Psychonauts 2 begins with the digicam sweeping over the textured contours of a large mind. At this scale, the complicated organ seems topographical — each curve a hill within the panorama of the thoughts. The picture jogged my memory of one of the extra frequent editions of Sigmund Freud’s landmark The Interpretation of Dreams. The cowl picture depicted a pastoral scene of rolling inexperienced hills. Or was it a woman mendacity down, her again to us? Or a nice bull dozing among the many light slopes? The thought right here, I collect, is that desires and the unconscious thoughts on the whole, work metaphorically. Things are not often as they appear, and one factor usually stands in for one more.
Of course, Freud and his psychoanalytic strategies have a troubled historical past. It seems, if you go digging round in folks’s minds and attempt to resolve all their issues, you may generally find yourself making issues worse. Psychonauts 2 appears nicely conscious of this truth. It handles a litany of complicated psychological points — and a few darker themes — with a nice deal of heat and compassion, to go alongside with all of the humor.
Picking up from the place the unique sport left off, you’re instantly thrown into the thoughts of ex-dentist Dr. Loboto. Together with different members of the Psychonauts, an elite group of psychic secret brokers, you assist assemble an alternate actuality for Loboto to try to manipulate him into giving over info. These early ranges are type of like Christopher Nolan’s Inception — a group of spies working collectively to infiltrate and overcome a thoughts’s defenses.
Loboto’s mindscape is a grizzly realm of physique horror. Fleshy pink partitions line the extent, whereas toothy doorways require you to unzip them utilizing telekinesis. You’ll combat monsters of the thoughts (“Regrets” and “Doubts” in physicalized type) whereas collectibles like “Emotional Baggage” and “Repressed Memories” are secrets and techniques tucked away, up excessive in obscure corners or behind secret doorways and false partitions.
Memories provide you with snippets of backstory for whoever’s thoughts you occur to be in, however many of the opposite collectibles — together with the shiny neon “Figments of Imagination” that litter the panorama — merely stage up your Psychonaut rank. I’m no completionist, however I loved the enthusiastic theming of Psychonauts 2’s collectibles, which continually pull you away from the overwhelmed path and off into unknown recesses.
There’s an infectious type of power to Psychonauts 2. Cutscenes are as thrilling as the very best Saturday morning cartoons, and the dialogue, in true Double Fine type, is snappy and pun-riddled. After a mission the place you jet out to a enormous on line casino complicated, Psychonauts 2 settles into a extra internally-focused rhythm.
The majority of the sport takes place across the Psychonauts HQ. A big chunk of the sport entails digging into how the worldwide group of psychics started. The six founders are all damaged women and men, minds stuffed with trauma and darkish secrets and techniques regarding a confrontation that occurred 20 years prior. Much of the sport time entails getting these folks to open up, and serving to them confront the problems they’ve repressed.
Not to say the bodily world of Psychonauts is boring — it options a waterfall that flows upwards, a huge tree-top playground, and a funicular, to call simply a few issues — but it surely’s the ten or so psychological worlds that you simply enter which might be probably the most vivid and distinctive.
Psychonaut 2’s ranges are some of probably the most ingenious within the platforming style. There’s an over-the-top cooking sport present the place you carry meals stuff by a large platforming gauntlet. There’s additionally a humongous mailroom sorting workplace the place you leap from flying envelope to flying envelope, all of the whereas avoiding the vortex of letters under. You’ll go to extremely imaginative, gravity-bending dreamscape after dreamscape.
As an out and out platformer, Psychonauts 2 additionally holds its personal. Along with your satisfying little jumps, there’s your levitation capability, which lets you float throughout landscapes in addition to summon a levitation ball to experience upon, like a circus performer’s strolling globe. There are some chunky sections centering round ball-rolling mechanics, and it’s a actual testomony that they by no means as soon as proved irritating. Not fairly Marble Madness or Monkey Ball, however not many miles off.
Only a few new psychic powers are launched within the sequel. There’s a time cease capability the place you may decelerate issues which might be spinning too quick; and a projection energy that means that you can create a little paper model of your self to distract enemies. Often you should utilize these talents in imaginative methods, like utilizing pyrokinesis to set a campfire alight, so it creates an upward gust of wind to mix with your levitation capability.
The methods wherein you assist the struggling Psychonaut founders later within the sport is a far cry from how protagonist Razputin handles issues early on. Gone is the Spy-like bravado, the meddling and overwriting of reminiscences. Instead we’ve got themes of empathy and accountability. You’re not coming into minds to repair folks, however to have their backs and assist them face previous errors. While Psychonauts 2 offers admirably with a lot of these complicated, psychological points, it’s a little shakier on some historic factors.
Razputin is from a household of vacationers, and far of Psychonauts 2 expands upon this background. It’s revealed that Raz’s household originates from the fictional, loosely Russian nation of “Grulovia”. But there are some unlucky stereotypes at work right here. Grulovia is portrayed as a failed state, torn aside by struggle and oppression in a related option to Arstotzka from Papers, Please. The sport is sympathetic in direction of this place, and even essential of the ultra-American Psychonauts’ interference there, but it surely nonetheless leans somewhat closely on ideas of a tragic japanese European state. Wrapped up in that is the sport’s weakest stage — an annoying tour round a museum stuffed with mechanical puppets and brimming with propaganda. It’s reminiscent of the equally terrible “Hall of Heroes” stage from Bioshock Infinite.
Some clumsy stereotypes however, Psychonauts 2’s coronary heart is in the correct place. It does justice to the bulk of its characters because it deftly handles a complicated internet of darkish themes. Raz is an unimaginable protagonist, and lots of of the recurring characters — particularly the gang of new intern sidekicks — are good enjoyable too. For followers of the unique sport, Psychonauts 2 is a incredible follow-up that gives a fixed tide of twists and turns. Whether you’ve been ready 15 years for the sequel, or are interested by checking the sequence out for the primary time, relaxation assured that that is one of probably the most imaginative platforming video games on the market, with an absolute flood of joyous ideas and pictures.
Psychonauts 2 will probably be launched on Aug. 25 on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The sport was reviewed on Xbox utilizing a pre-release obtain code supplied by Double Fine Productions. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media could earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. You can discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.