Anyone who grew up playing games in the late 90s recalls the popularity of 3D platform games. The mascot wars started to evolve way past Mario and Luigi. More cartoon heroes appeared: Banjo-Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, and Spyro the Dragon. Meanwhile one quirky platformer quietly rose to cult classic status – Psychonauts.
Psychonauts was the debut title of Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions. Schafer first achieved fame from his work on classic adventure games like Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island, which were developed during Shafer’s time at LucasArts. Since its founding, Double Fine has become one of the critically acclaimed indie darlings. To this day Psychonauts remains their most beloved game.
And thanks to the magic of crowdfunding we’re finally getting a sequel over a decade later.
Psychonauts stars Rasputin “Raz” Aquato, a young runaway who sneaks into Camp Whispering Rock, a summer camp designed for psychically gifted kids. The camp is filled with goofy, strange, and ultimately delightful characters. The world feels like a zany Saturday Morning Cartoon come to life.
A person’s mind is reflective of their emotional state and baggage. During Psychonauts teacher Milla’s inner-mind lecture, you may find a repressed memory from her tragic past. Raz gets the opportunity to solve people’s mental blocks and help heal their nightmares.
The trippy level design helps elevate Psychonauts above other platformers. But it’s the snappy writing that makes it so beloved. Double Fine utilizes the Pixar style of witty jokes and silly moments that are enjoyable for both kids and adults.
All the characters are incredibly earnest and endearing. Raz is plucky and destined for greatness. His sassy friend Lili is instantly likable. My personal favorite is the old mentor Ford Cruller. He acts like a slightly mad Albert Einstein and is summoned using a piece of magic bacon.
Psi-powers give Raz a fun range of abilities for defeating nightmares and solving mental blocks. By the end Raz becomes a full-fledged psychic warrior using Pyrokinesis, Clairvoyance, Levitation, and his trusty Psi-Blast.
Psychonauts isn’t perfect. But the lovable characters and original concept make the game a memorable one.
It can be awkward when a cult classic sees new life. Crowdfunding specifically plays on our strong sense of nostalgia. Psychonauts 2 isn’t the first sequel to let fans put their money where their mouth is, and it won’t be the last. It may just be the most important, however. New crowdfunding site Fig and Double Fine have both staked their reputations on its success. As a fan of Psychonauts, I hope the sequel turns out as good or better than the first.