'Psychonauts 2' review: 2021's first video game-of-the-year contender – The Hindu

‘Psychonauts 2’ review: 2021’s first video game-of-the-year contender – The Hindu

The first Psychonauts game, launched in 2005, was an under-appreciated gem from the newly-minted Double Fine Productions headed by Tim Schafer of ex-LucasArts elite who was responsible for the golden era of adventure games. Psychonauts achieved cult status in the years that followed its release and gamers got a another taste of this fun universe through Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin in 2017. But it was not a true sequel, so after a successful crowd-funding movement and a few unfortunate delays, Psychonauts 2 launched on August 25, and we can say 2021 finally has its first ‘game of the year’ contender. (Subscribe to our Today’s Cache newsletter for a quick snapshot of top 5 tech stories. Click here to subscribe for free.) You play as a young psychic named Razputin ‘Raz’ Aquato, a runaway from the circus who teams up with an espionage agency called Psychonauts as an intern keen to make his way up the ranks. James Bond meets Inception here as these psionic agents-to-be jump into the minds of villains to alter the fates of the world. The sequel picks off immediately after the end of Rhombus Of Ruin, where Raz has to identify the shadow boss pulling all the strings, so he has dive deep into the minds of those from the agency’s past. Psychonauts 2Developer: Double Fine ProductionsPublisher: Xbox Game StudiosPrice: ₹1,299 on PC, ₹4,999 on Xbox and PlayStation 4 Given the pedigree of talent behind this game (including designer and co-director Zak McClendon), I expected the writing to be top notch. However, the team at Double Fine has exceeded those expectations. Each cutscene has fair measures of witty and punny humour while retaining that clunky, Tim Burton-esque aesthetic we loved in the first game. Raz’s journey takes him and his friends through multiple mindscapes that are so varied, they can qualify as mini-games, ranging from a gum-and-tooth world of a deranged dentist, to a psychedelic world bleeding with colour, to a drunken islandscape, which are just three of almost a dozen worlds that you can explore. Psychonauts addresses mental health issues such as depression, PTSD and loneliness while delivering powerful and positive messages. Such writing makes Psychonauts’ release during the pandemic a timely one. A screenshot from video game ‘Psychonauts 2’   | Photo Credit: Double Fine Productions The original Psychonauts — a very good story — has not aged well in terms of gameplay mechanics so do not re-play it as the sequel efficiently captures the overall story in a hand-drawn recap. The level design of each world keeps you zipping around using Raz’s powers; traversal is a hallmark here and the creative layouts of each level has you discovering what to do next. The action is simple but engaging as you take out enemies, and each of them requires you to use your powers creatively to dispatch them. It is a curious choice made by Double Fine to give the player equippable powers, when the game requires you to use all of them in a given level. The shining star of Psychonauts 2 is the strength of its voice-acting that highlights the exceptional writing. Double Fine also roped in long-time collaborator Jack Black for his trademark rocker vibe for one of its levels. All the voice actors — including Richard Horvitz as Raz, Nicki Rapp as Lili, and David Kaye as Ford — deliver their dialogues to perfection which more than makes up for the slightly dated graphics… not to say that is a bad thing, but it does seem a bit stuck in the past. Psychonauts 2 strikes that tenuous balance of humour and positivity while addressing mental health, making it a great family game of which every moment is enjoyable. The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel
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