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    Psychonauts 2 between social fears and mental follies

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    Catherine Le Nevez
    @catherinelenevez

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    It's been a good 16 years since the legendary Tim Schafer public Psychonauts per Xbox e Playstation 2. Critically acclaimed, the title developed by Double Fine however, it was a commercial failure. It is therefore no surprise that an independent team of this magnitude failed to create a sequel anytime soon. With the explosion of crowdfunding campaigns, in 2015 it was announced Psychonauts 2 just like project Kickstarter. Since then, however, the project has struggled to advance due to its own ambition, which is poorly supported by bottom-up funding. Microsoft's purchase of the studio did the rest. Thanks to a last and huge economic push to the project, the title finally saw the light in August of this year. Was it worth the wait all these years? We anticipate it immediately: absolutely yes.



    A narrative platform

    It would be extremely difficult to analyze and judge Schafer's work by compartmentalization. Psychonauts 2 is a video game that uses the purely playful side to enhance the narrative and which, reciprocally, uses the narrative side to elevate the naked and raw gameplay. Talking separately about gameplay, the technical / artistic side and the storytelling would in some way mean debasing and not doing justice to a work that must certainly be considered in its entirety. I specify that I have never completed the first chapter. Yet, during the 20 hours of gameplay required for completion, I never felt the need to delve into past events.

    Of peculiar characters they will meet to no end

    Psychonauts 2 is a journey into the human psyche and into the fears that afflict man. In fact, it's a game that can get extremely personal. The narrative plot - genuinely banal - is nothing more than a fil rouge to explore the true psychosocial themes at the basis of the supporting messages. The typical gameplay of a 3D platformer is completely at the service of this narrative style.



    Despite being a direct sequel, there is no need to dive into past events at all

    From the beginning we understand how Psychonauts 2 has a double nature: the more superficial one, when we are in the central hub and navigate between one assignment and another, and the more profound and personal one, when through the technologies of psychonauts we are literally able to navigate inside the minds of the protagonists. Just during this phase the game explodes in a surprising and overwhelmingly sensationalistic way.

    Amazement and delirium in the minds

    The effect of astonishment when you enter a new area to be "psychoanalysed" is something that will not abandon us throughout the adventure and that deeply touches the sensitivity of each of us. Ludopathy, loneliness, depression are just some of the topics covered in the brilliant cauldron of ideas set up by the development team. The originality of the title, however, is precisely that of to link the narration of these psychosocial disorders to a gameplay that is modeled on them. Psyconauts 2 manages to go even further and is layered in an even deeper way.

    Psychonauts 2 never ceases to surprise until the closing bars

    When within one of the very first sections - clearly linked to the problem of gambling addiction - you are faced with a subsection that associates Russian roulette with the numerous attempts of a couple to try to have a child, one is stunned. in the face of the ramification so full of meanings proposed by Schafer and his team.

    One of many bizarre worlds / brains to visit

    We are faced with a fairly classic video game in its style. The platform sections and the powers that are acquired during the adventure do not present particularly original playful details. However, it's the shape that makes the difference and here the grapple, for example, is physically used as a stream of consciousness between thoughts. However, let's clarify that the platform set up by Double Fine is undoubtedly an excellent video game even if played - it should be said - with the brain off. The bosses are fun to deal with but, even in this case, their integration into the narrative context makes them absolutely brilliant for large parts.



    USEFUL INFO

    Psychonauts 2 was played on the Xbox Series X.

    Duration
    • The game can be finished in about 20 hours, with another ten or so hours to devote to completion.
    Structure
    • Psychonauts 2 is a 3D platformer with action and RPG elements. A main hub acts as a link to the various levels of play.
    Collectibles and Extras
    • From the point of view of collectibles, the title is extremely rich. Each level is replayable to allow you to collect everything.

    Few resources but well used ...

    It's easy to see why the title took so long before it could be released. The playful and narrative ambitions of the title are clearly unbalanced with respect to the indie nature of the project. Therefore, being faced with an old gen technical sector is certainly not a surprise. However, the few resources available were used with extreme intelligence. He thinks about masking a meager technical sector an artistic style perhaps a bit chaotic but undoubtedly thick.

    If the technical side shows a bit the side, from the artistic point of view Psychonauts 2 is certainly brilliant

    Not everything is coherent and fluid, but creativity is so over the top that the result can only surprise. Each section has its own unique personality and is closely linked to the emotionality of the situation. The color palette used is very wide and covers every human emotion. The sound department itself does not shine particularly, but even in this case it definitely does its duty, putting the right emphasis on every situation.

    Colorful and artistically over the top

    Pad in hand the title is fluid, precise and rewarding. The controls are perfectly calibrated and guarantee a playability worthy of the best platformers on the market. Perhaps you feel the absence of a real difficulty curve. The game maintains a flat curve without giving a real sense of progression. As the adventure progresses, the range of powers available expands without being faced with a progressive increase in difficulty dictated by our natural progression and familiarity with the control system. This lack is not properly considered as a real defect. Where Psychonauts 2 (rarely) lacks gameplay it compensates with a narrative amazement without half measures.



    A real surprise

    After so many years of platforming experiences, it is rare to find a title that is able to amaze in directions that we would never have even considered for the genre in question. Tim Schafer, in his own way, operated on a small revolution, that is to know how to tell and to know how to touch the emotional chords through a videogame genre that has always been associated with pure playful fun, almost as if it were a mere exercise in style. Today the platform has taken a small big step towards a paradigm shift: what if even jumping between one platform and another we could really tell great stories?

    Review by Stefano Cherubini
    Graphics

    The deeply indie nature of the title is reflected in a decidedly old gen technical level. Fortunately, the decidedly over-the-top artistic characterization masks the technical poverty making the visual result extremely pleasing.

    80
    SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM

    We are not faced with a soundtrack that will remain in the annals and not even faced with a textbook dubbing. However, everything is perfectly in the right place at the right time.

    75
    GAMEPLAY

    Psychonauts 2 has nothing to envy to the great platformers of the past and present. Fluid, responsive and extremely fun, without however reinventing the formula or proposing particularly innovative mechanics.

    85
    Total Rating scale
    92
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