13 - Psychonauts

13 – Psychonauts

One of the biggest reasons I started the blog is I was fairly comfortable that I would not burn out because of the wide variety of games in the backlog. Psychonauts brings that into clear view and is a fantastic break after the marathon that is Planescape: Torment. After looking at How Long to Beat, it seems like the game will take around 10 to 15 hours to finish which sounds good to me. I am a big fan of games with a strong sense of humor and can’t wait to dig into this one as the last was a bit of a downer to say the least.

What is Psychonauts?

Psychonauts is a platformer/adventure game developed by Tim Schafer and his company Double Fine Productions, which makes this is a really topical entry to come up considering their recent (and very successful) Kickstarter campaign. It is about a group of promising young psychics in a secret US training facility disguised as a summer camp. You take the role of Razputin “Raz” Aquato who has fled his family’s life in the circus to become a psychonaut and follow his dreams. This is about all I know about the game because I have never played it and haven’t read anything about it. I have only only started it up to test screenshots and only heard everybody say it’s great.

The game was released in 2005 for Windows, PS2, and Xbox. It was later released in 2011 for all of you Mac users out there when I guess they finally figured out that double booting and partitioning wasn’t as fun of a game. I had seen the box on the shelf in stores, but it blended in for me with other similar games of the time including Ratchet and Clank and Crash Bandicoot. Also, like most college students, I was short on spendable cash and wouldn’t go for something unless I KNEW it was a slam dunk. I bought this one on a Steam sale 3(?) years ago and didn’t even install it showing pretty good judgment and self-control on my part.

Why so excited about this game?

The designer and lead writer for the game, Tim Schafer, is a legend in the PC gaming world of adventures games. Classics such as Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and (a personal favorite) Grim Fandango have all come from his beautiful hairy brain. I played Maniac Mansion for NES when I was younger and didn’t really get it, but Grim Fandango really pleased me to no end when I played it in high school. Schafer’s mastery of pacing, humor, and pastiche really are amazing. Another huge part of his games (and others from Lucasarts) is that you could not die which really made me upset in lots of other adventure games (i.e. Sierra adventures). I do not think this will hold true in Psychonauts, though.

[Game writing all-star.]

His writing has a very deliberate silliness about it that is controlled and not just there for the sake of having a joke. Lots of the dialogue and events that happen occur organically from the subject matter which is pretty interesting for me as a comedy nerd. Puns and quips do occur, but the controlled aspect of the writing fits with the narrative of the story making it much easier to swallow than, let’s say, a band of skeletons doing high kicks in the underworld for a cheap laugh. It is easy to accept and indicates a completely thought out and real world.

I should not go without mentioning that the game was co-written by Erik Wolpaw who also wrote lines for the original Portal. I’m not sure what he is doing now, but his Wikipedia mentioned he was on extended leave from Valve after being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. I wish him well if he has not yet recovered.

Here we go…
I hope I can make the first post relatively soon since I’ve been super super busy these past few weeks. Hang in there let me know if you have any suggestions about playing the game. See you soon in the world of Psychonauts!

--Backlog Killer