Psychonauts 2 is the first Xbox Game Studios title in 2021 and it was most certainly worth the wait.
Psychonauts 2 is my favourite game of the year so far. I'll admit, I've missed some of 2021's major releases like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal (can't get my hands on a PS5) but I doubt these would change my mind.
Double Fine's sequel to the classic action-adventure platformer from 2005 is everything we hoped to get from Raz's new adventure. Its charming but hilariously written characters and story, stupidly fun platform sequences, gorgeous level design and stunning art style make it a serious game of the year contender.
Raz is back in style! Our beloved protagonist has a bunch of brains to explore once again but also, the world needs saving. As always in our reviews, we won't be talking about the story much since we want to avoid even the smallest of spoilers.
And with story this good, you probably want to experience every single bit of it on your own. Just prepare yourself for some mystery-solving, as you meet old and new characters, which are amazingly well written. Every single character in Psychonauts 2 you'll meet has a unique persona, making them instantly memorable.
For example, the new gang of interns makes quite an acquaintance by messing around with you as soon as you arrive to Psychonauts HQ. But we didn't mind it, we're "the new kid on the block" after all so a bit of teasing and goofing around is not that sinister.
The way that Double Fine created the game's main antagonists and kept it under the wraps is also praiseworthy. Right from the get-go, this story of mystery and investigation will have your attention all the way to the very end - yes, the writing in Psychonauts 2 is top-notch and on par with bigger-budget games.
You probably know that Jack Black is in the game. Again, we won't be talking about his role in the story since we hate spoilers and Double Fine made it clear that his identity needs to be hidden but I just needed to say that good old Jack's voice acting performance for "Brain in a Jar" is nothing short of fabulous.
I feel like everything I'll say in this next couple of paragraphs still won't be enough to actually give you an idea of just how fun Psychonauts 2 is. I'm amazed by its gameplay ideas which keep the game fresh over and over and over again.
The creative minds behind this game have nit the nail on the head. Period.
From challenging but rewarding missions, uniquely designed levels and captivating, bizarre and psychedelic themes of these levels ( which blew my mind away every. single. time ), to comical boss fights and an arsenal of special skills and powers, Psychonauts 2 is just perfectly balanced experience that will never, and I mean never make you feel overwhelmed or bored.
At your disposal, you have a powerful array of psychic powers to do basically everything that comes to your mind. You can smash, burn and levitate objects and enemies or even use a "slow down time" skill that can be helpful at both solving environmental puzzles but also battling enemies.
You can enter the mind of a mouse, a squirrel or other critter as well as humans and discover secret items through the world but also get to see just how bizarre or ridiculous you look in other peoples eyes.
During my playthrough, I found that some elements were more useful than others but that doesn't mean you don't have a reason to use these powers. It's just that some have a bigger role to play against enemies and puzzle-solving than others, which serve their own purpose.
I also have to mention that Psychonauts 2 is not an easy game. You may look it at and say "Oh, what a sweet little platformer". And while Psychonauts 2 certainty is that, it's also very challenging at times. Make no mistake, this won't be a frustrating, controller-smashing experience - you'll laugh at yourself for failing at these activities because some of them are just so silly but at the same time require a lot of skill.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Psychonauts 2 can be good but also is a stunningly beautiful game. It all depends on the level you're playing, I would say. Some levels can look okayish but there's plenty of jaw-droppers to compensate for that. I was especially impressed by the psychedelic level featuring Jack Black. This was my favourite part of the game, which I wish never ended.
I spent a lot, and I mean A LOT of time just taking it all in, contemplating the colourful world that I really hope we get to visit again, perhaps in a DLC. Wishful thinking I know, but one can hope.
Speaking about the visuals, I need to mention that I've played on PC with Ryzen 3600 and RX Radeon 6800 and most of the time, the performance was fluid. However, I've also encountered a fair amount of frame-rate drops, when rotating the camera quickly, which is something that the devs will probably fix in the post-launch patch.
When it comes to sound, the music does a great job of translating the visual style of the level into calm but also electrifying notes. I was particularly impressed how the music stuck me in the psychedelic level - the guitar notes added another layer of unique flavour, that made the entire level even more captivating and striking.
It's been a long wait for Xbox Game Studios first game in 2021 but I must admit, the wait was definitely worth it. With it's strong writing, gorgeous art style and memorable characters, Psychonauts 2 is a strong GOTY contender, and my favourite title of the year so far.
A massive thank you to Microsoft for providing us with a copy of Psychonauts 2 for this review.