The lights are on
Most gamers appreciate when a brand new installment releases in their favorite series. Despite complaints about “sequelitis,” getting too many entries is better than the alternative: getting too few. In Where’s My Sequel, we look at standalone games and franchises that deserve to continue. This time we take a look at Double Fine's psychic platforming classic, Psychonauts.
What it is:
The camp is a large area that Raz can explore, but the bulk of the action takes place in the minds of the camp staff and asylum inmates. Each person's consciousness is a level designed to reflect their various psychoses and fears. The geometric and orderly mind of Raz's teacher Sasha Nein reflects his calculating and meticulous personality, while the cameras and disguised secret agents in security guard Boyd's thoughts are a product of his paranoia. Raz needs the assistance of these various people near the campgrounds, but they are in no position to help when they are mentally shackled. By entering their brains, learning new powers, and overcoming various platforming challenges, Raz confronts and resolves their problems. The premise is unique, the writing is clever, and the design of levels is fun and imaginative. You don't have to play Psychonauts for long to see why it is so well-regarded among gamers.
When it stopped:Psychonauts originally released in 2005, hitting Xbox, PC, and PS2 in the same year. Since then, it has been made available on Steam, Mac, and Linux, along with going up on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Despite Schafer saying he is ready for a sequel, having a high-profile benefactor, and the fact that Double Fine is the sole owner of the publishing rights, no follow-up has ever materialized.
What comes next:
Any sequel should obviously keep the endearing characters and humorous tone of the original (see the video of Boyd's mind above for a prime example), but it might be time to reexamine the basic gameplay. Critics and gamers praise so much about Psychonauts, but the core platforming mechanics aren't what they fell in love with. In fact, Psychonauts is at its weakest when it relies on timing and precision jumping – just ask anyone who played through the Meat Circus level. Nothing against 3D platforming, but another approach might be better at highlighting the things Psychonauts does well.
Instead of the platforming, imagine if Double Fine were to implement an open-world structure in Psychonauts 2. People's minds could still be whole levels populated by bizarre characters, but with more freedom to explore the twists and turns of their psyche. Instead of being propelled through a series of platforming challenges, players could use Raz's psychic powers to get around, complete missions, and fight enemies in a more player-driven progression. Think of each mind as a small city in a game like Assassin's Creed, with a variety of smaller objectives to tackle before you're ultimately able to confront the root cause of the subject's mental block and move on to another world.
Of course, that's just an idea. Fans will undoubtedly be happy if/when Psychonauts 2 is announced regardless of its genre. The most important thing is that the game gets made in one form or another.
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