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    Psychonauts 2 review

    Need to know

    What is it? A mind-bending sequel to Double Fine’s most celebrated game. 

    Expect to pay: £55/$60

    Developer: Double Fine Productions

    Publisher: Xbox Game Studios

    Reviewed on: RTX 2080 Ti, AMD Ryzen 5 5600X 6-core processor, 16GB ram

    Multiplayer? No

    Link: Official site (opens in new tab)

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    You can tell a lot about a game’s soul by what it deems a ‘perk’. Fallout 3, for example, thinks being better at murdering women is one. In Modern Warfare it’s dropping a grenade after death like a smug ghost. In Psychonauts 2, Double Fine will sell you a ‘beastmastery’ pin badge modifier that allows Raz’s psychic fist—usually used for thumping and tossing—to stroke woodland animals. You spend money to hurt fewer things. Another pin makes him groove when left unattended; dance like nobody’s watching, when no one is playing. Honestly? It’s a tonic.

    As headlines go, “Tim Schafer game favours silliness over sadism” is hardly a shocker. But it’s been 15 years since the original; time enough to forget how silly Psychonauts can be, and the startling places those jokes can take us. Of course, for the game’s inhabitants, it’s been but three days: wannabe Psychonaut Raz left Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp on a rescue mission—seen in VR spin-off Rhombus of Ruin—and we rejoin him in its aftermath. A video fills all that in, but first-hand experience is recommended given the juicy callbacks throughout.

    (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

    Given how Double Fine spruces up the thrashings it’s perhaps surprising how stingily it rations them out. Fights are rare in most levels—non-existent in the hub world—which makes a new upgrade system slightly superfluous. It’s hard to get excited about nimbler lobs when you use them so infrequently. It makes post-credits play particularly strange: you’re essentially returning to empty worlds to push up your cadet rank and buy upgrades and power-ups with no enemies to use them on. It’s just you and a whole lot of squirrels to scritch.

    Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the places Psychonauts 2 bows to convention are where Double Fine is a little more unsure of itself. This has always been a team more comfortable taking creative risks—its studio logo is a baby fired from a cannon, after all—and it’s that aspect I choose to celebrate. Not just the wild comic swings, but the fact that this is a mainstream videogame that deals sympathetically with the messy business of being human. Strip away the screeching eggs and bacterial prophets of doom and it’s a tale of regrets and the path out of them. I don’t think playing Psychonauts 2 will become one of them. So don that beastmastery badge: pats on the back for all involved.

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