Psychonauts – First Impressions

I finally got my hands on Psychonauts a few days ago. This is a 2005 platformer from Tim Schafer that I wanted to play when it first came out, but it kept slipping through the cracks. Well, now I’m playing it for PS2 and I’m really liking it. I finished the first level (Oleander’s mind), and am ready to do my first impressions review.

The story is that you are Raz, a kid who sneaks into the psychonauts training camp, and you are being given a chance at becoming a psychonaut. You enter the minds of various people and play a fairly straightforward platforming experience. The levels are very bizarre and twisted, as each one represents the particular mind that you are in. The first level is a military mind of a fairly warped ex soldier.

The first level was well done, but nothing incredibly good. Comparing it to Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, which is my favorite platformer from this generation, I would rank it below Jak and Daxter, but not by much. The controls are very standard, although the camera is a bit brainless. I feel like I am too often having to readjust my camera to prevent it from getting stuck behind things that obscure the view of me.

The story is decent, voice acting is okay, but it reminds me way too much of a bad Saturday morning cartoon – the bully is whiny and nasally in his speech, there is the stuck up girl, etc. The humor can get dark at times, which is a good relief from that other stuff.

The art style is good, but I was expecting the levels to be a little more wacky and the regular world to be more subdued. Double Fine had a great opportunity to play with art styles, and thus far, the real world and the mental world were pretty similar, although there were occasional neat gravity effects and transitions between environments did feel almost dream like – which is good for a game like this.

Thus far, I’m enjoying it, but it’s not the mind-blowing experience I was expecting, but perhaps those expectations were simply way too high. However, if it can be as good as Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, it’s done right in my book.

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