Monday, March 9, 2009

Twisted Psyche

So this weekend i had to find something to do to kill some time. My family were all going out and i was the one who drew the short straw to stay  home and "guard the house from threats". So i went to the vidjagame shop and bought me some Psychonauts. I wasn't in the mood for another RPG, Disgaea 2 kinda sucked that outta me for a while, and i wanted a hop and bopper, you know? A platformer that required little brainwork and more manual dexterity. 

I kinda lucked out on Psychonauts. It's the story of Razputin (Raz for short, voiced by Steve Horwitz, the guy who voiced Zim from Invader Zim) a boy who runs away from the circus to become a psychonaut, a kind of psychic secret agent. He ends up at Whispering Rock Summer camp, which is a training camp for psychonauts, where young psi-cadets are trained to harness their powers. Raz has to complete his training as fast as possible, before his dad shows up to take him home to the circus. Of course, something goes terribly wrong, and the other kids have their brains stolen to fuel psychic death tanks (yes, you read that right) and Raz is the only one who can get them back and stop the madman behind it all.
The way i see it, a good platformer has to have good locomotion. The way you control a character, and how they get around the game world has to feel good and responsive to make it truly memorable. Since Raz was raised in the circus, he's very mobile, flipping around and walking tightropes with no problem. Also, he's psychic, and can double jump by bouncing off an orb of psychic energy. Combat is kind of secondary to the puzzles, but they give you a nice array of psychic powers to deal with enemies (including censors, which are little lawyer guys with a big rubber stamp that are mental constructs designed to stamp out foreign thoughts) like Telekinesis, Pyrokinesis (as Raz says, fire is pretty), Psy-blasts and Invisibility. Raz also is too cool to punch things, instead, he uses his mind to project giant psychic hands to beat things up. 

The writing is also wonderful, full of twisted jokes and characters. Thankyou Tim Schafer, you made me laugh this weekend. One of my personal favorites was the one where Raz discovers the reason why there are so many arrowheads (the games currency) around the camp. It's because the camp was built on an ancient Indian Burial ground. They didn't bury their dead there, just arrowheads. The terms for ingame items are cool too, health is Mental Health, Instead of lives you have Astral Projections and you can collect emotional baggage and mental cobwebs from peoples minds. It's the little touches that endear you.
The art style is wonderful, a twisted sort of un-symmetricalness that really makes for different and interesting visuals. If you have some time, check out Scott Campbells blog, he was the art director on the game. Also, the game was released in 2005, which makes me wonder if i'm ever going to be able to play new releases :P

All in all, it gets five slices of cake outta five. Also, i wouldn't mind some psychic powers. 

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