When I was a bairn, at the ripe old age of 9, my dad came and picked me up and took me to see Revenge of the Sith. Before that, he let me go to Toys R Us to pick a new game for the Xbox. What a day, right? Admittedly, I think he was getting sick of watching me play Jet Set Radio Future for hours whenever I saw him, and you can only listen to J-Pop for so long. When I picked up Psychonauts, the small Double Fine logo in the corner never occurred to me, and my dad - a veteran of Tim Schafer’s games, Grim Fandango and Monkey Island to name a couple - probably didn’t notice it either, but I wouldn’t be mad if he pushed me towards it either. It seems like good taste must run in the family.
Psychonauts is a 3D action-adventure platformer which, if you joined the console generation at the Xbox 360 or PS3, you probably don’t have a clue about. They seem to have become a forgotten relic as of late, scrapped in favour of games with less creative input and easier marketability. The story centres around a young boy called Raz who, after fleeing from the circus, sneaks into a psychic summer camp, where he discovers he has an aptitude for cerebral sorcery. During his time there he uncovers a lobotomy conspiracy, and travels into the mind of his peers to crack the case. If that already isn’t making you frantically rush to the Steam store, I think you might have been a victim of the aforementioned plot.
The story centres around a young boy called Raz who, after fleeing from the circus, sneaks into a psychic summer camp, where he discovers he has an aptitude for cerebral sorcery.
I think I must have beaten this game about 12 times now, and I never get sick of it, so playing through it over the weekend was like water off a duck’s back. The way Double Fine (or more importantly, Tim Schafer) have been able to capture my imagination with their madcap worlds is astonishing, and I do sincerely believe this is his magnum opus. I think what makes Psychonauts so great, besides the fantastic writing and brilliant voice acting (Raz is voiced by Invader Zim!) is the fact that each level in the game could stand on its own as a finished product and still be a pure delight. Peter Chan’s art design is unrivalled, and whenever anyone asks me why I love it so much, I just list off the variation of realms that the game drops you into.
Besides the already bustling summer camp, the game lets you explore the mind of a giant fish named Linda, in which you are scaled up by a
factor of 10 and have to fight your way through a bustling metropolis, the game recreating its own wacky version of Godzilla vs Ultraman. Another level lets you into the mind of an ancestor of the great Napoleon Bonaparte, where you must best the renowned general himself in a massive life-size game of Catan. In fear of spoiling the magic, I’ll stop there and let you find out the rest of yourself. Just make sure you say hi to Mr Pokeylope for me.