Together Retro Game Club: Psychonauts
Presented by Ivo
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We are almost half-way through 2014 and throughout June we propose a ccharismatic3d adventure-platformer hybrid from designer Tim Schafer and the team from Double Fine Productions. It was released in 2005.
In Psychonauts you control Raz (Rasputin), a very acrobatic kid with psychic abilities. Raz ran away from the circus to come to a Camp for psychic kids. The adventure is set at the Camp, which acts as a sort of “hub world” although stages are usually inside minds of characters. This gives the game a lot of variety in terms of settings.
As expected from the design team, the game is infused with humor and strong storytelling.
The Camp is on the location of an Indian burial ground – full of Psytanium arrowheads! The arrowheads respawn ad serve as currency for the Camp store (you also get them inside stages from defeating enemies). There are several other collectibles, including “Figments of imagination” and tags to pair up with “Emotional Baggage” (inside the mental stages) which help Raz rank up in his training. Through progress in the game and collecting stuff, Raz progressively unlocks new Psi powers including offensive abilities.
The player controls the movement of the nimble Raz navigating the 3D environment. Raz can double jump, climb ladders, walk on tight ropes, swing and jump from bars or trapezes, grind rails, and even slide down slippery slopes (not metaphorically).
The camera is also controlled by the player, although there are some particular segments where it will automatically be fixed. Like many 3D games, some of the camera angles can be clunky. In the PC version it is possible to disable the so-called “Smart Camera”. The gameplay is satisfyingly solid but arguably the game’s real strength is in its originality and story.
Currently, Psychonauts has versions on Windows, OSX and Linux, and on the consoles for the PS2, PS3, original Xbox and Xbox 360.
The game was well received at release and won several Awards, but is considered to have had rather poor sales. Due to this many critics and players consider it to be a cult classic and several of the Awards it got in 2005 from critics were precisely “Best Game No One Played” or similar – from Gamespot, EGM and PC Gamer Magazine. With this Together Retro pick we hope to contribute to further publicize this (still somewhat hidden) gem of a game, which is available digitally e.g. on Steam.
There is currently no sequel, although on more than one occasion Tim Schafer has manifested interest in working on the setting. In 2013 for a short while fans had reasons to get hopeful because Notch (from Minecraft fame) offered to fund the creation of Psychonauts 2, but he withdrew his offer when he realized the budget Double Fine wanted for the project was one order of magnitude higher than he imagined (18 million USD instead of 2 USD). For the moment, there are some cameos/references to Psychonauts in other games.
Please join us on the Psychonauts forum thread for further discussion.