Community Review: Psychonauts 2

Community Review: Psychonauts 2
Image: Double Fine

It’s not usually kosher to want a particular game to succeed, but I think Psychonauts 2 might be a universal exception.

There aren’t a lot of games that handle trauma, empathy and mental health well, or at least not at the scale and scope of something like Psychonauts 2. Getting those topics right requires a good deal of sensitivity, maturity and, typically, humour. That’s hard for a lot of media, video games included. And then there’s the history behind Psychonauts 2, which has been on the boil in some form for about 15 years. There were stories about Tim Schafer pitching Psychonauts 2 — and some of the frustrations and attempted pitches — going back to the foundation of this website.

And then there’s all the questions behind Raz and the Psychonauts left unanswered for so many years.

psychonauts 2 double fine
Image: Psychonauts 2

There’s also the polarising — or seemingly polarised — nature of gaming where tackling serious issues is inherently seen as risky. Everyone wants mature games, but fans and communities don’t always support games that venture into that space. And no piece of art, literature, game or piece of content, or the people and teams behind them, will nail everything it sets out to do 100 percent of the time.

And you can’t just be funny or sharp or insightful. You also have to be considerate, technically accomplished, mechanically engaging and eloquent at the same time. There is always room for forgiveness, but everyone draws those lines differently.

There’s a lot of pitfalls for good intentions. But from everything I’ve seenPsychonauts 2 might have actually worked. Not just on a critical level but commercially too, although the nature of Game Pass means it might be some time before we learn what success means in that context.

Something I appreciated about Psychonauts 2 was how it treated its villains. Not as comical entities, but ordinary people whose lives became unbearably complicated and ruined by fear, poor choices that couldn’t be undone, or a failure to let go and move on.

Not everybody wants their entertainment to explore those themes, especially if it reminds them of themselves. I’m glad Psychonauts 2 did. But what matters is what you all think. So for those who have played — and hopefully finished — Psychonauts 2, what did you think?

Comments

  • I smashed through it to 100% in a quiet weekend and it was a blast that i am disappointed is finished. The only downside i can think of is that the platforming is a bit sloppy compared to something slick like the Mario games but is never enough of an impediment to ruin the experience.

    I don’t think i have ever seen a game maintain an overall lighthearted tone while still dealing with complex issues in a satisfactory and tonally consistent way like this before, It is a masterpiece.

  • Thanks for the reminder, I still need to play this one! I really loved the first game, even though I avoided it for years due to the art style.

    Games tackling mature themes are perfectly fine, but there’s a criminal lack of games that do it well without serious flaws in the portrayal. It’s then more of an issue of them doing it badly instead of trying in the first place. But with any luck, as more games like Psychonauts are around, they can be used as a reference for getting the formula right.

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