Psychonauts 2 is a direct follow up to the first two games in the Psychonauts series. And though it’s being released 16 years after the first title, the newest entry follows on immediately after the events of that game.
The hero of the story is a young acrobat named Razputin “Raz” Aquato who recently left life in his family’s circus to become an international psychic spy—otherwise known as a Psychonaut. In the first game, he proved his mettle by rescuing the head of the Psychonauts, Truman Zanotto, after that leader was kidnapped.
Upon arriving at the Psychonaut base, however, Raz finds that he’s not automatically ushered into the ranks of the psychic spies. Instead he’s placed in the intern pool with a gaggle of other spy wannabes who aren’t so happy about his arrival.
But there’s no time to worry over petty rivalries. Not only have the Psychonauts learned that there is a mole within their headquarters, they’ve also gotten wind of a dangerous plot that may well destroy the world.
It’s up to an acrobatic intern named Raz to psychically project himself into the minds of both friends and foes. There, he’ll use his developing collection of psychic abilities (including pyrokinesis and telekinesis) to uncover clues, free people from their own mental imprisonment and find a dastardly villain.
Though Psychonauts 2 is a continuation of the earlier game, you don’t have to be familiar with that 2005 title to play this one. A recap video summarizes that adventure while setting up this one.
This humor-laced adventure platformer initially feels like a quirky take on fighting evil and enduring bullies. But it soon becomes clear that Psychonauts 2 is also deftly exploring mental issues and trauma.
Here’s what that looks like. The game contains what it calls “artistic interpretations” of mental health conditions. It creates monster personifications of emotions such as anger and regret, and it pits players against bad ideas and serious issues such as addiction, anxieties, and delusions.
Ultimately this is not only an adventure spattered with revenge and deception, but a game that takes players symbolically through the concepts of empathy and healing.
Violence isn’t heavy or gory, but the platforming combat can be frenetic as characters get blasted with fire, hit with explosions, and punched and bashed around. And players actually dealing with some of the artistically portrayed mental health issues could find the on-screen struggles unsettling.
One character smokes cigarettes non-stop. Other anthropomorphized characters smoke cigars. And there are references to drinking beer and whiskey in the dialogue, along with some clever, drug-focused quips such as, “He looks like an injectable, but really he’s a pill.”
There are also bits of crude and suggestive inuendo in the comedic banter, including winking references to people “fooling around,” “hooking up” and the “fun bits” of having a baby. Other biological elements in the game include vomiting, gas-passing and nose-picking visuals, and the like.
In addition to all that, we hear odd references to reanimating the dead (such as books titled Razing the Dead the EZ Way and The Home Necromancy Workbook”). A few bits of language, including uses of “a–” and “dang.”
There’s no question that Psychonauts 2 is a creative construct that blends humor and fun action with a unique approach to the idea of mental health issues.
You won’t find many games like it. But parents should also note that it comes with its own share of minor sticky bits and winking innuendo to navigate around as well.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.