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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Platformer

 

Publisher

Majesco

 

Developer

Double Fine

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

April 2005

 

 

- Funny stuff everywhere
- Great production values
- Easy control
- Great fun
- A platformer on the surface, an adventure game at heart

 

 

- It’s over all to soon and there will probably never be a sequel
- Possibly too off-beat for some

 

 

Interview: Tim Schafer (Psychonuats)

Review: Blinx 2 - Masters of Time and Space (XB)

Review: Voodoo Vince (XB)

 

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Psychonauts

Score: 9.0 / 10

 

psychonauts review         psychonauts review

 

When I finished Psychonauts I just sat in my chair more than a little dumbfounded that it was over. Psychonauts is so packed with art, humor and gameplay that I didn’t want it to end. And with Tim Schafer’s track record of producing sequels – he hasn’t done any – the feeling was bittersweet at its conclusion.

Psychonauts puts you in control of the likeable Razputin (otherwise known as, Raz), a circus runaway who crashes a psychic summer camp in the hopes of becoming a psychic secret agent (i.e. a Psychonaut) and quickly finds himself involved with saving the other campers from a brain-stealing maniac. It’s an intriguing setup and one that presents comedy at every turn.

The camp itself is named after an element called psitanium. Buried arrowheads

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made of the element emit a slight gas, which make them easy to spot and collect. But essentially, the camp – Whispering Rock – is named after farting rocks. And there are hidden chuckles all over the place – from the decided difference between acorns and nuts to some of the best dialogue since Day of the Tentacle (or Full Throttle or Grim Gandango or any other project Tim Schafer has ever worked on) I found

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myself grinning all the way through.

For all adventure fans that might have felt a little “betrayed” by Schafer for making a lowly platform game, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by not giving Psychonauts a try. Although there is a fair amount of platforming, which I’ll get to in a bit, Psychonauts manages to feel a lot like an adventure game. Raz can initiate dialogue with other (truly whacked-out) characters or provide a description of whatever is highlighted. (Be sure to read the messages on the bulletin boards scattered throughout the camp.) Raz also has an inventory to sort through and a straightforward quest log that ensures you always know what the next step is. While it’s not a “pure” adventure game the sensibility is there, which allows you to prod around the world to find bits of hilarity all over the place. It also doesn’t hurt that Psychonauts is gorgeous and so rich in detail you’ll want to poke around in the dark corners.

And writing of poking around in dark corners, that’s exactly what Raz does for 90% of the game. The bulk of Psychonauts takes place in the subconscious of other characters in the game – and a giant lungfish at one point.

 

psychonauts review          psychonauts review


You’ll scrum around clearing out mental cobwebs and taking on emotional baggage, and generally tackle a lot of inner demons. The fact it never stops being fun is a credit to the minds at Double Fine. Part of the reason for this is that each “world” Raz goes through is often radically different than the world before it, requiring a completely new approach or even unlocking a new psychic power.

Besides the standard platformer moves – jump, punch, climb, rail slide, swing, etc. – Raz gains access to an increasing number of psychic powers (mostly by collecting stuff) like psy-blast, telekinesis, levitation and pyrokinesis. While Raz can only “equip” three powers at a time, switching powers is a simple trip to the menu and assigning it to one of the buttons. It never feels overwhelming and even in the thick of battle it’s not distracting. There is still a lot of jumping involved but the psychic powers and variety of environments provide lots of platform action without feeling like a rehash of everything that has come before it.

Much praise needs to be heaped on the art department for creating such a whacked-out but pleasing world to run around in. Voodoo Vince, maybe the genre’s most under-appreciated title, shares the same kind of twisted, arty reality but Psychonauts has the advantage with more spit polish and small touches that linear platform games have a tough time including. On top of that, Psychonauts features a great soundtrack and voice acting that meets or exceeds the LucasArts adventure games of yore.

Psychonauts marries platforming, adventure games, stellar art, fun dialogue and a great gaming experience – it’s a polygamous experience that I definitely recommend to all gamers. And knowing that it’s almost an ironclad guarantee that we’ll never see a sequel is almost a blessing in disguise. It means I’ll have to go back and play Psychonauts – and enjoy every second of it.

- Omni
(May 29, 2005)
 

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