Note: Not to be confused with the in-game organization, the Psychonauts.
–Description from the Psychonauts boxart
–—Ben "Yahztee" Crowshaw, Review of Psychonauts
Psychonauts is a 2005 3-D platforming video game developed by Tim Schafer and Double Fine Productions and was first published by Majesco Entertainment, then later by Double Fine Productions after they acquired the Psychonauts license from them. There are two sequels to Psychonauts: Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin, and Psychonauts 2.
The game was originally released on April 19, 2005 for the Xbox, and April 26 for Microsoft Windows, and the following June for PlayStation 2 respectively. The game has subsequently been ported to additional platforms:
- Windows re-release via Steam as an "Xbox Original"
- Xbox LIVE Marketplace (available as of January 2013). The game is available to play on Xbox 360 (2013), and Xbox One (2017) since October 25, 2017. It is also possible to insert the original Xbox disc into the Xbox 360 or Xbox One console to play the game.
- GameTap basic subscription service (as a free playable title)
- MacOS via Steam (2011)
- PS3 and PS4 via PlayStation Store as a "PS2 Classic" (2012 for PS3; 2016 for PS4)
- Linux, initially included in the "Humble Indie Bundle #5", now on Steam. Also compatible with SteamOS (2012)
While it initially suffered from poor sales, Psychonauts received strong critical praise and is considered one of the best platformers of the sixth console generation.
Warning: Massive spoilers for Psychonauts ahead! Read at your own risk; you have been warned.
The game takes place in 1982. Psychonauts details the adventures of Razputin ("Raz" for short), a 10-year old who is gifted with psychic abilities. Raz runs away from his family's circus because his father does not appreciate his psychic gift, making him practice acrobatics day after day, and sneaks into a summer camp for those with similar powers, so he can train to become a Psychonaut and show his worth. Soon, however, he finds that there is a sinister plot unfolding at the camp, which only he can stop.
When Raz first gets into the camp, Psychonaut Milla Vodello calls his father, leaving Raz with little time to master his psychic powers. While being allowed to stay at camp, Raz befriends Dogen Boole, a boy with incredible but uncontrolled psychic power, and Lili Zanotto, the 10-year-old daughter of the grand head of the Psychonauts, who instantly falls in love with Raz, but her natural reluctance prevents her from throwing herself at him. After doing incredibly well in Coach Oleander's Basic Braining, Agent Sasha Nein notices Raz's talents at his young age and asks him to come to his secret lab for advanced training.
The advanced training mentioned by Agent Nein involves using a device known as a Brain Tumbler to project Raz into his own mindscape and unlock his true potential. In doing so, he comes across a vision of a large thorny tower where an evil dentist in a shower cap is threatening Dogen with the removal of his brain. Back in reality, Raz discovers that the vision in his mind about Dogen has come true, and he is indeed completely brainless. By gaining new powers from former Psychonaut Ford Cruller, and learning Marksmanship and Levitation from Sasha and Milla respectively, Raz makes it to the top of the tower and sees the madman dentist force Dogen to sneeze his brain out via a super-charged sneezing powder. Raz goes after it down a garbage chute and ends up in a battle with the blueprints of a tank powered by Dogen's psychic power, and upon its defeat, finds himself in the white corridor he saw before in Oleander's mind.
Suddenly Sasha turns off the Brain Tumbler, forced to leave on official Psychonauts business and Raz finds that Milla is missing as well. When he goes to meet Lili by the docks, they discuss their findings and come to the conclusion that the good Coach is plotting to take over the world by stealing the campers' brains, and power tanks with them, tapping into their unused psychic potential. Sadly, before they can do something about it, Lili is kidnapped by the Hideous Hulking Lungfish of Lake Oblongata, a monster rumored to live in the lake, and Ford Cruller, the only other person left at camp, reveals he cannot leave his sanctuary without lapsing into one of his split personalities, as the Psitanium reserve there focuses his mind, which was broken after an enormous psychic duel. Raz is thus forced to set things right by himself, and uses a bathysphere to follow the monster, being deathly afraid of large bodies of water due to a curse on his entire family that will cause them all to drown in deep water. After engaging the Lungfish in battle, Raz finds that Lili is not with it, but Ford Cruller tells him the monster was once an ordinary lungfish, mutated and brainwashed by Oleander and Loboto. Using the Psycho-Portal from Sasha's lab, Raz journeys deep into the lungfish's mind and frees it from Oleander's control. Grateful, the lungfish takes him to Thorney Towers Home for the Disturbed, the abandoned insane asylum across the lake where Loboto resides, and gives him a pipe to summon her should Raz want to cross the lake again. Before leaving, the lungfish reveals her name to be Linda.
Making his way up to the gates of the asylum, Raz meets Boyd Cooper, the appointed guard, who refuses to open the gates, rambling about a conspiracy and "the milkman" holding the key. Again visiting Boyd's mind, Raz discovers that the milkman is Boyd's pyromaniac alternate persona. Oleander had hypnotized Boyd to burn down the asylum to destroy any evidence of what went on there, and Raz accidentally triggered this mechanism, leaving Boyd frozen in front of the Asylum's main door with a molotov cocktail. Moving on, Raz comes across fallen actress Gloria Von Gouton, Napoleon's loser descendant Fred Bonaparte, and wrestling black velvet painter Edgar Teglee, all mental patients, helps them overcome their mental issues by sorting out their mindscapes, and puts together a costume of Dr. Loboto out of some of their possessions. Using this disguise, he is able to fool the extremely nearsighted Crispin Whytehead, who was guarding the elevator, into letting him through to the upper floors.
As Raz reaches the top of the tower he discovers Dr. Loboto experimenting with brains, and notices the brains of Sasha and Milla in jars on a table. He finds their bodies and Lili, who was saved from losing her brain due to a nasty cold keeping her from smelling the super sneezing powder, by which the brains are removed. He also meets Dr. Loboto's assistant, Sheegor, who only works for Loboto because he holds her precious pet turtle Mr. Pokeylope hostage. Raz helps to rescue Pokeylope, who turns out to be entirely sentient and even highly intelligent, and he and Sheegor use his (Pokeylope's) brain to get rid of Loboto (knocking him off the side of the tower) and then rebrain Sasha and Milla.
After freeing Lili, Oleander appears and Sasha and Milla send Raz and Lili back down to the asylum courtyard so they don't get hurt in the battle. Ford bursts in with a piece of Psitanium strapped to his back and sprays Oleander with super sneezing powder. Meanwhile, the inmates of the Asylum decide to leave, their issues finally sorted out, and Boyd finishes his objective, throwing one last Molotov through one of the Asylum's windows. Because Edgar left flammable paint thinners laying around and Gloria turned on the gas earlier on, the entire building blows up just as Lili and Razputin have their first kiss, confirming their relationship.
After the explosion, the Psychonauts emerge unscathed, and Oleander has lost his brain. However, as the adults laugh over the brainless Oleander, Raz ponders on where his brain is, until suddenly a brain tank emerges with Oleander's brain inside. He knocks out Lili, Ford, Sasha and Milla leaving Raz to face Oleander alone.
He defeats the tank but is sprayed by the sneezing powder, leaving him, too, brainless. Using Telekinesis, Razputin tosses his own brain into the brain tank's container, thereby combining his own psyche with Oleander's, mixing Raz's childhood memories of the circus with Oleander's childhood memories of his cruel father's butcher shop. Raz protects 'Little Oly' through the 'Meat Circus' and battles with Oly's gigantic father. Raz eventually meets his mind's representation of his own father, an unpleasable psychopath hell-bent on his son's demise via ridiculously difficult acrobatics. After Raz manages to complete his mental father's challenge, his real father penetrates his mind to reveal that he, too, is psychic, and only forced Raz to practice so much to teach him discipline because their family has many enemies. The two evil dads are defeated, and knocked into a meat grinder, but emerge as a grotesque combination of both. Raz's father gives him a special power that allows to him to defeat the two headed dad monster.
Raz and Oleander's psyches are separated with Oleander's inner demons finally taken care of. Back at camp, all the students are recranialized and Oleander apologizes for stealing their brains and trying to take over the world. Ford promptly promotes Raz to a true Psychonaut, seeing as it is obvious that he is not average. Raz and Lili come to terms on their relationship but Lili runs off due to the fact that Raz's family moves around so much that they will barely get to see each other. Just then, Sasha and Milla come in saying that Truman Zanotto, Lili's father and head of the Psychonauts, has been kidnapped.
Sasha invites Raz to come along on the mission, who asks his dad for permission, but he simply says he's taught his son everything he knows. Oleander, Sasha, Milla, Lili and Raz then head into the jet and fly off towards new adventures.
At PSI Cadet Rank 100, an extra cutscene is unlocked, in which Linda arrives at the burning asylum and meets Sheegor and Pokeylope on the shore after the residents have left, feeling much better after Raz helped them with their mental issues. Linda recognizes Pokeylope, calling him Sam, implying that they must have had some form of history together.
Psychonauts combines traditional console platformer elements with the kind of strong storytelling, humor and dialogue found in adventure games. The camp itself is fully explorable by the player to find hidden arrowheads that can be used to purchase items at the camp store and PSI cards that help to improve Raz's PSI Cadet Rank, to talk to other campers and camp advisers, and to make way to the various "levels" within the game. There are also areas in the "real world" of the camp, including a nearby insane asylum, that the player will explore during the course of the game. Throughout these areas are characters whose minds Raz can enter, either through their own actions, or by use of a small door that Raz uses on the character's forehead. Each of these character levels has its own unique visual design and set of challenges, related to the demons, nightmares and secret memories of the mind that Raz is exploring; for example, within the mind of the lungfish that terrorizes the camp lake, Raz is seen as a giant monster attacking a city filled with lungfish beings (in a level designed to parody most elements of the kaijū genre), while within the mind of Boyd Cooper, the insane security guard at the asylum, Raz finds a mind twisted and askew, with cameras and eyes hidden everywhere, which tune in with Boyd's paranoia. Within the mind levels, the player can collect various "figments of imagination" which can also lead to increasing Raz's Psi Ranking, locate tags to match with various "Emotional Baggage" within the level to advance ranks and unlock concept art and destroy "mental vaults" to unlock a slideshow that helps to explain the background of that character and his or her mental problem. The player must also avoid taking damage from censors that attempt to remove Raz from the character's mind. Each mind level typically ends with a boss fight that represents the main cause of the character's mental problems.
Raz gains new psychic powers through the game through either instruction by the camp counselors, or by increasing his PSI Cadet Rank. These powers include telekinesis, levitation, invisibility, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, PSI Shield, PSI Blast, and confusion. Additional Rankings increase the range, duration or potency of these abilities. These powers are directly involved in the puzzle-solving aspects of the game as well as to defeat foes within the game, and allow the player to tailor the solutions to his or her own playing strengths. The player also gains items that can be used either for solving puzzles, to escape from a mind level if they become stuck, or to get advice for solving some of the puzzles.
Appearances in other games
- Razputin appears as a downloadable character in Bit. Trip presents Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.
- Raz's head is selectable in Brutal Legend as a Mount Rushmore-like sculpture.
- The skeletal remains of Raz can be found as an Easter egg in Alice: Madness Returns.
- A figment appears in The Void by the ice-pick lodge.
- Raz appears as a playable zombie in Zombie Vikings
- Raz appears as a figment in A Hat in Time.
- Raz appears as a cardboard cut-out in Costume Quest 2.
- Sixties spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was one of the main inspirations for Psychonauts.
- Main article: Soundtrack