: it's a summer camp for psychically gifted children. Our curiosity is piqued! Enter the hero, Razputin, a slightly kooky, yet immensely likeable and adventurous kid with the grand dream of mastering this little world and claim its reward: employment as a psychic government agent.

The test Raz has to overcome takes on greater proportions when the "usual" training he is supposed to undergo gets disrupted by a villain bent on harnessing the camper's psychic energies for his own purpose. During his journey, Raz studies with many mentors and enhances his mental powers. The learning curve and enhanced abilities that must be unlocked wake fond memories of prime genre representatives like Legend of Zelda in which players get an increasing feeling of skill and mastery of the surrounding world.

In terms of gameplay, Psychonauts translates into mental worlds which Razputin has to visit. Once there, he has to use his skills to solve the problems inside people's heads, helping them to overcome their personal demons and advance the story. Among the game's highlights are visits into a paranoid milkman's mind or the battle with an actress' inner critic in a world resembling a giant stage. While the premise gets weirder and weirder, it remains perfectly comprehensible because players are introduced to everything one step at a time. Like Raz, they only have a vague idea of what awaits them and are led deeper into the world of Psychonauts through exploration, an integral part of this action-adventure.

The game's graphics are the kind of bent-out-of-shape cartoon designs one would expect from Tim Burton, only less bleak. Bordering on the abstract sometimes, they can be a little hard to get into but radiate an appeal that's entirely their own. The presentation is topped off by a superb voice-over. Not a single character is miscast and no small part of the fun is exploring the "real" world tying together the mental ones and talking to many memorable characters and find out about them. No character in Psychonauts is two-dimensional and it speaks for the game's appeal that running around and talking to people is something players will want to do, even though it's not necessary to beat the game.

The Bad
While one of the most original games around as far as presentation and story are concerned, Psychonauts doesn't offer much in terms of gameplay that can't be found (and often better) in other action-adventures. The game isn't a cookie-cutter jump 'n' run, yet it's a far cry from brilliant gems like the aforementioned Legend of Zelda which offer better level design and a combination of action and puzzles elements.

Also, while Psychonauts is brilliantly written, it shows that Tim Schafer used to create equally brilliant adventure games for LucasArts. A slight disadvantage in this case as most of Psychonauts' main problems play out like classic adventure puzzles, but are far easier to beat because the solutions are action-based rather than brainteasers.

The Bottom Line
Psychonauts is a game players will play primarily for its story and characters. Giving a story-based approach the fair chance it deserves, it's easy to lose oneself in Tim Schafer's delightfully weird world populated by an incredibly strong cast. However, people who are looking for an experience in gameplay first and foremost may be turned off by this as the game's strength lies in its funny and intelligent plot.

Windows · by Kit Simmons (249) · 2008

Different from all other games i have ever played.

The Good
The story line was fun to play through. Graphics for the game were really weird which made this game really cool to play through. Level designs were really amazing. Characters were cool and they had very different personalities. The powers to fool around with made the game never boring. This game is defiantly replayable because sometimes the first time you play it through you might miss somethings. Most of the powers were really cool to use and made the game very fun.

The Bad
The bosses seemed a bit easy to over come so there really wasn't much of a challenge. Some of the powers weren't really much of use besides for one point of the game. Such as the confusion grenade powers.

The Bottom Line
This game is different from any other game you have ever played.

Xbox · by Todd Bello (28) · 2006

A unique and funny adventure

The Good
The core gameplay (platforming, puzzling, and...uh...adventuring) is very good. Most of the gameplay challenges in the game are fun and satisfying. The puzzles aren't so hard that I got stuck but, at the same time gave me enough of a hard time that solving was satisfying. The gameplay is woven very well into the level design, one level may be more about platforming, while another might be more about puzzle solving, etc., but each one has enough balance and flair that it still feels like a coherent experience.

The story is not bad. There is a particular plot point towards the beginning that's introduced a little clumsily, and the ending is a little predictable, but, other than that, the story is good and the dialogue is quite funny if you dig odd quirky humor. Unlike a lot of other comedic games, Psychonauts knows how to pull off the serious moments well. The characters come across as well-rounded and real despite the game being anything but real.

The level design is outstanding. Without giving anything away, you'll truly be surprised level to level, the brilliant art direction and architecture the folks at Double Fine have come up with. Saying the levels have some variety would be selling them too short.

The Bad
The controls can be a little slippy sometimes. Sometimes you might try to make a jump and maybe miss a little, and it's not entirely human error, but it's not a huge problem and it's kind of a sticky area because it really depends on what you individually think of the controls.

The load times between each area can get bad. We're talking time-to-take-a-nap bad. This really only happens in the overworld, not the actual levels themselves, so it's more of a small problem then a major one.

The voice acting is spotty. Some characters like Raz the protagonist are really well done. Some characters, though...the actors sound like they just drank a gallon of cold medicine and decided to stand on their heads. In other words, they're in it for an easy paycheck.

The Bottom Line
Psychonauts is a great adventure game with a funny and endearing story and characters, and level design that may challenge you to rethink your opinion of games. A couple of technical issues keep it back from being perfect in my eyes, but to all others, I say jump right in.

PlayStation 2 · by kent c. koopa (19) · 2010

[ View all 8 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!! Parf (7871) May 31, 2012
Just Finished it (sort of) Joe Price Apr 29, 2009
Windows or XBox? Matt Neuteboom (976) Mar 4, 2009
I hope the guy who made the final level gets fired Unicorn Lynx (181769) Aug 7, 2008
Does the last level drag the game down a little? Atomic Punch! (186) Nov 5, 2007

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Psychonauts appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Bobby Zilch

The annoying bully-type character in the game, Bobby Zilch, is based on the camp bully from Schafer's real life experiences, who was also named Bobby.

Boyd

The dialogue of the paranoid security guard Boyd is partially based on a mentally ill person which used to swipe Double Fine's doorstep once a week and talk with Tim Schafer about his conspiracy theories.

Names

Several characters' last names mean "no", "none" or "nothing", including Bobby Zilch and Sasha Nein.

Ostrich

One idea Tim Schafer had for the game's protagonist was a mentally unbalanced (with multiple personalities) ostrich. However, this idea was dropped as Schafer is a strong believer in games being a form of wish-fulfillment, and he came to the conclusion that not many gamers would dream of being insane ostriches. One wonders if there would have been a personality-changing game mechanic consisting of the ostrich sticking its head in the ground and pulling it out again with a different persona.

Raz

Not only is Raz played by Invader Zim voice acting talent Richard Steven Horvitz (who was born in 1966); if you work hard, you may be able to unlock a Primal Memories journal entry with concept art showing Raz to be simply a non-green Zim with goggles!

The original main character was going to be named D'Artagan, but was cut. He is referenced twice though; in the beginning cutscene, when Coach Oleander is trying to guess Raz's name, he says, "Starts with a D!" Also, the original D'Artagan model can be seen poking out of the outhouse in the ending cutscene.

The name comes from Razmig Mavlian, an animator at LucasArts who later joined the Psychonauts team. It could also be a reference to Grigori Rasputin (died in 1916), the famous Russian "court mystic", who was considered by many a religious charlatan. Raz's special psychic powers is a reference to Rasputin's alleged mystic healing powers.

References

  • In the campfire area there is a tree with a crashed van and three tombstones under it. Some say this is a Day of the Tentacle reference, as the truck looks similar to the one used by three characters in the game. It is also a double entendre stating Schafer's opinion of LucasArts' commitment to adventure games - dead.

  • After getting the canoe from Cruller, you can ask him "Admiral Cruller? That canoe...are you...in love with it?" This is a reference to Sal in Grim Fandango asking if Manny was in love with Meche.

  • When you need a Marksmanship learner's permit and don't have it yet, you can tell Sasha "I left it in my other pants." Guybrush says something similar in Monkey Island 2.

  • The obligatory Star Wars reference: When Clem and Crystal are standing on the roof of the lodge, you can overhear their conversation which includes, "We're going to be so powerful, aren't we?" and a reply of "More powerful than you can possibly imagine."

  • The Russian immigrant Mikhail Bulgakov is named after the Soviet/Russian writer, author of the popular novel The Master and Margarita

  • The character of Edgar Teglee is based on the real artist Edgar Leeteg who popularised the Black Velvet style of painting of that level's art style. Leeteg initially worked as a billboard painter and sign writer in California before losing his job due to the depression. Later he went on to achieve infamy for his cheesy art style.

  • The four painting dogs in the same level are the dogs from the famous Dog's Playing Poker painting, actually called "A Bold Bluff" by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge.

Release delay

The PC version was inexplicably delayed to April 27th, even after the announcement that both the Xbox and PC were shipping on their original release date. This is likely due to manufacturing complications.

Xbox exclusivity

The game was originally supposed to be an Xbox-exclusive title. Microsoft dropped the publishing contract in 2004, at which point it was picked up by Majesco, who requested PC and PS2 ports.

Awards

  • 4Players
    • 2006 – Best Xbox Game of the Year
  • BAFTA Video Game Awards
    • October 10th 2006 - Best Screenplay
  • Computer Games
    • March 2006 - #10 Game of the Year 2005
  • GameSpy
    • 2005 – #7 Xbox Game of the Year
    • 2005 – Xbox Platformer of the Year
    • 2005 – Special Achievement in Art Direction (PC)
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • Issue 22/2008 - names as having one of the "10 Coolest Levels" for the Milkman Conspiracy. (It manages to connect parody with playing elements and the three-dimensionally twisted environment unifies theme and style.)
  • PC Powerplay (Germany)
    • Issue 02/2006 - #3 Action Game in 2005

Information also contributed by Depeche Mike, Kabushi, Mark Ennis, PCGamer77, Pixelspeech, Rupert Breheny, Tomer Gabel and Pentatonic Duck

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Zack Green.

Linux added by Hamish Wilson. Xbox One added by Plok. PlayStation 4, Xbox Cloud Gaming, PlayStation 3 added by Sciere. PlayStation 2, Macintosh added by Kabushi. Xbox 360 added by Parf. Windows Apps added by Koterminus.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Apogee IV, Sciere, LeChimp, St. Martyne, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, glik.

Game added April 21, 2005. Last modified June 3, 2024.