Every once in a while a game comes along that is so creative, so charming and so darn funny that it is absolutely maddening we haven't gotten another installment.
Psychonauts is one such game, and it is still held up today as one of developer Tim Schafer's finest achievements. Considering Schafer is the man behind some of the most beloved adventure games of all time, that's really saying something. Psychonauts' trippy worlds, spot-on humor and solid platforming made for an adventure that all ages could enjoy.
We could use more games like it in the industry today, but why accept a cheap substitute when we could have another Psychonauts instead?
What Is It?
Psychonauts is a platformer developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Majesco in 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The game follows psychic Raz Aquato, the son of a family of circus performers, as he runs away from home and arrives at Camp Whispering Rock for the summer. But this isn't your usual summer camp -- it's actually a U.S. government training facility in disguise. Raz and the other children at the camp are also more than meets the eye, as they are each gifted with powerful psychic abilities. They arrive at camp to master their abilities and eventually become psychonauts, psychic agents that protect the world from evil-doers. Over the course of the game, players dive into the psyches of the game's wacky cast of characters, along the way unlocking new abilities like telekinesis, pyrokinesis and more.
What Makes It Great?
While Psychonauts is definitely a platformer, to confine it to such a narrow definition doesn't do the game justice. It's a comedy, an action game and at times doesn't feel all that different from the narrative-driven adventure games creator Tim Schafer is known for. It is from the game's hilarious cast of characters that it draws its main strengths, and it is those characters that go on to shape the entire Psychonauts experience.
Every level of the game takes place inside the mind of one of the camps teachers, students or even Raz himself, each shaped by the fears and memories of the mind Raz is currently exploring. Step into the mind of Boyd, the insane, conspiracy-minded security guard at the camp's asylum for example, and you are confronted with a "Big Brother"-like world where hidden cameras, government agents and prying eyes are everywhere.
It's this diversity that makes Psychonauts shine. Each level is something completely fresh, ranging from the hellish circus that represents Raz's inner fears to the Godzilla-inspired level derived from the mind of a fish. But as unique and creative as the levels are, they wouldn't be anything without Psychonauts' consistently funny writing, which propels the game forward long after the title's solid, though imperfect, gameplay grows tiresome.
Why Does It Need A Reboot?
When was the last time a game made you laugh? If you are struggling to think of an answer, there you have it. Humor in video games is rare in and of itself; to have it done well is almost unheard of. It's for that reason Psychonauts deserves another chance to shine. The game received strong reviews from critics but, as you might expect due to its quirky premise, didn't exactly fly off the shelf. Add in Majesco's financial troubles and the chances of ever seeing a Psychonauts 2 were dead in the water. The game has since collected a bit of a cult following after being released on digital game platforms like Steam and Gog.com.
Double Fine has already turned to Kickstarter in order to fund games in the past. With the cult status Psychonauts now enjoys, I have little doubt a sequel could be crowdfunded in a matter of days. This new generation of consoles, unlike many that came before them, is desperately lacking in the more family-friendly, general audience category as well. Psychonauts could fill that vacancy perfectly with its charming wit and accessible platforming. And let's not forget the original game's cliffhanger ending as well. Fans are still waiting to see what happens next. For all these reasons a return to the world of Psychonauts needs to happen. Until then, we will patiently wait.
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