Double Fine Productions is a studio that is aware of the ups and downs of recreation improvement all too properly. Between publishing deals falling through the cracks, layoffs, multiple game delays, and a lawsuit involving two of the largest video game companies in the business, the group has needed to deal with its fair proportion of instability.

When the corporate introduced the sequel to its cult hit Psychonauts, founder Tim Schafer thought making the sport can be a “two-year cakewalk,” Schafer informed Polygon in a current Zoom name. Turns out, growing the title grew to become a “five-year roller coaster.”

Although it had taken 5 years to make the primary recreation, the group had realized quite a bit, and Schafer felt they have been all extra ready to tackle the sequel. This time round, although, there have been new obstacles to navigate, Schafer defined. “No matter how many years you’ve been in game development, there’s new challenges, new teams, new technology, that makes every game its own unique challenge,” he mentioned.

Still, the group persevered. After three delays and monetary struggles on the part of the studio’s prior publisher, Psychonauts 2 will lastly come out on Aug. 25. That’s over 5 years because it was first introduced as a Kickstarter marketing campaign on the 2015 Game Awards.

Despite these points, Schafer had a noticeably vivid tone when speaking in regards to the recreation’s impending launch. Perhaps that’s as a result of his studio is in a extra steady place. Microsoft acquired the corporate in 2019, and now it’s wanting like blue skies are forward for Double Fine.

Psychonauts 2 marks a brand new chapter, a singular juncture within the studio’s historical past. The recreation’s story additionally marks a life change for the protagonist of the collection, the intrepid younger psychic Razputin “Raz” Aquato, who ventures into the massive official world of the Psychonauts HQ for the primary time. The sequel picks up immediately after the occasions of the VR recreation Psychonauts within the Rhombus of Ruin, which was set after the occasions of the primary Psychonauts recreation launched in 2005. Polygon performed a preview of Psychonauts 2 on the Xbox Series X that included the primary 4 hours of the sport in addition to sure different sections.

Hollis Forsythe from Psychonauts as she points to a glowing swirl

Image: Double Fine/Xbox Game Studios

When Raz arrives at Psychonauts HQ, he’s fast to see that it isn’t something just like the summer time camp he attended within the first recreation. It’s an unlimited, company, futuristic campus that’s a far cry from the country, scrappy ambiance of the camp. When he exhibits up, he faces a “new kid on the block” state of affairs. Raz will get bullied by different psychics and will get assigned the position of intern.

Raz’s story simply so occurs to parallel that of Double Fine, in a manner. In the studio’s early days, it was a scrappy operation began by ex-LucasArts builders in a garage-turned-office house in San Francisco. “We used to be the coolest kid in summer camp — and now we’re the smallest kid in the giant headquarters,” Schafer mentioned. To be clear, Schafer didn’t deliberately write Raz’s story in relation to the studio’s scenario, and there are not any references to Microsoft within the new recreation. “But who knows? You know what, that’s the thing with art, you never know why you’re making the choices you’re making.”

Unlike Double Fine, which has undergone plenty of change in recent times, Raz feels preserved in time. The sequel stays true to the system of the primary recreation by making a 3D platforming expertise that focuses on storytelling. As a psychic, Raz journeys into the minds of different characters and resolves their psychological trauma by exploring their inside minds and supporting them in defeating the detrimental ideas that manifest as bosses. The first a part of the sport is about Hollis Forsythe, a pacesetter at Pyschonauts HQ who should deal with her personal anxieties that come with main the Psychonauts.

As the participant character explores her thoughts for the primary time, a veritable treasure hunt awaits. Like the unique Psychonauts, this recreation brings again figments, that are floating drawings that assist stage Raz up. It additionally provides some extra methods to strengthen Raz. You’ll be accumulating pins that give Raz particular powers; for instance, a “glass cannon” pin ups his energy considerably, however makes him particularly vulnerable to assaults. New talents await Raz as properly; his new psychological connection energy permits him to zip from thought to thought by the air, virtually like a hookshot between the tiny swirling spirals that symbolize ideas. Raz may also unite mind lobes to extend his well being, and produce baggage tags again to their “emotional baggage,” in his quest to rank up from being a lowly intern.

Raz using his psychic powers to fight off enemies

Image: Double Fine/Xbox Game Studios

Throughout all of it, Raz maintains his boyish allure. “I really love just the intensity of this really serious little kid who was a martial arts master,” mentioned Schafer. “[Raz] doesn’t have an inch of an ounce of sarcasm. When he’s talking about the Psychonauts, he’s deadly serious about it. Like, he loves ⁠— he worships them, and he really wants to be one.” In the sport, everytime you unlock a brand new psychic energy for Raz, he will get a brand new patch on his messenger bag, after which he strikes somewhat pose. It appears very dramatic, with spotlights and all. It’s a manner to assist us see Raz the way in which he sees himself.

Schafer needs gamers to grasp the way in which Double Fine sees itself, too. Despite the Microsoft acquisition, one core mission stays true inside the studio: they hope to drag the curtain again on making video games and present that video games are made by individuals. Schafer informed Polygon, “I’ve all the time needed recreation gamers and recreation makers to not really feel this wall between them, that there’s individuals who make video games and individuals who play them, as a result of the individuals who make video games additionally play them quite a bit.

“I think a lot of times you’re playing a game you get so mad because you know your shotgun doesn’t have the right power that you wanted, or something ⁠— but if you really knew how much work went into making that shotgun work, and how much care went into those decisions, I think it would only enhance your enjoyment of games.” The studio created a documentary collection about improvement of the sport Broken Age for anyone to watch on YouTube, and Schafer has talked brazenly about challenges the studio has faced.

Schafer seems to be optimistic in regards to the studio’s future with Microsoft. The extra assist from Microsoft allowed Double Fine to complete the sport fully, in addition to add the boss fights again in. Beyond that, Schafer informed Polygon he’s “excited” for the sport to return to Xbox Game Pass. To him, being on the service will enable so many extra individuals to get pleasure from it.

“When someone’s in a retail store, and they’re holding a physical copy of a game and trying to figure out which one to buy, it’s a tough decision,” mentioned Schafer. “But when they’re on Game Pass, there are so many great games. They’re much more willing to give a strange-looking game a shot, and we try to make strange-looking games.”