I’m doing a thing where I draw games I’m playing at the moment. You can buy this artwork as a poster at Redbubble!
When I played Psychonauts on the PS2 about 5 years ago, the thing I remember is it’s general jankiness. Animations didn’t work properly, the frame rate was constantly dipping, sound cues wouldnt activate, and so on and so forth. I swore I’d find the superior PC version one day and play through it in it’s proper glory. Well, I did that and I guess the frame rate was better, but it turns out that didn’t really matter. Psychonauts was never a technical powerhouse and I think everyone who played it knew it was kind of broken. It was Tim Schafer trying to utilise his strengths as a storyteller and a world-builder within the genre of the Banjo Kazooie-esque collect-a-thon platformer. The two creative instincts are uneasy bedfellows, and the game struggles to come up with interesting platforming challenges, and often eschews them for adventure game style square-peg-round-hole puzzles, perhaps simply relaxing back into well-tread comfort zones.
But I don’t think any of this matters because Psychonauts is as inventive and engaging as it ever was. The smartest people in the game industry have written page after page and word after word about how storytelling and game design relate to one another, making everyone feel like proper scientists by inventing terms like ‘ludonarrative dissonance’ and the like. Often battle lines are drawn, and story is sacrificed at the altar of ‘pure’ gameplay. Psychonauts is perhaps the strongest counter-argument someone could offer: that a rich, lovingly crafted story filled with fun characters and inventive worlds can make a game so much more than the sum of its parts. The most fun I had with Psychonauts was running around Whispering Rock at night collecting Psi-cards and fighting bears. It felt fun being a naughty, driven little kid running around this Psychic Summer Camp. So sue me.