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on 7 July 2006
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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on 19 February 2006
Just to clarify the big heading, this game feels like it was made by developers who actually cared about the game a great deal; it doesn't feel like a corporate marketing excersise like many games on the markets today.
In fact, it reminds a lot about how games were circa late nineties; perhaps not created for the mainstream audience, but for those who 'get' it, it makes for a fine gaming experience.
you play the character of raz, a 10 year old boy, who has snuck into the psychonauts training camp in order to fulfill your dream of being (put on booming voice) A PSYCHONAUT!!! what follows is a fantastic plotline which has you venturing into the minds of many people in order to solve a nefarious evil. I will not divulge any more plot, for it is this that makes the game what it is.
The levels themselves are an incredible mix of twisted psyches, that really play like no other game of recent memory
There are some problems however. Being a platform game, it does occasionally suffer from the age old pixel perfect jumping demon that has haunted the genre since tomb raider. There are also some obscure puzzles that can leave you stumped for longer than is liked.
However, look past these niggles, and there is a beautiful, original game just screaming to be played. I cannot stress enough in words how this game made me feel. Every character is well realised and believable, unlike nearly every other game on the market at the moment which comprises stupid and boring cliches. Every level is a new and interesting challenge, not just the same, but harder. Every in game action has a consequence.
Please play this game- it deserves your attention.
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on 20 February 2006
Speaking as a woman it is not often I find a game that I actually like! Most involve constant killing (be it fantasy or military) or sports (take your pick). I love puzzles, so apart from a handful of games (Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker, Sphinx (Cursed Mummy) ...) there was never much that appealed to me. I don't mind a little action if it is balanced by good stories, puzzles and other challenges. Killing on its own - nah! Psychonauts turns out to be just such a game. Great story, weird, likeable graphics, music, characters, monsters, minds (dungeons to games aficionados). Some very challenging puzzles and some fun skills for those times when you need to outwit and/or slaughter baddies!
The game is essentially based on the theme of the psyche and psychics, but not quite in the way you might expect. The main character Raz, sneaks into a summer camp and is due to be “expelled” as he is not there legitimately. So he sets about trying to train as a fully qualified Psychonaut in the short time he has before Papa comes to drag him away. This means learning to use his mind in a variety of different ways, which all takes training and challenges to perfect. But as he learns he has to unravel the minds/moods/secrets of different people he encounters by literally going into their minds and dealing with whatever is there.
Given the wealth of games on the market it is an achievement to come up with something original and this is original. If you like Tim Burton then the graphics will suit you as will the humour, the weirdness and the occasional dark under/overtones. If you like games with more than fighting in them then I would strongly recommend this game.
Oh, and my teenage son who is a first person shooter fanatic (Battlefield 2 and Counterstrike take up many of his waking hours) thought this a great game too.
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on 20 February 2006
I'm not going to explain what the game is about. I dont think I could put it eloquently enough to do justice to the game.
What I will say is that the design, innovation, and sheer love that has clearly gone into the game means it deserves to be played by every serious gamer. The voice acting and humour is to the level you would expect of a Tim Schafer game (he of Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle fame).
I would class this game as an adventure game more than anything else, yes, its easy to pigeonhole it as a platformer but the platforming elements are easily overshadowed by the process of simply playing through the hero's (Rasputin) story. There is one annoying platform section near the end which is pretty difficult but the rest of it will be breezed through by any experienced gamer.
The story is what this game is about, and also just having sheer good fun. Like the old Lucasarts adventure games, you cant really die in a 'Game Over, start again' fashion like traditional platformers and you are free to experiment and try things with your mental powers without the game punishing you for it. Being inside the troubled mind of a paranoid conspiracist or a man with a Napoleon complex is as bizarre as you could imagine, and very funny.
I have heard some people complain about the camera in the game but I dont have any problems with it, certainly nothing major or game-breaking. I would advise purchasing a PS2 pad and USB/PS2 adaptor to play this game, definitely better than keyboard/mouse. You should have this for Pro Evo Soccer already anyway!
All-in-all, gamers have been crying out for more originality, innovation etc in games, this has these things in spades and is a top quality game into the bargain. Buy this game and let the suits know we care about our games and are not content with 'Generic RTS 5' or 'Seen-it-all-before FPS 3'. If games like this arent a commercial success then we deserve to be force-fed bland, uninspiring clones of games that weren't so good to begin with. Make this a hit and ensure a future of exciting, groundbreaking titles, please!
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on 8 July 2006
Every once in a while a game comes along that makes me feel like jumping up and down with delight, like a baby with a new rattle! And this is one such game.

From the wonderfully "left field" story line to the wacked out "levels", this is a joy to play right from the start.

Fragging fans should turn away right now. This is not going to be your thing at all. Everyone else should buy this game right now.

Go on - treat yourself!

And when you've finished this, if you haven't come across it yet, go and buy Beyond Good and Evil.
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on 15 July 2010
Wow - what a game! Psychonauts has a real quirky plot with each section of the game bringing a completely new playing-style. It really would be difficult to get fed up with this game!

It very much reminded me of the sinister fantasy/fairytale style you get with a lot of Tim Burton animated films. Also the style is uncannily similar to the film 'Coraline' - I wonder if anyone else has noticed this similarity?

My only complaint - and the only reason I didn't give this game 5* is that the menu system has been poorly converted from the X-Box version. The main character's circular itinerary menu is quite easy to use if you wish to select an item from the usual 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions but the whole thing becomes a lot more tricky if you wish to select items from the diagonal sections of the menu. It is really not fair to dwell on that though as it is such a small point and certainly shouldn't put you off playing the game!
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on 10 March 2006
Unless you have no patience for anything other than straight shooters, give this game a go, you will be well rewarded. There are mooments of sheer brilliance in this game that have obviously received a lot of care and attention.
Genius highlights of the game:
Using clairvoyance to see yourslf from other people's and thing's points of view. Using this power on various things including a security keypad which sees your character as a giant walking finger.
The whole 'Gogglor' level, which sees you as a giant Godzilla-like beast wreaking havoc on the tiny residents of Lungfishopolis.
Just buy it.
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on 27 May 2008
Lemme just say that this is the first platform game that i've ever progressed in beyond the...oh, say, second level? One of the things I hate most in games is being forced to repeat half the damn level every time I slightly misjudge how far I need to jump to hit the impossibly small ledge that stands between me and a 6 storey splatter death.
Psychonauts scored immediate points with me for by and large eliminating this tedium. The platforming element is by and large intuitive, and allows for large margins of error, swinging from pole to pole automatically launches you at the optimum point, ensuring you always land.
The camera can be a bit of a pain, but in almost all cases you can control it youself, and when it does wrest control from you it's only to enable you to view an important item or person.
The game isn't all that long, 15 hours i'd say, a few more if you go for rank 100, but the level design is so utterly varied and brilliant I couldn't care less. Every single level gives you a new kind of mind to explore, and the wackiness of the characters that inhabit the various worlds makes the game a geniune enjoyment to explore. The comedy is actually funny, which is pretty amazing in a game, and the story follows this trend and whilst it can be a bit vauge at times, it was certainly interesting enough for me to see it through to the end.
For the most part, I was set to name this as one of the most flawless games i've had the pleasure of playing, and then the last level happened, and all the things I hate about platforming hit me like a brick to the skull.
It starts of with an enraging "escort" quest, where you have to protect some whiney kid who insists on flying into increasing danger in persuit of his bunny fetish, and ends with a disappointingly easy boss battle, and a middle section that demonstrates every single dodgy thing with the games control system, but I obviously like the game, as I persevered through this layer of dirt and emerged victorious into the end cinematic, which was awesome, though I suspect it has given me false hope for a sequal.
Despite the last level, Id still heartily recommend this game to pretty much everyone; its superbly designed, expertly enacted and undoutably the most original game I have ever played. BUY IT.
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on 19 December 2008
I was recommended this game for a friend quite a few months back, he knows I loved games such as Monkey Island with truly interesting ideas for witty jokes integrated into an adventure game. Psychonauts was for me, a breath of fresh air after numerous recycled ideas for platform games being reinterpreted. Sure, Psychonauts is no Crash Bandicoot or Mario when comparing it for it's platforming quality. The control system can even be quite frustrating at times. However this is forgiven instantly when you grow into a giant and terrorise a giant city of talking fish (even in context that doesn't make a huge amount of sense!)

That's the underlying factor of games isn't it? FUN? You know that word that games used to be associated with before RPG's like World of Warcraft came along and it feels like a second job (which you have to pay for.) Yes, Psychonauts is a charming, witty and immersive video game which yours truly was addicted to for many hours in his spare time. The variety of psychic skills is a boost, allowing you to be creative (as well as burning things for fun, lifting annoying people, terrorising fish etc.) If you like fun games and aren't hugely bothered with a couple of design flaws then this is for you.

Hurry and buy it now....trust me!
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on 18 January 2011
This game is very, very special for one reason: art-style

It probably has the most imaginative, meaningful and varied artwork and level design in videogame history, and that is in consideration of other games noted for their stylistic approach such as Rez, Okami, Limbo etc. Although it IS just a platformer at heart, what really marks it out are the designs of levels such as fishopolis, milkman conspiracy, sasha's immaculate mind, black velvetopia - to name but a few. Each creatively and uniquely presented to distinguish a specific aspect of the in-game characters' psyches, and which will live long in your own.

While Schafer's other seminal contributions, Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle, are also right up there in the all-time list of games with the 'most original art-style', the sheer quality and variety of styles presented in Psychonauts is mind-blowing (pun intended) and is the greatest testament to Schafer's genius.

If you are of above average intelligence, appreciative of art, and open to something refreshingly different, this game is truly unmissable.
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