Customer Review

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adorable Story, Unique Platformer, Classic Adventure., 7 July 2006
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
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This review is from: Psychonauts (PC) (Video Game)
I bought Psychonauts on the strength of Tim Schafer's earlier game `Grim Fandango', which I would argue is possibly the greatest game of all time. By playing a downloaded demo from Gamershell.com I was immediately sucked in by the introduction FMV and the ability to wander around the summer camp during the start of the game.

The game stars Raz, a young boy who has travelled far and wide to reach the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp where he plans to become a Psychonaut, a psychic marine of sorts. The story later unfolds, as happenings, strange even for a camp for psychic misfits, seem to occur. Psychonauts slowly introduces the gamer to the characters and its world, allowing use to care for the outcast children and noble Psychonauts we will later be fighting for.

The game is classed as a `platform game', however, with Schafer's influence on the adventure game genre, allows a greater amount of freedom, exploration, small puzzle elements and interaction with other game characters, which is where the game really rallies itself in front of other current platformers.

Each character in the camp, no matter how small or insignificant, has their own inimitable and interesting agenda. Many interact and form small bonds or vendettas often to comical value. Characters are generally hanging around the enormous camp and can be spoken by simply pressing the action button. Although it's not compulsory to speak to characters, why would you not want to? Why would you not want to watch pint sized Dogen feed on his paranoia of the seeming innocent squirrels? Or even hope that he literally makes someone's head explode (he's done it 4 times already!). Or watch Bob Zilch get his karma for picking on fellow camp members.

The greatest feeling when wondering around Whispering Rock was that I wasn't alone. Being able to have a small conversation with lily or Zilch gave a warm feeling I never felt in the empty mansion in Mario 64.

However, the game does have its darker moments that may unsettle younger audiences, or at least have the need for parental guidance. A disfigured giant lungfish and collecting people's brains may seem a little weird and uncomfortable.

Some more mature comedy is added for value too. A good example would be the later level `The Milkman Conspiracy', whilst not having to do much with the plot, will be one of the most unearthly gaming experiences of your life - a surreal, comical reflection of boring American suburban lifestyle that'd do David Lynch proud. You know you've seen it all in a game when a secret agent, posing as a housewife with a rolling pin announces, "I am a housewife. Although my husband will find me less attractive sexually he will still love me for my homemade pies".

However, this is not a complete mature gamers or children's game. This is a game that have been written and programmed for all ages and both sexes.

Platformers don't seem to appear very often on the PC for good reason. With most PC owners preferring to use keyboard and mouse, platformers are as welcome to PCs as FP shooters are to the pad-playing console owners. Because of this, unless you are a skilled person with mouse and keyboard, it might be wiser either to buy a gamepad or buy the Xbox version instead (I've heard that the PS2 version doesn't do the game justice graphically), as later levels can become tricky having to make skilled, multiple actions in order to survive various stages of play.

Psychonauts has the player spending more time exploring the beautiful environments with the typical use of `collect these items to trade for that item syndrome'. In this case, magical arrowheads can be used to buy special moves and items that allow Raz to pursue forward to reaches he couldn't before, as well as figments (of the imagination) that power up special moves and emotional baggage which can unlock secret early draft drawings and in-depth cartoon strips of various character's personal memories. However, it's not strictly needed to collect every item you find and you can just whiz past it all.

Tackling puzzles are kept almost to a minimum, and that younger audiences could figure it out, at least during the first half of the game. However, there were select incidents when I was stuck which made the game feel a little inconsistent against the 95% of the time when you do know what you should be doing and where to be going.

The graphics further than most games on the PC and Xbox market today. But what really makes the game rewarding is its sense of uniqueness. The best description would have to be that of like MDK2 on the Dreamcast, both in terms of lighting and art design, or American McGee's Alice, but superior in character and detail.

Some of these levels are MASSIVE, and require a lot of exploration and looking around. The level `Napoleons war' is a gigantic level with a number of buildings, trees, moving enemies and the sort. Often on the subconscious levels I've been almost overwhelmed by the sheer size. It's clear that this game wasn't made with the intention of the player making quick breezes through each level, like that in earlier Crash Bandicoot games. There is a good 15 hours of exploration and adventure here.

Even without graphics on top level and no lighting effects or special texturing it was still beautiful and detailed as if I was getting a 40 pound game. Furthermore, the music drew professional and atmospheric scores throughout.

`Psychonauts' is the epitome of what games should be about. Fun, imagination and appreciation. And it's nice to not have to rely on Nintendo to make a decent, original and lovable playformer for a change.
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