In early 2005 Double Fine Productions released Psychonauts for PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Since then fans have been patiently waiting for the game to get a sequel. Although Psychonauts 2 is still a ways away, Tim Schaffer and the Double Fine development team released a new title in the series, which bridges the gap between the first game and its forthcoming sequel in early 2017. Nearly a year later, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin has left PlayStation VR exclusively and was ported over to PC VR headsets.
As mentioned, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin picks up right where the first one left off over a decade ago. Players once again control Raz, a gifted young boy with psychic abilities. The game’s story focuses on Raz, Lilli, Sasha, Milla and Coach Oleander, who embark on a mission to save, Lili’s father, the Grand Head of the Psychonauts Truman Zanotto.
The gang soon finds out that Zanotto is being held captive at Rhombus of Ruin, a former Psychonauts facility, which has been abandoned for quite some time. Our heroes quickly find themselves confined inside the ambiguous location and must find a way out all while unraveling the mystery of this mysterious location.
The story’s set-up is interesting and at no point did I ever feel like the plot fell flat, the writing was solid, the execution was impressive, and most importantly the humor was funny and all in good taste. On top of that, your companions (like Lilli) feel alive — there were plenty of times when I felt like I was Raz and that level of immersion encouraged me to find out what would happen next.
Having played the first Psychonauts multiple times, I found that any prior knowledge of the first game is not required. This is ideal for those who may not have experienced the first title (yet). Furthermore, after playing the game through the end, I can wholeheartedly say that Rhombus of Ruin feels very much like a standalone interquel. I found this to be a significant pro because Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, is by no means a main installment in the series and playing this game is not required to understand what the first game or its impending sequel is about.
Of course, if you played the first game, there is an incentive for those players out there because Rhombus of Ruin provides more insight on the characters. However, those who have not played the game before will not be penalized, so think of the intriguing character insights are more of a special perk for being a fan of the series.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic. Much like the first game, Rhombus of Ruin offers that Tim Burton-inspired aesthetic that nerds like me crave. Much what I admire about Psychonauts series (and even the Tim Burton films) is that these particular forms of art are how it features a dark and gritty vibe — both are not necessarily horror per se, but they are more like a dark comedy of sorts. A form which is not heavily explored by other artists. I will be honest, I was not expecting the world of Psychonauts to mesh together in virtual reality, but Double Fine Productions made it work.
The animation in Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is some of the best I have seen in virtual reality this year alone, with the AIs never feeling like they are animatronics found in an amusement park. Rhombus of Ruin places the players in a strange and psychedelic simulation. Fortunately, the game never provides any motion sickness, nor did I ever experience any headaches while playing the game, which is surprising considering the number of trippy visuals placed in the game.
Regarding gameplay, Rhombus of Ruin strays away from the platform found in the previous entry in favor of puzzle-based gameplay combined with some gameplay elements found in a point and click game. The switch in genres works well because, for a substantial amount of the game, Raz is confined in a chair and is forced to utilize his psychic powers to control other individuals.
Looking at the game from solely a VR stance, it is about 80% a seated game and 20% of a standing experience. Turning my attention to the controls, they work surprisingly well and using the HTC Vive controllers is an immense upgrade to the outdated PlayStation Move controllers to provide a fluid experience. Circling back to how this game plays kind of like a point and click title, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin heavily encourages you to explore as there are plenty of Easter Eggs that will reward you for venturing off the beaten path.
While Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin does so many things right, there are still a few flaws that need to be pointed out. One of the most significant issues I had was the body-hopping mechanic; this is your primary form of getting from point A to point B, it can become very repetitive very quickly, especially seeing as you are doing this 80% of the time this may discourage players from seeing the game till the very end. It’s not major to the point that the game should be avoided, however, this form of movement is obsolete when you consider many games now are opting to use free locomotion as a form of controlling your player.
Another issue I have with the game is that is not very long; taking around two and a half hours to fully complete, which decreases any chances of replaying this game for many unless you want to try and obtain all the Steam achievements, of course.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin may have a few hiccups, but these flaws prove to be very small and can be overlooked. After waiting almost two decades for a new entry, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin may not be Psychonauts 2, but it provides enough substance and allows fans to sink their teeth into something new while we patiently wait for the next entry. Although the game’s length is not very long, for $20 you are still getting a good game that, in my opinion, is worth the price of admission.