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Psychonauts 2 - What We Know So Far

There's nothing quite like the memory of the summers you spent as a child. There's just something about the way the sun felt, the friends you made, the people whose psyches you freed of all baggage and self-delusion by decimating a city with a giant lungfish. Good times, indeed.


Ok, maybe that's just one particular child's summer. His name is Rasputin, the giant-headed boy whose adventures in psychic warfare one summer are the basis of one of the best platformers ever made. It's the game that catapulted Double Fine into the beloved critical darling it is today. 14 years, two console generations, and a whole lot of shenanigans involving Jack Black later, Raz is back, in a sequel that already feels like the magic of 2005 is still very much alive and well. It's been a rocky road getting here, but Psychonauts 2 is coming. We've got all the info to get everybody back to basic braining in no time.

Psychonauts 2's release date

Currently, Psychonauts 2 is slated for some time in 2020. Early is possible, especially given just how long the game's been in active development, but the last thing anyone wants at this stage is for the game to get lost in the shuffle the way the original did, thoroughly outshone by the original God of War and Doom 3's console debut. As far as 2020 goes, the first three months of the year are already a madhouse, between the new Yakuza, Ori and the Will of Wisps, The Last of Us Part 2, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Watch Dogs: Legion, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The months past that are pretty clear so far, but even then, Psychonauts wouldn't necessarily have any significant time to itself, with Cyberpunk 2077 dropping in April, and Crystal Dynamics' Marvel's Avengers in May. For a game originally set in a summer camp, summer genuinely looks like it's gonna be the best way to go.


The trailer for Psychonauts 2

The first genuine glimpse we got of Psychonauts 2 came after about three years of teasing, and it's a pretty wonderful one, showing that the same level of imagination, warped level design, and good humor from the first has definitely carried over here. Still, more than anything, it represents a shift. Rasputin's not in summer camp anymore, and while yes, it's all oohs and ahhs the first time you see a building shaped like a giant brain, it's the things running through that giant brain that Raz is going to have to be extra careful with.


There is also, however, a second trailer from around E3 2019, showing off some proper gameplay, and while it's another grand showcase of ingenious game design and humor, it's also a pretty strong reminder that there's a lot of squishy body part stuff in this series — the first game's New Game/Load screen has Raz walking on an actual giant brain, for cripe's sake — and the sequel's carrying on the tradition. Guaranteed, there's a German word for the creeping dread and disgust of living in a place made of giant teeth, and if there's not, somebody at Double Fine should get to name it.

The developers of Psychonauts 2

Double Fine are responsible for some of the most unique and earnestly creative games ever, but there's a good chance they may need an introduction, given that their games aren't exactly Call of Duty-level ubiquitous.


See, Double Fine started as a collective of ex-pats from the company that used to be LucasArts, and there's a certain type of old-school PC gamer who will always swear by the golden age of LucasArts games. These folks' names are all over some of the best graphic adventure titles ever made: Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle, Secret of Monkey Island, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Grim Fandango, and the list goes on.

While Psychonauts was, obviously, a departure in genre, the hallmarks of humor, wild concepts, and imaginative plots all remain. They would get more ambitious with stuff like Brutal Legend, which rankled some folks for being an RTS disguised as a heavy metal action game, and Costume Quest, an RPG based around kids' trick-or-treat shenanigans, but there's an energy and childish glee behind every Double Fine game that's hard to miss. 


Also, founder Tim Schafer is just the best human being, but that's neither here or there.

The story in Psychonauts 2

For those who might need a quick primer, Psychonauts is the story of Raz, a young man raised by circus folk who discovers he has psychic powers. When his father forbids him to seek training, Raz runs away from home and ends up at Whispering Rock, a government-run training program for psychic children dressed up like a summer camp. He's caught immediately, of course, but noting Raz's power, the camp's quirky counselors — the actual Psychonauts, government agents using their psychic powers to protect the world — allow him to stay until his parents come pick him up. 


Along the way, Raz makes a few friends, makes a few enemies, and makes a few horrifying discoveries when he finds out one of the camp counselors, Coach Oleander, is working with a maniacal scientist, Dr. Loboto, to steal psychic childrens' brains for their own personal psychic death squad. By infiltrating their psyches, however, Raz is able to help Oleander and Loboto work through their respective daddy issues, and with an assist from his own dad — who, big surprise, has been psychic all along — and Truman Zanotto — head Psychonaut, and, gulp, his girlfriend Lili's dad — he earns his stripes as a full-fledged Psychonaut in the process.

What's going on in Psychonauts 2

In the sequel, Raz finally makes it to Psychonaut HQ, having surpassed the need for anything as rudimentary as a summer camp to hone his abilities. However, he and his fellow Psychonauts find out headquarters is under some very different new management. Zanotto's second-in-command has taken charge of the place in the big man's absence and has branched out the Psychonauts' scope of support into a new direction that maybe, sorta, kinda involves a little bit of necromancy. 


Of course, answering the question of why psychics shouldn't play with dead things is only one of Raz's problems in the sequel, which also involves him dealing with his family's curse (they are all doomed to die by drowning in water), the fact that Dr. Loboto is still out there doing his dastardly deeds, and, perhaps the most terrifying thing of all, how to properly conduct himself in a relationship.

The gameplay in Psychonauts 2

Granted, we've only gotten a tiny look at Psychonauts 2's gameplay, but so far, the order of the day appears to be "stay the course, but at higher resolution." So, a lot of running, jumping, climbing, and no small amount of acrobatics. Raz is a circus kid after all. Of course, there's the psychic powers, and while we haven't seen much of that yet, it's a safe bet Double Fine wouldn't go messing with a set of gameplay mechanics so innately satisfying as summoning a giant psychic hand to smack enemies around with. Still, it's hard to remember, but one of the reasons the original Psychonauts was so lauded was because platformers at the time had become extremely safe collect-a-thons with fun protagonists but, ironically, no character. Things are a bit different now, in a post-Mario Odyssey world especially, but Psychonauts was no one trick lungfish.


The twists are where the first game really became something special. Besides the coolness of being able to burn things with his mind, the real genius is being able to invade someone's mind and traipse around levels built around the subject's personal mindset. Considering the sequel has you surrounded by some of the most powerful psychics in the world, expect to deal with some real messed up minds along the way.

Psychonauts 2's long development process

Psychonauts 2 had a rough road to existence. Even considering how beloved Double Fine's games are, and how the first Psychonauts is held up as one of the best games of this young century, the sequel was still turned down by numerous publishers before Schafer finally broke down and went the crowdfunding route on Fig


Thankfully, between the Fig campaign, the studio itself, and various other sources, Psychonauts 2 was still able to hit the benchmark of quality from the first game. The original cast — yes, that includes Richard Horvitz as Raz — is returning, and they'll be joined by Jack Black, who, god bless him, has been ride-or-die for Schafer and Double Fine since Brutal Legend. Original writers like Erik Wolpaw — who went on to become a writer at Valve for everything from Half Life 2: Episode 1 to Portal 2 — are joining prestige newcomers like Zak McClendon (of Harmonix and BioShock Infinite fame). Yes, Psychonauts 2 got bumped back to 2020, but without a doubt, the game's level of polish is going to show where that time and effort went.


The Microsoft problem

Of course, there's also an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. A big green-and-black elephant. Microsoft has been steadily arming itself to rebuild the Xbox brand after getting thoroughly smacked around by Sony and Nintendo this gen, and one of the ways in which they plan to win back hearts and minds is by buying studios, turning their traditionally weaksauce first party into an unstoppable juggernaut. One of the studios now living under Microsoft's wing is Double Fine


Where does that leave Psychonauts 2, especially given that one of the crowdfunding promises was that the game would be releasing on just about everything? Thankfully, the answer is, "Exactly where it was when they announced it." Double Fine has gone on record that despite the fact that Xbox Game Studios is ultimately publishing the game, it's still set to debut on every platform that was promised: Xbox, PS4, PC — and no, they're not going Epic exclusive, either — Mac, and Linux. Of course, it's now a different story for all their games going forward, but good of MS to give their new bride one last fling before locking them down forever.

What to play in the meantime

Unfortunately, unless you were generous enough to kick Double Fine some cash before the crowdfund ended, there's currently no way to pre-order the game. But, for the time being, everybody has options to get in on some of that Double Fine goodness. If you're one of the lucky folks with an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or PSVR, you can actually play Rhombus of Ruin, the VR title bridging the first and second games. For everyone else, though, Double Fine were actually pretty busy in 2019, putting out RAD and Knights & Bikes. The former's an interesting, '80s-tinged twist on a procedurally generated dungeon crawler based around wacky mutations. The other is a sort of Earthbound-meets-Secret of Mana action-RPG that's gotten absolutely rave reviews since it released. 


Of course, the first Psychonauts is pretty much available for everything under the sun, but really, if you haven't already, give Brutal Legend another shot. If you go in knowing it's actually an RTS, you'll find a headbanging good time waiting. How many other games have you fight final bosses voiced by Tim Curry to Judas Priest's Painkiller? Zero, that's how many.