|Developer(s)||Double Fine Productions
Budcat Creations (PS2 version)
September 29, 2011
May 31, 2012
August 28, 2012
|Media/distribution||CD, download, DVD|
Psychonauts is a platform video game created by Tim Schafer, developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Majesco, starring the voice of Richard Horvitz as Raz. The game was released on April 19, 2005, for the Xbox, April 26 for Microsoft Windows and June 21 for PlayStation 2. It was released on Steam on Oct 11, 2006, as an "Xbox Original" through Xbox Live Marketplace, and on the GameTap subscription service. On November 5, 2009, Psychonauts also became available through the online distribution service GOG.com through their partnership with Majesco. In September 2011, a new version with support for Steamworks features, including a Mac OS X port, was released. In May 2012, a Linux port was released through the Humble Indie Bundle V. The PS2 version was re-released on PlayStation Network on August 28, 2012.
Psychonauts is based on the exploits of Raz, a young boy gifted with psychic abilities who runs away from the circus to try to sneak into a summer camp for those with similar powers in order to become a "Psychonaut". He finds that there is a sinister plot occurring at the camp that only he can stop. The game is centered on the widely strange and imaginative minds of various characters that Raz enters as a Psychonaut-in-training/"Psycadet" in order to help them overcome their fears or memories of their past, so as to gain their help and progress in the game. Raz gains use of several psychic abilities during the game that are used for both attacking foes and solving puzzles.
While the game received strong critical praise and several accolades, Psychonauts suffered from poor sales and the publisher, Majesco, suffered financial difficulties relating to Psychonauts and other titles in its catalogue. However, the game has since gained a cult following.
Psychonauts combines traditional console platformer elements with the kind of strong storytelling, humor and dialogue found in adventure games. The camp itself is fully explorable by the player to find hidden arrowheads that can be used to purchase items at the camp store and psi cards that help to improve Raz's Psi Ranking, to talk to other campers and camp advisers, and to make way to the various "levels" within the game. There are also areas in the "real world" of the camp, including a nearby insane asylum, that the player will explore during the course of the game. Throughout these areas are characters whose minds Raz can enter, either through their own actions, or by use of a small door that Raz uses on the character's forehead. Each of these character levels has its own unique visual design and set of challenges, related to the demons, nightmares and secret memories of the mind that Raz is exploring; for example, within the mind of the lungfish that terrorizes the camp lake, Raz is seen as a giant monster attacking a city filled with lungfish beings (in a level designed to parody most elements of the kaijū genre), while within the mind of Boyd, the insane security guard at the asylum, Raz finds a town, twisted and askew, with cameras and eyes hidden everywhere, which tune in with Boyd's paranoia. Within the mind levels, the player can collect various "figments of imagination" which can also lead to increasing Raz's Psi Ranking, locate tags to match with various "emotional baggage" within the level to advance ranks and unlock concept art and destroy "mental vaults" to unlock a slideshow that helps to explain the background of that character and his or her mental problem. The player must also avoid taking damage from censors that attempt to remove Raz from the character's mind. Each mind level typically ends with a boss fight that represents the main cause of the character's mental problems.
Raz gains new psychic powers through the game either through instruction by the camp counselors or by increasing his Psi Ranking. These powers include telekinesis, levitation, invisibility, pyrokinesis, clairvoyance, Psi Shield, Psi Blast and confusion. Additional Rankings increase the range, duration or potency of these abilities. These powers are directly involved in the puzzle-solving aspects of the game, as well as being used to defeat foes within the game, and allow the player to tailor the solutions to his or her own playing strengths. The player also gains items that can be used for solving puzzles, to escape from a mind level if they become stuck, or to get advice for solving some of the puzzles. Raz can also communicate with an older member of the Psychonauts for hints. However, due to a curse placed upon his family, he is unable to touch water and will die if he comes into contact with it too much.
The story is set in fictional Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, a remote US government training facility under the guise of a children's summer camp. The area was hit centuries ago by a meteor made of psitanium (a fictional element that can grant psychic powers or strengthen existing powers), creating a huge crater. The psitanium affected the local wildlife, giving them limited psychic powers, such as bears with the ability to attack with telekinetic claws and cougars with pyrokinesis. The Native Americans of the area called psitanium "whispering rock", which they used to build arrowheads. When settlers began inhabiting the region, the psychoactive properties of the meteor slowly drove them insane. An asylum was built to house the afflicted, but within fifteen years, the asylum had more residents than the town did. The government relocated the remaining inhabitants and flooded the crater to prevent further settlement, creating what is now Lake Oblongata. The asylum still stands, but has fallen into disrepair.
The government took advantage of the psitanium deposit to set up a training camp for Psychonauts, a group of agents gifted with psychic abilities and used to help defeat evil-doers. The training ground is disguised as a summer camp for young children, but in reality helps the children to hone their abilities and to train them to be Psychonauts themselves. Due to this, only those recruited by the Psychonauts are allowed into the camp.
The protagonist and playable character of the game is Razputin "Raz" Aquato, the son of a family of circus performers, who runs away from the circus to become a Psychonaut, despite his father's wishes. His family is cursed to die in water, and a large hand attempts to submerge Raz whenever he approaches any significantly deep water. When at camp, Raz meets four of the Psychonauts that run the camp: the cool and calculating Sasha Nein (voice actor Stephen Stanton), the fun-loving Milla Vodello, the regimental Agent/Coach Morceau Oleander, and the aged Ford Cruller, said by Raz to have been the greatest leader the Psychonauts ever had, until a past psychic duel shattered Ford's psyche and left him with numerous quirky personalities and no memory of his real self (which explains why he's seen throughout the camp as a cook, ranger, admiral, etc.). Only when he is near the large concentration of Psitanium does his psyche come together enough to form his real personality. During his time at camp, Raz meets several of the other gifted children including Lili Zanotto, the daughter of the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, with whom he falls in love; and Dogen Boole, a boy who goes around with a tin foil hat to prevent his abilities from causing anyone's head to explode. Raz also meets ex-residents of the insane asylum including ex-dentist Dr. Loboto, as well as Fred Bonaparte, an asylum inmate with dissociative identity disorder, also known as a split personality, and Linda, the gigantic lung fish that transports him from the camp's shore to the asylum.
Raz, having fled from the circus, tries to sneak into Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, but is caught by the Psychonauts agents. Though they contact his parents so that they may recover Raz, they allow Raz to stay at camp, though they do not allow him to participate in the camp activities. However, they recognize that Raz has strong psychic abilities. After Coach Oleander allows Raz to participate in "Basic Braining," Sasha, impressed by his performance, invites Raz to test how strong his abilities are. While exploring his own mind, Raz comes across a vision of Dr. Loboto attempting to pull Dogen's brain from his head, claiming that it is a "bad tooth". Raz is unable to overcome a mental barrier to see more. When Raz returns to the real world, he finds that Dogen's brain has gone missing; the Agents pass it off as part of Dogen's personality. With Milla's training, Raz is able to overcome the mental barrier in his mind to learn that Dr. Loboto is working with Coach Oleander to extract the brains of the children and put them in psychic death tanks. Raz learns that Sasha and Milla have gone away from camp on "official business" (really a trap set by Oleander,) Coach Oleander is nowhere to be found, and learns that Lili has been chosen as the next victim, taken to the insane asylum for the process. Raz consults with Ford, who is unable to leave the camp but gives Raz a piece of bacon which he can use to contact Ford at any time.
Raz, after freeing the mutated lungfish, Linda, from Oleander's control, crosses the lake, and encounters the few remaining residents of the insane asylum. After Raz helps to resolve their mental issues, the residents help Raz to reach Dr. Loboto's laboratory at the top of the asylum. He finds that Oleander and Doctor Loboto have taken Lili, Sasha, and Milla prisoner. Raz is able to free them, where they turn to fight Oleander (Dr. Loboto having fallen from the top of the asylum.) As they fight, the insane asylum is burned down, and while the others are rendered unconscious, Oleander transfers his mind to one of the death tanks and attacks Raz. Raz defeats the tank, but upon his success, super sneezing powder is ejected from the tank (a last resort of Oleander's.) The powder causes Raz to sneeze his brain out. Raz, without much choice, moves his brain into the tank, where his psyche merges with Oleander's.
Raz finds himself in a mental world ("The Meat Circus") that combines his own fears of his father and the circus with Oleander's childhood fears of his father, a butcher. Raz escorts "Little Oly," the child version of Oleander, safely through the world, and is able to defeat the gruesome visions of his and Oly's fathers. Raz's real father then shows up in Raz's mind, telling him that he is also a powerful psychic. After seeing Raz's mental image of him he tells Raz that he didn't discourage Raz from being a psychic because he disapproved, but to protect him, and then easily defeats his mental duplicate. However, because Raz and Oly's minds are still melded together, the two visions combine into a powerful amalgam of their fathers that can only be defeated by Raz and his real father's combined powers. Raz and Oleander's brains then separate and are restored to their bodies. As the rest of the children's brains are restored, Raz is congratulated for his outstanding work, and is allowed to become a Psychonaut by both the agents and his father. As he is leaving camp, news arrives that the Grand Head of the Psychonauts—Lili's father, Truman Zanotto—has been kidnapped. Raz and his fellow Psychonauts (along with Lili) fly off to rescue him, leaving the game on a cliffhanger.
The back-story for Psychonauts was originally conceived during the development of Full Throttle, where Tim Schafer envisioned a sequence where the protagonist Ben Throttle goes under a peyote-induced psychedelic experience. While this was eventually ejected from the original game (for not being family friendly enough), Schafer kept the idea and eventually developed it into Psychonauts. While still working at LucasArts, Tim Schafer decided to use the name "Raz" for a main character because he liked the nickname of the LucasArts animator, Razmig "Raz" Mavlian. When Mavlian joined Double Fine, there was increased confusion between the character and the animator. The game's associate producer, Camilla Fossen, suggested the name "Rasputin". Then Double Fine's lawyer suggested "Razputin" instead, so Double Fine could file a trademark.
Schafer's team was partly made up of several people he worked with on Grim Fandango at LucasArts. The art design crew included background artist Peter Chan and cartoonist Scott Campbell. Voice actor Richard Steven Horvitz, best known for his portrayal of Zim in the cult favorite animated series Invader Zim, provides the voice of Raz, the game's protagonist. Raz was originally conceived as an ostrich suffering from mental imbalance and multiple personalities. Tim Schafer killed the idea because he strongly believes in games being "wish fulfillments," guessing that not many people fantasize about being an insane ostrich.
Originally, Psychonauts was to be published by Microsoft for release exclusively on their Xbox console; Schafer attributes this to Microsoft's Ed Fries, who at the time of Psychonauts's initial development in 2001, was looking to develop a portfolio of games for the new console system. Schafer believes that Fries was a proponent of "pushing games as art", which helped to solidify Double Fine's concept of Psychonauts as an appropriate title for the console after the team's collected experience of developing for personal computers. After Fries' departure from Microsoft in 2004, the company soon pulled the publishing deal for Psychonauts. By August 2004, Double Fine had negotiated a new publishing deal with Majesco to release the game on Windows as well as the Xbox. Tim Schafer was quoted as saying "Together we are going to make what could conservatively be called the greatest game of all time ever, and I think that's awesome." In October 2004, it was revealed that Psychonauts would be released on yet another platform, the PlayStation 2, ported by Budcat Creations. The final U.S. release date for the game on Xbox and Windows was April 19, 2005, with the PlayStation 2 port following on June 21, 2005. Psychonauts was re-released via Valve Corporation's Steam content delivery system on October 11, 2006.
The budget for Psychonauts was approximately $13 million, according to Schafer.
In June 2011, the original publishing deal with Majesco expired, and full publication rights for the game reverted to Double Fine. In September 2011, Double Fine released an updated version for Microsoft Windows and a port to Mac OS X through Steam. The new version provided support for Steam features including achievements and cloud saving. The Mac OS X port was developed in partnership with Dracogen Strategic Investments. In conjunction with this release, an iOS application, Psychonauts Vault Viewer, was released at the same time, featuring the memory vaults from the game with commentary by Tim Schafer and Scott Campbell.
Although initially unplayable on the Xbox 360, Tim Schafer spearheaded a successful e-mail campaign by fans which led to Psychonauts being added to the Xbox 360 backwards compatible list on December 12, 2006, and on December 4, 2007, Microsoft made Psychonauts one of the initial launch titles made available for direct download on the Xbox 360 through their Xbox Originals program.
- "The Meat Circus" (1:56)
- "Whispering Rock" (4:13)
- "Stay out of the Moonlight" (4:30)
- "Hagatha's Home" (2:18)
- "Happy Flowers" (1:37)
- "The Lungfish Lair" (1:54)
- "The Milkman Conspiracy" (1:41)
- "Dr. Loboto's Lab" (1:55)
- "Duel with the Critic" (1:22)
- "The Catwalk Phantom" (1:51)
- "March of the Inmates" (1:42)
- "Sasha's Immaculate Mind" (1:40)
- "The Censors Unleashed" (1:30)
- "Black Velvetopia" (1:15)
- "The Wild Bull Run/El Odio" (1:37)
- "The Matador" (1:34)
- "Gloria's Secret Garden" (1:53)
- "Bonita's Tragic Muse" (2:13)
- "Bunk Time" (1:37)
- "Title and End Credits" (4:37)
- "Emotional Baggage" (0:12)
There was another soundtrack featuring music from the cutscenes as well as a remix of the main theme and credits.
- "Coach's Welcome"
- "Bobby Zilch & Sasha"
- "The World Is a Better Place"
- "March of the Psychonauts"
- "Lili Kidnapped "
- "Was That a Dream? "
- "Top o' the Lungfish"
- "Call Me Linda"
- "Dr. Loboto's Evil Plans"
- "Ah, the Theater!"
- "Rise Up, Milkman"
- "My Patron"
- "Beauty and the Bull"
- "Love Found and Lost"
- "End of the Asylum"
- "The Fathers"
- "Summer's End"
- "Psychonauts Theme Medley" (Remixed and Remastered)
Psychonauts received critical acclaim, with its unique premise, endearing characters, sharp writing, and overall sense of humor being the most commonly praised aspects of the game. The PlayStation 2 version received slightly lower (though still high) scores than the Xbox and PC versions due to performance issues such as increased load times and frame rate problems. GameSpot wrote "The whole look of the game feels like the unholy love child of Tim Burton and a Pixar animation team, and it's just wonderful stuff... anyone looking for a fun and whimsical adventure with a brilliant presentation and a fantastic story will find just that in Psychonauts." IGN was positive: "The first half of this game is easily one of the most enjoyable I've had in the past year", but was critical though: "But as is the case with many humorous games, the laughs begin to fade in the home stretch and in the end Psychonauts started to wear on me." GameSpy: "It's one of the best platformers the system has seen, mostly thanks to its amazing visuals and downright hilarious dialogue." GameShark was positive also: "The best platform game ever to grace the Xbox." Electronic Gaming Monthly wrote "Anyone who doesn't fall for the unique characters, hilarious dialogue, and brilliantly conceived environments of Psychonauts has no soul. The James Brown of games, Psychonauts' personality overcomes its flaws." The New York Times: "Insanity is what makes Psychonauts entertaining and unusual, so it is a shame you have to spend several hours in the mildly eccentric minds of instructors before getting to the cool part of the game." The Sydney Morning Herald: "A wildly imaginative, frequently hilarious and hugely entertaining platforming romp through the subconscious."
- E3 2002 Game Critics Awards: Best Original Game
- GameSpot Best and Worst of 2005: Best Voice Acting, Best Graphics (Artistic), Funniest Game, Best Game No One Played, Best Platformer. Nominated for Best Story and Best Original Music. Razputin was nominated for Best New Character.
- IGN 2005 Awards: Best Platformer, Best Game No One Played
- Razputin was placed #2 on the Game Informer "Top 10 Heroes of 2005" list, as well as #22 on the "Top 30 Characters Who Defined a Decade" list in the December 2010 issue.
- EuroGamer: Overall Game of the Year 2005
- PSM: Buy or Die award in issue #100, #5 on Top 10 Games of 2005 list, Best Characters
- Electronic Gaming Monthly 2005 Awards: Best Game No One Played
- PC PowerPlay: First full 10/10 score after the magazine's switch from the 100-point scoring system to its current 10-point scoring system
- PC Gamer magazine 2005 Awards: Best Game You Didn't Play, Editor's Choice Award
- GameShadow Innovation in Games Awards nominee (Best Game, Innovative Visual Effects, Best Narrative)
- G4's X-Play deemed Psychonauts the funniest game ever in their "Funniest @#%& Ever" episode and was voted #6 in the top ten games on the Xbox in the "Best of the Xbox" episode. Psychonauts later came 79th in G4s "greatest games of all time"
- British Academy Video Games Awards 2006: Best Screenplay
- Games magazine: 2006 Electronic Game of the Year
- 6th annual Game Developers Choice Awards: Best Writing, with Tim Schafer and Erik Wolpaw accepting
Despite Psychonauts earning high critical praise and a number of awards, it was a commercial failure upon its initial release. Although the game was first cited as the primary contributing factor to a strong quarter immediately following its launch, a month later Majesco revised their fiscal year projections from a net profit of $18 million to a net loss of $18 million, and at the same time its CEO, Carl Yankowski, announced his immediate resignation. By the end of the year, the title had shipped fewer than 100,000 copies, and Majesco announced its plans to withdraw from the "big budget console game marketplace". However, this figure predated the game's European release, its release on Steam, and its inclusion on the Xbox 360's backward-compatible list.
According to Schafer, as of March 6, 2012 the retail version Psychonauts had sold 400,000 copies. The game is still available via digital distribution services such as Steam and GOG.com. On December 4, 2007, the game was among the first games to be added to the "Xbox Originals" line of the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Marketplace, and remains as one of only a small number of titles released for that line.
In August 2011, Psychonauts was removed from Xbox Live Marketplace as Majesco no longer held the publishing rights to the game. As Microsoft does not allow unpublished content on the Marketplace it was removed. Tim Schafer stated, in an online post, "We are working with Microsoft right now to get it re-propped to the system but there is a lot of red tape to melt with our minds." It returned to the Xbox Live Marketplace on February 24, 2012.
On May 31, 2012, Psychonauts was announced as a part of Humble Indie Bundle V. Schafer, commenting in a Reddit "Ask me Anything" panel with other developers of games in the Bundle, stated that sales of Psychonauts exceeded past sales of the game within the "first few hours" of the Bundle going live. Schafer further said in a late 2012 statement that, considering avenues such as Steam, "We made more on Psychonauts this year than we ever have before"
Although Tim Schafer has repeatedly expressed interest in working on the Psychonauts franchise again in the future, as of November 2010, no sequel is in development. The development of the sequel would require a publisher that was interested in the game. Schafer believes that widespread, inexpensive distribution of Psychonauts through both legitimate means such as digital distribution and illegitimate means of software piracy indicates that there would be a large market for the game's sequel. In 2010, UGO ranked Psychonauts third on its list of games that need sequels. After Double Fine's release of several smaller, self-published games such as Costume Quest and Iron Brigade, developed by separate teams within the company, Schafer also felt more comfortable about a sequel, as they were now in a place to develop multiple projects at the same time.
On February 7, 2012, Markus Persson, the owner of Mojang, made a public offer to fund a sequel to Schafer through Twitter. Later that day, a company representative for Double Fine stated that Persson and Schafer were discussing the possibility, without further affirmation. Persson noted that the anticipated costs that Double Fine would need would be an estimated $18 million, far exceeding what was initially expected to fund and cautioned fans to avoid hyping the funding possibility. Persson and Schafer met at the Game Developers Conference in March 2012; however, no definitive plans were made for funding a sequel. In February 2013, Persson officially stated that he is no longer directly trying to fund the sequel, commenting that he doesn't "have the time at the moment to even try to get educated enough to make an 18 million dollar deal", though would be open to the idea at a later time after he left game development; Persson did note other potential investors have stepped forward to help any such effort.
- "News - All News". Store.steampowered.com. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
- "Psychonauts Coming to PS2 Classics This Tuesday – PlayStation.Blog". Blog.us.playstation.com. 2012-08-23. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
- Double Fine Productions. Psychonauts. (Majesco). Xbox. Level/area: Opening sequence. "
Milla Vodello: Now darling, you can stay here for a few days until your parents come for you, but we can't let you participate in any paranormal training without your parents' consent. I'm sorry."
- Double Fine Productions. Psychonauts. (Majesco). Xbox. Level/area: Whispering Rock. "
Sasha Nein: Your performance, young cadet, was outstanding. I'd like you to report to my lab for some advanced training."
- Double Fine Productions. Psychonauts. (Majesco). Xbox. Level/area: Brain Tumbler Experiment. "
Doctor Loboto: Little boy, I am sorry to say that you have a very serious mental problem. The trouble originates in this area here. The area that we in the medical profession like to refer to as...the brain! You see, son...it's just no good! I hate to be so blunt, but...you have the insanity...of a manatee!
Dogen: I know. People are always saying that. What do you think's wrong with my brain, doctor?
Doctor Loboto: How should I know, I'm a dentist. But here's what I do know: if a tooth is bad, you pull it!"
- Double Fine Productions. Psychonauts. (Majesco). Xbox. Level/area: Whispering Rock. "
Razputin: Dogen! Are you okay? I had the strangest machine-induced dream about you.
Razputin: Well, first of all, Sasha Nein invited me down to his secret lab, and-
Razputin: (looks through Dogen's head to find that his brain is missing) He's completely brainless! The dream was true!"
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- Mott, Tony (2010). 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. London: Quintessence Editions Ltd. p. 642. ISBN 978-1-74173-076-0.
- 2002 winners (engl.)
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- Magrino, Tom (2008-10-16). "EA CEO talks game-killing, Legend brutalizing". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
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- "An experiment failed: Majesco learns a hard lesson about the video game industry.". CNN. 2006-01-24.
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- "Humble Indie Bundle 5". Retrieved 2012-05-31.
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