STAFF REVIEW of Psychonauts (Xbox)

Thursday, May 26, 2005.
by StudioAlex

Psychonauts Box art Tim Schafer and his talented colleagues at Double Fine have created the finest platformer available not only for the Xbox, but for all current generation consoles. How lucky you Xboxers are that you get to play it first. Psychonauts is a unique, fully realized world complemented with beautiful, artistically-minded aesthetics, addictive gameplay, and a touching regard for the humanity of its characters.

You are Raz, a psychonaut wannabe at camp Whispering Rock, a psychic training ground. Counted among your peers are fellow adolescent campers, each embodying a specific personality type (the lothario, the bully, the bully\'s henchman, etc). Guiding you on your path are the counselors who, when not attending to the delicate young minds, are usually saving the world with their own fantastic powers.

All is well at the tranquil little summer camp, that is, until someone starts stealing people\'s brains! As Raz you will adventure through not only ten separate, distinct mindscapes, but also through a number of real world locations.

Each mind you enter has its own story to tell. Some are silly, like helping a descendant of Napoleon defeat his great-great-gre(the one inside his mind, anyway) at a table top strategy game, while others are deeply touching, like uncovering the torments of a fallen s these mental abnormalities takes an impressive amount of time for a platformer. Depending on how much you get into uncovering all of the game\'s secrets it could take you from about fifteen to twenty hours to complete.

As Raz, you have all the typical abilities of a platforming hero: jumping, punching, climbing, sliding etc. What makes our little psychonaut different is his psychic abilities, earned by obtaining merit badges, which allow him to levitate, turn invisible, see through the eyes of others, confuse enemies, and set them on fire via pyrokinesis. Yes, you can set the cute little fuzzies around camp on fire. But why would you want to do that? Sicko.

Your merit badges are either earned through story events, or as rewards for increasing Raz\'s psychonaut level. His level is increased by collecting various items throughout the real and psychic worlds. After earning your powers, they will subsequently be powered up by increasing your level, affecting their damage, duration, or area. It may seem like powering up Raz by way of collecting is optional, but many of the levels require you to be stronger in order to get past its puzzles.

Each mind you play through has a different gameplay mechanic comprising it. Every time you open a new world you\'ll be amazed at how fresh the gameplay is because you\'ll be doing something different from what you did before. I\'d love to describe more but I think it\'s be a crime to not let you discover each world for your self.

I have two small caveats. First, the figment collectibles border on ridiculous. On one level in particular they blend in with the background so well I almost had a migraine looking for that one of 187 that I had yet to find.

My second complaint is that the game is too easy. I don\'t remember ever losing to a boss, and if I did I certainly didn\'t lose a second time. This is perplexing because this game, despite it\'s cartoon like appearance, is not for little kids. Perhaps DF wanted this to be more accessible to casual gamers. I guess it worked because my girl friend, who won\'t play anything that isn\'t Dr. Mario, likes this game. But from an enthusiast\'s perspective it\'s a detriment.

I\'d have to describe the look of Psychonauts as reminiscent of those Nick Toons back in the nineties. The characters and world are beautifully realized, but ugly in an appealing, purposeful way. Skin tones range into blues, greens, and other odd color choices. It\'s very much a cartoon world, though it\'s geared toward adults.

Every location is unique from its counterparts. Some even have retooled color palettes that affect the look of Raz and his psi-powers.

I am somewhat disappointed in a few aspects of the graphics. First, I wish that the other campers were payed the same loving attention that Raz was. Also, some levels could have used more detail in the landscape. Lastly, the movies looked exactly like the game, so why not just render them in game? They would look better without the slight grain of using FMV.

The sound in this game is well done. The voice acting is top notch and often funny and witty. While some of the jokes just fall flat, much of it is spot on. While it\'s not as good as Armed & Dangerous in this department, it\'s certainly leaps and bounds beyond other games.

The music is good, if forgettable. While everything is certainly appropriate for the level, I just can\'t seem to recall a melody or anything of the sort. It\'s all background music; it\'s not meant to distract the player from what\'s going on, I guess. They did a good job, however, of using the gameplay to dictate the tone and pace of the music.

Overall: 9.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.6 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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