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Why Psychonauts is one of the greatest games ever made

Psychonauts is the Inception of video games. Like Christopher Nolan’s cinematic masterwork, this is a platformer that posits what it would be like to actually explore someone’s mind. Turns out, our innermost anxieties, deep-seated fears, and repressed memories make for some unforgettable level designs. Complement these imaginative mindscapes with quirky characters, unique-but-familiar gameplay, and genuinely funny writing, and you’ve got a mind-bendingly great platformer that’s easily one of the best games of all time.

Our young hero, Razputin--Raz, to his friends--flees a life in the circus to pursue true adventure: attending a quaint summer camp. Even before you embark on any mind-delving journeys, you’ll adore the simple act of trekking through the woodland camp grounds. Chatting with your equally weird peers, who resemble demented Muppets, is a hoot; each conversation promises witty, goofy dialogue, pertaining to things like the undesired ability to make squirrels’ heads explode with a single thought. Ford Culler, the easygoing geezer who runs the camp, is happy to chat with you any time--just wave the piece of bacon in your inventory, and his wrinkly head will inexplicably pop out of your ear to offer assistance. Yes, it's incredibly bizarre. Get used to it, because there are far loonier scenarios ahead.

Your affable camp counselors (who double as ‘60s-era psychic secret agents) show you the extrasensory ropes, in the form of innovative gameplay mechanics. Instead of turning all your mental gifts into a means of defeating enemies (like so many contemporary games that involve mind control), Raz uses his supernatural powers to sharpen his inherent acrobatic prowess. The result is character controls that give you the mobility and handling of a star platformer like Mario while being far more fun to look at. One power, Clairvoyance, seems trivial, until you realize that it lets you see what you look like in the eyes of others. Others, in this case, means every single living being in the game. It adds an extra layer of hilarious detail to the game when you spontaneously discover that a happy dog views you as a walking fire hydrant, or that your crush sees you as her gallant Prince Charming.

The characters and abilities are incredibly unique, but they pale in comparison to the game’s cerebral exploration. By chucking a palm-sized door onto a person’s noggin, you’ll leap into the deepest recesses of their psyche. This is where Psychonauts opens your eyes to an entirely distinct kind of character development. In the hopes of sorting out whatever personality disorders are clouding your client’s mind, you’ll explore a series of vivid stages, each one unbelievably different from the last. A PTSD-fueled battlefield, a Napoleonic board game populated by sentient pieces, and a dilapidated theater run by a bipolar actress are just a few of the imaginary vistas you'll fight through. At some point during your trips across strange surroundings and satisfying platforming segments, it hits you: Everything in the mental realm says something about your subject’s subconscious.

25 comments

  • bengalaxy - January 10, 2013 4:32 p.m.

    Totally agree. I played this game when it first came out and it's still some of the most sheer FUN I've ever had in my 30 years of computer gaming!
  • NOGIRLSIWANNAJETPACK - January 10, 2013 1:11 p.m.

    Correct answer? Because it is!
  • dcobs123 - January 9, 2013 5:42 p.m.

    The writing in this game was fantastic. The Milkman had nearly an infinite amount of lines and I just couldn't stop laughing.
  • Silverstone - January 9, 2013 5:41 p.m.

    Is it creepy that I read this article title and immediately thought "Lucas Sullivan"? I guess I need to play this game now.. Actually looks pretty amazing.
  • GR_LucasSullivan - January 10, 2013 11:44 a.m.

    Lolol I must admit I gush about this game whenever given the opportunity. But yeah--def go play it ASAP
  • zevolta - January 9, 2013 2:20 p.m.

    Ahhh yes...Psychonauts...Such a great and under appreciated game.
  • BladedFalcon - January 9, 2013 1:32 p.m.

    This is one of those games I unfortunately wasn't able to get when it came out. I really do wish you play it though... As far as I understand it, there isn't a PSN version though, bummer.
  • BladedFalcon - January 9, 2013 1:34 p.m.

    And yes, i saw the link and the end. And no, I don't have the means nor the will to play it on PC, so I won't. Don't ever bother mentioning it.
  • GR_LucasSullivan - January 9, 2013 1:53 p.m.

    That link is actually three links :) You can actually download it off PSN as a PS2 Classic--which I advise you do immediately!
  • BladedFalcon - January 9, 2013 2 p.m.

    wait- it IS available on PSN? o.O weird, I checked the PSN this monday, and I didn't see it >>; Okay, I will give it a double look again, thanks!
  • StrayGator - January 9, 2013 1:53 p.m.

    There is a PSN version, and there's nothing wrong with the windows version.
  • BladedFalcon - January 9, 2013 2:04 p.m.

    I know there isn't, I just don't like playing games on the PC. And yes, it seems i had missed the PSN version >>; no worries, that will be corrected ASAP!
  • keltar93 - January 9, 2013 1:25 p.m.

    The reason I love this game (apart from the solid platforming and hilarious sense of humor) is that it spits in the face of cliché platforming level design, delivering imaginative level after imaginative level. Also "I am a grieving widow"
  • louis-hideme - January 9, 2013 1:20 p.m.

    mkm
  • garnsr - January 9, 2013 1:19 p.m.

    Psychonauts is better than Inception. Inception seemed like it should have been a game, especially the end, but Psychonauts is a great game.
  • StrayGator - January 9, 2013 1:16 p.m.

    This game sucks and you all suck.

Showing 1-20 of 25 comments

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