Psychonauts 2 is Looking as Fun as I Hoped it Would
Even though I had high expectations for Psychonauts 2, Double Fine seems to be meeting those expectations based on what I've seen so far.
Above all other games that might be coming out over the next year or so, Psychonauts 2 might very well be my most anticipated of all. Double Fine has long been the developer that I have identified as my personal favorite in the entire video game industry; consequently, Psychonauts is probably my second favorite title from the studio, only beneath Brutal Legend. To say that I’m excited for Psychonauts 2, especially in this platformer-lacking era we’re in, would be an understatement.
After years of development, Double Fine finally decided to show off some of the first initial gameplay of Psychonauts 2 at E3 2019 and I was able to check out an extended look of it at the convention. Even though the section of the game that I saw didn’t contain a whole lot that was different from the previous entry, it still left me very hopeful and, more than anything, just joyful that this series is coming back.
The portion of Psychonauts 2 that I was shown at E3 seemed to be that of the game’s opening section. We find our protagonist Raz at his first day on the job as a member of the Psychonauts. After he catches up with a few friends that are returning from the first game, he’s thrust into the mad mind of Dr. Loboto, a former dentist who appeared in the VR title Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin. While Loboto was the baddie in the previous game, he’s only a pawn that is working for someone else, someone much more sinister. Raz and the rest of the Psychonauts try to dig through Loboto’s mind to find out who that might be.
As you would probably expect, this opening portion of Psychonauts 2 mainly plays out like a tutorial. It is here that Raz, and you the player, are reintroduced to many of the abilities that you could use in the first game. When navigating through Loboto’s mind, you’ll come across different areas that force Raz to focus on these different psychic powers that he has. One section, featuring Lili, makes you utilize your Pyrokinesis to burn down various paintings and posters on some walls. Another sees you using your Levitation ability to float from platform to platform.
The environments that Raz is traversing while doing this are incredibly detailed. Since Loboto is a former dentist, the theme of his mind centers around teeth and other dentistry-related oddities. Occasionally, the platforms you’ll be jumping between are teeth themselves, with some even donning braces. Other sections of this level featured strange mouth-like zippers that open passages to new areas. It’s all very weird, but in a good way, just like the original Psychonauts.
It also can’t be understated just how funny Psychonauts 2 is. Even from the brief twenty or so minutes of the game that I saw, this demo had me legitimately laughing out loud on more than one occasion. This is nothing new for a Double Fine game as most of the writing is consistently witty and engaging across all of the studio’s projects. As it has been nearly five years since the last proper Tim Schafer-written game, excluding Rhombus of Ruin, I had almost forgotten just how good at writing dialogue Schafer is.
If there’s one aspect of this Psychonauts 2 demo that left me wanting a bit more, it came with the game’s prospects as a modern platformer. By the time Psychonauts 2 releases, it will have (somehow) been 15 years since the original game launched. We’ve jumped ahead two console generations since that time and as a result, I expected this sequel to look a bit more modernized. While the environments, as I already said, are much more detailed than in the past, that was about the only noticeable change that made Psychonauts 2 feel “next-gen.”
Double Fine doesn’t need to make Psychonauts 2 drastically bigger in scope than what came before (that didn’t work all that well for Banjo-Tooie) but I also want this game to feel like it has progressed in meaningful ways since 2005. As much as I wanted to love Yooka-Laylee a few years back, the game’s design felt too rooted in the past. I’m hoping the structure of Psychonauts 2 deviates from its predecessor just a bit.
It’s hard for me to pass too much judgment on Psychonauts 2 just yet because I feel like I’ve only seen such a small sliver of what the full game actually is. Even with this being said, everything that I was shown of this long-awaited sequel at E3 has me chomping at the bit for more. It’s taken us a long time to get to the point where Psychonauts 2 actually feels within reach, but based on what I’ve seen already, it seems like the wait will be well worth it.
Psychonauts 2 is set to launch at some point in 2020 and will be coming to Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac, and Linux.