It's been years since fantastic 3d platformer Psychonauts came out, and not quite as long since VR puzzle game Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin proved the universe is still lovely. Or, as Tim Schafer himself put it when he introduced the sequel, "some of you were still babies." I'll admit I didn't play the original game until a few years ago, but even today it holds up extremely well and is an experience I was happy to have. So when a chance to see Psychonauts 2 showed up, I jumped for it. I'm glad I did.
A group of press got in to see the game played and narrated by Schafer. The demo started with the first level, and has Raz, Lili, Sasha, Milla, and Coach Oleander entering the brain of the ever so infamous dentist turned brain surgeon Dr. Loboto. The plan? Get him to tell them who paid him to kidnap Lili's father, since it's clearly not a plan he thought up on his own. They do so by rather humorously turning his mind into a boring office and presenting him with an award for employee of the year, saying that all he needs to do is have his boss sign it. Naturally, this doesn't work.
What follows is Loboto catching onto their plan and putting in measures to stop them. As Loboto's efforts grow, the level began to twist and turn in fantastic ways. Raz's efforts to reach the end of a hallway were thwarted by the hallway's continued growth. Another section saw gravity twist, and Raz had to jump on office cubicles to avoid falling to the ground. As things continued, Loboto's mind began to grow teeth. Literally. Teeth grew out of walls, serving as platforms and obstacles to dodge and use.
It also grew teeth in the way that Raz shortly had enemies to deal with. These enemies came in the form of various mental ways to dodge having to think about tough subjects, such as censors that tried to stamp out things that didn't belong, or doubts that "weighed you down" by dropping literal weights on Raz. Combat is slightly more complicated than it was in the original game, with Raz having quite a few abilities at his disposal. The ones we saw in the demo were mostly taken from the original, such as telekinesis to throw objects or pyrokinesis to light people on fire.
I don't want to say Psychonauts 2 looks like it plays like the original, but rather it looks like how I remembered the original played. Smooth, fun, and interesting to watch, there always seemed to be some great options to help Raz advance through levels and fight off enemies. I absolutely loved how elements from the first game seemed to show up, and I was equally surprised by how often Rhombus of Ruin seemed to be mentioned as well. It really does breath new life into the series.
Near the end we got a quick tease of what's to come. Raz manages to track Loboto back to his hideout, where he witnesses the doctor having a conversation with a mysterious shadowy man. The man threatens Loboto with making him witness "her", something that causes Loboto to freak out. Raz manages to sneak a quick look at "her", and the act of doing so is enough to put him in a coma, ending our demo. Who is the shadowy man, and what is "her"? It seems like we'll be waiting until the full game launches.
After the demo ended, Tim opened questions up for the crowd. He said the game will be taking place in the Psychonauts HQ, which will serve as an open/hub world similar to the camp in the first game. Levels themselves will still take place inside the minds of other characters, as expected. The game is being serious on mental issues, but will still have comedic elements and Tim said it wasn't intended to be a "lesson game". His hope, despite this, was that players would come away feeling empathy for both the characters and the understanding that everyone has their problems, doubts, regrets, and other issues, and not to judge them too harshly for it.
As for outside of Psychonauts 2, Tim let slip a few more interesting facts. For example, Psychonauts made more money in the last 5 years than it made in the first 5 years. He also said that some of the game's biggest influences were the same as the original: Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Skies of Arcadia. Also some bad news: there's no plans for a sequel for Brutal Legends. Instead, the plan is to move onto a new IP. Also, for those worried, Psychonauts 2 will still be launching on all the original planned platforms despite Microsoft recently buying the studio.
Despite that small loss, I have to say that I had a great time seeing Psychonauts 2. It's an early highlight for E3, and a game that I am absurdly excited to finally get my hands on. Thankfully, this may finally be the year we get to do so.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2019 Coverage Hub.