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Playstation 2



Platformer / Adventure






Double Fine Productions



T (Teen)



June 21, 2005



- Another Tim Schafer masterpiece of creative, comic storytelling and adventure

- Plenty of different tasks and adventuring to keep you busy

- Great use of neon and psychedelic colors



- Constant load times switching between areas of the game are tiresomely annoying

- Requires a lot of revisiting previously travailed locales to complete missions

- Paths to completing mission objectives oftentimes hard too figure out



Review: Psychonauts (XB)

Review: Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal (PS2)

Review: Jak 3 (PS2)

Review: Sly 2: Band of Thieves (PS2)



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Score: 9.0 / 10


Many old-school gamers would love to delve into the creative mind of famed game designer Tim Schafer, who’s responsible, while working for LucasArts, for some of the most inventive games of the PC point & click adventure era: Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle, and (portions of) Monkey Island . Schafer is one of the most imaginative minds to ever develop in the gaming industry, and a trip through his cerebral mass would be an interesting journey, just to see where Schafer comes up with his characters and their quirky realms.


psychonauts review          psychonauts review


Regardless of how creative his mind is, Schafer hadn’t developed a game in a while, since the old-school point & click adventure genre died and was unmercifully buried. But that changed when he started work on Psychonauts, a new adventure title that does away with the point & click and becomes a modern adventure console title. It was originally supposed to be an Xbox-exclusive title, published by Microsoft, but when Schafer’s development of the title dragged on, Microsoft dropped the game. Schafer’s development house, Double Fine, hooked up with publisher Majesco, and Psychonauts went from an Xbox-exclusive to a multiplatform title. It did come out on the Xbox first, but here I’ll review the new PS2 version.


While some Schafer fans may have worried that his new game wouldn’t have that same Schafer magic that has made his other games such a wonderful gaming journey, after playing the game, those fears will be removed. Schafer has done it once again, creating another magnificent, lighthearted and creative adventure. It has a bit too much item collecting and too many aggravating load times just simply switching between map regions, but the inventive storyline that deals with the human psyche and treats the stream of consciousness as a navigated waterway is more than enough to treat gamers to a thoroughly interesting adventure.





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The quirky world that Schafer creates this time around is the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, where the young campers aren’t there for just a summer retreat into the woods. They’re there to become Psychonauts, masters of the mind as well as matter, taught by adult instructing Psychonauts. Raz is our young hero who ran away from the circuc to train to be an international psychic secret agent.


As the game unravels, he’s the only camper that hasn’t fallen victim to 


whomever – or whatever – has stolen the brains of the other campers. Along with the kooky Ford Cruller, a bacon-loving, behind-the-scenes jack-of-all-trades, he’s out to solve the mystery. The cast of eclectic characters are exactly what you would expect to come from the brain of Tim Schafer: oddly shaped and comically voice-acted, you at once are drawn into the characters and their world.


Raz must not only roam the physical world of the summer camp to discover who’s up to no good, but the inventive aspect of the gameplay has Raz spending just as much time inside the “minds” of his teachers to learn what it takes to be a Psychonaut and also investigate the disappearance of his fellow camper’s brains. These are the most creative of Schafer’s realms, such as Sasha’s Rubik’s Cube-like level or Milla’s psychedelically neon and bubbly- filled dance party world. Enemies that fill the psychic realms are the censors and fiery personal demons. The visuals are done well, with colorful and well-rendered characters and environments, helping even more to bring the gamer fully into the Psychonauts universe.


There’s just so much creativity packed into the various worlds and characters you’ll visit and meet. It’s easy to see that while Psychonauts is at heart simply a standard third-person action-adventure game with platformer conventions, that this is not the standard industry fare that fills the shelves of the gaming stores. It’s a smart, deep (and yes lightheartedly funny) adventure title that someone with Schafer’s developing pedigree is perfectly at home devising. And the industry could use more games like Psychonauts (although the folks at Oddworld Inhabitants seem to be pretty good at giving us similarly splendid adventures).


psychonauts review          psychonauts review


The basic gameplay of Psychonauts deals with running around the gaming realm (both the camp and Raz’s various mind-trips) and collecting items. There is a scavenger hunt to complete, but one main task is gathering up “mental” arrowheads that serve as barter material, which will buy you items you’ll need to “level up” Raz and prepare him for his final battle.


You must also help emotional baggage claim its “hang-up,” clear mental cobwebs, and collect power-ups. Of course, since you’re in a psychic summer camp, you’ll learn to develop mental powers and earn merit badges for such abilities like clairvoyance, levitation, telekinesis, and pyrokinesis, which will help you defeat enemies that you run across in your adventuring. Unfortunately, the task of collecting can get tiresome, because it requires a lot of revisiting already visited levels of the game. That wouldn’t be too bad except that each time you move from one area of the map to another requires a loading time, and with each lasting what seems like a few minutes, this can become really aggravating.


What’s also a difficulty is that it’s not always clear what needs to be done in a particular area, and many times you’ll hit a choke point, with seemingly no easy solution in sight. Of course, with some additional adventuring, the average gamer will figure out what to do next, but there’s a danger that at that point, many may simply give up on Psychonauts, which clocks in with a pretty impressive amount of gameplay, but needs serious playing-time dedication to complete.


Sadly, Psychonauts hasn’t enjoyed much commercial success; it’s a shame that we gamers constantly cry for more innovative games and ignore them when someone actually gives us one. Schafer has shown with Psychonauts that he still has the creative genius to design excellent adventures. Let’s hope his brain is already at work imagining another quirky and fun world for gamers to visit, and that it finds a much wider audience than Psychonauts has to this point.


- Lee Cieniawa


(September 15, 2005)

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