Thursday, September 22, 2011

Video Game Assessment: Psychonauts (2005)

Psychonauts is a very good game in almost every way and a very clever game regardless of its other characteristics. It is underplayed and underrated in a way that is criminal. Even though every single reviewer I've ever read seems to think it is one of the better games they've ever played (and a lot of gamers besides that feel the same way), it is a game that most know only in passing or by name. Calling it a great game is something that can only come while playing it, and you know something? It is a great game.
Sure it has flaws, but so does every other game. No game is absolutely perfect. Sometimes it's one thing that can scar a game up, like the camera like Kingdom Hearts or the gameplay like Deadly Premonition. Well, the thing that hurts Psychonauts more than anything else is its platforming. It's bad in some places. Historically bad. Nearly unplayable bad. I know there are many people out there who've probably played the game a million times over and know every trick, but for me it was a test of patience not to throw my controller through the television at points in the game, especially at the end, which is a notoriously difficult section.
Another complaint is that the story moves along at a weird pace as well. It almost rushes a story out without thinking about its own pacing, creating a game that thrusts the character and the player into it before even really get a chance to get used to controls or even simply the universe. It's not bad exactly, just strange, feeling like the story is smacking one in the face rather than gently moving along.
The voice acting can go from amazing to less than stellar at points, with certain characters sounding more annoying than interesting, but that is a small jab, and not something that really detracts from the game.
Each level in the game is a unique world of a different person's mind, and traveling through the worlds feels kind of neat and a bit like a symbolic soup. You get to see what makes people tick and what really is the interior of what different people from different places think about. Special mentions go out to a level that is a cube with gravity that acts like a planet's own gravity, a city of lungfish in which the player character is likened to Godzilla, and being a player's piece in a game reminiscent of Risk or similar strategy board game. There are other levels as well, Meat Circus comes to mind as well as The Milkman Conspiracy which is arguably the best level in any game, and every single last one is unique and different, with gameplay and style changes throughout.
What I'm saying is that the levels are incredibly solid, and I could go on about them and praise them up and down again and again. For this game type, a platformer, the level variety is outstanding and wonderful. The collectibles are fun and interesting. The enemies are well done and psychological.
And using that word, "psychological", well, that's the perfect word to describe this game. It is a fully psychological game, one that takes each and every character and really focuses on what it means to be that character. There are so many amazing and well-written characters in this game and they all have a reason for being the kind of character that they are.
So, both characters and visual levels are fantastic in this game. There are some things wrong with it, like I said, the platforming elements leave much to be desired and, I think, the gameplay itself which is fairly generic and hard to control. That being said it does have its appeal, but, to me, that appeal is the psychological nature of the game, the well-written qualities of it, and the fantastic level design and wonderful and unique visuals.
I am not going to be as hard-lined about this game, unlike many reviewers who will be upset if you never play it, but it is a solid game that can be frustrating and any and every fan of video games should at least attempt to play it at some point.
It is a beloved game to the video game community for a reason. So, check it out if you get the chance.

No comments:

Post a Comment