First announced at The Game Awards 2015, Double Fine Productions’ Psychonauts 2 is finally set to release on August 25th for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4 and PC (along with Xbox Game Pass). It’s been a long journey for the title, from its crowd-funding campaign to numerous delays and Double Fine eventually being acquired by Microsoft. Recent previews and impressions have been fairly positive but what should you expect from the highly anticipated sequel? Let’s take a look at 12 things here.
By the end of Psychonauts 1, Raz was acknowledged as a true PSI Cadet. But then the events of Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin occurred and saw Raz rescuing Truman Zanotto, the Grand Head of the Psychonauts. The sequel picks up immediately after when the team returns to Psychonauts HQ and while it’s still about espionage, a number of changes have been made courtesy of Hollis Forsythe, Zanotto’s second-in-command.
Back in 2016, director Tim Schafer revealed in a Reddit AMA that the organization has cut funding for psychic research and peacekeeping and redirected it to “unorthodox, fringe endeavors, including the discredited practice of necromancy.” It’s not long before sinister dealings and double agents are discovered and Raz must work to uncover what’s hiding in the shadows. His family history plays a “pivotal part” as well and Raz will have to “confront the roots of the curse placed on his family once and for all.” All in all, there are big secrets and higher stakes involved than in previous titles.
New and Returning Characters
Along with Raz and Truman Zanotto, Psychonauts 2 will have characters like Sasha Nein and Camilla Vodello returning to the fray. Hollis Forysthe makes her debut, providing Raz with his Merit Badges while having her own plans for Psychonauts HQ. Lili Zanotto, Truman’s daughter and Raz’s “girlfriend”, is also back and there will presumably be some more development on their relationship. Dr. Loboto, who kidnapped Truman in Rhombus of Ruin but has since reformed, also appears and is intent on being friends with Raz. Expect more new and returning characters (including one voiced by Jack Black) when exploring the different Mindscapes.
Mindscapes in Psychonauts are the mental worlds of different individuals, formed by their past memories, traumas and experiences. Each person’s Mindscape is completely different with unique objectives and themes. In Psychonauts 2, you have Mindscapes like Cassie’s Collection, which is composed of books, paper and so on with the objective of locating three fragments of Cassie O’Pia’s personality before the fourth, the Librarian, can file them away. There’s also Compton’s Cookoff which is set against the backdrop of a cooking show hosted by hand puppets (and where Raz must create meals for the judges in attendance). Hollis’s Mind has been showcased extensively thus far and is a combination of a casino with a hospital from her past as Raz struggles to revert the results of a botched Mental Connection exercise.
Though it has a lot more going on in terms of level design, objectives and combat, Psychonauts 2 is a platformer first and foremost. Raz gains new abilities to navigate the various Mindscapes (more on that in a bit) but the core platforming has been made smoother and more “acrobatic”. This goes hand in hand with the sheer detail in levels and encouraging you to explore every nook and cranny. There are also 2.5D platforming sections, a first for the series where the camera switches to a side-scrolling perspective.
Among the many things that Double Fine wanted to improve with Psychonauts 2 is the combat. Speaking to Game Informer, Schafer revealed that there are dedicated teams for combat and psychic powers who are “playing and iterating and testing the game and making a lot of improvements.” The goal is to have psychic powers be more useful in combat.
“Every psychic power has some fun way to use it in battle, and maybe some enemy who’s really susceptible to it.” This is opposed to the first game where “we put a bunch of psychic powers in, and some of the people just forgot about them, because you didn’t have to use them.” As you enter different levels, you’ll need to switch between different powers depending on the situation. Either way, don’t expect to be leaning too heavily into a single power throughout.
Of course, as Raz ventures through the different Mindscapes, he’ll also run into a variety of foes like the returning Censors. Stamping Censors are present and will attempt to stamp Raz if he gets too close. There are also Little Censors, which are weaker but appear in larger numbers, and Heavy Censors that pack a bigger punch. Players can expect boss battles (like the aforementioned Librarian) as well. Schafer confirmed to Axios that Microsoft’s acquisition of the studio resulted in bosses being more fleshed out. “Enemies that were more on the tail end of things that needed some more love” have also been polished up.
Motherlobe and Upgrading Abilities
In the midst of all these different Mindscapes, you have a central hub in the Motherlobe. It’s here where you’ll progress the story and also chat up the different characters to get to know them better and have a laugh or two. The Motherlobe is also essential for upgrading Raz’s abilities. Instead of automatically upgrading abilities, you can choose which ones to improve in the hub by spending Intern Credits.
As a PSI Cadet, Raz has access to a number of powers to help him traverse the Mindscapes. Returning powers like Telekinesis, Levitation, PSI-Punch and PSI-Blast have already been confirmed but there are also some new ones to play with. Projection allows Raz to create a 2D cutout clone of himself that can fit into otherwise inaccessible places. Mental Connection allows for connecting ideas in others’ minds while also serving as a grappling hook. It can also be used to either pull lighter enemies to follow-up with attacks or pull Raz towards heavier enemies to quickly close the distance.
Revisiting Previous Mindscapes
As Raz gains new abilities, different areas of the Mindscapes will become accessible. You can return to previous locations to also try and collect all of the Figments which can provide PSI Cadet ranks. There are other collectibles as well, which should keep completionists busy as they hunt down every little secret.
Psychonauts 2 includes a wealth of accessibility options for players, which includes Assist Features for turning off fall damage, toggling invincibility and much more. Controls are fully remappable and there’s a camera assist option that will show the player where to go next. Other options include reducing camera shake, color blindness settings, larger subtitles, font legibility and much more. There’s also a “narrative combat” setting that allows Raz to deal more damage, making it easier to breeze through the combat.
For all of the effects and attention to detail in Psychonauts 2, its PC requirements are thankfully not too crazy. At the very minimum, you’ll need an Intel Core i3-3225 or AMD Phenom II X6 1100T with 8 GB of RAM and either a GeForce GTX 1050 or Radeon RX 560 with 2 GB VRAM. The recommended specs include an Intel Core i7-7700K or Ryzen 5 1600, 8 GB of RAM and either a GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 580 with 6 GB VRAM. In both cases, 30 GB of installation space is required. Though HDR support isn’t available, the PC version does support Variable Refresh Rate and is capable of “unlimited” resolutions and frame rates.
Console Resolution and Performance
On Xbox One, Psychonauts 2 runs at 1920×1080 at 30 FPS while Xbox One X offers 3840×2160 at 30 FPS. Xbox Series S is where the options start opening up – you can either run it in 2880×1620 resolution at 60 FPS or at 1080p at 120 FPS (though a 120 Hz monitor will be needed). On Xbox Series X/S, you get 4K/60 FPS and 1440p/120 FPS with support for both HDR and Variable Refresh Rate. On PS4, the game runs at 1920×1080 at 30 FPS while PS4 Pro provides 2560×1440 at 30 FPS. Since there’s no dedicated PS5 version, the PS4 version essentially runs in backwards compatibility mode, offering the same 2560×1440 resolution but at 60 FPS. Long story short, if you’re looking for the definitive console version, then the Xbox Series X appears to be it.