Sunday, October 17, 2010

Memorable Games: Psychonauts

Psychonauts is a action platformer that was originally planned for release exclusively on the Xbox but was later ported to the Playstation 2, Windows, and made compatible with the Xbox 360. It was designed by Tim Schafer and worked on by several other people from Grim Fandango team. In additional to being one of my personal favourite games of all time and easily the best game on the original Xbox, it is also widely critically acclaimed with Tim Schafer going as far as to call it “the greatest game of all time ever”, a sentiment shared by others.

Surprisingly for an action platformer, Psychonauts has a great storytelling that plays a prominent part in the game and includes great humour similar to the Monkey Island series and interesting dialogue on par with Grim Fandango. In addition to the normal platforming and action, Psychonauts also features a collectible based levelling system and the ability to buy useful items paid for by other collectibles. The levels and items for the most part give you new abilities and improve your existing abilities; These abilities include among others: telekinesis, levitation, invisibility, pyrokinesis, Psi Shield, and Psi Blast.

Rax saving/terrorizing a city in
parody of giant monster films.
In the game the player controls Razputin “Raz” Aquato at Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp; Where he has gone to try and become a Psychonaut. In the game Raz explores the physical camp, learning from the camp counsellors, finding collectibles, and getting missions; But most of the game is played inside of NPC's minds. While he advances through the story he encounters many interesting characters that are either blocking his path or are needed it do something for Raz to progress and in general have some kind of emotional problem that Raz has to help them with. To help them Raz enters their minds, which are portrayed as a kind of fantastic and improbable world built on the eccentricities and personalty of the owner. The challenge in these fantastic imaginary worlds and the physical world are a combination of moderately challenging platforming, unique boss fights, and a few naturalistic puzzles.

During the development of Psychonauts many major changes to the original idea have occurred. Originally Tim Schafer had an idea for a drug induced psychedelic experience occurring in Full Throttle, which was rejected for not being family friendly enough. Latter, while developing this idea into a game, Raz was going to be a crazy and unbalanced ostrich suffering from multiple personalities; This was later changed, because they wanted a character that the player could relate to and wish to be like.

In summery this is a great game, that should easily make it into everyone’s “Best Games of All Time” list. What really puts it over the top is its amazingly humorous dialogue and great story. And while the game could benefit from having a difficulty setting as it is moderately easy for experienced players, it does not make it any less enjoyable.

Double Fine Productions
THQ, Majesco Entertainment
Release Date:
April 19, 2005
System Requirements:
  • OS: Windows 98 SE or Newer
  • CPU: 1 GHz
  • RAM: 256 MB
  • Video Card: 64 MB
  • DirectX: 9.0
  • Hard Drive: 3.75 GB
Current Price:
$9.99 USD (Steam)
Official Game Web Site:


  1. Ah, lovely review. Quite love Psychonauts myself and for the same reasons too. Excellent characters, great humour, rampant surrealism. If only Raz controlled a tiny bit better...

  2. I do not remember any control problems when I played through it on the Xbox, but I have not tried any of the other versions (and particularly the playstation 2 version was made/ported by a different developer).

  3. As for me -as is customary- I only played through the PC versions. The controls were mostly, well, meh.