Psychonauts is a 3D platformer developed by Double Fine Production and released by Majesco Entertainment in 2005. It follows the story of a psychic run away circus boy Razputin Aquato (better known as Raz) in Whispering Rock Summer Camp, a remote government training camp for young psychics ran by an international espionage/psychotherapy organization called The Psychonauts. Otherwise known as the greatest game ever created (this is very true and factual) and my favourite game ever. It would much later recieve not only a sequel released just last year but a VR spin off tying the events of both the first game and the second together.
WARNING! I do go into slight spoilerly topics of the games so if you wanna experience the game for yourself, click off or come back once you've either played or finished the stories of all 3 of the games
Also, something else psychonauts related on this site if you're curious Dr Loboto shrine
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How I first found out about psychonauts
I first heard of this game way back in 2019 when I first got into the game Smile For Me (very good game as well you should check it out/support the devs) through fandom works depicting the main antagonist of smile for me, Dr Habit with psychonauts 1 and the Rhombus Of Ruin's antagonist Dr Loboto in fanwork/fanfiction as friends due to their similarities and smile for me's influence/inspiration from psychonauts as well as brief works from the fandom crosssover The Mystery Kids.
It would not be until early 2020 when I finally decided to sit down and watch a playthrough of psychonauts and other analysis videos that I instantly fell in love with the game also thanks to an old pal on discord, I later purchased the first game to play on steam. I love the unique world setting and artstyle of psychonauts and the writing of all games done by Tim Schafer (best known for his work in other games such as Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle and Full throttle) the latter of which inspired psychonauts's conception and Erik Wolpow (best known for his work on games such as Half Life and the Portal series). Ever since then I have been a fan for about 2 years already and I have lived through the hype of Psychonauts 2 finally being released last year, if it wasn't for this game I would have never improved on my art skills and made some of my bestest friends ever. Now that all the sappy stuff/backstory is done let's move onto the rest of this!
Why is psychonauts so good?
Let's immediately establish that there's so many things I could list off that makes psychonauts unique from anything else I've ever seen. From it's wacky colorful visuals, the phenomenal writing and how it intertwines and connects back with the world building and gameplay, the characters themselves etc. I've never quite connected to a piece of media as much as I have for psychonauts. Especially with how actually diverse this game franchise is especially considering the first game does have it's fair share of edgy humour/poorly aged moments from that era of video games (in other words this is literally like pronoun autism landia). I truely mean it that we need more media like psychonauts from a visual creative and writing stand point.
The Art Style
The wonderfully wacky zany artstyle, directed by Scott C (in psychonauts 1) and Lisette Titre-Montgomery (in psychonauts 2), if someone had asked me what my main inspiration for my art style is, I would immediately pull up psychonauts cause this game's art style is just pure eye candy for me. Everything done to the character designs to the over worlds and especially the mental worlds is all so beautifully designed and full of detail in every nook and cranny, starting with the character designs. No two characters will look the same atleast for most of the main characters and npcs, almost everyone has a unique body shape and design to them and it's really impactful to see such a colorful cast of characters who aren't all conventionally "pretty" atleast compared to most media not be made fun of for such things as well as my previous point of how diverse the game can be, for example, there is a character in the sequel named Cassie O'pia who is heavily implied to be chinese and as a chinese person myself she's one of the few chinese rep I truely feel seen through and how her heritage/identity is shown and just treated like normal/not at all made a joke or demonized. It's just really comforting and meaningful how an "ugly" artstyle can be so impactful more than a style that's more "clean" which is especially helped with psychonauts writing, speaking off!
The writing in this game is so fucking good, especially how it ampilfies all other aspect of psychonauts such as it's style and gameplay. Let's start with the comedy, psychonauts especially the first game is funny, really funny even, from the absurdity of some of the characters to lines and jokes especially amplified through the wonderfully done voice acting, atleast one part of the games are bound to get a chuckle out of you. The more serious and dark aspects are also for the most part really well done even if there are very poorly aged aspects in the writing (which I'm atleast glad they were more aware of when making psychonauts 2), it's genuinly really compelling and gets you attached to the characters and want to see them do better, this game finds the perfect balance of cartoony humour while dealing with more complex topics of mental health especially in the sequel. Not to mention the attention to detail such as the subtle character arcs of the campers throughout the first parts of psychonauts 1 amplified by the campster entries, Raz's own character arc not only in the story but through the games, how the mind levels all connects back to the individual characters and their backstories or their involvement in the story through environmental story telling and gameplay. It's all so well thought of and utilized through out.
While the gameplay/controls of the first game are somewhat clunky, both games nonetheless are still really fun to play. It's genuinly really fun to platform around the levels in psychonauts especially in the overworlds. Psychonauts does have some basic 3d platformer move sets such as a basic punch and jump button but it has it's own very interesting features such as the psychic ablities, apart from a few, most psychic ablities you use such as telekinesis, levitation, marksmenship are useful for not only general platforming but also point and click esc puzzles promiment in the game, most if not all characters and things can be used by most interactive psychic ablities which leads to many interesting interactions especially with how characters see/react to raz. The gameplay also all intertwines back with the writing in game with other features such as the memory vaults, emotional baggage, figments etc. The collectathon aspect of psychonauts while infuriating sometimes especially in the first game when trying to 100% is just really satisfying coming back and getting all the remaining goodies/secrets.
Psychonauts is a video game. A really good one at that, please if it interests you give it a shot and play the games if you can, this game series means a lot to me and I hope you enjoyed my ramblings of this game lol.