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Feb. 14, 2006
Psychonauts - PS2 Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
9/2/2006THQDouble Fine/
Budcat Creations
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Ohh look, the game's hero Raz!
According to my mates I can be a pretty funny guy. Not in the telling joke kind of way, but by my actions apparently. It's true that I probably inherited my dad's twisted sense of humour which many struggle to understand. I also love funny things, be it movies, or stand up comedy or just e-mail jokes but one area of my life where comedy is either missing or often misses the mark is video games. There have been some crackers in the past, Sam & Max and Whiplash come to mind, but they are few and far between. Now we have another contender from the genius that is Tim Schafer. He's the guy that developed PC classics including Full Throttle and Grim Fandango while at LucasArts. Now at his own company Double Fine Productions he is unleashing his latest masterpiece, Psychonauts.

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Graphics are pretty neat.
For years, the Psychonauts have deployed their psychically-armed operatives all over the world, but this time trouble is brewing in their own boot camp. A deranged scientist is abducting camp cadets for their brains. One student, a mysterious and powerful new arrival named Raz, stands alone against the lunatic. Raz must develop and unleash an arsenal of paranormal powers including his most powerful weapon of all—the ability to launch himself telepathically into the minds of others. Ultimately he must enter the psyche of his worst enemy and destroy his dark plans at their source while trying not to lose his sanity in the process.

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Riding the rails...
The best way to describe Psychonauts is that of a very open, free roaming, comedic platform game. In terms of game mechanics Raz can double jump, hang onto ledges, swing on poles, climb walls and so on. Even cooler is his ability to create a bubble which can be ridden to take Raz to higher locations. Attacks are performed with the X button for standard attacks while the three other buttons are used for the various psychic powers which Raz learns during the game. Raz isn't limited to three psychic powers but many more which can be mapped to these three buttons at any time by entering a menu. It does become a little annoying as you'll be doing this several times in some levels, but besides using the should buttons and combinations there really isn't a simpler way.

The level design in this game really must be commended for a couple of reasons. Firstly it's so offbeat that it will always have you guessing what's around the corner. Secondly there's literally hundreds of items and locations to explore and discover, and it will take almost a miracle to find them all. If you love to complete games, discover every hidden object and platform that Psychonauts is for you. In fact, if anything this game possibly asks too much of the average gamer to discover all its secrets, but I guess that adds quite a bit of value.

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What the hell is this about!
One of the biggest issues I have with the game is that there isn't a consistent level of difficulty. Some aspects are quite simple, including many of the bosses, while other areas are maddingly difficult and will require many restarts to complete. As with any game that has a heavy emphasis on humour it does start to wear a little thin towards the end, you can see the setups, and can predict many of the lines coming up but it's still great fun.

In terms of graphics it's clear that the PS2 isn't being pushed to its limits with some occasional frame rate issues, and indeed there's sections where the game seems to skip quite a few frames before an abrupt move of the characters position or posture. The PS2 also has lower texture detail then the PC and XBox games. What makes this game a winner however is the magnificent artistic style which is being presented which is right up there with the best of them on PS2 including ICO and Rez. Psychonauts also includes quite a few pre-rendered cut scenes to tell the story, all of which are pretty high in quality.

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That's a big, ermm, thing!
Audio in the game is very impressive. Leading the way is the stunning voice work which, while no well known actors have been used, are still more then equal to the task with some great variety in the characters, and a tonne of one liners to keep you amused. As with the graphics the music is lively and varied. I must mention that the celebration when Raz earns a badge has more then a passing resemblance to a certain George Lucas movie when the heroes are receiving medals. Finally the effects are solid enough not to dampen the audio experience however the lack of surround sound is a bit disappointing.

Psychonauts is one of those offbeat and yet totally charming games that reignites your passion for games. Sure, technically it's not the best, but the humour, storyline and gameplay are so enjoyable that it doesn't matter. Double Fine have done a wonderful job designing this title and Budcat Creations did an admirable port job to the PS2. While there are some issues Psychonauts is certain to go down as a highlight of the current generation.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Amazon (NTSC Version).
GRAPHICSCamera needed improving, some frame rate issues, great artistically.
SOUNDSome of the funniest dialogue ever, solid effects and good music.
GAMEPLAYOne of the most enjoyable times I've had on the PS2 ever.
VALUENot overly long, unless you collect everything, but you'll be back.
OVERALLPsychonauts is a game which we'll look back on as a highlight of the current generation. Tim Schafer has created another essential masterpiece and it deserves to be in your collection.

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