Can I play with madness?

8 01 2007

Being the closted shut-in that I am, I have risen to the challenge and completed Psychonauts over the space of a weekend.

Yea unfaithful, know thee that it still managed to put up about 13 hours of solid fun. The simple fighting and puzzle-light nature of the game may be off putting at first, but that’s not the point of this Tim Schafer designed gem.

I play games for character, and this title has it in spades. You take on the role of Raz (voiced by Richard Horowitz a la Invader Zim,) who sneaks into a summer training camp for psychic kids. On your quest to become some ninja psychic scret agent and save the girl you dip into people’s brains and attempt to iron out their mental problems, and this is where the strength of the game lies. Each level is played out within the confines of a characters psyche, and each one is markedly different. Stand out examples are the Godzilla pastiche played out in a giant lungfish’s mind, and helping a descendant of Napolen beat his ancestor in a game of Stratego (played out from a pieces perspective).

Production values are high, character models are charming and surprising, whilst the texture artists produce some great work. Music and voice talent are of a consistantly high quality, even boasting some well known actors in bit parts; notably Tara Strong (Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls) and Armin Shimerman (Quark from Deep Space 9) who give a nice surprise to the VA astute.

It’s not all sunshine in the spotless mind though, the fighting is lacklustre and even though your repertoire of offensive psychic powers increases through the game, you’ll probably only find yourself using one or two at most. The final levels also suffer from a horrendous difficulty spike, with a few sections where you may feel like you’re being cheated by the game.

On the whole Psychonauts has the verisimilitude and polish to make it great. It’s a real shame that uptake of the title was so low, more than one thing it has in common with it’s spiritual stablemate Beyond Good and Evil. In precis Psychonauts is cheap, solid and thouroughly worth the time you invest in it.




One response

9 01 2007

One of my favourite games of recent times, but then I am a bit of a Schafer whore. For what is a straightforward platformer/collect-’em-up in essence, it just has so much character. You can tell how much love has been poured into the making of the game, and some of the level ideas are just magical (although others are admittedly a bit of a chore). The board game setting in particular is very clever.

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