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Psychonauts 2 review

Psychonauts 2 has some of the most interesting gameplay we’ve seen in a while

Psychonauts 2 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Double Fine Productions)

Our Verdict

Double Fine Productions’ long-awaited Psychonauts 2 is finally here, jumping straight in where the original game left off 16 years ago.

For

  • Fun gameplay and level design
  • Entertaining cutscenes
  • Lovable characters

Against

  • Slightly inconsistent story pacing

We’ve had to wait 16 years to finally get our hands on Psychonauts 2, and it's been quite the test of our patience. The good news is that although the time gap between the original 2005 cult classic and Psychonauts 2 accounts for roughly 70% of my entire existence, I can assure you that the sequel is well worth the wait. Considering that Xbox Game Plus members will be able to access the full game from day one, I can’t recommend it enough. 

In our Psychonauts 2 review below, we highlight how the long-awaited sequel successfully builds on everything we loved about the original, including the quirky, lovable characters and unique gameplay. While we did find some parts of the story to be a tad drawn-out, overall, both the plot and gameplay of Psychonauts 2 were hilarious and mind-blowing. And not to worry - we’ve made sure that this review is absolutely spoiler-free.

Psychonauts 2 review: Gameplay

Psychonauts 2 is a platformer in which you play as Razputin (or Raz), a young boy who comes from a family of acrobats, and dreams of joining the titular all-psychic spy agency. 

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

Throughout his adventure, you’ll have Raz’s arsenal of psychic powers at your disposal, supplying you with everything you need to overcome various puzzles and challenges. Raz’s abilities include those from the previous game, such as Levitation, Telekinesis and Pyrokinesis, as well as some exciting new reality-bending powers. You can also adapt these abilities to better suit your playstyle as you rank up and purchase new upgrades from the game’s merchant.

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

I completed the game on PC using a mouse and keyboard, and found that the default key bindings for Raz’s powers (Q, R and E) were a bit clunky to use. For this reason, using a controller may be the best option.

Psychonauts 2 review: Environments

What excited me the most about Psychonauts 2 was how everything about the game just oozes creativity. Straight from the starting screen, this sequel continuously pushes the boundaries of gaming with creative level design. 

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

Much of Psychonauts 2 takes place within the heads of other characters. You infiltrate their subconscious minds in an attempt to unravel the mysteries surrounding the game’s plot. Just as no two minds are the same, no two levels are ever the same, either. Each environment also features unique visual and sound design, inspired by an aspect of the host’s personality.

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

You can expect to be on your toes throughout the 13 hours of gameplay, as you battle the inner demons and deepest fears of your fellow Psychonauts. While some minds appear to be fairly straightforward, others hide terrible regrets, traumatic pasts and deep-rooted issues that manifest themselves in the form of enemies that you need to defeat.

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

If you’re the completionist type, then you’ll be glad to hear that every possible level in Psychonauts 2 features hundreds of ‘Figments of Imagination’ to collect, as well as hidden secrets for you to explore. And even once you’re done with the story, you’re free to roam the Psychonauts HQ to finish off any side quests, or replay each level and pick up anything you missed the first time round.

Psychonauts 2 review: Plot

Despite the prolonged time period between the release of the two Psychonauts installments, the plot of Psychonauts 2 picks up almost immediately where the original game (and its VR spinoff, Rhombus of Ruin) left off. However, don’t let this scare you away if you haven’t played the 2005 cult classic. I first played Psychonauts almost 15 years ago on the PlayStation 2, so my memory of the original game was a bit fuzzy. However, the developers provided an extensive recap of the previous game as soon as you launch Psychonauts 2. 

At the end of the first game, Raz and the team rescue the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, Truman Zanotto, from the clutches of the evil Dr. Loboto. You can expect to see some appearances from the original game’s most prominent characters, including Coach Oleander, Agent Sasha Nein and Agent Milla Vodello, as well as Raz’s love interest, Lili. Psychonauts 2 also introduces a number of new characters with tragic backstories that are bound to tug on your heartstrings. 

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

As with any good story, there are some twists and turns along the way. Without spoiling anything else, you’ll be glad to hear that in terms of content and character development, the rest of the story is fantastic: often emotional and never monotonous.

The game's art style and age rating might give the impression that Psychonauts 2 is a game for children. However, the developers sneaked some double entendres into the script for more mature audiences to enjoy. This seems like the right call, considering that children who played the original game in 2005 are now approaching their mid-twenties and thirties.

(Image credit: Double Fine Productions)

Similarly, improved graphics and some quality-of-life gameplay changes aren’t the only examples of progress that Psychonauts has made since 2005. I was personally glad to see that the developer Double Fine Productions incorporated themes such as mental health and LGBTQ+ representation into the game’s story.

However, one of the only flaws that I found in Psychonauts 2 is that the pacing slows down toward the middle of the game. This makes it a bit of a hassle to power through several fetch-and-go quests in quick succession. It's a letdown, after such an exciting start to the story.

Psychonauts 2 review: Verdict

All in all, Psychonauts 2 is both a worthy sequel to its predecessor, and a great game on its own merits. It also presents an opportunity for a whole new generation of gamers to fall in love with Psychonauts' lovable characters and unique gameplay. 

Although the pacing of the plot is inconsistent towards the middle of the game, the overall story is an emotional journey, chock full of trauma, redemption and character growth. Let’s just hope that if we ever get a third installment, it doesn’t take nearly as long to develop.

Denise Primbet

Denise is a news writer at Tom’s Guide covering all things tech, gaming software/hardware, streaming, and more. She regularly produces short-form news articles as well as long-form content, including reviews, buying guides, how-tos, and features. When she's not live-streaming horror games on Twitch, she can be found exploring East London while playing Pokemon Go. She’s also a part-time piano enthusiast and regularly experiments in the kitchen. You can reach her at denise.primbet@futurenet.com.