Psychonauts 2 Review

Matt Lorrigan

Have you ever thought about what the inside of your brain looks like? Not the actual squishy, pink-grey bit that sits inside your skull, but rather, the inner depths of your subconscious? In the world of Psychonauts, spelunking into the recesses of a person’s mind reveals a colourful, chaotic landscape, often combining that person’s obsessions, passions, fears, and traumas in strange, twisted ways. I dare to think how mine would look - some kind of terrifying dreamscape of video game controllers and a university exam I’ve not revised for, perhaps - but nothing I could think up would even come close to matching the incredible designs of Psychonauts 2’s cerebral levels.

It took a while, but Raz is back!

Psychonauts 2 picks up where the original Psychonauts, and its VR-only sequel, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, left off. But don’t worry if you haven’t played the previous games - Psychonauts 2 offers up a quick and entertaining refresher on the story so far, right at the start, and before long, you’re in the thick of it with main character Raz as he joins the Psychonauts - a group of secret government spies with psychic powers. However, when he turns up on his first day, he discovers that he’s part of the intern program instead, and has to work his way up the ranks of the agency.

Along the way, Raz will have to get knee-deep within different characters’ grey matter, for a little positive mental adjustment to help them on their way. Psychonauts 2, like the first game, is a 3D platformer, and you’ll need to jump between the fractured parts of the mind you’ve leaped inside, whether that’s platforms shaped like crumbling teeth in the cranium of a crazed dentist, or snapping venus fly traps in a gardener’s dome. Raz is kitted out with a bunch of abilities, old and new, to help along the way, such as the grappling hook-like ability Mental Connection, or a Time Bubble to slow spinning obstacles and fast-moving platforms, which unlock as you progress, opening up your traversal options.

In a 3D platformer, movement is everything, and luckily Raz feels great to control. Speeding through levels using Levitation is fast and frantic, and a double jump combined with a short hover means that you’ll very rarely miss your landing. Each level is packed with collectibles too, which are a joy to hoover up as you go. The vast majority you’ll find are colourful, crayon-like ‘Figments’, dotted around to help guide you in the right direction, fiendishly hidden or tucked away in hard-to-reach areas. ‘Emotional Baggage’, meanwhile, requires you to locate a corresponding luggage tag in order to collect them, giving you a reason to backtrack once you’ve found them.

In fact, most of the levels contain collectibles that can’t be picked up until you’ve gained a new ability later in the game. This offers a nice bit of replay value, but in practice, combing through a level a second or third time for a hidden collectible can be a bit frustrating. Levels aren’t just about platforming either, with combat encounters peppered throughout. These fights can be fun at first, but they all too quickly devolve into tedium. Combat isn’t nearly as tightly-tuned as the platforming is, and enemies can be real damage sponges, making these sections stretch out even when you’ve picked up a load of upgrades. The fights aren’t actually difficult - you’ll rarely die during them, thanks to a generous supply of health pickups - but they can really drag on. Psychonauts 2 does offer a Narrative Combat setting, however, which makes these fights a breeze, and if you’re more interested in the platforming than the combat, then it's a good option to consider.

Narrative is an important part of Psychonauts 2, as well, and this is a true story-driven platformer, which is still a rare sight in the modern age. The plot of Psychonauts 2 has a lot of brains, appropriately - the script is equal parts sharp and silly - but it also has an awful lot of heart. Psychonauts 2 offers a considered look at mental health, and while its takes on subjects like gambling addiction, anxiety, and isolation could have been played entirely for laughs, there’s a thoughtful and empathetic centre to it all. Of all the power-boosting collectibles and currency, the most exciting things to find within a person’s brain are their Memory Vaults, which offer a glimpse at some of the darkest parts of their past, and work to humanise each and every character. Psychonauts 2 knows that we’re all a little bit broken, and in offering up this sort of context, developer Double Fine acknowledges that there’s a reason people are the way they are. It’s a nuance that’s rare to see in a comedy game, and it’s very welcome here.

Boss encounters can be a mite annoying.

If the fine details are found in the hidden corners of Psychonauts 2’s levels, then the brilliant visual design is where the broad strokes are. There’s a dark, cartoonish energy to the way that rooms and environments skew and stretch, like the art of Tim Burton combined with the ‘Cartoon Cartoons’ period of Cartoon Network, and it helps to paint the minds you visit as strange dreamscapes. Even in the ‘real world’ of the game, the art direction shines, with a slightly more naturalistic look offering a nice contrast.

In fact, most of the presentation feels really high quality. The music is great, the voice acting is top notch, and the game sings on next-gen consoles. Unlike a lot of the indie games that have filled the 3D platforming void in recent years, Psychonauts 2 is a pretty hefty beast as well, clocking in at around 15-20 hours, depending on how strong your completionist streak is. 

Outside of a few exceptions, games like Psychonauts 2 are rare these days, and the fact that a story-driven, high-quality, 3D platformer has been released in the year 2021 feels like a minor miracle. For anyone who has been hungry for a new entry in the genre, or is simply after something new and original to play, Psychonauts 2 is an easy recommendation.

Psychonauts 2

We may have been waiting a decade and a half for a sequel, but Double Fine’s efforts haven’t been in vain - Psychonauts 2 is an energetic, imaginative, and excellent 3D platformer, with brains and heart to spare.

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Great voice acting, good music, excellent sound effects for the myriad weird happenings inside people’s brains - there’s nothing to complain about here, although the tracks aren’t particularly memorable.


Psychonauts 2 looks brilliant, with gorgeous art that changes and shifts depending on whose mind you enter. Character design is great, too.


The platforming in Psychonauts 2 is tight and smartly designed, with a ton of great unlockable abilities to put to use. Combat isn’t quite as fun, with spongy enemies and a couple of underwhelming boss fights.


Psychonauts 2 features a ton of collectibles that are never a chore to find, as well as a really good selection of levels and side quests to complete. And the post-game lets you go back to mop everything up.


Psychonauts 2 has a really enjoyable trophy list that should be fairly easy (and fun!) to complete, but there are a few missables, which feel out of place in a game with a post-game level select.

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