Psychonauts
Review By: Joe

JIMMY! HAND ME THE TONGS! JIMMY!!!

Now, here is the sad truth. There is no, in fact there has never been, a Jimmy. I know you all feel betrayed but I don't really care because I suspect most of you are overweight and, generally speaking, the opinions of the obese are inconsequential because every opinion they have is in part skewed in favor of butter. You can't make so many decisions based entirely on butter, really now. It's obscene. Imagine if the government ran on butter. One day it would be sunny out and it would all melt and the government would collapse and then we'd have anarchy and not nearly enough pancakes to soak up the flood.


Mark my words, it cannot last

Are you with me so far? Good, because I'm going to talk about the videogame Psychonauts now.

If you are unfamiliar with Tim Schafer, you are unfamiliar with one of the sexiest people in the videogame, NEIN!, the entertainment industry as we know it and you are also not invited to my next formal get-together in which the hors'douvres will be MIND-BLOWING. Think about what you're missing out on now and then go look up Mr. Schafer.

Tim Schafer has created or at least been involved in pretty much every game in the past that has been one of the best games ever made. I list the ones now: Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, Popcorn City. The last one is my own invention but my hope is that Timothy will visit this website and shortly after we will engage in talks to bring my vision to life.

Anyway, those were all adventure games, like the type where you walk some bloke around and click on things with a mouse and pick things up and use them on other things and solve puzzles and the story and style are very interesting. Psychonauts is Tim Schafer's new game that he made up using parts of his head. It is NOT an adventure game of the old-school sort. It is closer in style to a platformer BUT DON'T LET THAT MISLEAD YOU, YOU IDIOT! It's much more than that. SO MUCH MOOOOOOOOOOOOOORE!!!

Tim Schafer said that he didn't really consider the game (or any of his games) as fitting into a specific genre like the platforming for monkeys genre and that he is all about the world and the style and the story and it is an adventure and the type of gameplay does not affect him so much. He is just there to see his cool idea through. Now this is a cool and what is so nice about it is the fact that I fully see what he means when playing the game. Sure there is jumping and there is collecting of many (MANY) items but overall I am soaking in the supercool atmosphere and funny goodtime jokes and there's other things in it too, for real.

In Psychonauts you play as this boyo named Rasputin (Raz for short) and you go to a camp that teaches how to do psychic things, all with the brain and whatnot. The wacky comedy is there from the beginning considering Raz has run away from the circus to come to the camp. You see? Run AWAY from the circus? Right, you get it. Anyway, the levels in the game, except the main world which is pretty cool in itself anyway, are different people's minds as you jump into people's brains to fix up their messed-up psychological problems and so forth. AS A RESULT, every level is CRAZY! and completely different from the last! This is cool!

The initial levels are kind of eh! But eventually they get AWESOME. As soon as I hit the level where I was a giant in a city climbing buildings and crushin' shit and so forth I was like "THIS GAME LOVES ME AND MY FAMILY!!!" and I didn't really know what that meant when I said it so I thought I'd run it by you guys. It's your call!

Now, this game is fairly platformy. There is jumping but the jumping she is not so overkill. There is swinging on bars but it don't go down that much. The most platformy thing is the COLLECTING. Oh my, so much collecting. In the real world, you pick up cards and you pick up these things called PSI Challenge Markers (which have unecessarily long names) and you also pick up scavenger hunt items for a scavenger hunt. Oh, and later on you pick up children's brains. When in people's minds, you find vaults containing little reels of people's memories that let you learn crap about their past which is fairly nifty. You also pick up luggage tags which let you pick up emotional baggage AND you pick up mental cobwebs AND you pick up figments.

Now you don't HAVE to pick all this crap up but it will help you make your psychic powers more powerful and that's nice! Plus, it will increase your game time significantly. Also, if you get 100% completion, I understand you get a bonus movie which is really a very nice gesture because a lot of games just let you play through again with some crappy new upgrade to your character and you're just like "I just beat the whole goddamned game 100% complete why the hell would I want to play again?" I personally don't mind collection because I am a massive, lifeless dork (a massive dork, not just massive, then this review would be mostly about butter) and I for some reason enjoy picking lots of things up. Strangely enough I don't like picking up things in real life which is why my arms hurt after only a minimum of usage.

Anyhow, i can see some people finding the collection to be no good and perhaps with good cause because, let us be frank here, everything might have a cute name that fits with the theme of the game but just about everything you are picking up only serves one function, to increase your rank. So, all this stuff could, in effect, have been made into one type of item but I suppose the method in which you obtain some of these things (some of the scavenger items, for example, require you to do specific actions) is varied.

Anyway, like I said, I personally don't really mind the collection BUT I will say that the things you have to get the most of are figments and figments are represented by little 2D sketches that just float in midair or sit on things or move around in patterns. Really, they are the things that are hardest to predict where you'll find them (when they aren't out in the open I mean, because most are) and considering that they're the most abundant thing and also that they're 2D and not entirely solid in color, sometimes seeing them can be a real chore. This is kind of a crappy way of making finding these challenging. In one level, I had to revisit an area so many times I had begun to consider whether my life had any meaning because two figments blended in with the background so damn much I just couldn't damn find them. This should only really be a problem if you are a 100% loser completist like me but it annoyed me enough to write a very long paragraph on it.

Golly, but I'm a wordy bastard. Anyway, this game does manage to go above and beyond feeling like a platformer, as I have explained. The enemies are rarely in your face or particularly threatening. It's very rare that I die, personally (in real life too). It's more about exploration and style and story. Did I say these exact words before? I think I may have. It all works though. You go around and talk to characters and they have quite a bit to say. You can listen in on people's conversations for awhile before they repeat. You get a number of different psychic powers and you can use them on everyone in the game and various objects as well and get a different response/effect for everything. It's a goddamned world, man. And the amount of effort put into it shows through.

Also, some levels are really quite different from what you'd expect from a platformer and are very cool. I haven't played the whole game yet but the conspiracy theorist's mind is probably my favorite thus far. It is a weird suburb with twisty, upside-down and sideways roads and houses. It's populated with men in suspicious trenchcoats holding various objects and trying to pose as different types of people. For example, when you approach a group of guys holding crossing guard signs they say things (all in the same deadpan voice) like "I am a crossing guard. I ensure the safety of people crossing the street." and, eventually, for some reason, "Those woman's breasts are very large." You also find a group of them in a cemetery holding flowers and saying "I am a grieving widow." And ones in a house holding rolling pins and claiming to be housewives and when you approach with a rolling pin and say "I am a housewife. This is my rolling pin." they respond "I hope you are not trying to steal my man. Tramp." I may not have made much sense to you just then but to sum up: IT'S FUCKING BRILLIANT.

Anyway, listen. The gameplay is fun, I think, but this game is about getting caught up in a kick-ass world with cool characters. I really haven't seen developers go all out like this before without any worry of whether or not they'd freak people out. This game is WACKY to the EXTREME and I respect Tim Schafer and his cronies for sticking to their crazy guns which shoot marshmellow I think and putting out one of the most original games I've played in awhile. I respect them like a motherfucker and that is the most complimentary curse word I have on my list (that I refuse to show to anyone but refer back to frequently as though everyone should be familiar with it) of curse words that I assign random, alternative meanings to.

I will say (and I am not the first to think this) it is kind of reminiscient of Invader Zim with it's dark but kind of silly and yet witty humor and very odd imagery and also the fact that the main guy is voiced by Richard Horvitz, who also voiced Zim. HMM! I wonder if Tim Schafer watched the show or if he and Jhonen Vasquez just share similar sensiblities. What do you care!

Well, I don't care who the hell you is, everyone should give this sucker a try. The XBox version is easily superior to the PC one but that's largely because it has a controller. If you get a controller for your PC, it might not be such a big deal (although I understand there are some sound glitches and stuff). The PS2 version will come out eventually and will probably be fine but certainly the least pretty and that is sad.

Say, how come this game feels more to me like a real adventure game than all the crap I've tried to play over the past years like Syberia? And how come this game is centered around its story and yet it doesn't bore me the way something like the Metal Gear series? Take note, stupid developers. All you need to do is be Tim Schafer. Work on it.


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