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KickStarter Psychonauts 2

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by hemtae, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. Ivan Arcane

    Ivan
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    quality post, thanks for the good info. I myself had the itch to replay the first after finishing the sequel
     
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  2. Visperas Savant

    Visperas
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    Yup! Thanks Mr. Slaughter!
     
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  3. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    RPG Wokedex Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker


    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    "...And this is a safe mindspace."

    [​IMG]

    For those who are clueless, Daði Freyr was Iceland's entry into the (cancelled) 2020 and 2021 Eurovision Song Contests. His 2020-song was OK, but the 2021 was pants.

    And this sounds like Weebl & Bob's (remember them?) take on Psychonauts.
     
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  5. Ivan Arcane

    Ivan
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    Waiting on the OST to drop...
     
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  6. Aeschylus Prestigious Gentleman Swindler Patron

    Aeschylus
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    Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Wasteland 2 Divinity: Original Sin 2
    Well, finally finished this -- it's good stuff, though worse than the original in every way (though that's an almost impossibly high bar to cross) except for platforming controls and the soundtrack. There's definitely some excellent level and art design there, which most devs could take a serious lesson from. If nothing else it's the first game in ages that I've happily paid full price for and felt no regret, so that's certainly something. Anyway, time to go back and re-play the original.
     
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  7. Infinitum Scholar

    Infinitum
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    Well, that was glorious. Agree that it doesn't quite reach the first one in level designs or side charcter interactions, but it also doesn't dip to the lows of the first game either (looking atcha, Sasha's Shooting Gallery). At level 86ish right now, dunno if I'll put more effort into revisiting levels unless there's some sort of spoiler tag I missed, still feel I've gotten my moneys worth though. Double Fine's still got it.
     
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  8. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
  9. Verylittlefishes Sacro Bosco Patron

    Verylittlefishes
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    finished
    wanted to rate it 6/10, because after Jack Black level the game gets significantly more boring, but I will add extra one for the "Grulovia! Grulovia!" sequence in the end which was madly funny and very original. so 7/10.
     
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  10. deama Liturgist

    deama
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    Ok so I'm enjoying the game a lot more now that I've modded it a bit. There's a cheat engine table that allows you to modify raz's speed and how many double jumps he can do, so I just based it off of your rank, e.g. at rank 20 you can do 3 double jumps, and you're 30% faster, not just movement speed but combat and general animations.
     
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  11. Verylittlefishes Sacro Bosco Patron

    Verylittlefishes
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    Dude, this game is extremely easy.
     
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  12. deama Liturgist

    deama
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    That's not why, I'm doing it cause I don't like how raz is such a weakling compared to everyone else but seems to be the most capable out of anyone, especially considering the events of the previous game.
     
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  13. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    [​IMG] Psychonauts 2 is a good game, almost a successor to the original, a strong contender for GOTY 2021... and yet it's soulless.

    Yes. 16 years in the making = Soulless. Usually an exorbitant amount of drugs + rehab is needed to accomplish something like that, but Tim seems to have pulled it off regardless. Because if there's one thing I blame here, it's Tim for the writing.

    WARNING: From this point on there be spoilers!
    Note: This review is based off the 1.0-release, and some aspects may have changed with subsequent patches.


    Part 1 - Picking up from where we left off. (open)


    The pillars of strength of Psychonauts 1 were its writing, consistency, cleverness and tons and tons of little details that the game didn't draw attention to, and left up to the player to deduce if actually found. It didn't hurt that the graphics and soundtrack were great as well. Storywise it tells a good and solid tale, with only had a handful of loose plot threads, besides the cliffhanger the game ended on. They were:

    # Did Dr. Loboto survive the explosion of the mental asylum?
    # What happened in Ford Cruller's past to leave him in such a shattered state?
    # Who were the Psychic 6, as shown on the logs by the campfire?
    # Who was the Mysterious Stranger who gave Raz the pamphlet to Whispering Rock, and why did they give it to him?

    Rhombus of Ruin took on the first one, while Psychonauts 2 tackles the rest. The problem is, P2 tackles them too hard, they become the whole story, everything else takes a back seat. Worse than that, the last dangling thread is virtually ignored, and when it's finally resolved, it's done in such a horrid manner that I'm wondering whether it was the intern who did it, because Tim just forgot about it. I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I'm kinda forced to, to point out how P2's pillars of strength are not the same as for P1.



    Part 2 - Comparing P2 to P1. (open)
    P2 is running on the Unreal-engine, which both allows for some really cool graphical effects and level-design layouts, but yet for some reason it seems to restrain the gameplay. One of those restraints is the hyper-active autosave slot. Every level has dozens of autosave-points. Every map change and almost every new platform reached triggers an autosave. This is best shown during a above-average difficult platforming section in the final mental world, where suddenly the auto-save points get quite scarce with the sole intent of making the section more challenging. Think of the Circus Tent-part of the Meat Circus (the part where Raz is racing against the water) to get an idea of what I mean.

    Worse than that, even though the game offers three save slots, it doesn't offer any save game slots within those three saves - the player can't save on his own. The game even warns you when you quit the game how long it has been since the last autosave, sometime forcing the player to find a way to make the game trigger an autosave.

    This means that P2 has the strange game design decision that the only way through the game is forward. Going back is only allowed within tightly constrained conditions (re-visiting mental worlds) and with certain aspects of the game permanently off-limits (like how some level progression paths are now permanently gone). Want to re-watch certain cutscenes from the game? You can't. The game won't let you. There's no menu anywhere which allows you to view any of the in-game cutscenes once you've seen them. This is quite a Fail on behalf of Double Fine, especially for a game that has such a heavy emphasis on the story and writing.

    Now compare that to the original, which not only offers several save slots, but each save slot has five 'regular' save slots, an auto-save slot and a bonus 'Point of no Return'-slot generated for the endgame. That means that a well-versed player can strategically save the game at key points during the game to have the entire game's content available to them, within a single save slot. On top of that, many in-game cutscenes are available for viewing from the journal.

    But the biggest clincher in what restrains P2-gameplay compared to P1, are the little green slug-guys that appear throughout the mental worlds. In P2 they only appear at key locations in the mental worlds once the world in question has been 'completed', and they do so because completed mental worlds have certain progression events disabled. I'm not 100% certain if the slugs only appear in completed mental worlds in P1 as well (Meat Circus excluded), but then again at least two of the mental worlds never need them. That shows that the levels of P1 are better designed and more open-ended than in P2 - P1 gives the player more freedom of movement than P2.

    Graphics and audio - It was hard to fault P1 for its visual and aural properties, especially the soundtrack and voice cast. Fortunately the same applies to P2. About the worst nitpick I can find is that Richard Horvitz sounds like he's straining sometimes to make his Razputin-voice. (It would be hilarious to listen to Horvitz try to tackle Raz entering puberty.) The great news is that P2 has surpassed its predecessor by taking in upgraded software, and retained its great aural properties by bringing back the same people responsible for them. Peter McConnell deserves top praise for his work in both games. The same cannot be said for the SFX-crew, however, as they lose their shine a bit towards the end by using samples from 30-year old audio libraries. We've heard these sounds before, dozens and dozens of times before. For a game that strived so hard to have its own unique sights and sounds, this feels a little cheap.

    UI in general - Overall the controls are much slicker and smoother in P2 than in P1, but one downside is that the PSI-powers in general are less versatile in P2 than in P1. Levitation took a huge nerf, and Pyrokinesis is now an area-effect attack than a targeted attack. In short, it's easier to perform complex maneuvers in P2, but the variety of maneuvers is lesser than in P1. This is not a case of cutting off the chaff, as three very interesting and useful PSI-powers were completely switched out, with no discernible reason other than it would shorten the development time of the game to do so.

    Speaking of cut-out things, gone is the general inventory of P1. While an inventory exists in P2, it's more of a listing of what Raz is currently lugging around in his backpack, rather than useful items he can use where he pleases. This means that silly activities like tickling everyone with a feather, or showing something neat to everyone, are gone. You can still use PSI-powers on people to see their reactions, but this cutting-down of stuff makes me think that the game was rushed, rather than nurtured. The addition of a fourth PSI-Power slot meant that I could 'perma-bind' Levitation, Clairvoyance and Mental Connection to three keys, and then switch out the fourth for whatever task at hand.

    P1's camera is not full freeview by any means, which is a huge problem in many cases. Fortunately options can be toggled to mitigate much of that, but it's both felt and hurtful when the camera is purposefully restrained. P2's camera is full freeview - except when the developers decide it isn't. A brilliant example of that is the stretching hallway right at the start of Loboto's Labyrinth; try looking to the side (or backwards!) during that section. This straight-jacketing of the camera happens numerous times throughout the game, and it's felt quite badly in almost every single instance. By far the worst instance is a turning slide corridor full of figments, where the forced camera angle is so bad that it's near impossible for the player to align themselves correctly to grab any of the figments, let alone all the figments in one go as intended.

    Double Fine have justified this action by saying that there are certain things in the game that they wish to point the player's attention to. Fair enough, but to do so at the cost of all other options is a jarring compromise. Compare this to the end-scene of Portal, where the player causes an implosion which kills the antagonist. Due to the free-form camera controls, Valve realized that players might miss out on the super-cool implosion effect the designers spent many hours working on, but instead of forcing the camera to have the player see the implosion, they simply set up a sign on the wall saying "In case of implosion-event, look at implosion" and placed it in the exact opposite direction of the implosion. It's a 'best-case scenario'-solution to a purported problem, instead of forcing the player's hand.

    Before moving on I want to bring up the in-game shop and Psitanium-currency. In P1 its presence felt organic, the camp store had a limited, but useful stock of items, of which some were restricted to Raz having reached a certain PSI-Cadet rank. Another hurdle was the high price of a few of the items, but the store was selling the dowsing rod so you could go play with that and bring in a small treasure hunting-minigame. It also created an artificial demand within the economy as Raz is then forced to go look for cash, but it's just this one instance. Overall it feels like a minor aspect that doesn't get too big for its britches.

    P2's economy is ALL about forcing Raz to scrounge for cash. A change from P1 is that now Raz has an upper limit on Psitanium - his PSI-wallet can only hold 100 of them, but a wallet upgrade just conveniently exists in the store (and within that price range) to raise it up 1000. And wouldn't you know it, there's another wallet-upgrade available which raises it up to 5000. And then the game does the same thing two more times with other items! Talk about a self-serving entity. The store also packs a much larger selection of purchases in the form of pins, which do various things if equipped. These pins can improve Raz's combat prowess, but I never saw a use for it. In fact, I never used the pins at all, except for the Magnet because of its part in enforcing the self-serving economy. As a result the in-game store feels artificial, tacked-on, bloated, fake and pointless. About the only good thing about it is that it can be found in several locations, meaning there's one always within walking distance if something happens to be needed.

    Enemies and combat - The enemy roster for P1 was Censors, Sniper Censors, Big Censors, Nightmares, and then some level-related baddies, none of which appeared outside of their respective locales. In P2 there are no Nightmares, but there are Bad Ideas, Doubts, Regrets, Judgments, Bad Moods and Panic Attacks. The larger of these enemies are introduced in specific worlds (and specific cutscenes) but then make appearances later on in the game. And while the P1-roster could almost uniquely be dealt with via spamming PSI-Blasts, more advanced combat techniques are required in P2.

    But an important aspect is that P1 did not force the player into combat situations - the option of avoidance was almost always present. If the player didn't want to fight, odds were very good that he could just move far enough away from the enemies to make them cease being a problem. This was underlined by the Shield and Invisibility-powers, as they made pacifism even more enticing. Even Confusion could help as it made enemies lose track of you.

    That's all gone in P2. You must fight. Virtually every violent encounter is mandated to end with your victory. The game won't progress until you have. This is quite a departure from the free-flow gameplay of P1, and one that I honestly can't explain the necessity of. The three new PSI-powers, Time Bubble, Mental Connection and Projection are not intended to be combat-specific, but at least they're useful there, except Time Bubble is mandated in fights against Panic Attacks.

    So what about other uses for the new powers? Again, Time Bubble is mandated in traversing some obstacles, and Projection is literally a Metroidvania-key to unlock some doors, but Mental Connection is the one PSI-power where it fails, IMO. It's set up in such a way that it can both have plot-critical consequences (changing people's minds) and as a means of transportation, as 'railways' of travel are made available. Except sometimes there is no other way to progress except via Mental Connection, which is this free-floating solution to traversing environments where possible, but the plot element of MC being capable of changing people's minds doesn't exist outside of Hollis's Hot Streak, where the PSI-power is introduced. It's a failed instance of Chekov's Gun; if you have it on display, it's intended to be fired later on, and not immediately shot from the hip as P2 does and then never used again.

    That's a huge missed opportunity story-wise; forcing Raz to use a dangerous power in the later mental worlds to change people's minds at a critical point in the story could have made the whole exercise relevant, instead it just comes off as lazy game design, or a half-assed attempt to squeeze the grappling hook from the Uncharted-series into the game. Sure, it's fun zooming around using Mental Connection, but it feels like a wasted effort to me.



    Part 3 - People and places. (open)
    The original game had Raz, 20 children, four staff members and ten further characters at the asylum, and that's before we consider any characters in the mental worlds. Eight of those characters are imported into the sequel, but in a shameful move most of them are immediately relegated to background roles to make way for the new cast. Three additional staff, six annoying interns, seven family members and six former members of the Psychic 6. 35 characters in P1, 30 in P2... and yet the smaller cast size is overall less interesting and less fleshed-out than the larger one.

    The recurring characters, after having been established so well in P1 (and Rhombus of Ruin) don't need extra time for build-ups and introductions, so they just act smoothly and naturally, with the possible exception of Lili, who seems distant and uninterested in Raz. She also seems to be developing an abusive persona with Daddy-issues, which doesn't exactly bode well for the future. A welcome additition to this roster is Dr. Loboto himself, who has some of the funniest lines of any character in P2. Stick around and watch Sansha try to question him, it's worth the wait.

    The six interns are clearly meant to replace the throng of children at Whispering Rock, but something got lost in translation here. Each of the kids at Whispering Rock had at least one clear and defining characteristic, be it positive or negative. Dogan Boole was the weird one who came off as retarded (but wasn't), J.T. was always playing cowboy, Chloe thought she was from outer space, etc. Then most of them also had a secondary characteristic, which is only hinted at and left up to the player to discover on their own.

    This is not the case with the interns. Adam Gette is tall, speaks with a foreign accent, waves a yo-yo around, and claims to be chronicling the history of the Psychonauts. Morris Martinez seems to be bound to a wheelchair, but he could also just be lazy as the game never bothers to tell us which is which. He's also trying to run a pirate radio station. Sam Boole, like the other Booles, can talk to animals, but she's clueless beyond that, to the point that she's abusive and uncaring to animals, easily making her the most unlikeable character in the game. The other three don't even have last names (every kid at Whispering Rock had a last name), Gisu likes skating, while Lizzie and Norma are cruel, gossiping and mean sisters. That's it. There's nothing more to discover, it's laid out to us on a plate. Switching out 19 characters for six, and yet the six are this empty and loosely defined? And we're supposed to like these characters AND they're integral to the story? Sorry, that ain't working out.

    By contrast we have the Aquato-family. Raz's father Augustus (who went from purple hair to brown in the few days that passed between P1 and P2) is still portrayed as a father who's proud of his son, but now is forced to confront himself regarding his stance on psychics and his family. Raz's mother Donatella is one of my favorite characters of P2. She's clearly the head of the family, overbearing and headstrong, and yet passionate and caring. Dion is the oldest of the children, and is at the age when he realizes he must start taking on adult responsibilities, which partially explains why he's mad at Raz for just running away at a whim. Frazie is the second-eldest, clearly a psychic like Raz and Augustus, but having lived her entire life having to hide that away she's mad at Raz for flaunting his psychic powers. Mirtala is the least defined of the Aquatos, simply being Raz's younger sister and generally not knowing much about anything. Finally Queepie is the youngest, but he's surprisingly mature for a child his age... and also super strong (possibly due to psychic powers?). And Raz's interactions with them feel both natural and forced at the same time... but that's to expect when you're confronting your family after you left them.

    And then we get to the Psychic 6. We were introduced to them back in P1, but only as faint background characters with names and faces. In P2 we can gawk at a big-ass mural of them, and get a line or two of description of each from Raz, but considering their importance in the story of P2, they are woefully underdeveloped, especially since all but one of them also harbor mental worlds to visit. We all know Ford Cruller, we are properly introduced to Otto Menthallis early in the game, and later we get a minimal introduction to Compton Boole. Lucrecia Mux is naturally kept in reserve 'till the end for story reasons, but that leaves the remaining three in a precarious situation: They are important characters, yet have had zero screentime and negligible mentions in the game. Cassie O'Pia we can surmise is alive and hiding out in the woods, Helmut Fullbear is dead (until we learn otherwise), but we know nothing about Bob Zanotto, until we surprisingly come across him later on!

    Take a moment to recall the patients at the asylum in P1. None of them were hinted at anywhere before Raz crosses the lake, so we're left with a cold introduction to all of them. And yet, in very short conversations and observations with them, we can at least establish some general facts about them, and then learn more in their mental worlds. Now in P2 we have these towering, imposing background figures of yesteryear... and they get the exact same treatment! Only worse, when it comes to the real-world introduction. They needed more. Adam Gette is an amateur historian on all things Psychonauts, it would have been brilliant to have him give more information on the Psychic 6. Otto Menthallis could also have told more about his old companions. Several birds could be killed with one stone here, but instead all I'm seeing are missed opportunities.

    Finally the Motherlobe is occupied by a myriad of tertiary characters, whose names we only learn if we turn on the game's subtitles. Their appearance doesn't help them either, they all look like muppets, to the point that one begins to question just how in the world the Motherlobe actually runs, with all these fish-people hanging around. What few interactions we have with them aren't entertaining either, one would expect a funny joke or two, but it all just feels dull somehow. If one persists with trying to keep track of them, then the reward is... two people falling in love because she enticed him with bacon. The singular exception to this is Terryl, for obvious reasons.

    In P1 the game world consisted of a summer camp, divided into five overland maps and three sub-maps. The campgrounds allowed for full freedom of movement (once past the first mental world). Outside of that there was the asylum, divided into one large platforming gauntlet and three sub-maps, but with the downside of being as linear as things can get. Fortunately a fast travel-system is available, but only for the campground-maps; to reach the asylum a 'ferry' of sorts had to be used to traverse between the two parts, and then a fast-travel option from the start and end of the asylum became available towards the end. Sadly the 'ferry' only served as a speedbump for the game. By comparison P2 has one map for the Motherlobe interior, another for the exterior, and then two maps for 'wilderness' areas, and all connected by a convenient fast-travel system. The lack of maps seems like a disappointment, until one realizes that even the smallest map is notably larger than even the largest map in P1 - each individual map is huge and packed with content... and yet one thing puzzled me about that, which were the 'single-use areas'. The biggest example is the path from the storage room to Sansha's Lab, it's used once during the start, and then never again. It's not even visible from outside once you reach the Quarry. Most rooms in the Motherlobe follow this same behavior, with the possible exceptions of Sansha's Lab and the mail room. Very unconventional for a Metroidvania platformer, and even more so for a modern game.

    I spent some time scrutinizing the level architecture. The camp lodge is equally large on the interior as on the exterior in P1, and the Motherlobe appears to do the same in P2, though I'm not 100% certain. There are six places one can look out the window in the Motherlobe, and four of the windows show the correct exterior angle. But two of them do not; the window outside the classroom, and the window in the classroom. Assuming the front door of the Motherlobe is facing East, the classroom window is clearly facing Northeast (towards the psycho-isolation chamber) but instead it's facing Southeast, towards Otto's lab. The window out in the hallway is facing West, and it appears to be looking Northwest towards the treehouse. The problem is, the window in the cafeteria is pointing North, and their positions should make these windows visible to one another. Also, the window in Zanotto's office looking North doesn't show anything beneath it, even though it should show the Intern Area. I'll be honest, I'm unsure whether these false visuals are just an unresolved bug, or whether the Motherlobe is meant to have an Overlook Hotel-vibe to its architecture.

    Although the uppermost floor seems reserved for staff quarters and other needed facilities, they're inaccessible in-game. Fair enough, but it makes me wonder how people get there - not everyone can levitate up there, can they? Also, how come there aren't any bathrooms in the Motherlobe? Even Green Needle Gulch has an outhouse, so this is an odd oversight. And where is Razputin's room? Shouldn't he be assigned one, as part of the intern-program? Or is it just assumed he's gonna live with his family out on the parking lot?

    Another noteworty deviation is that while a children's summer camp introduced psi-amped wildlife as some baddies to bash on later on, the maps of P2 have no real enemies to speak of - only environmental hazards. The closest thing to an enemy found anywhere are the exploding plants found at Green Needle Gulch, but they're stationary and proximity-triggered, making them naught more than glorified landmines. Every obstacle encountered outside of mental worlds are either environmental, Metroidvania-locks or puzzle-related. This gives the Motherlobe-maps a different feel from Psychonauts as we know it.



    Part 4 - The Woke factor. (open)
    It's inevitable in today's climate - everything's politicized, or falls victim to social justice to some degree. All things considered, P2 appears to be pretty free of it - but that's due to how subtly it's implemented.

    I noticed the following acts:

    1. A homosexual relationship is put into the game and story for absolutely no reason. Nothing justifies it.
    2. Anita Sarkeesian is billed as a "consultant" on this game.
    3. The interns are clearly forced diversity inclusions, and meant to appeal to the generation that hadn't hit puberty/left diapers when P1 came out.
    4. Heterosexual relationships are suppressed. Raz and Lili acted like lovestruck children back in P1, but in P2 it's like they're just friends (friends where one likes to beat on the other, that is). Sansha and Milla clearly have something going on, but that's shoved aside with them as the new squad is forced upon us. All other hetero-based relationships, no matter their depth, are likewise suppressed, with the singular exception of two nobodies hooking up over a pile of bacon.
    5. Hollis Forsythe, the strong independent black wombyn. Second-in-command at the Motherlobe, stern and strict as if she's totally in control. Still takes time to teach the interns, and gets completely undone by a curious kid. The forced interaction between the kid and Hollis is cringe-worthy, at best.
    6. The Battle of Grulovia. 6 Psychonauts vs 1 genocidal maniac. Psychonaut #1 tries to reason with her, Psychonauts #2 tries to appeal to her past self via a theatrical performance. Psychonaut #3 tries to restrain her with vines. Psychonaut #4 sics some animals on her. It's only when Psychonaut #5 steps up with a freeze-bomb that things get serious. Then the genocidal maniac strikes back and kills one of the Psychonauts. Then, and only then, does Psychonaut #6 step in and ends the fight with a knock-out blow. If the Psychonauts had fought like Men this would have ended with no loss of life in 10 seconds. But we can't have any of that toxic masculinity here, now can we?
    7. Any and all cynicism that may have been present was toned down, or removed, as it may offend someone, somewhere, sometime.
    8. Same goes for most of the humor as well. Remember Becky the stagehand in Gloria's Theater in P1, who upon seeing that the Phantom had struck again, flippantly remarks "Well, I'm off to go kill myself!" There is nothing even near that kind of humor/cynicism in P2.
    9. This is the only point that I'm not 100% certain on, but I have a very strong feeling the entire story was rewritten at one point to conform better to social justice-standards. Elevating women over men, writing scenes specifically to humiliate Raz, taking the edge off of literally everything, having women have all the good lines, etc. And as you can guess, none of it works. More on that in the final section.
     
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  14. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    Part 5 - The writing and story Part I: The encouraging rise... (open)
    The problem with making a game that ends on a cliffhanger, is that you're stuck with making the sequel start ins media res. This goes double for P2 as it's forced to play catch-up for two titles, as not everyone has a VR-set to play Rhombus of Ruin. This is the core element of Loboto's Labyrinth, the first mental world visited, where the Psychonauts try to use trickery to get Dr. Loboto to reveal who hired him to kidnap Truman Zanotto. Strangely enough the mad dentist sees through their ploy and takes over the psychic scenario, resulting in a calm, quiet office area transform into a toothed nightmare. As well as being an catcher-upper, this world also serves as an introduction, a showcase for the game engine, a tutorial for the controls/gameplay, and a plot driver, and does a fine job at all of these tasks, while also staying thematic to the character of Dr. Loboto. People looking to dive straight into P2 after P1 will probably be put off by this level, but otherwise there's nothing to specifically compliment or criticize here.

    This is where another point of 'restraining gameplay' emerges - the formulaic level design. We start with a cutscene, then a walk along a corridor with minor terrain obstacles, which eventually leads to a battle arena, where some baddies must be fought before the game continues (you know when you've won when you get a cutscene). Then we get another corridor with terrain obstacles, which leads to a cutscene, followed by an arena, and so on. Compared to P1's level design, this game is wearing a fully-strapped straightjacket when it comes to level design.

    A final, minor comparison to make; only one of the world's two mental vaults are accessible during the first playthrough, and predictably the second one is locked away until later due to plot/pacing reasons. Just like in P1.

    After the World's Most Bizarre Dentist Visit, we finally arrive at Psychonauts HQ, where Raz is immediately removed from all the cool things going on, shoved off to the mailroom and has to work his way up in rank and esteem ALL OVER AGAIN, by doing menial tasks for everyone and (gasp!) show up for classes. It sucks, but there were very few ways P2 could be a sequel and offer 'more-of-the-same'-gameplay at the same time.

    And it's in class where we're dumped into the second mental world, Hollis' Hot Streak. This world serves as our proper introduction to Hollis Forsythe, the (Acting) Head of the Psychonauts. And one who's woefully unprepared for the task, based on what a ten-year old boy can accomplish while poking around in her head. Compare this to P1 where Oleander, Sasha and Milla each 'faked' their mental worlds, for the kids' sake. Hollis should be better prepared than all of them combined, and yet gets mentally spun around faster than a merry-go-round. Thematically this world hits all the right chords (a hospital looking to cure changed into a casino looking to cash in) but it's the pacing that does away with it - it drags on for too long. IMO the main problems are the Pillinko-machine and 'back rooms' - these large empty, fragmented variations of the three main wards stretch this world past its breaking point, and the (forced) inclusion of the interns doesn't help. This world badly needed a scalpel, but it seems that the nurse had crapped out. Another point of criticism are the mental vaults - both of them focus solely on Hollis and her past, with only a tangible connection to the Psychonauts or current events. All the other mental worlds have a more prominent connection, making this one stand apart from the others, like a forced addition. You know, because Hollis is the Wokesperson of the game and identity politics reared their ugly head.

    After all that it's time for more ham-fisted action as Raz breaks into a casino in an attempt to uncover the mole, but this section only serves to brute-force the interns into the story, and what 'cool' powers they have. The end result falls flatter on its stomach than that whale does. Not my favorite part of the game, to be honest.

    The good news is that after this Raz is returned to the Motherlobe and shortly later allowed to go outside to explore... but simultaneously this is where the game loses its focus a bit. Due to the enormous size of the two new maps, and how much extra quests and dialogue is piled on (as both Ford Cruller and Raz's family show up) one can expect to spend hours of pure game time just faffing around the place. The layout, atmosphere, and characters at the Questionable Area are off, somehow. They're off in the way that during my stay there I didn't feel like I was playing a Psychonauts-game, but something else... like a graphical adventure, with strong 'Sam & Max Hit the Road'-vibes in particular. No real threats present, just lots of talking and lots of platforming to gather the collectables, complete the quests and solve the puzzles. And ride the funicular. Raz goes full Guybrush on that one.

    A notable exception from this is Otto's lab. Besides being just a small sidemap, it's also where you first get to talk to Otto Menthallis properly. The whole time I was there I felt like there was something more to the guy, but the game ends up never going there. Like his content had been cut from the game at the last second, or something. Another point of note were his hands. First, they're huge, which is uncommon for Psychonauts-characters. Secondly, they have five fingers. In P1 there were very few characters besides Raz who had five fingers (his Dad, for one), but in P2 almost everyone has them. The only ones who still have four fingers are the characters "imported" from the first game, like Sasha, Milla, Lili, Ford and Oleander. It's weird how consistent the art direction is in its inconsistency.

    In the back of Otto's lab is the Brainframe, a large collection of brains, meant to represent all the backers and donors of the game through the years. It's a nice touch, and I'm certain a few Codexers could find themselves in there, if they wanted to.

    Anyway, the juiciest mental world of them all is now available - Ford's. People have been wondering all these years what his story was, and now we finally get to find out... except it's broken up into three parts, and each part needs to be accessed from a different personality, and Ford seems to come up with new personalities whereever he goes. What's more, two of those parts need visits from two other mental worlds first before they can be completed. Talk about being a tease. (If people find this comparable to the Loboto-disguise puzzle in P1, then you're absolutely spot-on. Sadly to say you're also spot-on in regards to how far into the game you've reached.)

    The easiest one of these worlds is the hair stylist - just walk in there and talk to Ford. From there you enter Ford's Follicles - one of several mental worlds I'd call 'half-ideas'. They are the places where a base idea resides at the center, but the concept of it never amounts to anything meaningful. In this case it's all hair-related stuff. Combs running through hair acting as elevators, lice being a bother, and hairdryers blowing all over the place. Intertwined with this are Ford's memories of the past, acting as exposition about his relationship with Lucrecia Mux, another member of the Psychic 6 that we know next to nothing about. There's a really hair-raising moment where clearing away some lice turns into a much darker metaphor, but ultimately this place feels like a barren storyline corridor - which was never the case in P1 to such a large degree.

    The second part of Ford I got access to was the bowling attendant, but to get there you need to track down Compton Boole, one of the Psychic 6. Fortunately a few clues hint at his location, and if you explored the Quarry-map well enough, you might have even talked with him briefly. Compton is very much like his grandson Dogan, one of the more memorable kids from P1. Compton can talk to animals, but has problems controlling his powers, and may hurt animals (or even people) if he loses control. So he keeps to himself, but misses his old friend Cassie O'Pia, another member of the Psychic 6. That quest gives Raz an opportunity to visit Compton's mental world... and this is where P2 starts to reveal its fractures.

    Compton's Cookoff is the smallest mental world of them all, and it consisting soley of timed events doesn't help it either. There's nothing wrong with the level design or the theme, except the writing feels like a 9-year old with a fondness for boogers and puking jokes had a hand in it, especially the boss battle. After dealing with a rogue Judgment, Compton Boole and Raz are forced to participate in a cookoff show, where they have to prepare meals for ungrateful goats (portrayed by other members of the Psychonauts), but Compton doesn't feel up to it because he's missing Cassie, and thinks he can't do it by himself, hinting at a possible co-dependence issue and/or a sense of helplessness. And what was that Judgment doing there by the way?

    Sadly the mental vaults don't shed light on that. The first one highlights how close he and Cassie were, and how she just went native while he was tied down with Psychonauts-business and now he misses her terribly. The second mental vault details how he loves animals and how his powers can overwhelm him with disastrous consequences, and was found and recruited by Ford Cruller after such an incident.

    So we have a character with animal affinity and self-control issues, placed in a high-pressure environment filled with distorted representations of his friends who seem overeager to judge him, and it's his co-dependency/helplessness that gets the better of him? Fair enough, but I see a slew of missed opportunities here. Compton would be a prime candiate for being a vegetarian, or having an eating disorder due to him being able to talk to animals, or maybe even be sensitive about his body, any of which would make him participating in cooking a very fitting scene for a mental world. But except for the boss battle touching on the subject of eating disorders in general, none of that is the case, and neither is his lack of self-control. And as Compton has no issues with his diet or his figure, that's all just hanging out there. And where is this thing coming from with the Psychogoats being so judgmental?

    I can't talk about Compton's Cookoff without mentioning the horrendous boss battle. The Psychogoats, instead of wolfing down food that you made for them, are now vomiting it back at you as you try to pick through their pukes for useful ingredients to send to Boole so that he can cook up more dishes. Be grateful the sense of smell is lacking from video games. Because the game represents goat vomit with purple slime it's a lot worse writing and reading about it, than actually experiencing it in-game. (I'd like to have seen the test group who playtested this battle, and count how many times they lost their lunch.) That nauseating fact aside, this boss battle is structurally identical to the Lady Lucktopus-fight from Hollis' Hot Streak: Dodge the attacks, wait for an opening to the sides of the boss, use TK to chuck an item in there, which eventually creates an opening where the boss is vulnerable. The Lucktopus-fight is a little challenging as the terrain and the bombs are a threat to a low-ranking Raz, but that's not the case here. In fact, I beat the boss fight on my first try, without any 'aides'. So we have a repeat of a previous boss fight, only easier and less interesting overall. I would yawn over it, except that might accidentally make me puke. But overall I feel that Compton's Cookout is an undercooked opportunity, and the consistency of writing that defined P1 is starting to come undone, with this being the first example. Sadly it's not the last such that we'll come across.

    Here's a larger example of what I mean by the writing coming undone: If Compton has grandchildren, then he must have gotten married sometime, and had children. And yet, in his room, there are no family photos. Only a photo of him with Cassie. That's a small but notable hole to leave, don't you think?

    After that detour, Raz can explore another part of Cruller's mind, this one being Strike City, an odd mixture of a bowling date with Lucrecia and a civilized society of germs facing the apocalypse. This merger creates a place that has some of that semi-random silliness that permeates P1, but ultimately it's just another romp through Ford's memories, though less heavy on the metaphors and focusing more on the gameplay. Strike City, as short as it is, is at least fun to play, so enjoy the ride while it lasts.

    To reach the last part of Ford's mind Raz has to reach the mailroom, except Postmaster Ford has locked himself in there, and only a senior-ranking member of the mailroom can get in there. In what is one of the most fitting puzzles of P2, Raz gets a brainless Nick up and running using a loaner brain from the Brainframe, except that brain is having trouble adjusting. Some fine-tuning is required, so Raz dives into what is, without a doubt, the absolute highpoint of the game: The PSI-King's Sensorium.

    This world was originally planned for P1, but couldn't be implemented properly due to technological restraints. But now it's here and OH MY LORD is this something to behold! A mind deprived of sensory input for 20 years is trying to make sense of everything again, and does so by merging Yellow Submarine with Woodstock, with a dash of Brütal Legend thrown in. If you're unfamiliar with 1960s rock this world will lose much of its appeal, but the sheer visual and aural extravaganza on offer puts this world up there with the greatest mental worlds the Psychonauts-games have ever offered. Words fail me here, except to mention that a personal favorite touch is how the ambient sound is like a familiar-sounding tune that's just about to begin... but people can't agree on what tune that is! (To me it's "Let Forever Be" with The Chemical Brothers.) Walking on the rainbow bridges is also a standout point for me. And then there's the song. The song's fitting and well written, but the cinematic that goes with it is too short, the point that it hurts to think about it. The only real fault I can find with the Sensorium is that it has the largest amount of Figments to find, and in this vividly colored landscape that will be a PAIN. But beyond that, this world just works.

    A note must be made about the mental vaults here, as they're soundly inaccessible... for now. They're meant to be opened once the player has both completed Cassie O'Pia's and Bob Zanotto's worlds, in order to give us another side of the story. Some notable details can then be discerned, such as whether certain people were present at a wedding or not.

    But the main point of entering this world was to get a new PSI-Power, the Time Bubble. Like Pyrokinesis, anything within the bubble slows down, as if time stopped having a care. There's a disrepency between how the power is described and how it's used, but if it was used properly Raz would become a Mental Matrix Neo and the proverbial master of time and space, so I guess they had to nerf it down a bit.

    But eventually the show must go on... elsewhere, and with the PSI-King sorted, Raz can finally reach the mail room and enter what I consider the real mind of Ford Cruller.

    Cruller's Correspondence, when compared to Ford's other mental worlds, ticks off all the right boxes. The central mailroom encapsulates Ford's mind brilliantly - thoughts/letters coming and going, with some of them go off-script into other, unrelated realms. Meanwhile a mechanical, four-armed Ford is trying to hold everything together and keep everything running, dispatching messages back and forth, while struggling to remember something important and forget something equally horrific. If DF had rolled up Ford's Follicles and Strike City into smaller segments of this mental world, accessed through those cubby-holes like happens here, they could have been on to a true winner. Instead it's all separated, which detracts from the whole experience.

    And then, as everything comes together, and Ford's mind is restored, we're sent to... a graveyard? A sunken tomb? Yeah yeah yeah, buried memories and all that, but I don't get what's going on with the Tomb of the Sharkophagus. Its only purpose is to push the story onwards, offering only superficial themes and context, while lacking content to make it even part of a mental world. Where does the shark fit in? This could have been done better, but I'm unsure how.

    It's also here that we get the first major frumple in the writing, though many more are coming. When Raz and Ford check in on the Aquatos, Nona is not there, and Raz says "[She] probably wandered off into the woods again. She keeps doing that." And Ford then immediately knows where she's going. Dude, the Aquatos haven't even been here for half a day, how has Raz had time to know what Nona gets up to while here? The answer: He can't. He could however, have seen this behavior in her before he ran away from the circus, but the line specifically mentions "the woods", which is where they are right now. Fortunately this one can be easily fixed. Just change the line to "She's wandered off again. She keeps doing that lately", suggesting a pattern of behavior over a longer period of time, and one that doesn't associate the Aquatos with a specific environment, but does assign abnormal behavior to Nona. Cruller would then need just a little longer to realize where Nona's trying to go, and the scene's sorted.

    Eventually we reach Green Needle Gulch, the last hub map of the game. Compared to the others it's quite small, even though it's made to look spacious. It's mostly just a central building, with three paths branching off from it. We use one path to enter the area, and then go down the other two paths to find the last two members of the Psychic 6. On the left we have Cassie O'Pia's house, a tower covered in beehives, and surrounded by a field of honey and bees. On the right we have a greenhouse situated atop a giant vine. In the center is the Heptadome, which looks like a psychedelic conservatory with a woodwork shop in the middle. Dotted around the place are little places related to each of the Psychic 6 (except for Lucrecia, meaning she either lived with Ford, or her place is/was underwater).



    Part 6 - The writing and story Part II - Reaching the zenith (open)
    Entering Cassie O'Pia's house, we find her in some distress, but short of her seeming to have joined a hivemind, we've got nothing to go on. So into her head we go, and arrive in Cassie's Collections. While PSI-King's Sensorium has been publicly stated as having been P1-material that didn't make the cut, I'm 90% certain the same applies to this mental world. It's pulling off tricks here with the level design that weren't possible in P1, but it also has the style of writing and humor that's plentiful in P1, but otherwise absent in P2 (except in Strike City). Cassie is a well-read woman who's not only had to work hard to get where she is, but has had to assume many roles in her life. After the battle with Maligula, she felt useless and retreated into her inner self, where one of her past roles got the better of her and mentally enslaved her, so now she's suffering from a multiple personality disorder where one of the personalities dominates her. She's quite eager to help out Raz, but it becomes quickly clear that she needs some help first.

    The problem? All of this presentation of Cassie is done entirely from within the mental world - we get only the tiniest of glimpses of her as a character before 'jumping in'. That's part of what saves Cassie's Collections - we don't know what we're getting into, but fortunately everything is present and in place for the mental world to convey it. The dominant personality is the librarian, and as a result we find ourselves in a massive library, with written text on paper featuring heavily. There are numerous minor characters about which have funny, memorable lines, heavily reminiscent of P1. And a new PSI-Power is introduced here, where Projection allows Raz to create a copy of himself to help him out. Projection is quite useful in Cassie's Collections, but once past that it quickly becomes little more than a key to open certain doors. It's a bit of a shame, as the projection's lines successfully straddle the line of being funny and annoying, but the masterstroke is that the projection is voiced by Rikki Simons, and therefore reuniting the characters of GIR and Zim from the Invader Zim-cartoon.

    But the true magic of Cassie's Collections is the second half, once you escape the librarian's den and see one of the largest open-areas in a mental world. Here we must gather the resources (and strength) to empower Cassie's other personalities and usurping the librarian. Climbing the librarian's tower just to get a better view of everything is Worth It, I had fun playing this section. Overall, Cassie's Collection is my second-favorite mental world in P2, both because it's strongly thematic and well-written.

    And as a total opposite to Cassie's Collection is the next mental world. If you explore that vine-grown greenhouse, you're surprised by some old bearded geezer acting beliggerent. This, as it turns out, is our first introduction to Bob Zanotto, the final unaccounted member of the Psychic 6. Bob had a psychic affinity for plants, and this is clearly demonstrated by his home. It gets even deeper when the plants seem to have become part of his personality, representing more repressed elements of his character. Obviously Raz takes a peek under the hood, and we end up with what is clearly the most tedious, off-putting mental world of them all - Bob's Bottles.

    Gameplay-wise, here is where it all falls apart (the story-collapse comes later). We're presented with a tiny world consisting of a barren archipelago, and Bob looks to be stranded. There are other people about, like Truman, Lili and Otto, but they're portrayed as distant and uncaring. But the truth of this world lie in the three large bottles, where Bob has bottled away everything of relevance to himself - including his personality. This means Raz has to crawl into the bottle in hope of dragging Bob out... and out of the gutter, as we soon learn. Bob's primary problem is his alcoholism, which he turned to in an attempt to deal with the grief of having lost his husband, Helmut Fullbear, in the battle against Maligula.

    The premise of Bob's mental world is a brilliant one, but there are three large problems that go as far as to ruin it. Firstly it's the gameplay. The boat used to navigate the surface world is a bitch to control, and the islands aren't helping with their shoddy collision detection. Then that's followed by long sections consisting entirely of precision-platforming against timed loops over bottomless pits (so to say). What makes this even worse are Bob's drunken ramblings ringing throughout.

    Which brings us to the second problem, which is Bob's character. Bob Zanotto is a total Tabula Rasa, we know nothing about the guy before visiting his mental world, to the point that we didn't even know whether he was alive or not until we stumble upon him. And what personality traits does Bob show? He's a rambling drunkard who wants to be left alone. Wow, what a wonderful start. He could be anything, but what we get is an introvert who's only defined by other people around him, particularly Helmut Fullbear, his husband, and seemingly the only person Bob thinks cares anything about him. The 'highpoint' of Bob's Bottles is their wedding, complete with a lavish reception... which brings us to the third and final problem; forced inclusion of social justice-related elements. Like I said, Bob could have been any kind of character, so it was decided he would be highly unlikeable and gay. In an era where homosexuality was still socially taboo. Even considering that the Psychic 6 would be more open-minded in general, it's still a very long stretch of the imagination, and sadly doesn't score any points for anyone, instead just creating this awkward vacuum that no one really wants to address.

    These three problems make Bob's Bottles the absolute low-point of the game, and such a bad mental world it's slugging it out with the Meat Circus to hog the bottom slot. The character is uninteresting, the level and game design aren't fun, and the themes and premises aren't handled properly. As Yahtzee mentions in his Zero Punctuation-video, there was a cynical tone to the writing and humor of P1. This cynicism is only present in Strike City and Cassie's Collections in P2, and is completely absent in Bob's Bottles, where it was needed the most. And while the subject of addiction and alcoholism is an interesting one to tackle (especially in a video starring a 10-year old boy) it also breaks one of the motifs of Psychonauts as a whole. Up to this point every mental problem we've encountered, in both games, are inflicted by others. Exterior circumstances led to people developing their afflictions, which in turns makes these people more relatable. But addiction is self-inflicted. No one bears the blame for Bob being a boozehound but Bob himself. So... why should we care? Such a small detail making such a huge difference. (Yes, I'm aware of Cruller's shattered mind. But remember that at this point in the game we haven't been shown that it was Ford who broke his own mind, it's only been implied.)

    And it's also here that we come across the first true plotholes in the story. After we're done with Bob's Bottles, and had a peek in Helmut's mental vaults, we see that Helmut saved his brain by using Super Sneezing Powder to extract and launch his brain out of his body, and out of the freezing lake. Question: How do you use sneezing powder while underwater? And while Ford recovers Helmut's brain, he just leaves it in a jar in the Heptadome for Otto to find. Otto is in possession of a portable ThinkerPrint, allowing him to identify any brain he comes across. Soo... why didn't Otto identify Helmut's brain right then and there? Maybe he hadn't developed the technology back then, sure. But he's had the brain with him for 20 years, surely at one point he must have thought of using the ThinkerPrint on 'Heptadome Harry'... right?

    Successfully completing Cassie's Collections and Bob's Bottles triggers a touching cutscene where the Psychic 7 are re-united for the first time in 20 years, and here the next, larger plothole is present. When Ford speaks of Green River Gulch to Raz while taking him there, he says how it's protected by psychic traps and illusions, effectively hiding it from everyone who's not part of the Psychic 7. Soo... how did Norma find her way to Green Needle Gulch? That's never explained, and that's pretty damning. It's actually quite easy to explain her presence there ("I saw this old woman roaming in the woods, so I followed her here") but even then it was Lizzie who was trying to find the Green Needle Witch, and not Norma.

    Moving on, the Psychic 7 (with Raz filling in) then join minds to try to restore and repair Lucrecia's mind, and we finally get to see her side of the story in Lucrecia's Lament. Like with Ford's mind, we're presented with three different mental landscapes: The Flea Circus will bring instant PTSD to P1-players as it uses the Meat Circus-tune, but fortunately it's short, fun and doesn't overstay its welcome. Then it's Nona's Quilts, which sadly amounts to little more than a knitted corridor of story exposition. But finally we get to the Mental Dam, and it's clear that the story is driving the cart here, as clearly demonstrated by all five emotional baggages being found in the same place - at the base of the dam. Sadly this mental world is far too much on rails, at least it's a fun ride.



    Part 7 - The writing and story Part III - the Belly Flop. (open)
    We do learn one thing here that's important, but also just totally Wrong. The Mysterious Stranger in P1, who gave the pamphlet to Razputin which made him run away from the circus... is Nona herself. This completely breaks the story.

    # How could she know about Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp?
    # How could she obtain a pamphlet from there?
    # How could she know that Razputin could possibly help her?

    It makes no sense whatsoever, and Ford's explanation doesn't help. The Mysterious Stranger was clearly put there to serve one of two roles, depending on meta-circumstances.

    1. If P1 would never get a sequel, Schafer could say that the Mysterious Stranger was Coach Oleander, who had discovered Razputin on his own, and lured him to the summer camp so he could use his brain for his psychic death tanks. The appearance of the Mysterious Stranger, down to the twirly moustache, strongly suggests this.

    2. If P1 would get a sequel, then Schafer could use the Mysterious Stranger to show that Razputin was being manipulated from the start, for some unknown purpose. This fits the story as it turns out that Raz is being manipulated in P2 (as is about to be revealed shortly), but that Nona is this manipulator is an almost inconceivable stretch, especially as she's not even a character in P1! Lucrecia Mux is in P1 (as one of the Psychic 7 on a wooden log), but not Nona.

    This only tells me that Schafer was scrambling to tie the story together, which makes little sense seeing as he shouldn't have to. He's had plenty of time, and has the writing experience to do this properly. More importantly is the significance of getting this right. The Mysterious Stranger giving Raz the pamphlet is the core driving motivation for Raz throughout P1, it's only the whole reason he's at the summer camp in the first place! But more on Schafer's dilemma later, back to the game.

    Lucrecia's Lament is brought to a screeching halt as Truman Zanotto uses smelling salts to boot Raz out of Lucrecia's mind, as him, Lili and Norma have arrived at the Heptadome. It's also here that we realize that Truman is acting very strangely, to the point that Lili and Raz jump into his mind together to try to sort things out. And here's where the game throws its biggest curveball - Truman Zanotto is not actually Truman Zanotto. In truth he's Gristol Malik, son to the Gzar of Grulovia and the one who's been trying to bring back Maligula. This is what the final mental world of the game, Fatherland Follies, explains to us. How Malik grew up in a life of luxury, blissfully unaware of what was going on around him. But when he and his parents fled the country, he blamed the Psychonauts for ruining his past life, and vowed to avenge them. To accomplish that he first tracked down Ford, but couldn't get anything out of him due to his fractured mind. Then Malik infiltrated the Psychonauts-organization, learned its secrets, and then executes his plan to bring back Maligula by posing as Truman Zanotto via a handy brain-switch.

    And the plotholes all but tear apart the fabric of the story, leaving it hanging on by mere threads. Let's take it from the top:

    # How could Malik hide his identity, his intentions and his plan, from an organization full of mind-readers, especially since he's not psychic himself?
    # How could Malik learn the secrets of the organization from the mail room?
    # What exactly was Malik's plan to bring back Maligula, as he didn't know where she was, and he didn't know how to fix Ford's mind?
    # What prompted Malik to kidnap Truman at the point that he did, and what was he hoping to accomplish by that?

    The answers to these questions, sadly, are never given. If we try to answer them ourselves, only the mail room-question could possibly be answered; Malik could learn much about the Psychonauts... but their secrets? Unlikely.

    One plausible scenario is that Gralik had been waiting and biding his time until a solution presented itself... namely, Razputin. This required that Gralik had 'discovered' Raz and his abilities somehow, and then manipulated circumstances to get Raz not only close to Ford, but into the Psychonauts-organization. Once there, Gralik would need to 'shift about' within the organization to get Raz to fix Ford (hence Truman's kidnapping) and then begin to learn of Maligula's location. This could make Malik be the Mysterious Stranger who hands the pamphlet to Razputin, EXCEPT we already know by now who the Mysterious Stranger is.

    It's therefore impossible for Malik to have done everything that he did, all by himself. There must be another person helping him, a psychic. Maybe even a member of the Psychonauts. That's the only explanation I can come up with, but at no point is any evidence shown that Malik has an accomplice.

    Another scenario that's more plausible than Nona being the Mysterious Stranger is that Ford was the Mysterious Stranger. He's literally the only one in a position to know what's wrong, what needs to be done, and to (psychically) find someone who could help him fix everything, and then bring that someone in.

    Yes, I know that this is a lot of postulating and theory-crafting over a goddamn video game, but P1's writing was that good, it pains me to see the sequel deliver such a mess of a story. In fact, I'm willing to go as so far to say that Schafer did write something better (and darker) than what we got - but he was forced to re-arrange the story to make it less 'man-centric', and to empower the wombyn of the game, and all that crap. As a result the writing is blunt and bleached and boring - I can only imagine what kind of game this would be if it had been written immediately after P1, and then left unchanged.

    Anyway, at this point there's little else left to happen except for Maligula to rise again and for Raz to save the day - which he does, thanks to his family. Unfortunately the bloody interns get involved again, and it's quite breaking to be in the middle of the Epic End Boss Battle, only to repeatedely get a cutscene of an unlikeable character being paraded in front of us like they're part of the toyline that's sponsoring the game.

    And eventually it all comes to an end. Everyone's happy...ish. Only the villain gets a rough treatment (getting locked up to be a future guinea pig for Sasha Nein), while everyone else gets a nice, fluffy ending. Except for Augustus. He's trying to come to terms with the fact that Ford Cruller skullfucked him 20 years ago, for no other reason than to serve his own selfish interests. That's quite the emotional baggage to sort out. So big, in fact, that it's one of the few hooks this game leaves for a potential sequel. To touch upon the cut-up story that Schafer was weaved here, one final possibility is that he just wanted to end the Psychonauts-story here, and so had all storyline and plot hooks get nicely tied up so he could be done with it. I get that, no one is getting any younger, and unless Psychonauts 3 is greenlit by the end of 2021, it ain't gonna happen at all.



    Part 8 - Wrapping it all up. (open)
    But just because Psychonauts 3 is unlikely to happen, doesn't mean this is the end of the Psychonauts. There is room for more, but on a much smaller scale. A DLC that adds an extra mental world (and cleans up the story) would be an obvious direction to head into. Double Fine could also take the Psychonauts into other, smaller games, just like with Rhombus of Ruin. We'll know for sure in a few months.

    So my verdict for Psychonauts 2? Sadly it fails to match up to its prequel, which delegates it to the uncomfortable position of being a 4-troll game, rather than a 5-troll game. In percentages I'd award Psychonauts 1 a 94%, while Psychonauts 2 only gets a 77%. It's good, and a worthy sequel in many ways, but it's not a successor (and only worth $60 to the most die-hard Psychonauts-fans/Double Fine supporters) and falls flat on its face on the one front where it shouldn't. Its pillars of strength are the game engine being put to good use, focused and balanced gameplay, and a general lack of nuisances that often plague other games. But as I said at the start, those aren't the same pillars that made P1 stand like a colossus out, and these pillars aren't strong enough to get that high either. I've played P1 at a regular basis ever since it came out, and I time it further and further apart now to better enjoy the magic of it. I foresee one replay of Psychonauts 2 in the future. Sometime. Eventually. And already I'm not looking forward to it. It lacks the magic. The story was gutted and re-arranged for reasons best left unanswered.

    Come for the nostalgia, stick around long enough until the Yellow Submarine comes round, then watch as it drops you off in the seedier part of town.

    But let's end this border wall o' text with some funny things I noticed one can do in the game:

    # Bring the Projection to every member of Raz's family, all but Augustus have extra lines for it. Lili also has a line.
    # In Cassie's Collections, make sure you talk to the dragon and the knight. Then come back and revisit them after you've completed the world.
    # Use Clairvoyance on the PSI-King while in the Sensorium to see Raz dressed up in a familiar oütfit...
    # Don't interrupt Terryl.
    # Visit Sansha's Lab after you've beaten the game. The conversation there confirms one of the oldest fan-theories concerning P1.
    # After you've beaten the game, go into water somewhere and notice how the animation has changed.
    # To find the super-secret Easter Egg, re-visit Hollis' Hot Streak after you've completed it. Go to the Maternity Ward, and get on top of the tunnel in the back. You should find a pen embedded into the ground. Use TK to yank it out, then aim it between the 'W' and the 'A' in the 'WARD'-sign over by the roulette board. If done successfully, a cutscene will play. If you miss, then Exit This Brain and re-enter to try again.
    # Note how this list is only a fraction of the list of fun stuff you can do in Psychonauts 1. :negative:


    Psychonauts 2 - A prime example of how you should not write a game with a sock puppet on your hand.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2021
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  15. <3sRichardSimmons Arcane Patron

    <3sRichardSimmons
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    I disagree with a lot of that UC, but have to brofist for the time and thought it took to write it all up. I will try to find time in the coming week to write a point-by-point rebuttal to what I disagree with, but if my recent schedule is anything to go by it may be a month or two before that actually materializes.
     
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  16. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Codex 2014 Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy
    And as a final sendoff, the cringiest Psychonauts-related video I stumbled across while putting that together...

    ... it's the Meat Circus-tune from Psychonauts 1. With lyrics.

     
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  17. Verylittlefishes Sacro Bosco Patron

    Verylittlefishes
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    Maybe I need to actually read this 8-part epic, though I doubt this will change a lot my perception of the gaem.
     
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  18. GhostCow ワイフハンター Patron

    GhostCow
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    I read the whole thing and it made me jealous that I can't come up with such a well written critique. 10/10 would recommend reading
     
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  19. Verylittlefishes Sacro Bosco Patron

    Verylittlefishes
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    Unkillable Cat ok man you totally ruined the game for me :dealwithit:
    do you by chance got other delightful reviews on anything??
     
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  20. Verylittlefishes Sacro Bosco Patron

    Verylittlefishes
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    OK I have some objections about "plot holes":

    Show Spoiler
    Don't think this is serious issue to address in a game where you can literally pop brains in and out of bodies.

    Before going to this area with Raz, Ford specifically mentions that he will help him to come through, which could indicate that he disarms (some? most?) of the traps on their way.
     
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  21. Multidirectional Arcane

    Multidirectional
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    So I take it Double Fine made their second good game finally? Perhaps I should be hurrying along my latest very slow replay of first one.
     
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  22. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    Check my sig. I may have done other, smaller reviews in the past, but they're more piecemeal.
     
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  23. Unkillable Cat Prestigious Gentleman LEST WE FORGET Patron

    Unkillable Cat
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    This is an issue, because precedent had been established.

    Show Spoiler
    The only reason Lili didn't sneeze out her brain in Psychonauts 1 was because she had a headcold, and therefore couldn't smell the powder. The nostrils need to be clear for the powder to take effect, which they aren't while underwater.


    Remember, much of my beef with Psychonauts 2 is with the writing, which was essentially foolproof in the prequel.

    It could, but that's the less likely option of the two:

    Show Spoiler
    Either Ford disarms all the traps/illusions as he goes through (which is rather foolish of him, considering what's in there) or one needs a Psychic 6 'escort' to get through. I think the latter is the more likely scenario, and to fix that literally takes one voice line, as I mentioned.
     
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  24. TheSoul Educated

    TheSoul
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    I always thought Cruller just had dementia except in that cave of psitanium. All that time and no one bothered to fix him when that's whole point of the organization? I think psychonauts 2 just had a few core ideas and then everything else got added after fig campaign, which weren't as good cause double fine has declined in quality.
     
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  25. <3sRichardSimmons Arcane Patron

    <3sRichardSimmons
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    It's explicit in the first game that there was a traumatic event that acted as a catalyst for his dissociation.
     
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