Psychonauts

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating and My age rating.


Content-wise: Although
pre-teens 10+ could take this game's bizarre sarcasm and crude humor with little ill effect, kids younger than this will be spooked out by the game's stranger and somewhat twisted (albeit silly in context) content.

And beyond this, the platforming, puzzles and boss portions--in other words the overall gameplay--are far too difficult and way too cryptic for younger age groups.

Difficulty-wise: The platforming portions take lots of subtle skill, patience and quite a bit of trail and error; the puzzles are often very cryptic, and take a moderate amount of logic to solve; and most of the boss battles require some very vague solvents to complete--the difficulty is simply more suited to kids 10+.

Fun for: Although the overall art style leans towards cartoony and the humor is more silly than refined, many of the game's puzzle and platform elements are more suited to adults.

And even though, as I said, the humor is a bit juvenile, adults will be the only ones to fully appreciate the subtle themes of the humorous tragedy in the emotionally damaged people's minds you explore--in other words, this game is equally fun for kids and adults.

Pros & Cons: Although the graphics are a bit outdated, with low-res textures and lots of aliasing (jagged edges), the art style is incredibly unique and extremely appealing; the story is top notch, with a sarcastic, tongue in cheek and overall wacky sense of humor; the worlds/minds themselves are highly imaginative, surreal, wonderfully bizarre, and a blast to explore; and it's a solid length at about 10-12 hours.

The only downside is the last level, which seems to go on forever, and presents you with some unbalanced platforming portions and lots of frustrating trial and error. But once you get to the actual ending, it leaves you wanting more--if you're at all a platformer fan, check this one out.

Gameplay sum up: The game's hub is set in the Psychonauts' summer camp, where you collect arrowheads (game's currency) and PSI cards; buy items and health at the camp's store; trade in PSI cards and cobwebs (for level-ups) at the camp leader's lair; and enter the portals to the game's nine levels, which are represented by the teachers' (and later on, crazy people's--yes crazy) minds.

The base controls consist of (A) to jump (A,A to double jump); (Y) to select objects, talk to people and switch the direction you swing when on poles; (X) to attack with your psychically projected fist; LS (left-stick) to move; RS (right-stick) to move the camera; LT (left-trigger) to target enemies and center camera; (A) then (X) to do a pound attack; D-pad to sort through current inventory; and RT (right trigger), LB (left-bumper) and RB (right-bumper) to assign powers for quick use (RT, white and black buttons if played on the original Xbox).

The levels start out as classroom style obstacle courses--which take place in your teachers' minds--but you eventually gain access to the minds of emotionally damaged people in a ruined, but still active insane asylum, and enter to fight and ultimately help defeat their own personal demons. These levels are like their own self contained episodes, and vary from helping a schizophrenic descendant of Napoleon win an oversized board game against Napoleon himself, to assisting a security guard in unlocking his inner "milkman" (long story) and conquering his extreme case of paranoia.

The base gameplay consists of entering the minds of these aforementioned people, and then using your psychic powers and platforming skills to jump gaps, shimmy/climb ledges, swing from poles, grind rails, navigate tightropes, and fight enemies to reach the end. Once you do, you'll get a merit badge that imbues you with new psychic powers (like, Pyrokenisis, which allows you to set enemies and barricades aflame; Marksmanship, which allows you to shoot psychic projectiles at your enemies; Telekinesis, which allows you to fling objects and enemies with your mind; Levitation, which shows up as a colorful bouncy ball and allows you to jump high places and hover; etc).

Beyond just running through a level and receiving your merit badge, you can go back and collect the extra items you missed the first time: Figments (ghost-like images, if you collect 100, you level up), emotional baggage (which is represented by crying suitcases that have to be matched with tags), Vaults (which contain one of that mind's memories in the form of a slide-show), and mental cobweb (bright purple webs that can be collected with a vacuum)--collecting all the items listed above will allow you to gradually level up, eventually resulting in better versions of your current powers.


Cartoon violence: A young psychic boy ditches his father's circus, and sneaks into a top secret government training camp for children psychics (after which, they are placed as mental spies called "Psychonauts") and eavesdrops in on the induction of the new summer camp members. The camp leaders sense the boy, and he then reveals himself as Razputen (Raz for short). They tell him he can stay, but only until his father comes to pick him up. Can Raz complete his training and become an honorary Psychonaut before he's taken away? We'll see...

All combat takes place inside people's minds, meaning you don't fight humanoids or anything particularly real (devoid a couple of psychic bears and cougars in the main hub). Instead, you'll mostly be fighting censors ("Poindexter" in appearance, with large, marked censor stamps in their hands), whose purpose it is to destroy foreign objects (including you), bombs with legs that dentonate when they get close, and the natives of the specific persons mind (which vary to the extreme, because of the entirely self-contained and individually themed levels). Raz will be using his psychic powers to do combat with enemies, and is able to use his psychically projected hand to hit them, shoot psychic energy from his mind, set enemies on fire with Pyrokenisis, and use Telekisisis to throw objects at and destroy enemies, who then immediately disappear in a cartoony fashion.

The gameplay and story do have some sarcastic and pretty strange elements, with examples being; a couple kids blow up in one of the early levels (they're not actually harmed, it's just their astral projection being kicked out of the teacher's mind); a certain mind has you rampaging your way through "Lungfishopolis" as your giant self, destroying buildings and stepping on the humanoid lungfish, resulting in their squished gum-like appearance; and a level that takes place in a paranoid person's mind has a "cookie girl" shooting spies with a sniper rifle (remember this does take place in someone's "mind," and in context it's very silly)--when you reach and try to question her, she jumps out of the window, and then detonates her cookie box bomb, blowing herself and the gathered spies up (in a non-graphic puff of smoke).

In addition, younger kids will be spooked out by the moderately bizarre and weird situations/enemies, especially at the end of the game, which takes place inside a circus made up entirely of meat, with knife-swallowing enemies that toss said weapons at your character; mutated, mix-matched and giant "bunnies" who are produced from meat grinders; and a giant butcher boss, who chases you with oversized cleavers and dons a (mildly) bloodied frock. But overall, the content presented isn't much worse than what you'd see in one of the more sarcastic Nick cartoons, and although many of these elements seem a bit twisted written down, as I said before, within context of the game it's all quite silly and pretty harmless--I see no problem with pre-teens playing it.


Crude humor: There a couple of mildly crude statements like your coach saying, "My bowels move faster than you!" referring to your speed through his obstacle course; Raz tells a character he should call him "Roid, not Boyd," as he's "Such a big pain in the butt!"; while Raz learns to use invisibility, his leader says, "I think the kids around camp call that technique silent but deadly"--Raz simply responds with an "ehh.." (he doesn't correct the fact that they mean passing gas); and Raz smooches all the brains he finds in a silly manner ("brains" explained lower).

  • Early on, you catch a boy peeking into a currently empty girls cabin. When you ask him what he's doing, he tells you he's practicing for tonight. You respond by asking if he needs to practice for this. He replies by saying that his parents let him watch R-rated movies, and he probably knows more about this than you do.
  • A crazy dentist gradually removes all the camp children's brains (which Raz has to then retrive) by pouring pepper on their noses and making them sneeze them out. One scene shows this process, with you seeing the brain after the fact stuck to the wall by it's own goo, as it then slowly skids down the wall. However, this is all done in a very silly and non-graphic manner, and none of the kids are actually harmed--they just have an insatiable desire to watch tv.
  • On a somewhat unrelated but mentionable note, you see a boy and girl lightly pecking each other on the lips over and over; in a moment of excitement over one of the game's plot revelations, Lilly (Raz's girlfriend) states, "Oh my God! Let's make out!...Sorry, I'm just so excited!"; and Raz and Lilly briefly (and quite innocently) kiss near the end, and again at the very end.

Language: There are under three uses of the word a**, and under a dozen uses of the word God in the main script. One of the teachers tells Raz, "I'll kick your AStral projection out of here!"; after defeating a Lucha libre (Mexican wrestler) Raz says, "Soon they'll be Dragon (play on wrestler's name) your a** out of here!"; and in an isolated area of the same level, Raz tells the defeated wrestlers, "I'm glad you took my a** kicking to heart"--this can be repeated indefinitely. Beyond this, there are many somewhat disrespectful, mild slang (albeit very silly and humorous) terms/uses of the words, stupid, shutup, loser, idiot, sucker, spaz, and suck (as in, suck on that).


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