Review: Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is the return to Psychonauts we've been waiting for
Please release Psychonauts 2 now!
Platforms: PlayStation VR
Developer: Double Fine Productions
It’s been awhile since we’ve seen or even heard about a new Psychonauts. You remember Psychonauts, right? The cute adventure game from Double Fine on the original Xbox and PlayStation 2 that became a cult classic? For those unaware of Psychonauts, here’s a quick rundown. You play as Raz, a boy with psychic powers that allows him to do a variety of things such as picking up objects with his mind, possessing people, and more. Without going too deep into the story, Raz joins a group of spies called the “Psychonauts” who hold similar powers to him. The game is a light-hearted, comical homage/parody of classic spy films like 007 which has the added twist of supernatural powers that you use to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. The game reviewed very well when it released in 2005 but despite the rave reviews, it didn’t sell incredibly well. In fact, it was sadly deemed a commercial failure. That doesn’t mean Double Fine threw in the towel and considered it a dead IP though!
Those who played the game have been begging Double Fine for a sequel for over a decade and we are about to finally get one! To help whet the appetite of fans as they work on the sequel, Double Fine has released a PlayStation VR exclusive titled Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin that bridges the gap between the original game and Psychonauts 2.
Rhombus of Ruin makes it feel like no time has passed since the original game:
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is more or less a first-person point and click game that features zero combat and is entirely puzzle based. You’re still the beloved Raz and you’re joined by fan favorite characters like Coach, Raz’s father, and the adorable Lili. The game starts directly after the end of the original Psychonauts, Lili’s father has been kidnapped and the Psychonauts must find out his whereabouts. Each character is voiced by the same actor, everything feels right tonally, and the music is just as you’d imagine it. It’s as if 12 years haven’t passed since we last saw this band of heroes!
Your search brings you to the mysterious Rhombus of Ruin, an underwater base filled with secrets and creatures. Since the game is entirely first-person and is semi-on-rails, the world is designed with such care. It is so carefully crafted and is filled with objects for the player to interact with. I spent dozens of minutes just picking apart some of the locations just to find new things to laugh or smile at.
On top of that, it does a great job of immersing you in its world. When you’re outside of the actual base and are in the water, fishes swim right past your face and it actually startled me. It wasn’t meant to scare me, I was just so immersed and felt like I was under the water that when the fish swam past me I had what would’ve been a natural reaction if I was really there.
Not your traditional Psychonauts game:
This game may not be what you expect from a Psychonauts game since it’s not a platformer, it’s not third-person, there’s no combat, etc. But it is very much a Psychonauts game in terms of tone, that side-bursting Double Fine humor, and the overall style. It looks like a beautiful animated movie that mixes the art styles and tones of animated shows/movies like Coraline and Invader Zim.
The comedy in the game is excellent, I had to pause the game a couple of times because I was laughing so hard. The humor doesn’t just come from jokes being told through dialogue, it also comes from exploring this uniquely strange world Double Fine has created and interacting with it by using your powers. If you do something wrong in a puzzle or by experimenting with things to figure out a solution, you won’t feel stupid if you got it wrong. You’ll be rewarded with something that’ll give you a small chuckle. The game rewards you for simply exploring and experimenting with its small, but finely detailed areas.
Simple yet fun, challenging puzzles:
The puzzles themselves are usually fairly simple but they offer enough of a challenge so they don’t feel incredibly easy. You have to survey your surroundings to determine what exactly you need to do and the answers aren’t super obscure, the hardest puzzle in the game might take you a maximum of 10 minutes to solve. It makes them easy enough to solve to keep a good pacing while also feeling satisfying when you do figure them out.
The puzzles require you to do pretty basic things like moving things to certain areas with your psychic powers so they can be interacted in unique ways, lighting things on fire, or even just figuring out how to exit a locked room. The environments are so compact that they answers/hints aren’t super hard to find and it’ll keep things moving at a brisk pace.
One jarring technical difficulty:
The one issue I had with the game may not even be a problem with the game itself. A few times throughout the game, the camera would glitch out and cause an incredibly disorienting feeling that made my stomach turn in an unpleasant way. Since you’re playing the game through someone else’s point of view, it can cause immense confusion and displeasure when the character’s head starts to move in ways someone's head most certainly would never move. I don’t get motion sick from VR and rarely need to take breaks, but after this happened a few times I had to take the headset off and lay down for a few minutes. It could be an issue with the PSVR headset tracking, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless.
If you’ve been waiting for a new Psychonauts game and you have a PlayStation VR headset, you’ll want to pick this up. Although it isn’t the traditional Psychonauts game, it holds that same style and feeling of the original game which is arguably the most important part. Even if you’re not a huge Psychonauts fan but you’re looking for a new VR game, I’d recommend grabbing Rhombus of Ruin just because it uses the PSVR in fun ways and manages to be a great game even without the Psychonauts name attached to it. Unlike most VR games, this game has a good amount of time you can invest into it. It’s not 15 hours long or anything, but it isn’t a super short 45-minute “experience” like some other titles on the market.