Tag Archives: psychonauts

FGC #601 Psychonauts 2

This article contains spoilers for Psychonauts 2, primarily in regard to a lore twist that is learned approximately halfway through the game. If you have had long conversations with Ford Cruller, you know what I am talking about. Anyway, you have been warned…

THE PSYCHONAUTS!My grandfather was the eldest of seven brothers. As confirmed by those granduncles and practically our entire extended family, my grandfather was always known as a generally kind man who was also very quick to anger. And everyone thought this was wholly justified! He had to “keep in line” his younger, male siblings with very little help from a father growing up, and then he was a navy man just in time for World War II. He spent all day on a boat with a metaphorical collection “brothers” that all had to be disciplined and controlled, and… well… I don’t know if you have ever dealt with a man before, but they can get kind of rowdy. So is it any wonder that his experiences from childhood to young adulthood stayed with him his entire life? You cannot just “turn off” the person you have been for twenty years, and if that means you occasionally must throw your drunken brother-in-law off a balcony to make a point about being civil at dinner parties, so be it (also, in my grandfather’s [legal] defense, it was not a particularly high balcony). My grandfather lived to be older than most, and, even through to the age when he was frequently napping in the living room lounger, his whole family continued to have explanations for any temperamental shouting matches. He’s always been like that. That’s just who he is.

Until it wasn’t who he was.

Today’s game is the venerable/mythical Psychonauts 2. Psychonauts 2 is here! It was released! After 16 years of absolutely no Psychonauts (Gogglebob.com does not recognize the existence of virtual reality), here is Psychonauts all back again. And it is no exaggeration to say that Psychonauts is “back”, either. If your number one complaint about Psychonauts is that it never should have ended, Psychonauts 2 has got you covered with everything from the original, and a host of quality-of-life improvements to round out an “and then some”. Psychonauts 2 starts with a Raz that already knows the essential skills from Psychonauts 1 (sorry, invisibility, I said essential), and escalates from there with confidence that the audience does not need an entire level to understand PSI blasts again. All new abilities are then introduced, challenges are expanded, and, by the end, Raz will be thought-grappling while bossing a clone around with the best of ‘em. It is remarkable all on its own that Psychonauts 2 is simultaneously exactly more of the same, and something wholly new and different. This is the game Super Mario Bros. 2 could have been! If that wasn’t awful!

Connect the thoughtsAnd I would be remiss if I did not note that they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Psychonauts was one in a seemingly endless parade of collectathons that had been going strong for ten years when it was released back in 2005. But now it seems like the idea of searching environments for hard-to-find collectibles has fallen by the wayside, and Psychonauts 2 is an example of a lamented evolutionary dead-end that that did not survive to see 2021. Chasing figments or hooking hidden keys to hidden chests feels simultaneously antiquated and refreshing when the best other titles of this era can manage is a sidequest or two where you must rescue three cats. Three cats!? You lifestream-addled morons! This friggen’ foyer has 17 tickets to find, and five more scavenger hunt items just to add a little flavor. Is this the kind of gameplay that is sustainable for title after title demanding you achieve 101% to see a marginally satisfactory ending? No. Of course not. That’s why so many people in Liberty City had mental breakdowns when photographing graffiti and seeing a “1/5,000 found” notification. But now, as likely the one game this year that is going to ask you to achieve “Rank 102”, it is a much easier pill to swallow.

But a collectathon can only work if there are interesting worlds in which to do your collecting. Mario 64 had portraits that doubled as portals, Banjo Kazooie had entire realms inside its haunted castle (wait… that was just the same as Mario…), and Psychonauts has always been about exploring the mind. And abstract psychological concepts are fertile ground for a dungeon or ten! Psychonauts 1 featured bipolar disorders transformed into theatres and Napoleon complexes transferred to gigantic boardgames. Psychonauts 2 ups the ante (literally) with hospital-casinos, gameshows, and germ-riddled bowling alleys (uh… that is better than it sounds). It is a joy to explore these abstract worlds with concrete platforming abilities, and slingshotting over a gap to find some emotional baggage or sneaking under a bridge to find a bright idea is consistently pleasant. These “mindscapes” are beautifully realized from a conceptual and level-design standpoint, and every opportunity to enter a new level feels like a gift. Look, Ma, now I can jump in this crazy bee lady’s brain! Wonder what I’m gonna find there!

But there is one important difference between Psychonauts 1 and Psychonauts 2…

FGC #239 Bobby is Going Home

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Yes, it’s time to announce the winners of the Videogame Bob Awards, with me, your host, Goggle Bob. Are you ready to hear this year’s winners? You know you are!

First Videogame Bob Award: Bobby is Going Home

WeeeWe start this ceremony the same way every year, by honoring the first Bob in videogames: Bobby of Bobby is Going Home! For those of you that have never experienced the perennial 1983 title, Bobby is Going Home tells the tale of Bobby, who, guess what, ladies and germs, is going home! He’s got to clear seven screens of random flora/fauna that is surprisingly murderous (whoever thought a butterfly could lead to so many dead Bobbys?), and then get into his house before time runs out. It’s kind of like Pitfall, if Pitfall didn’t allow for backtracking or feature any kind of area variety. But the one thing Bobby is Going Home has that Pitfall doesn’t is a starring Bob, and this isn’t the 34th Annual Videogame Harry Awards.

Keep dodging those murderous ducks, Bobby! You’ll always have a home in our hearts!

Most Promising Young Bob Award: Bobby Zilch

He is not the MilkmanHey, is this the Bob Awards or the Bobby Awards? Am I right, Bobs? We’ve got another partial Bob here, and he’s winning an award entirely because he’s a heel. Bobby Zilch of Psychonauts is the prime bully of Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, and spends the majority of his time terrorizing the “real” hero of Psychonauts, Raz. But Raz ain’t no Robert, so it’s Bobby that has captured all of our hearts and minds. Did you know that lil’ Bobby Zilch is only twelve, but has burgeoning levitation powers? And that, despite being a bully in a coming of age story, he does not receive some dramatic, kharmatic comeuppance? That’s just like a proper Bob: dishing it out and never having to take it. Hope you hook up with that Chloe you’ve had your multi-colored eyes on, Bobby! We’re all rooting for you!

Most Forgettable Bob Award: Bob Charlie

Rhythm?Bob Charlie never made it out of his debut game, and he is sorely missed. Well, he would be, at least, if anyone could remember he ever existed. Look, Bob, you’re a good guy. You’re a Bob, which is already a plus, and you’ve got this whole Bob Marley thing going on, and that’s to be commended in a field where your contemporaries are gigantic Canadians and cracked Irishmen, but you’re also a head swap of Gabby Jay. Gabby Jay, man! He’s the worst! Literally, the worst! And sure, you might be difficult to dizzy, but you’re no Nick Bruiser. Heck, you’re barely even a Don Flamingo. It’s a shame, but this is another year you’re going to win the Most Forgettable Bob Award. We would have awarded it to you last year, but, sadly, we forget we had started this category. Sorry.

Biggest Bob Award: Bob Richards

Big UpsAh, the tale of Bob Richards, the formerly svelte and dreamy Bob of the Tekken franchise who decided that he needed to pack on a few pounds to conquer the heavyweight class, but… may have gone a little overboard. He’s still a great guy and an excellent martial artist, but, well, let’s say he’s not passing up any Hawaiian shirt sales anymore. Legends claim there’s still a “Slim Bob” somewhere out there, but it looks like this Big Bob is here to stay (and kick some ass). What’s important is that Tekken has its own big, fat American to tackle Street Fighter’s Rufus, and that comes in handy during crossover season. Akuma and Heihachi can have a muscle off, but it’s Bob ‘n Rufus showing us how the heavies handle things.

Most Frequent Bob Award: Final Fantasy (Series)

Handsome BobsIn conducting research for this, the Videogame Bob Awards, we noticed something odd. We booted up an old copy of Final Fantasy, and found that the hero was named Bob. Final Fantasy 2? Same thing. Final Fantasy 3? Four Bobs! And who can forget the legendary tale of Final Fantasy 4, staring the dark knight Bob venturing forth with Dragoon Vince. Final Fantasy 5 starred Bobz, and Final Fantasy 6 saw the thief with a heart of gold, Bob, rescuing Nicky the half-esper. Bob of Final Fantasy 7 fought bravely against Sephiroth, and the romance between Bob and Jenn of Final Fantasy 8 is legendary. Bob had a tail in Final Fantasy 9, and terrible pants in Final Fantasy 10. That’s ten solid games worth of Bobs! While Square-Enix seems to have gotten away from the tradition as of Final Fantasy 12, you could even spot a number of Bobs in Final Fantasy 11 & 14. So, this year, we’re awarding the brand new “Most Frequent Bob Award” to the Final Fantasy franchise. Keep on saving the world, Bobs!

Honorable mention goes to the Dragon Quest series, which also stars a number of Bobs, though loses points because its best characters are usually female secondary characters, and Alena ain’t no Bob.

Most Tolerable Bobot Award: B.O.B.

Swing itHe’s not the best Bob around, and he kind of only makes it in on a technicality, but there are only so many Bob robots out there. Okay, that isn’t true. There are probably as many Bobots as Robots in the shiny, genocidal future of the mechanical uprising, but that’s perhaps why B.O.B. wins the Most Tolerable trophy this year. Does B.O.B. kill any humans? Does B.O.B. harm any flesh-based Bobs? Does B.O.B. do anything but get stuck in really poorly designed, irritating mazes? No on all accounts. B.O.B. follows the first rule of robotics (“Do no harm [to Bobs]”), so I guess that’s worthy of an award. Way to go, unit B.O.B.

Lifetime Bob Achievement Award: Bob-Omb

It's a me, Bob-OmbThis year, the most prestigious Bob award goes to the explosive Bob-Omb. After humble origins in Super Mario Bros. 2, a game that is often dismissed as “not a real Mario game”, Bob-Omb went on to return in Super Mario Bros. 3, maybe the most Mario game to have ever existed. And Bob returned again and again for other adventures, gaining entire kingdoms (and portraits), and even migrating over to the Smash Bros. series. Want to know why dedicated players turn off all items? It’s because of this Bob right here, and all the chaos he can cause. And who can forget Bob-Omb’s turn as one of the stars of the Super Mario Bros. film? Mario Party, Mario Kart, Puzzles and Dragons, The Legend of Zelda: Bob-Omb has been all over the gaming world, and he’s stayed the same ol’ Bob we all know and love. Here’s to you, Bob-Omb, our most explosive Lifetime Bob Achievement Award winner yet!

And that’s it for the Videogame Bob Awards! Come back next year, when we will once again snub Bubble Bobble!

FGC #239 Bobby is Going Home

  • System: Atari 2600. That’s it.
  • Number of players: One? If it’s two player, it 2P Alternating, but… I don’t think so?
  • So hardMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: There’s not much to talk about here. You move from left to right, you jump, and… that’s it. Dodge a few ducks, try not to drown, and you’re good. There are pretty flowers in the foreground.
  • So, did you beat it? The moving bridges are nearly impossible to time properly with Bobby’s anemic jump, but, if you can make it past those obstacles, there isn’t much else to fear. I’m already pretty good at dodging butterflies in reality, so that skill translates well to the digital world.
  • Did you know? If you plug “Famous Bob” into Google, the first result seems to consistently be Bob Dylan. Given the current status of Google in the American consciousness, I’d say that makes Bob Dylan the most famous Bob in the world. The times, they are a Bobin’.
  • Would I play again: And waste another eight minutes of my life? Nah.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story for Nintendo DS! Looks like we’ll be going deep in our next entry. Please look forward to it!

Welcome Home

FGC #205 Psychonauts

So hopefulVideogames are about hope. And the truly great games allow you to feel that hope.

Every videogame has a goal. Sometimes the goal is self-inflicted (“I will beat that high score!”), but, more often than not, the goal is a concrete, objective pass/fail condition. You must rescue the princess. You must recover the sacred object du jour. You must survive. You must prove that you are the hero, the most important person on this virtual planet, or else, well, what’s the point? You’re playing a videogame to be a unique snowflake in a sea of NPCs, so you damn well better save that kingdom!

It’s easy to lose perspective on how these tasks would be pretty damn impossible in anything approaching a “real world”. There’s clearly some part of our collective unconscious that acknowledges giant turtle monsters are the natural enemies of tubby plumbers, but consider the more “realistic” game settings. Hyrule is a millennia old kingdom that has been brought back from the edge of ruin time and time again thanks to a teenage elf with an affinity for green. The world of Final Fantasy 7 was saved from a marauding celestial body thanks to a moody amnesiac. And about half the brown, “realistic” FPSs out there seem to believe democracy as we know it would crumble if not for a handful of brave soldiers fond of teabagging their enemies. We grok the completely wrong idea that history was decided by important and singular (inevitably) men, but the reality of the universe is that one kid in a tunic is not the reason the Earth is still spinning. It takes many kids and many tunics (see Crusade, The Children’s).

What the hell was that?So we, the players, don’t really consider the “hope of the world” that rests on the average videogame hero’s shoulders. Samus Aran is going to save the universe, and we don’t even consider the child huddling in a corner of SR-389, praying to whatever god will hear her that a floating jellyfish monster doesn’t turn her entire town into dust. It’s just an assumed piece of the narrative that Hero #3,561 will save the day, and the player only has to hope there isn’t some bizarre and unnecessary rhythm game segment between here and the final boss. Hope is irrelevant, it’s all about the mad skillz, yo.

But Psychonauts can still remind us that hope is intrinsic to the videogame experience.

Yes, Psychonauts is ultimately about a teenager child saving everyone from a maniacal general and his plan to tank over the world. Yes, this is pretty typical “young adult” fair, with adults that don’t listen, “the lady doth protest too much” girlfriend, kindly/crazy grandpa, and maybe a giant monster that is based on a “tall tale” and must be defeated. Actually, complete with the unusual heads and Nickelodeon voice actors, I’m pretty sure Psychonauts could be an episode of Hey Arnold. Has the plot for that movie been worked out yet? Because I’ve got an idea that involves bunnies…

But, on a more personal level, Psychonauts is more about its protagonist, Raz, than anything else. Razputin escapes from his overbearing and overprotective family to join a group of people that he believes to be his true contemporaries. Raz then has 48 hours (“We called your dad, he’s on his way”) to prove that he really does have what it takes to be a Psychonaut. Bobby the bully might get in his way, and Lily might leave Raz a tweak confused, but all we’re dealing with here is a child attempting to achieve his private goal. Saving the world is secondary, Raz just wants to make his world better.

And he does that by making everyone else’s world better, too.

Young loveAfter the initial “training” segment of Psychonauts (which does take up approximately half the game), Raz begins diving into minds of… let’s say “damaged” people. Actually, we don’t even start with “people”, Raz’s first patient is Linda the Hulking Lungfish, a poor soul that was mutated by hideous experiments. After that, we have the denizens of the Thorney Towers Home for the Disturbed, many of whom have also been adversely affected by the Thorney Towers staff. While Raz is just trying to move forward in his quest to save his friends, he heals each of these hurt people in turn, and, along the way, manages to assuage more psychological disorders than Prozac.

In short, a ten year old boy manages to solve everyone’s issues, including his own.

And, in a way, that is the most important part of Psychonauts. Everyone remembers the clever mindscapes, humorous situations, and the occasional flaming bottle of milk; but what’s really important about Psychonauts is the part that got into your head, the subconscious message that there is a solution to these problems, that there is an escape from even the tightest of straightjackets. It might not be the focus of the adventure, but every step Raz takes, every arrowhead he digs out of the ground, and every mind he heals all leads to one, subtle moral: there is hope, even in the darkest of sanitariums.

Psychonauts’ greatest trick was implanting the idea of hope in your mind.

Yeah babyAnd, lo and behold, hope springs eternal with Psychonauts once again. After years of lamenting the fact that Psychonauts sold about seventeen copies and was such a retail failure it put Majesco out of business, it seemed unlikely that we would ever see Raz and friends again. But the glorious x-factor of crowdfunding suddenly made Tim Schafer some kind of finance god, and his divine eminence granted us the opportunity for Psychonauts 2. So we tossed a few million bucks at ‘em, and said get to work. So, in a year or two, we’ll have the sequel to Psychonauts we never thought possible back in the days when the best the game could scrounge up was “critically lauded”.

So, from stem to stern, Psychonauts oozes hope. It’s about a child fulfilling his dreams, saving others, and saving the entire world. It’s also about insurmountable troubles being conquered, and even low sales figures being ignored. It doesn’t seem possible, but Psychonauts triumphs in every conceivable way.

Maybe we’ll see the same in Psychonauts 2. Hopefully.

FGC #205 Psychonauts

  • System: Playstation 2 and Xbox initially, and then every system ever because some companies don’t just ignore a game five minutes after it’s released. Tim Schafer, Patron Saint of Remembering Games Exist.
  • Number of players: We hang all our hopes on only Raz.
  • STOMPY STOMPYBrain problems: Without a doubt, the best parts of this game are the mindscapes, and, while the “camping” area is pretty alright, it’s a far cry from ruining Lungfishopolis as Goggalor. As a result of this, on my first playthrough, I didn’t interact with the other campers any more than absolutely necessary, and made a beeline for whatever whacky thing was gonna come out of these heads next. Unfortunately, this led to a weird situation wherein, later, when Raz is collecting his friends’ brains, I hadn’t even met half the kiddies involved. Oh, some pithy remark about Kitty being into nasty stuff. Who the hell is Kitty!?
  • Favorite Mindscape: Boyd’s Milkman Conspiracy wins for rather expertly blending platforming, humor, and adventure game rules. You don’t see that very often! And the milk is delicious! Velvetopia and its running of the bulls gets second place exclusively for color usage.
  • The goggles do something: I don’t mean to tell anybody what to do, but if Raz forsakes his signature goggles for his official Psychonauts uniform, I’m boycotting everything, forever. Food, videogames, whatever. The goggles must stay.
  • Did you know? Raz was originally going to be named “Dare”, and that’s why Coach claims his name starts with a “D” when attempting to read his mind during the opening cinematic. Psychonauts is so clever!
  • Would I play again: This is one of the few randomly chosen games that I was rather excited to replay. I’ll probably take at least a year off, but I’ll inevitably be playing Psychonauts again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bushido Blade for the Playstation! Now there’s a fighting game that’s a cut above the rest. And then it died from that cut. Please look forward to that!