Tim Schafer is one of the most well-known names in gaming today. After getting his start with LucasArts in the early ’90s, Schafer eventually started his own development studio, Double Fine Productions.
Today he is perhaps best known for two things: his creative and hilarious style, and for making the best games no one played.
While Schafer imbues all his projects with a particular brand of quirky originality, gamers seem to be slow on the uptake when it comes to his games. He’s had a history of developing games that at the time of their release, don’t see the sales that they deserve.
“Psychonauts” is no exception. Released back in 2005, it received rave reviews, but was a commercial failure.
“Psychonauts” revolves around a young psychic name Raz, who runs away from the circus he grew up with in order to attend summer camp. This is no ordinary summer camp, but instead a training ground for future Psychonauts, government agents who fight in “the mental field.”
The game is played in two settings: the real world and the mental one. Raz enters the minds of various characters to progress the story throughout the game.
From the very start, the game feels like a breath of fresh air. “Psychonauts” contains an originality and charm that has become exceedingly rare in games today. Every character, even those who have next to no screen time, is fleshed out and endearing.
Most of all, though, the game is funny. Much of the dialogue is quick, clever and hilarious. Between Schafer’s writing and the excellent voice acting, the player will find themselves instantly invested in the story and characters.
The drawback to this is that most of the characters don’t seem to get much time to interact with Raz. Early in the game, the rest of the campers become incapacitated, leaving the camp desolate and lonely when the player explores it.
Thankfully this is not the case for the various minds the player explores. The different brains that Raz jumps into are all extremely unique and original. Each has a different style, feels very much alive and are just plain fun to play through. These different levels are the heart of “Psychonauts” and feature jaw-dropping charm.
Gameplay is intuitive and enjoyable, with the majority of it being platforming puzzles. Raz also has a variety of psychic abilities like telekinesis and pyrokinesis at the player’s disposal. This is the platforming adventure genre at its best, making the different levels very fun.
Of course, the game is not perfect. “Psychonauts” has some serious camera issues at times, such as the camera swinging behind walls leaving the player blind for a moment.
There’s also a heavy amount of collecting done in the game, some of it forced upon the player. These collection aspects can result in some tedium and break immersion in the game. Nothing is worse than having to leave an area in order to collect arrowheads (the game’s currency) to purchase something so that progression can continue.
In addition to that, toward the end of the game, the difficulty spikes straight up, making the final level a frustrating experience. The game has an even tilled difficulty up until that moment, and the sudden shift can feel quite unfair.
However, these are minor complaints when the overall experience is so rewarding. “Psychonauts” is an absolute gem of a game and should not be missed. It’s filled to burst with humor, charm and irresistible originality. Who knows when such a game will come along again.
Well, if all goes according to plan, maybe in “Psychonauts 2.” Tim Schafer has been all over gaming sites recently due to two big bits of news. The first being that a sequel to “Psychonauts” might become a reality with some surprise funding from the creator of “Minecraft,” Markus “Notch” Persson. After some Twitter happenings, the two are in talks of a possible sequel, but no definitive plans have been made yet.
Schafer made headlines in the gaming community yet again when he launched a Kickstarter campaign for an upcoming adventure game he plans on developing. While initially asking for $400,000, the project saw enormous success as it now has nearly $3 million; much more than Schafer ever dreamed of getting.
With gamers watching and donating, what will Schafer do next? Whatever it is, it will be full of his signature wit and ingenuity.
Game fans everywhere should absolutely not miss out on “Psychonauts.” While the game is hard is find in physical copies, it is readily available through Steam, a downloadable software distributor. Plus, at the Steam price of $10, it’s a steal. Furthermore, in 2011, Double Fine became the sole publishers of “Psychonauts,” meaning that finally all sales of the game will go to the creators.
So get your goggles and prepare your brain. It’s time to become a Psychonaut.Contact Amanda Lafond.