There’s nothing quite like a Tim Schafer game. Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, Brutal Legend, Costume Quest, and more are both strange and delightful. Be it charming characters or worlds bursting with creativity, each is rife with a certain personality that one doesn’t typically encounter in video games today. After my brief time with Psychonauts 2 at this year’s E3, I came away with the impression that Mr. Schafer and his team at Double Fine haven’t lost their touch yet.
The demo began after I was escorted into a colorful room filled with messy scribbles and illegible fliers. Picking up right where Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin left off, protagonist Razputin “Raz” Aquato and the rest of his team devise a plan to trick Dr. Lobato so that they may learn who his boss is. In order to win an all-inclusive tropical vacation, Lobato is instructed to obtain the signature of his immediate supervisor.
As Raz follows the dentist through hallways, the villain catches on to the scheme and begins altering the layout of the level. Suddenly, gravity changes and the hero is forced to scale a wall 2D-style via office cubicles. The world turns upside down until Raz is finally forced into a different section of Lobato’s mind.
Here we’re introduced to the different types of enemies that will appear in the game. Censors chase Raz around the screen with red stamps, doubts throw themselves onto the hero to slow him down, and a flying enemy attempts to drop a massive weight on him. While it may be hard to deal with all these distinct foes at once, players can use telekinesis to steal the flying goon’s weight, then launch it toward censors or doubts at a moment’s notice. Pyrokinesis can also be used to temporarily halt some enemies in their tracks, though the most effective means of defeating foes looks to be through traditional melee combat.
After being introduced to the lethal psychic abilities in Raz’s arsenal, the newest Psychonaut is tasked with using his thoughts to safely roll his way down a hodgepodge of teeth and gums while collecting as many bright figments as possible. After stopping to admire the sights of a moonlit area, Rasputin ascends a metal staircase and comes face-to-face with a shadowy figure that threatens to end Lobato’s life should he ever disclose her identity.
Though the demo ended there, I had seen enough to convince myself that Tim Schafer is offering something imaginative, interesting, and fun through Psychonauts 2. While it’s hard to overlook the tutorials hidden throughout this first level, none felt insulting. The seamless amalgamation of psychokinetic combat and platforming elements is something I hope to see exist throughout the game. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Tim Schafer creation if more weird levels weren’t in store.
For now, it seems as though Psychonauts 2 will provide fans with a solid foundation to Raz’s next mind-bending journey. The sequel may turn out to worthy of the cult classic status its predecessor enjoys today.