Mental health is a pretty big deal these days, huh? Everywhere you look, you’ve got people reminding you to look after yourself. I’ve taken the concept to the extreme and am currently typing this review while soaking in a giant, luxurious bubble bath and eating grapes. The grapes keep falling in the bath and getting soapy, but by Jove that’s not going to stop me from self-care. While I try to wash the detergent out of my mouth, let’s talk about Psychonauts 2, the latest in Double Fine’s cult classic series.
Some time after the team’s adventure in Psychonauts and the Rhombus of Ruin, that VR game you didn’t play, Raz finds himself ready to join the Psychonauts as a full-fledged agent. Those plans get put on hold, though, since in the aforementioned game we established that Psychonauts head Truman Zanotto is out of commission for a bit. His replacement, Agent Hollis, puts the kibosh on the whole “full-fledged agent” thing and reassigns Raz to work as an intern. Even despite this, it’s still up to our psychic hero to save the world from the villainous psychic witch Maligula. That just might be a little more difficult thanks to all those other intern tasks like making copies and fetching coffee.
Psychonauts 2 is a Zelda-style action-adventure game with a big focus on humor, collecting goodies and wielding various psychic powers. Raz will enter various Inner Worlds throughout his quest. These are manifestations of a person’s psyche and they’re kind of the star players of the Psychonauts series; it’s fascinating to get a sense for who a character really is by seeing what the inside of their mind looks like. These are just as wacky as in the first game, by the by, and we’ll try to avoid spoiling any of them here as discovering the various twists and turns is central to enjoying this game.
Raz has access to a vast array of psychic abilities, from levitation to pyrokinesis, and they’ve all got a ton of different uses. You’re encouraged to experiment. That’s a good thing, since the level of detail in the game is admirable. Even if a given power doesn’t solve a problem, there’s a good chance you’ll get a joke for your troubles at least.
This entry in the series adds a multifaceted upgrade system, encouraging you to scour the land for goodies that you can spend on improving your powers. There’s no shortage of upgrades relevant to combat and exploration, of course, and you’ll want to load up on these to keep up with the increasingly complex battles and environments. On the other hand, though, I think I really appreciated the presence of cosmetic twists like changing the color of Raz’s Levitation orb and other psychic powers. Look, you can only sling orange energy around for so long, right? Psychonauts 2’s upgrade system does a lot to ensure longevity, as there’s this ever-present urge to dig around for that last doodad necessary for the next upgrade.
Combat’s been spiced up a little in the sequel as well. Everything flows a lot more readily, with Raz more easily able to swap between different psychic powers as needed. Enemies tend to ask a little more of you as well; flying Regrets, for instance, are tough to catch with the standard psychokinetic punch, but ranged attacks work great. The tar-like Doubts, meanwhile, are beefy bois that might take a lot of abuse before they go down…unless you set them on fire, which causes them to panic and run around spreading the blaze all over the place. You’re never locked into fighting any specific way, but having options makes Psychonauts 2’s combat feel like much less of a chore than it was in the original.
As mentioned, Psychonauts 2’s humor is central to the experience. That guides its presentation as well, with characters, environments and enemies alike leaning into a Saturday morning cartoon-style aesthetic that makes the game look especially appealing. As might be expected, this is a big step up from the original 2005 release, but Psychonauts 2 still manages to capture the unique style that suffused the first game.
Fans of the original probably don’t need me to tell them that it’s worth checking out Psychonauts 2. Newcomers who might shrink away from playing a somewhat-janky platformer from 2005, though, should be relieved to hear that they can have just as good a time with this sequel thanks to the game’s dedication to recaps and reminders. All in all, this is a journey into the mind that’s well worth taking – particularly considering it’s available on Game Pass.