It’s been over sixteen years since we’ve gotten to delve into the world of psychic powered world of Psychonauts. Psychonauts 2 throws us back into everything without missing a step and feels like it would fit perfectly if it would have come out not too long after the original instead. The comedy and heart are still intact after such a long time and there are plenty of awesome callbacks to the original, but the game is still able to stand on its own even if you haven’t played the original.
Psychonauts 2 picks up Raz’s story as he officially joins the Psychonauts (though forced into the intern program) and follows his attempts to uncover the truth of a mysterious evil. The start of the game is enrapturing and pulls you in by trying to uncover the mystery everyone is trying to solve. Unfortunately, the story does have a bit of a jarring split between the first half and second half of the game. The latter half of the game feels disconnected from the first half in a lot of ways where plot points and characters are completely dropped until things are brought back together at the very end of the game.
The Motherlobe, the main Psychonauts compound, serves as the game’s hub world where you spend most of the time. The Motherlobe is divided into four areas. The first three areas unlock relatively early in game, and the outdoor areas are huge which allow for tons of exploration. Each area has tons of secrets, items, character interactions, and ways to level up for players to find. The final area is only accessible in the latter half of the game and unfortunately you can’t return to earlier areas after you move forward to the last area. Luckily, the game does give you a warning before you move on to the final area.
Where Psychonauts 2 really shines is when we finally get to delve into the minds of characters. The levels themselves each stand out on their own and have their own visual aesthetics. Each level pops with color starting with a neon casino hospital hybrid to a trippy music festival. Levels also have unique mechanics that keeps the gameplay interesting and varied between levels such as having to navigate an entire level on a bowling ball. Unfortunately, a lot of the levels fall into the typical video game troupe of do the same three things throughout the level before facing a boss.
The majority of psychic powers return from the first game with Invisibility, Shield, and Confusion not returning. In their place, three new powers are introduced. These new powers mostly feel lackluster in their overall usage aside from the Time Bubble which has use in both puzzle solving and combat while the other powers are more for exploration and platforming purposes.
Combat itself has been improved in a plethora of ways. Where the first game only had Censors as enemies, Double Fine has added a wide array of new enemy types all based around emotions that bring people down. Each enemy can be taken down in different ways by using your psychic powers from having to light some on fire with psychokinesis or taking their weapons to throw them back at the enemy with telekinesis inflicting a large amount of damage. You can also upgrade your psychic powers to increase their effects and abilities in battle such as having your Levitation ball cause enemies damage when you run into them or having your PSI Bolt split into multiple shots.
One of the absolute best things about the original game was the characters. While there were a lot of characters in the original, they were all charming, hilarious and full of wacky conversations that helped them stand out in their own way. In Psychonauts 2, there are still a lot of characters, but none of them, even returning characters, get the shine that the characters in the original got. There are too many groups of characters, so the focus is strained and makes a lot of characters not get the attention they deserve or are just briefly there. There are still some stand out characters such as Raz’s sister Frazie and fellow intern Sam. Raz’s whole family is also introduced in this game, but the majority of them are just there without really adding anything to the story.
Overall, Psychonauts 2 brings a cult classic to modern day while maintaining the heart of the original. The levels are are the highlight of the game. The gameplay is tighter. The story has its pacing and structural issues, but is still a great way to continue and expand the world. With all that, Psychonauts 2 is still one of the best 3D platformers of the year.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 5 via PlayStation 4 Backwards Compatibility