Psychonauts 2 (Review)

When it comes to colors, Psychonauts 2 is full of them.  It’s also full of what I like to call “licorice art style”.  What I mean is, until you get used to it, it’s going to be hard to enjoy.  But once you do, you’re absolutely unable to mistake this game for anything else.  But is this game more than just a one-of-a-kind art project?


GAMEPLAY

… I felt like I was back in the N64 days.

This game is a platformer, and if you’re unsure of what that means for some reason, it means you run around, jump, and use various moves to navigate and accomplish your goal.  This game almost perfectly nails it: sometimes you’ll miss jumps or certain things will feel clunky and unpolished, but it otherwise all works as intended.  In a little bit of RPG flavor, you do rank up which lets you level up these moves for additional functionality in combat, but at the end of the day, you’ll still go back to the basics of running around and jumping.  What the game does differently with this mechanic is have you navigating minds, and this is where I give credit where credit is due: I felt like I was back in the N64 days.  The amount of creativity in the level designs is both old-school yet completely refreshing, and if you’re a fan of old-school platformers, this game is right up your alley.  In fact, as you come across the game’s own flavor of collectibles, some of you more seasoned folks will see that Rare influence, even if the artstyle isn’t anything like the Banjo series.  Granted, I will say that the puzzles and bosses leaned towards the easy side, and I never felt like I needed to think my way through them (irony, right?), but I still enjoyed them nonetheless because of said masterclass creativity.  If you’ve been looking for something that harkens back to the good ol’ days of platforming, this is it.  This is nostalgia combined with masterclass creativity.


CONTENT

…I’m not going to pretend this game is loaded with content.

I took my time going through the game, and thus you’ll likely clock between 10-15 hours based on whether you take your time or plow straight through to the end.  Though, after my adventure was over, I can’t say there was much compulsion to go back in.  Sure, there were still some quests left, but I did most of the side quests anyway, and I can’t deny this game’s a bit light on the content for a full price game.  Sure, there’s always achievements, but considering I got most of them on a single leisurely playthrough, I’m not going to pretend this game is loaded with content.  It’s pretty light for everyone except those who just have to get every last collectible.


PRESENTATION

…the art style hides these shortcomings in dramatic fashion…

Yea, the art style truly stands on its own, and for that I give them genuine applause.  Not only does it take either a lot of drugs or a lot of creativity (or both) to create worlds like this, but a lot of guts, too.  I have a creative side, so I enjoyed it, but this will be a hard art style for many to swallow.  For those of you that do, though, closer inspection doesn’t quite stand up.  This is the definition of a peak AA game: animations are a bit rough, Unreal Engine 4 shows its texture loading issues, the framerate stutters here and there with regular but inconsequential frequency, and the graphical technology on show overall is just a little lackluster.  Sure, there’s no denying the art style hides these shortcomings in dramatic fashion, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still there.  Furthering that AA tier is the way the story is handled.  In short, there is a large cast with which the story does not take the time to develop.  There are too many characters and not enough reasons to care about the vast majority of them.  This is a prime example of biting off more than they could chew: I can spot a storyboard that’s more complex than the budget and size of the development studio can handle.  Don’t be surprised if some story developments themselves even happen a bit quick and unevenly paced, though the developments themselves are still fun surprises.  I do want to close this section with one more statement, though: the way the game handles analogies to real life in terms of humanity and mentality is delightful even if not always relatable.


CONCLUSION

…I always recognize hard work when I see it.

I get it, it’s a AA game for a full price because in reality, this medium-sized studio took on a very ambitious project.  However, the studio mostly hits its mark: fun, old-school platforming; unmatched level design creativity; and an art style that is genuinely unique.  Where it falls a bit short is in the content-to-price ratio, technical underpinnings, and storyboard.  But I can’t deny that they were smart and focused their efforts where it counts, and I always recognize hard work when I see it.  This is a game I won’t soon forget.

I give Psychonauts 2

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