Psychonauts 2 - Review

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Joel Fulleda
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Review for Psychonauts 2. Game for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Linux and Xbox Series X, the video game was released on 25/08/2021

“A delayed game is eventually good, a rushed game is forever bad“.

Thus recited the mantra of one of the leading figures of the videogame industry, Shigeru Miyamoto. And the path that led to the release of Psychonauts 2 has fully followed these words: fans will in fact remember the various postponements that have postponed the release, initially scheduled for 2018, to this year. But then, after a long wait, will the final work be able to fully satisfy the expectations of gamers who loved the first chapter and those who enter the world of Psychonauts for the first time?

It was the 2005 when Double Fine Productions, led by the famous Tim Schafer, presented his first title on the market: Psychonauts, a platform set in a bizarre world that was well suited to the curious characters who populated the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, an unconventional summer camp designed specifically to train Psychonauts, or simple kids with extraordinary psychic powers. The title did not have a great success at the time in terms of sales, yet it had managed to convince critics and conquer a large following of fans, who still venerate its humor and originality today, winking at works like Grim Fandango, Day of the Tentacle and the first two Monkey Islands (titles to which Schafer contributed in writing).

That magical atmosphere typical of the LucasArts adventures was already perceived in the 2005 game and remains intact even today: the protagonist role is always of Razputin Aquato, this time "promoted" to the role of intern. The story of this chapter starts after the events told in theavventura in VR Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin (2017), which connects the story of the original game and this sequel. There would be a lot to tell about the birth of this new title, about the fundraising that financed part of its development and the various investments that accompanied it, up to the acquisition of Double Fine by Microsoft (but the title will not be an exclusive ): today, however, we want to focus solely on the final product, examining it in detail to understand if the heavy legacy of the first Psychonauts has found a worthy successor.

Those who have tried the first chapter already know the main ingredient that lies behind the success of Psychonauts, an element that comes back strongly also in this sequel: Double Fine has proved capable of giving birth to a crazy universe, inhabited by characters with bizarre physical proportions and from over-the-top behaviors, which result in skillfully written, brilliant and entertaining dialogues, capable of eliciting more than a genuine laugh; the antics of the characters of the first chapter remain unmatched, but also the new grafts in the cast manage to blend well (and give some surprises!) with a world that he never wants to take himself too seriously. Raz is once again the classic protagonist at the mercy of events, eager to show what he is capable of and to earn the affection of his peers and the respect of his superiors. However, that of the navigators of the psyche is an important role, which implies responsibility and attention: Raz will learn it (at his expense) during the adventure, during which he will also have the opportunity to get in touch with the operational base of the Psychonauts, the Mother wolf, which serves as the main hub of the game.

The missions of the main plot and various secondary tasks start from the Lobomadre (and from the areas surrounding it); the events of Psychonauts 2 tell of the possible return of a feared and believed defeated enemy: the fearsome one Maligula, calamity contained many years earlier by the first group of Psychonauts and which now seems ready to return to the office. From here an extremely thorough and not at all trivial plot opens, which explores various aspects inherent to Raz's past, as well as the origins of the Psychonaut organization. However, the game begins with a summary of what happened in the previous chapters, allowing even those unfamiliar with the world of Psychonauts to throw themselves into the adventure.

The care of the developers is evident not only for the characterization of the characters that populate the universe of Psychonauts 2, but also for the game world itself: the power of the Psychonauts in fact allows them to travel inside the mind of others, which takes a different form on the basis of what are the memories, the character and the interests of the person himself. Thanks to this pretext, different and surprising levels are available to them extreme variety. It is clear how such a solution has left free rein to the creativity of the developers, who have been able to produce a final result of the highest level, with mostly linear settings, but which must still be explored thoroughly with the help of the special powers of Raz.

In all of this, Psychonauts 2 proves to be more than just a platformer: the player can take advantage of a large number of special skills (some already present in the first title) which can also be improved through an enhancement system linked to the collection of the numerous collectibles scattered throughout the game. All skills are useful not only for solve environmental puzzles, but also to cope with the various enemies that Raz faces during his psychic journeys: do you prefer to incinerate them with pyrokinesis? Or maybe use Raz's psychokinetic abilities to throw objects at them? The solutions are different and based on the user's preferences it is easy to change your fighting style, enhancing only certain techniques.

Honorable mention, of all the special abilities of agent / intern Aquato, for the ability to create mental connections: aside from its use in combat, this function allows you to change the thoughts and mentality of a person when you are inside his brain, trying to obtain a result that will help us throughout history. By connecting the thoughts - proposed in the form of bubbles - extremely funny interactions can be obtained, beyond what is the main connection required to be able to advance. It is from small precautions like these that we believe the success of a title like Psychonauts 2, which takes advantage of a very particular, original, profound and fun approach.

In all this, the difficulty of the game is more concentrated towards the fighting, with the platforming phases that, although beautiful to play, are never too complex and the environmental puzzles that can be solved all in all easily, using one of the powers a provision of Raz. The same protagonist, in the event that the solution cannot be found quickly, progressively provides clues by reasoning aloud, thus avoiding the player being stuck for too long in a certain section.

Psychonauts 2 wants to be a title suitable for everyone and this is also demonstrated by the numerous options on the menu. It is not possible to choose a difficulty level directly, but they can be enabled different game modes: "Narrative combat" makes comparisons easier and allows you to focus on the story, while the options "invincibility" and "no fall damage" cancel any damage suffered by Raz.

As we have already mentioned, aesthetically, this sequel does not betray expectations: art design finds its outlet in mental journeys, which manage to offer always different, well-kept and crazy settings, inhabited by always new creatures. Each level can then be explored freely once completed, thus allowing you not to miss the many collectibles scattered around any corner.

The same voice actors of the main characters of the first title return in this sequel, with a dubbing present only in English that manages at any time to best enhance the different interactions between the characters, with videos that have amazed us several times for the quality of the mass. on stage. This time there are Spanish subtitles and we also want to highlight the quality of localization in our language: the many word games used during the dialogues were rendered in an excellent way in our opinion.

If from the artistic point of view there is only to applaud Double Fine, some uncertainty appears from the technical point of view, with textures not always properly finished, despite the final result being more than good, especially for a title of similar scope. During our test we used a PC with AMD RX 5600 XT (6 GB of VRAM), AMD Ryzen 7 4800H and 16 GB of RAM, almost always traveling around 100 fps in Full HD and with maximum details, with drops in important frame rates that we only found in large areas such as the exterior of the Lobomadre. However, we highlight some minor discrepancies generated by short stuttering phenomena in the most crowded areas (even lowering the overall quality) and during some videos: these are situations that do not negatively affect the overall experience and that we trust can be resolved with a patch in future.

Beautiful things often make us wait, and Psychonauts 2 has made us wait, but we can say that for what the final product is, the wait has been fully rewarded: it is difficult for us to highlight points in which the work has not satisfied the our expectations. The impact of the first chapter is perhaps unmatched in terms of novelty and atmosphere, but Psychonauts 2 is for us a natural, intelligent and perfectly successful evolution. Its presence on Game Pass since day one makes it a must-play for users with the Microsoft subscription service, with the possibility of playing it also on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. In short, there are no excuses: the world of the psyche awaits you. Arm yourself with goodwill and protective eyewear because, as Raz teaches, "safety comes first!".

► Psychonauts 2 is a Platform-type game developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Xbox Game Studios for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Linux and Xbox Series X, the video game was released on 25/08/2021

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