Psychonauts

Psychonauts
Psychonauts Cover
Platforms Windows, Xbox, PS2
Genre Hilarious Platformer
MtAMinutes to Action 12
Score 9  Clock score of 9Gameplay: 9
Fun Factor: 9
Gfx/Sound: 10
Story: 9
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Psychonauts is a multiplatform adventure game from the creative mind of Tim Schafer, creator of some of my favorite games: Monkey Island, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango. Up until recently, I had never played Psychonauts, call me cheap or call me foolish, but it's the sad truth. Times have changed though and Psychonauts is now a free game at Gametap through the end of the year! That did it for me and now I've been suckered into downloading Gametap and Psychonauts to my PC for the low price of free. Not a bad deal.

A little more on Psychonauts, it was released in 2005 to relatively lackluster sales but has since gathered a seemingly rabid fanbase. It has also been released on pretty much every digital distribution method including Steam, Xbox Live, and of course, Gametap. There aren't a lot of developers out there who are brave (or stupid) enough to make a "funny game," but Tim Schafer has the quality resume, so let's see if the first hour of Psychonauts lives up to his predecessors.

For my shorter review on the whole game, please see my Psychonauts review at Beyond the First Hour.

Minute by Minute

(minutes are in bold)
00 - I boot up the game for the first time, and it seems to sense I'm a Psychonauts first-time player and sends me right into the game. Now that just isn't right when I'm timing this game to the minute, so I spend a few minutes and finally make it back to what I think is the main menu (by the way, I have absolutely no problem with a game doing this, actually I think it's a good idea, but it was five minutes until I could reach the menu or even mess with the options). I'm running on top of a brain! I select new game and a cutscene starts with a tough sounding guy explaining the brain. The brain is the ultimate weapon! The first hour of Psychonauts has begun.

01 - It is the Psychic Age, and I am a Psychic Soldier. This scene is like one of those war briefings where an old yellowed projector is showing the brain with the commander yelling in front of it.

Psychonauts Psychic Soldiers Oleander

02 - He tells us that those who do not become Psychonauts will die! All the little kids start crying, including a kid with a tin foil hat on! Okay, no one is really going to die. The game looks pretty good, has that cool Grim Fandango-like art style.

03 - All of a sudden whom I assume is the main character falls from the ceiling crashing the party. The instructors try to psychically attack the boy, but they fail. His name is Razputin, or Raz for short.

04 - Raz apologizes for being late and is lightly reprimanded. The voice acting is also excellent. Great emotion and the voices fit the characters well.

Psychonauts Raz Oleander Sasha Milla

05 - Well, maybe Raz's voice seems a little old for how young he looks, but it's still great. Raz explains to the group why he should be allowed to stick around the Psychonauts training camp.

06 - Raz can't have any paranormal training until he gets his parent's consent. He is very passionate about training to become a Psychonaut. Dogen explains that he wears his tin foil hat because he once made someone's head explode.

07 - The three instructors argue over Raz's mind, they all seem to have a plan for it. Loading.

08 - Time to create a profile... I leave his name as Raz. The profile creation screen all takes place in the kids' bunk. Class is at six tomorrow morning!

09 - An eye exam, probably the start of my training as a player. Some old guy explains PSI Challenge Markers and PSI Cards. Collection stuff I guess.

Psychonauts Ford Cruller

10 - Ah, they're actually for learning new psychic powers.

11 - Loading again. Raz walks out of his cabin and some kids yell not to miss Basic Braining! That's good stuff.

12 - I finally have control over Raz. WASD move him around while the mouse is used for controlling the camera. Since this game is also available for the Xbox and PS2, I can also use the PS2 controller I have plugged into my computer, but I'll stick with keyboard/mouse controls unless the platforming gets obnoxious.

Psychonauts Action Screen Psychic Camp

13 - Tons of stuff to see in the area and collect. I find a purple arrowhead when digging up a plant. Talking to kids is as easy as pressing F, there's a peeping tom kid! Kid's parents allow him to watch R-rated movies! Hahaha!

15 - Tin foil hat kid is talking to squirrels. Creepy kid. All the other kids are carrying out conversations in real time too, neat stuff.

16 - The character's faces exhibit a lot of emotion. Must be the giant eyes.

Psychonauts Raz Facial Emotions

18 - I spend a few minutes jumping on trampolines, exploring, and listening in on conversations by my classmates.

19 - Can't check out the rest of the camp until I get my Basic Braining Merit Badge. Raz is able to grind on things, he must have those awesome rollerskate shoes that I always wanted.

20 - A couple of kids tell me horror stories about the main teacher, Coach Oleander. Seems he threw some blind kids off a cliff for being late to class!

Psychonauts Ford Cruller Basic Braining

22 - I find a stinky PSI card in the outhouse...

23 - I head up a winding stairway to start my first objective.

24 - A cutscene starts as I approach the classroom, a kid warns me about the Coach, but then we're interrupted by some bullies. The leader looks like Carrot Top, definitely a psycho by the way.

Psychonauts Carrot Top Bobby Zilch

25 - I approach Coach Oleander to start Basic Braining. I'm given the option to start training or to run around more... no sense in delaying the inevitable.

27 - A cutscene video starts as Raz is pulled into the doorway (literally) of Coach's mind. Loading.

28 - Raz and me are in the mental world now, but it's just a small room with a projector again! The Coach starts telling us about the greatest job in the world.

29 - I have to punch the projection of coach to proceed, here goes! I bust open a hole in the wall and proceed into his mind.

30 - The other weak kid runs in too and then is blown up by the mental obstacle course. Owned. Coach's mind is a war zone.

Psychonauts Dogen Kid Blown Up

31 - YES! I can double jump!!!

32 - I collect my first "figment of the imagination," I need one hundred points to rank up, each figment gives me about three points.

33 - Raz also takes a moment to sort out coach's "emotional baggage," literally! It's an actual trunk!

34 - I climb some ladders and poles, controls are really great.

35 - Ouch, my first injury as I get burnt by some fire.

36 - I encounter Carrot Top and he boots me off a ledge. A cute looking girl saves me my holding me up in the air with her mind.

Psychonauts Lili Zanotto

37 - I have to make it past a flamethrower... I find a ladder around it, but I also saw a sign that said "Classified Path," I can't ignore that! It takes me into a tunnel with lots of moving platforms.

38 - The controls hold up as I traverse them with ease.

39 - I rank up to level 2, I receive a new rank at level 10. That seems like a long way off!

40 - NOOO!!! Shimmy! My worst enemy!

Psychonauts Raz Shimmy

42 - I manage to fall right near the end of my shimmy. I hate shimmying.

43 - A series of trampolines brings me quite high up, then climb a wall that's getting bombed as I go up!

44 - Dogen is up here outside a mine field. He tells me he keeps getting blown up, I tell him I'll help him across. I make it through just fine but Dogen gets blown up... back to help him.

47 - I manage to get tin foil hat kid through the mine field without harm, and he gives me some psychic arrowheads as my reward. I think this is what it costs to use psychic powers? No solid explanation yet.

Psychonauts Dogen Mine Field

49 - I'm inside a sealed warplane now, and there's a kid babbling directions, not sure if they actually apply to me or not. Left, right, soft right, left, then a side road, then they asked for directions, and then a lady had to go to the bathroom. That's what he said... just more verbose. Then they walked 3, 4, 2, and half a mile. Then a U-Turn.

51 - After smacking the kid around he tells me to hit the door instead... duh. I jump out of the plane! Loading.

52 - Some kids are happy to see me, they tell me I have to beat a game because the coach won't open a gate. Okay...

54 - Well that was pretty easy, just had to punch some cardboard cutouts of bad guys. Probably to train me in more punching. My reward is the gate is opened, and the annoying kids get blown up! HA HA!

Psychonauts Punch Minigame

55 - I have to bust open the vault in Coach's mind, he says he has nothing to hide.

56 - After I bust it open I get a black and white picture book titled "Oleander's Pride." Seems to be about the coach during the war. Oleander was quite the war hero.

57 - I encounter a little alien that can teleport me to places I've been before, no need for him now. Ouch, I'm in a field with a laser guided gun on me! I lose a little health as he tacks me good.

58 - Seems like a good time to save the game.

59 - It's pretty easy to avoid the machine gun by strafing. In the middle of the field I open up a hat box.

Psychonauts Machine Gun Raz

60 - Phew, I get past the machine gun finally and encounter Carrot Top again. Little punk. I raise another flag as my first hour of Psychonauts comes to a close.

Now for some scores out of 10.

Psychonauts Raz Goggles

First Hour Scores

Minutes to Action: 12

Gameplay: 9
For being a PC platformer, I was thoroughly impressed. The controls were solid and I have very few complaints. One thing I noticed is that during the mini-game where you have to hit the cardboard cutouts of bad guys, it was sometimes difficult to turn around quickly. Secondly, the game introduced many collection items pretty quickly: cards, eyeballs, arrowheads, chests, and figments off the top of my head. I'm not a huge fan of collection quests or collecting tons of random things that I don't have any idea what their purpose is. Enough complaints though, gameplay was great. Oh yeah, +1 for double jump, -1 for shimmy.

Fun Factor: 9
Like I said in my introduction, not a lot of developers try to do funny games, and even less succeed. Psychonauts succeeds. The dialogue is funny, the situations are funny, and the character design is funny. The game is also fun to play - I have a rather large complaint though: the game is called Psychonauts and I never once got to use a psychic power in the first hour. It seems that if Raz has such strong inherent powers he would be able to whip out some telekinesis or something. Platforming is fun when done right but beyond the humor, the game doesn't really display any more uniqueness. Too bad.

Graphics and Sound: 10
I don't have any kind of super computer but Psychonauts runs and looks awesome on it. I had a smooth framerate the whole time and it basically felt like I was playing a console game but with dual monitors and Firefox open. The graphics are crisp and there's some great artists being employed at Double Fine Productions. Facial features are super expressive and that leads me to the sound, specifically the voice acting. Simply outstanding in the first hour. The sound effects are perfect and the music fits the game perfectly. My only complaint is the use of the pre-rendered cutscenes, they look a little off and am not really sure why they were necessary.

Story: 9
I'm really digging Psychonauts' story after the first hour and having never played beyond this, I look forward to going on. I really didn't know what to expect even though I'm relatively familiar with Tim Schafer's work, but looking back it really reminds me of Grim Fandango. Basically you have this crazy concept that the entire plot is based around, and the writers don't try to justify the quirkiness of it, you're just thrust in and you accept it willingly and simply enjoy it. Why do all these kids have psychic powers? Who cares. They just do and they're at a training camp for it. It'd be like asking J.K. Rowling why there are wizards. Anyways, Raz and the other kids are surprisingly fleshed out in such a short time, it's kind of like Bully but with psychic powers.

Overall: 9
Psychonauts' first hour is a little slow to the action, but hey, at least the opening cutscene is funny, entertaining, features full voice acting, and you don't have to constantly tap a button to continue the story (compare this to Okami's half hour opening cutscene). The characters are engaging, the plot is original, and the art style is top notch. The game has very few flaws except for the ones I listed above, which are few. Psychonaut's first hour is great, I don't know what else to say. I recommend it to everyone, especially fans of the old adventure genre.

Psychonauts Junolover Art
Art by junoluver - used with permission.

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