Trent Polack's site for cats, games, game development, and undeniably powerful sociological insight all with a healthy dose of narcissism.
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Published on January 6, 2006 By mittens In Console Games
I should've realized that when I started this list that it would mean about an hour or two of my time every day for roughly twenty straight days. The likelihood of a second top-ten list following this one is decreasing exponentially every day. We're now down in numbers so teeny-tiny that they require the use of scientific notation of a magnitude that even a millipede would be frightened of in order to properly be represented. Now, on to the rank seven game of this spectacular array of them vidyogamz.

Psychonauts -- Publisher: Majesco, Developer: Double Fine Productions
This may, in fact, be the shortest of all the top ten articles due to the simple fact that I really have no simple real-life anecdotes to relate to you that would have anything to do with this excellent game whatsoever. Sure, I could tell you a simply riveting tale about a dead hooker buried back in the yard of my hometown, but such a tale would be both inappropriate for a highbrow site focused solely on telling the truth, and nothing but, and maintaining such a quality image of journalistic integrity.

Psychonauts is the brainchild of former LucasArts brainman Tim Schafer's newish development house Double Fine Productions. You may have seen Schafer's name in relation to some of the finest adventure games to ever see the light of day -- during what was could be said to be the golden age of PC adventure games -- Full Throttle, Grim Fandango, as well as part of the infamous Day of the Tentacle. Having not owned a very capable Computar Machien back in these fine, fine days for gamers everywhere, my ability to get all nostalgic at this fine opportunity is severely hampered, which is a shame to say the least.

I do remember playing the grimly hilarious Grim Fandango for about two hours back on a computer belonging to my cousins' fatherman -- I believe he was an uncle of sorts -- before he got wind of my satanic-like ability to manipulate the moving pictures in a manner which I had felt relatively accustomed, at which point he beat me with a salmon as if to usher me into my BioDad's car so I could take me and my wicked knowledge of the black magicks far, far away from his cozy abode. While none of this, save the actual game playing, has any semblance of truth to it, I figured it was a nice way to artificially boost the impressiveness of this article.

Psychonauts, however, was not the same beast that Schafer had been working on at LucasArts, though. This was an adventure game, to be sure, but it certainly wasn't the point-and-click/ask-lotsa-questions game that Day of the Tentacle and Grim Fandango were. This game was something more akin to a modern day action/adventure/platformer -- a genre combination which still does a poor job of describing what Psychonauts actually is. It's, really, the kind of game which begs to be tried rather than talked about, as it defies easy classification. Some aspects of the game are pretty standard platformer fare, while others are more akin to a 3D action game, yet others are pure eye candy through a strange world inhabited by characters whose unnatural appearance is matched solely but their unnatural mannerisms. There are characters who, to this day, will never escape an airtight section of my brain where they shall be remembered until the end of days. There's the heartwarming tale of a boy and his squirrels. There's the story of the prototypical rebel of Lungfishopolis fighting for their inalienable rights to be Lungfish. And what would a new blockbuster game be without that ever-necessary tale of romance?

Psychonauts truly has an amazing storyline that takes the main character, Raz, through a number of different characters' minds. From a training school instructor's odd obsession with meat to a crazed ex-milkman who has become lost in his life's purpose. The writing throughout Psychonauts is its own reason to play through the game. I'll be completely honest with you on this one: if Psychonauts' had the worst gameplay in the world, I would have gladly played through the game in its entirety just to witness what happened next in this crazed excuse for a story.

Thankfully for gamers of the PC, Xbox, and PS2, Psychonauts is not only well-written, it is simply well-done. The varied gameplay styles vary not only from mind-to-mind, but also partially in how you as the player would like to experience the game. You can choose to use certain paranormal powers over others in certain situations, depending both on the specific usefulness of one power over another in one instance as well as your own personal playing style, and each different mind that Raz must jump into for the storyline has a feel of its own. There is the mind of the schizophrenic Milkman filled with paranoid secret agents who require certain badges of identification for Raz to enter certain areas of the level; for instance, a stop sign proves you're a member of the "road crew," whereas a flower will get you into the cemetery. There's also Lungfishopolis, which is without a doubt the most hilarious aspect of any game I've ever seen in my entire life -- trust me, you'll need to play it to understand it.

Like any platformer, Psychonauts has a number of gamepad/keyboard-crushingly frustrating segments, but they can be beaten. I've found that as time goes on, my love of Psychonauts has actually increased as I've spent time away from the game in the same way you'll always forget about a beloved game's sore spots and simply walk away with fond memories of the golden core of the gameplay. Psychonauts is no exception to this kind of treatments -- it ages like a fine wine in my memories.

It's a real shame that this game didn't make the bundle in sales that it oh-so-deserved. It hurts me to remember the financial troubles that the game's publisher, Majesco, went through shortly after the game's release (I can't actually remember if these were resolved or not, and research isn't providing a very simple answer to these queries). Psychonauts is a game worthy of your purchase -- even if you're in doubt, I highly recommend that you try out the game's demo if you can spare the measly bandwidth. It's a game that doesn't scream fun with simple text, but if you give it the time of day, you'll no doubt fall in love with this incredibly entertaining, humorous, and action-packed sleeper hit of the year.
on Jan 07, 2006
It rocks on PC and is fun enough to go back and replay more than once.
Only #7??? It should be up in the top 5.
on Jan 08, 2006
It's definitely good, but I really believe that the top five is filled with games that are even more awesome.

Psychonauts really isn't really top five in terms of gameplay (which, in the end, is all that matters), but holy crap was the story entertaining.
on Jan 08, 2006
OK, so I have to admit upfront that I'm not much of a gamer. My husband (and kids) are the gamers in the family.

However, Psychonauts was one of the games that had us ALL interested, and one that consituted several hours of gameplay.

The concept was unique, the graphics were likewise and compelling, and the gameplay was difficult enough that my hubby couldn't blow through it in a day and a half.

I could make my own list of top games (consisting of games that kept my husband interested and playing for more than a day or two) this year, and if I did, this game would definitely make the list.
on Jan 08, 2006
I thought the humor in the game was what made it the gem it was. My kids and i loved Grim Fandango, and they thought this one was great too.
The release issues were Microsoft trying to make Tim Schaffer release it without two or three of the later levels. They didn't want an new X-box title coming out too close to the release of the 360, so they gave up on 3+ years of development support. Luckily Majesco steeped up and put out a good one.

I am going to buy it again to see how it looks on my 21" LCD with a 7800 GT.
on Jan 08, 2006
I absolutely agree -- the humor is part of what made this game great

I wish every gamer alive could play Lungfishopolis, just to see that games can actually be quite laugh-out-loud highlarious. I serously have never laughed at anything quite as hard as I did throughout that entire level; there were definitely a number of other rofflecopter-esque laughter moments, but Lungfishopolis is part of what made the game great in my mind.