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I just finished Psychonauts, and as the credits just barely come to an end, I offer up a few thoughts before I’m on to the next game.

Transcript(ish)

It’s time for a post-game smoke, where I give a few thoughts on a game as soon as possible after playing it. As is the nature of this video, it’s short, hastily thrown together, and most certainly rides the high (or low) of whatever game I just finished. If you are new to the channel, I offer plenty of longer, more thought-out videos, so please stay and poke around  a bit.

The credits have rolled on Psychonauts. And it’s a damn fun game. Had I played Psychonauts when it was first released in 2005, there’s a good chance my life may have gone in a much different direction. For context, in 2005 I was a very recent College graduate, with no clear direction on where I wanted to go careerwise. I harbored dreams of being a financially stable author. I harbored dreams of playing videogames for the rest of my life. If Psychonauts had entered my life then, I honestly might have, upon graduation, gone right back to school to seek a computer science degree with new dreams of melding my love of narrative with my love of videogames. Psychonauts is that good.

I am sad I didn’t play this earlier. But I’m happy I didn’t wait any longer to play this game. The difficulty spike at the end of the game would kill me as an old man. Thankfully, the genuine humor this game offers until that difficulty spike is absolutely worth the experience. I wish more games would be as creative, as funny, all around engaging as Psychonauts.

Though the game is fantastic, there is one unfortunate side-effect to playing this game so far after its original release. Psychonauts reinvigorates my anger at those who dismissed Yooka-Laylee on account of platforming that felt outdated. Those complainers obviously didn’t realize just how far we’ve come in terms of platformer controls. Critics of Yooka-Laylee complained that the controls felt too reminiscent of the 90s games from which it was born. But I disagree. Psychonauts is proof that even in the mid 2000’s, platforming controls could be incredibly shitty. Yooka-Laylee is a damn revelation compared to Psychonauts, just over 15 years it’s junior, nevermind Banjo Kazooie, which is almost 20 years its junior. When talking controls, either leave Yooka-Laylee alone or you should be forced to call Psychonauts crap, too. And I don’t know too many people who would call Psychonauts, this lovely gem of a game, crap.

Perhaps it’s the humor of Psychonauts that lets me overlook the hard platformer controls. This game is funny. Genuinely funny. People cite humor as a positive of a lot of Double Fine games, but I’ve played, and simply not liked, many of them. Not Grim Fandango. Not Day of the Tentacle. The Cave was neat. Half of Brutal Legend made me smile (yes, the first half). But Psychonauts is simply a more entertaining game than the aforementioned. I know Double Fine has made a lot of games, and I should give more of them a chance, but so far the ratio I’ve experienced is not in their favor.

Perhaps the best part about playing Psychonauts now is that I can finally join in the Psychonauts 2 fanfare. Part 2 is coming out in 2018, and I am incredibly excited.

One last point before I go. A plea, if you will, to game developers everywhere. Please don’t ruin a game by introducing an insane difficulty spike on the final level. Difficulty itself can be good (though personally, I prefer an easy game), but when that difficulty is presented all at once, in the final level, it’s simply not fair. The progression narrative should support such a spike. Last levels should not be hard just because they are the last levels. They should be hard only if the game has nurtured the experience to support such difficulty. I was so close to quitting multiple times. And when I finally beat the game–even after it froze during the final boss fight, mind, forcing me to play the entire final level over again–I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Rather, I felt lucky. There’s no pride in luck. And this isn’t about getting good. This is about being sold a weekend on the lake and, just as you are packing up to leave, you have to fight a shark. On a raft. And jumping up to the raft is a fucking chore because the raft was made in 2005 when hit detection physics weren’t quite ironed out.

Tell me, have you played Psychonauts? What did you think? Isn’t it 99% great?

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Music Credits

  • 8bit Dungeon Level Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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