In 2005 the world was introduced to Psychonauts, a cult hit 3D platformer that combined clever mechanics with witty writing and a fun art style to make something that was well liked, even if it wasn't a critical success. Over ten years later, there's been a resurgence of interest in the world of Psychonauts as work continues on the long-awaited sequel. To tide fans over until that game is ready, we get Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is being made. Does this VR puzzle game impress, or does it feel like little more than a stopgap?
Taking place directly after the events of the first game, Rhombus of Ruin sees Raz, Lili, Sasha, Milla, and Oleander rushing off to save Lili's father. Things don't go quite as planned, as they crash their jet in the Rhombus of Ruin (basically the Bermuda Triangle but with four sides instead of three) and become prisoners in an underwater facility manned by fish people. It's up to Raz to free all his friends and Lili's father, as well as figure out who's behind the facility. The story doesn't move the general plot forward much, but it does provide a great return for characters I cared about. There's some really good writing here, with the game being hilarious at times and serious at others. Fans will enjoy getting a look at a character who didn't get enough screen time in Psychonauts (though I don't want to spoil who), and there's enough done to make really want to see how Psychonauts 2 is going continue the story. That said, you may get a little lost if you haven't played Psychonauts. Some details, like Raz's water curse or Milla and Sasha's history, are used in the story without being explained.
While playing as Raz you'll have access to a few different psychic abilities to help solve puzzles and free your team. At the start of the game (after an intro that lets you play with all the powers, that is) this is limited to just a poke that lets you hit buttons and press down on some environmental things, and the ability to jump into people's minds and see things from their perspective. The latter is important, as you can't move about normally and only have this skill to change your perspective on things. It's a cool system, and seeing things through another character's eyes can actually alter what the environment looks like.
As you rescue your friends you'll pick up powers from them, allowing you to use telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and eventually shoot blasts of destructive energy. You'll be using these powers to solve various puzzles to get your friends free. I really enjoyed getting to use these powers, and it was fun seeing how many different reactions there were for using each power on each interactable item in the environment. Raz giggling as he bothered a bunch of fish by poking them still makes me smile.
While all the messing about was fun, the puzzles were a bit on the easy side. Often once you got a power the puzzles involved little more than using that one power. Even so, there were some creative ones in the mix, and trying to figure out each room's mysteries is still delightful. An early puzzle has you trying to figure out the location of a secret lab from inside the lab, needing to find various symbols and clues to do so. Later, you'll have to find a way to possess something small enough to get inside of a music box to fix it and snap Lili out of her brainwashed state. None of these puzzles left me particularly stumped, nor did I really feel any "ah-ha!" moment from finishing one, but they were delightful enough that during the game's two-hour run time I was enjoying myself.
Besides puzzles, you'll be spending a lot of time just moving from one area to the next. There's a lot of strangely long segments that don't seem to involve much other than looking for the next body you need to jump to. They offered a good chance for the game's artistic side to shine, but otherwise they mostly just seem to exist to give Raz extended time to give his thoughts on whatever the current situation is. The final segment of the game has a boss fight that starts out creatively shooting objects back at him and then devolved into this weird thing where I wasn't really sure what I was doing but somehow managed to beat him anyway. It's a bit wonky, but it serves as a fun enough break from puzzles.
Rhombus of Ruin's art style hearkens back to the original Psychonauts with strangely proportioned characters and environments that all flow together in a genuinely convincing way. The underwater base that the game takes place in is sort of bland, but once you get a look outside or in the other areas things feel much more creative. The way scenes can change depending on the character's perspective is also cool, like when Raz sees his water curse materialize in watery hands reaching out to grab him, but changing to another character's perspective doesn't show that. On the audio side, the game's story is supported by some extremely strong voice acting that helps convey the jokes and more serious moments. The soundtrack is mostly forgettable with the exception of a rather fantastic James Bond-esque opening song.
When I finished Psychonauts, I was rather saddened by the thought that there may never be more. With Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin offering a first look at what's to come, I am now extremely excited for the future. The jump to a VR puzzle game was rather successful, even with its few hitches, and the story should have any fan of the original leaving with the biggest smile on their face. Hopefully, the momentum can continue in the future.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin was reviewed on PlayStation VR using a copy provided by the developer.
Trying something slightly different while waiting for the true sequel, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is a delightful VR puzzle game that does a great job reacquainting players with the charming and creative cast of Psychonauts.
- Hilarious Story
- Fun Puzzles
- Great Voice Acting
- Creative Art Style
- Puzzles are Easy
- Wonky Last Boss