This game has been on my backlog for years and it was satisfying to finally finish it. I'm giving it a "liked" on my scale because of the theme and story, but I value polish and a lack of that polish in a few critical areas prevents it from being a game I truly love.

As an adventure/story game, Psychonauts deserves all the praise it gets. The story is easy to follow, funny, and engaging enough to pull you along. All the main characters have backstories that are interesting and fleshed out further via optional collectables. The levels are each visually distinct and present interesting new gameplay mechanics. The process of finding new items or psychic power and "using" those tools on people to find new interactions or dialogue is fun and there's a lot of attention to detail in this regard.

As a 3D platformer, Psychonauts is overhyped. It is not a good 3D platformer. It's maybe better than average, but there also isn't a lot of competition in this space. The player and camera controls have a lot of that old-game clunkiness to it, especially with the pole spinning or double jumps. The majority of levels don't have interesting platforming challenges, and this is a good thing; when more precise or fast platforming is required (like in the Meat Circus level), the clunkiness becomes super apparent and frustrating. The game's levels shine most when they focus on puzzle solving or exploration, rather than platforming.

This game has a summer-camp themed hub world that isn't too big or too small, and has plenty to do even if that's just talking to all the other campers. Their dialogue is funny and changes over the course of the game, since they each have micro-stories and elements of character progression to discover. There are also many quality of life features that I didn't expect to see in an older title: including a simple quest log, the option to ask Ford for help on what to do any time (or tips on beating a tough boss), and the ability to pause and replay any cutscene or view a memory at any time. On the downside, the audio design is quite poor even for a game of its time. I suspect this mostly due to a lack of polishing time or budget. Many scenes feel like they are missing sound effects, the audio mixing is different between pre-rendered cutscenes and real-time ones, and the music is kind of boring and not as dynamic as I'd like it to be especially during boss fights.

In short, this is a theme and story-first adventure game. Don't expect rock-solid gameplay mechanics; what's there is serviceable and only occasionally frustrating later in the game. Fortunately everything else is strong enough to sell the game and make it worth completing, but not enough to make my want to replay or find every last collectable.

Reviewed on Jun 19, 2023