Thursday, August 12, 2010

Video Game Review - Psychonauts

Phew. After my hate-filled review of Assassin's Creed, a game that I really did enjoy, but thought could be a lot better, perhaps it's time I wrote a positive review? And what better game to talk about how much I love than Psychonauts.

Psychonauts is a very polarizing game. If you're the kind of games are art guy that I am, you will love it. If you're stupid, you won't. You might think I'm being extreme here, but this is one of my favorite games, and it's really a shame that hardly anyone bought it. When it released it was critically beloved and commercially bombed. It has a tragic story from that point of the price slowly dropping, until finally the great Tim Schafer has gotten to the point of saying they make more money off the sale of Psychonauts T-Shirts than they do the actual game.

Then again, it kind of makes sense that the game bombed, because on paper the premise is weird. Heck, off paper, the premise is weird. It's about a young boy named Raz who runs away from the circus to a summer camp for psychics. And yeah, it's strange. That's part of what makes it so amazing.

Each level takes place in the mind of a different person, and the setting reflects the personality, and psychology of that specific person. The opening level, basic braining (it's a pun) takes place in the mind of Coach Oleander, and it's a battlefield, since he is a grizzled war veteran. Party girl Milla's mind is... Well... A party!

But it goes deeper than that as you search for memory banks that show you brief glimpses of the past for each person who's mind you're in. These range from touching (Milla's Children) to just plain mind screw (The world shall taste my eggs!).

But what really makes this game is the humor. Let me put it this way. There is a level in which you are a Godzilla scale monster, and you rampage through a city populated entirely by talking fish.

It's amazing. And even better than that is my personal favorite level "The Milkman Conspiracy" which takes place inside the mind of an insane conspiracy theorist. I'd tell you more, but it would ruin the level.

Now, the graphical style is very cartoony and strange, it looks like something Tim Burton might created if he had a day that he took a particularly large amount of drugs, but in a good way.

The characters themselves look very strange, and some people think of the graphical style as a setback, personally though I love it. The characters are all greatly exaggerated, which gives them quite a bit of personality, and instantly help to define the characters, even before they say anything.

And the characters are awesome. Every character is given an interesting background that you can find out simply by searching for memory vaults and viewing a brief slide show. Each character is interesting, and unique.

The humor in the game is spot on, and almost every joke hits the mark, with only a very small percentage, if any, failing to get the laughs. In the video game industry today, where games humor tends to be... Bad. Just bad... It's great to see some really fresh and entertaining, and unique humor in games.

That said, the game is not perfect. The platforming can be a bit clunky at times, and all the content outside the main storyline are just scavenger quests, not to mention at one point it pulls the old "You cannot continue the storyline until you have bought this item from the store which costs an absurd amount of money, so get to it!" card. And the last level will have you wanting to slam your head against the wall, because it feels very poorly constructed, and... Just hard.

But these are all such minor complaints that it's hard to even, well, complain about them. Psychonauts is an incredible game, and you can get it for $10 on Steam, so if you haven't played it yet, go buy it now. NOW. I DEMAND IT. You will not be disappointed.

Buy this game if:
You like unique, fun, games that are exactly what the video games industry needs to make more of.
Don't buy this game if: You're stupid.

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