Fans rejoiced at the news that ‘Pyschonauts’ was going to be getting what always seemed like an unlikely sequel next year, but they’re also in for a bonus treat a little earlier – well, providing they own a Playstation VR headset. It’s been ten years since the original game’s release, but fans can finally step back into the shoes of Psychic Agent Raz and get some all-new ‘Psychonauts’ action with the release of virtual reality puzzler Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin. Acting as a bridge between the original game and the upcoming sequel, Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin re-introduces the zany heroes of the first game as they head off to rescue Truman Zanotto, the Grand Head of the Psychonauts.
Anyone who played the original game to completion will be right at home here, with Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin following on directly from that game’s ending. Thankfully it’s not compulsory to have played it if you want to enjoy what’s on offer though; it carries on directly, but the story is very self-explanatory whilst protagonist Raz and his companions are re-introduced too. That being said, there are some moments which players who have some familiarity with the series might enjoy more than those who are complete newbies. It’s nothing that’ll ruin your experience with the game if you don’t know what’s going on, but having some understanding of character’s relationships with each other as well as their quirks will make some situations make a lot more sense.
Raz is armed with some great psychic abilities that work really well in virtual reality. You’re able to use clairvoyance to take over other character’s bodies (which acts as a smart nausea-free way to explore each area of the game given the lack of proper movement), telekinesis that allows you to freely move objects around the environment, and pyrokinesis that allows you to burst items into a ball of flames. You’ll even unlock a powerful psychic blast later on in the adventure, which as you can imagine is very satisfying to use. Everything is controlled by looking at an object and then pressing the corresponding button on the controller, which is incredibly simple and accessible enough for just about anyone to pick up and play.
Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin feels completely different from the original as far as gameplay goes – this is a first-person puzzle adventure as opposed to the platforming action of the first game. You’ll traverse through levels solving a variety of different puzzles, in turn uncovering fresh clues or finding ways to progress through the tale and rescue the Grand Head. There’s a big emphasis on searching each nook and cranny of a level too; whilst you take over different characters to navigate through each area, you’ll still have to carefully search above, below, and around you if you want to find each well-hidden piece of the puzzle.
In traditional Double Fine fashion, some of the puzzles of the game can be incredibly perplexing. They’re never as obtuse as those found in titles like ‘Grim Fandango’, but there are plenty that’ll keep you scratching your head for awhile before you get that ‘Eureka!’ moment as you solve it. There’s the right amount of challenge on offer though, especially since you know that most of the time you just need to use one of your powers – working out what you need to use your powers on and in which way takes some solving though.
As you can imagine given the entertainingly farcical nature of the world of Psychonauts, you’ll find yourself in plenty of strange situations throughout the game. Whilst your surroundings and the characters that inhabit them look brilliantly bizarre, the tasks you’re handed are outright zany too and utilise the gameplay mechanics in clever ways. Finding your way into a music box, creating barricades out of suitcases, handing toilet roll to one of your companions who’s been struck with every toilet-goer’s worst nightmare – they’re simple, silly tasks but come together nicely in the overall experience and work well within virtual reality. Naturally the game hits higher level of absurdities, but I’d rather keep that as a surprise for the player. It’s a Double Fine game; you should know from that alone that you’re going to head into some utterly anarchic but brilliant situations.
It won’t take too long to finish Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin, with my playthrough lasting close to three hours. I spent a bit of time playing around and taking in the environment too, so gamers with a keener eye and a brighter mind could easily see the ending within two hours. Whilst I think the game is definitely worth the entry fee, I would’ve appreciated a bit of a bigger experience; I enjoyed exploring the world and using my abilities, but I felt I didn’t get to use them all enough by the end. I would’ve liked to have blasted and burned a few more things – I wish there was some sort of extra game mode or ‘play area’ where I could toy around with my powers freely, with the main game not always giving you enough to simply fool around with.
Visually Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin looks fantastic, even with the lower resolution limitations that come with the Playstation VR headset. The vibrant surroundings and characters look great, whilst there was barely any evidence of the jagged edges that are common place in virtual reality titles. The simplistic nature of the graphics might not seem as impressive as the likes of ‘Resident Evil 7’ or ‘Robinson: The Journey’ at first glance, but the fact it manages to maintain a high quality level of visual fidelity that looks impressive from all angles results in Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin being one of the best looking titles available on the Playstation VR.
‘Psychonauts’ fans are going to be heaven when playing Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin; the game provides the same bizarre humour, zany gameplay, and outrageous environments we’re used to from the original, whilst the first-person puzzler approach shows that Double Fine’s creativity is as strong as ever. Newcomers to the series will be fine too, with the game offering an introduction to characters and the world that just about anyone could follow.
It’s not the longest of games and there isn’t a whole to return to after playing through once, but Psychonauts in the Rhobmus of Ruin offers a great puzzling adventure that’s more than just a bit of filler content until the sequel’s upcoming release.
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: 21/02/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR