|Publisher(s)||Xbox Game Studios|
|Engine||Unreal Engine 4|
Psychonauts 2 is a platform game developed by Double Fine and published by Xbox Game Studios. The game was announced at The Game Awards 2015 ceremony, and released on August 25, 2021 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S, with releases for macOS and Linux planned for a future, unannounced date.
Like the first game, the player controls Raz, a young acrobat that is training to become a Psychonaut, a member of an international task force that uses their psychic abilities to stop those that perform nefarious deeds with their own psychic forces. Within Psychonauts 2, which follows directly from events of the interstitial virtual reality game, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, the Psychonauts try to learn who was really behind the kidnapping of their leader, unveiling a deep mystery surrounding the organization's founding and Raz's family history. To uncover the mystery, Raz enters the mindscapes of various characters to discover clues. Within these mindscapes, Raz can perform a variety of new and returning psychic abilities that allow him to maneuver through the often-twisted minds and battle the mental creatures they produce.
The original Psychonauts, released in 2005, was met with critical praise, but failed to sell well and was considered a commercial failure for several years after its first release. Double Fine and game director Tim Schafer had expressed the desire to create a sequel to Psychonauts, but the financial demand of developing the game stalled any serious attempt for several years. Double Fine regained the intellectual property to Psychonauts from Majesco Entertainment in 2011, allowing them to rerelease the game on modern platforms, which saw strong sales and increased demand from players for a sequel. Double Fine sought to acquire part of its financial capital to fund the developments of Psychonauts 2 through a US$3.3 million crowd-funding and investment drive through Fig, launched simultaneously with the game's announcement. The campaign raised nearly $4 million by the beginning of 2016. While Psychonauts 2 was initially to be published by Starbreeze Studios under a publishing-only deal, Starbreeze fell into bankruptcy in 2018. By 2019, Microsoft acquired Double Fine as part of Xbox Games Studios as well as securing the publishing rights from Starbreeze. This acquisition allowed Double Fine to complete the game as envisioned rather than dropping planned content.
Psychonauts 2 is a third-person platform game similar in gameplay to its predecessor. The player controls Raz, a newly graduated Psychonaut with powerful psychic abilities, as he delves into the minds of others. The player uses "Psi-Powers", such as telekinesis, pyrokinesis, and levitation, in combination with more common platform game elements, to explore the mental worlds of several non-player characters.
Psychonauts 2 is set in a fictional, alternate world in which psychic powers exist thanks to the fictional element Psitanium - a substance brought to the planet by several meteors. The Psychonauts are an international espionage agency focused on psychic peacekeeping, scientific research of the human mind, and the development of psychic-based technologies.
In Psychonauts, the player-character Razputin "Raz" Aquato is a young acrobat fascinated by the Psychonauts, but shunned by his family who fear his psychic abilities. He runs away and infiltrates Whispering Rock summer camp, a training facility for young Psychonaut recruits. While there, he helps to foil a plan by the demented Dr. Loboto to steal the brains of Psychonaut agents Sasha Nein, Milla Vodello, and Coach Oleander, while befriending Psychonauts founder Ford Cruller and Lili Zanotto, the daughter of the Grand Head of the Psychonauts, Truman Zanotto. Raz's father, Augustus, comes to accept Raz's goal of being a Psychonaut, revealing his own weak psychic abilities. Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin follows immediately from the end of Psychonauts, where Raz joins Sasha, Milla, Coach and Lili to rescue Truman from being kidnapped by Dr. Loboto.
In addition to returning characters from the previous games, Psychonauts 2 introduces the other founding members of the Psychonauts alongside Ford Cruller, known as the Psychic Six: Otto Mentallis, chief inventor who assists Nein and provides new psychic equipment; Compton Boole, who pioneered telepathy with animals; Bob Zanotto, uncle to Truman Zanotto and capable of communicating with plant life; Helmut Fullbear, a psychic actor whose body was lost and his brain was kept in a jar for over 20 years, making him lose his five senses; and Cassie O'Pia, an author of the self-help book "Mindswarm" who is lost in a multiple personality disorder. Additional Psychonauts staff at their headquarters, the Motherlobe, include Hollis Forsythe, Second Head of the Psychonauts, Nick Johnsmith, the only non-psychic member of the Psychonauts who works the mailroom section, and a group of interns training to become agents. These interns include Sam Boole, elder sister of Dogen and granddaughter to Compton who can communicate with animals like her family; Adam Gette, the African-British keeper of the Psychonauts' history board who powers yo-yos as a weapon; Morris Martinez, a radio aficionado who travels around via levitating wheelchair; Gisu, an engineering ward to Otto and levitating skateboarder; Norma, a shrewd manipulator and talented pyrokinetic; and Lizzie, Norma's cryokinetic and moody sister. Raz's family beyond Augustus are also introduced, including Augustus' wife and Raz's mother Donatella, the older siblings Dion and Frazie, the child siblings Mirtala and Queepie, and the elder Marona, mother to Augustus.
En route to the Motherlobe after capturing Loboto and recovering the comatose body of Truman, Raz joins the other Psychonauts inside Loboto's mind to learn his co-conspirator's identity, but they find his psyche secured against their efforts. However, Raz sees a vision of a woman whom Sasha identifies as Maligula, a cruel hydrokinetic who flooded and destroyed the capital of the fictional nation of Grulovia, Raz’s ancestral homeland. Maligula is believed killed by the Psychic Six, but her followers, the Deluginists, have looked to necromancy to resurrect her. The senior agents also suspect a double agent within the Psychonauts aided Loboto in kidnapping Truman.
At the Motherlobe, Hollis assigns Raz to work as an intern in the mail room under Nick. Raz finds Nick's brainless body and a key to a room at the Lady Luctopus Casino. Raz enters Hollis's mind to convince her that sending the interns on the mission would be a good idea. However, once there, Raz's manipulation brings out Hollis's latent gambling addiction, and Raz is forced to undo this to get the mission back on track. Inside the room, Raz finds evidence of the Deluginists as well as a slip of paper indicting Lili as the double agent, which he keeps to himself.
Raz returns to Lili by Truman's side to reveal the paper he found but she refuses to believe it and runs off. To Raz's surprise, Truman speaks to him, his silent state an act. Truman urges Raz to bring Ford Cruller to the Motherlobe and reconstitute his split personalities, as he holds the secret behind Maligula. Raz does so, along the way helping the other Psychic Six members with their own mental traumas that had developed after their fight with Maligula. Once Ford is whole, he explains to Raz that Maligula is really Lucrecia "Lucy" Mux, the previously-unknown seventh member of the Psychic Six who was in a romantic relationship with Ford. Lucrecia returned to her Grulovia homeland to quell an uprising, but under the abusive treatment of Grulovia's leader Gzar Theodore, Lucrecia had created the Maligula personality as a fight or flight complex. Maligula went out of control, flooding the country and forcing the Gzar and his family into exile. The Psychic Six defeated Maligula, but instead of killing her, Ford secretly used one of Otto's inventions, the Astralathe, to alter Lucrecia's mind to bury the Maligula personality deep inside her and to make Lucrecia believe she was Marona "Nona" Aquato, her sister who had died in the flooding. Ford also altered Augustus' memories to accept Lucrecia as Nona within his family. Finally, Ford split his own mind with the Astralathe to hide this secret and forget about Lucrecia. Raz, shocked by the revelation, wants to warn his family, but Ford warns that this might unleash Maligula.
Ford and Raz find Nona in the nearby Green Needle Gulch, the home of the Psychic Six, where the Astralathe is kept. Nona shows signs of remembering her time as Lucrecia, and Ford determines that with the help of the Psychic Six, they need to use the Astralathe to create a further hole in Nona's mind to banish the Maligula personality for good. Within Nona's mind, they learn that she had been already recalling elements of Lucrecia much earlier, as she was the one to convince Raz to go to Whispering Rock as a indirect means to call for help from the Psychonauts. As Ford and Raz prepare to banish Maligula, Raz is suddenly pulled out of Nona's mind by Truman. Finding Truman's actions suspicious, Raz enters his mind accompanied by Lili and they discover that his brain is actually that of Gristol Malik, Gzar Theodore's spoiled son. Malik posed as Nick to infiltrate the Psychonauts and get revenge for his family's fall from grace, and instituted a plan to have Loboto replace Truman's brain with his, using Truman's position to revive Maligula, destroy the Psychonauts and reconquer Grulovia.
The rest of the Psychonauts arrive too late to prevent Maligula's reawakening, which takes them all but Raz and Lili by a hurricane storm. As Lili goes away to find Truman's brain, Raz races back to his family, who figured the truth out as Augustus has regained his lost memories, but they still assist Raz in reaching her and entering her mind. Raz battles Maligula, weakening her until Nona can come out inside, and both work together to push Maligula into the dark depths created by the Astralathe. As Nona is returned to her family and pardoned by the Psychonauts, Truman's brain is returned to his body while Gristol Malik is put in psychoisolation for his crimes, and Raz and the interns graduate and are pronounced junior agents. In a post-credits scene, Raz witnesses Loboto escaping back to Whispering Rock.
Double Fine's first title as a studio was Psychonauts, released in 2005. The title was considered a commercial failure, but was highly praised by critics for its characters and writing and gained a cult following. In the years following its release, fans and game journalists urged Tim Schafer, CEO of Double Fine and principal creative lead on the game, to develop a sequel to the title.
Schafer had expressed interest in working on the Psychonauts franchise again, with the company having envisioned larger story arcs for the game's characters over the course of its development. The development of the sequel would require a publisher that was interested in the game, and Double Fine approached publishers with the idea; Schafer said that in these pitches, he pointed out the large number of both legitimate sales through digital distribution and through the illegitimate means of software piracy. After Double Fine's success with the concurrent development and publishing of several smaller games, such as Costume Quest and Iron Brigade, Schafer felt more comfortable about embarking on a sequel, knowing that it need not obstruct the creation of any newer properties. Despite this, the publishers continued to turn down the idea. Some called the concept too creative or too obscure, according to Schafer. For others, with whom Schafer said he had good relations, the deals they offered did not fit with the scale Double Fine had planned for the game.
In February 2012, Markus Persson, at the time 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; no definitive plans were made for funding a sequel, however. In February 2013, Persson officially stated that he was no longer directly trying to fund the sequel, commenting that he did not "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.
Most of the game's original voice actors from Psychonauts returned to voice their characters, notably, Richard Horvitz and Nikki Rapp as the voices of Raz and Lili respectively. New to Psychonauts 2 include Jack Black, who has worked on previous Double Fine games, as Helmut Fullbear, and Elijah Wood, who had also provided voicework in Broken Age, as Nick Johnsmith. As an Easter egg casting, Rikki Simons voices the embodiment of one of Raz's powers; Horvitz and Simons had previous voiced the characters Zim and Gir in the animated show Invader Zim.
Announcement and fundraising
At the 2015 Game Awards, Schafer announced Double Fine's plans to work on Psychonauts 2 using a crowdfunding campaign through Fig. The company sought $3.3 million in funding for the game, which represented approximately one-third of the planned development costs, and would augment money being put in by Double Fine and a third-party investor. Schafer noted that while the amount was the same that they had raised for their Broken Age Kickstarter, which by the time of its release had significantly overrun its budget, he felt the studio was in a better position to manage the costs and processes necessary to deliver Psychonauts 2 on schedule. Schafer noted that this funding approach — bringing in money from multiple investors instead of from a single publisher — is similar to the approach taken by the movie industry, and further, that the use of crowdfunding can alleviate some of the traditional risks associated with investment, being an effective means of proving public interest in a title.
Mere days after the announcement of the Psychonauts 2 campaign, Double Fine announced the development of Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, a publisher-funded virtual reality game for the PlayStation VR. The game is a smaller standalone chapter that serves as a bridge between the original game and its sequel, featuring Raz and the other psychonauts rescuing Truman Zanotto, tying into the conclusion of Psychonauts.
During the campaign, Schafer confirmed that in addition to voice actors, several team members who worked on the original game would return for the sequel, including Erik Wolpaw as writer, Peter Chan and Scott Campbell as artists, and Peter McConnell as the composer. 2 Player Productions, a video production company who had previously worked with Double Fine to document the development of Broken Age, would be similarly documenting the creation of Psychonauts 2. Double Fine planned to utilise Unreal Engine 4 to develop the sequel, allowing them to save time and money that would otherwise be spent developing a custom game engine, as they had done in the past.
The campaign reached its target funding goal with five days left in its 38-day campaign. Upon completion, a total of $3,829,024 had been raised from 24,109 backers, with about $1,874,000 (48%) coming from those who opted to invest in the game compared to those who chose the more traditional reward-based options. Some of this funding was tied up in process with the Security and Exchange Commission to authorize Fig's use of unaccredited investors; Fig during this time covered Double Fine's development costs from their own capital. The matter was resolved by September 2016, assuring Double Fine will receive the amount funded or invested.
In February 2017, it was announced that Starbreeze Studios had invested $8 million to help digitally publish the game across all platforms. They would recoup the investment by gaining 85% of the profit on sales, after the Fig investors are accounted for, until it is recovered, and then take 60% beyond that. The investment only affected the distribution, as Double Fine retains all control on the intellectual property and the development process.
Double Fine had originally planned on a 2018 release for the title, but announced in December 2017 that with the game in full development and their planned roadmap towards release completed, they did not expect to release the game until at least 2019. Double Fine premiered the game's first full trailer at The Game Awards 2018 in December 2018. Psychonauts 2 was in alpha at this time.
By June 2019 Double Fine had been acquired by Microsoft as part of Xbox Game Studios. Microsoft purchased the publishing rights for the game from Starbreeze for $13.2 million. Despite the sale, Double Fine stated that Psychonauts 2 would still be released on all previously announced platforms (not being exclusive to Microsoft platforms). The Microsoft acquisition allowed Double Fine to pay back the Fig investors earlier at a 139% return and increasing subsequent revenue-based return on investments from 70 to 85%. Schafer said in a 2020 interview that prior to Microsoft's acquisition, they were at a point that they cut the boss fights out of the game due to lack of funds, but were able to re-add them afterward.
In July 2019, Double Fine announced that they have delayed the game's release until 2020, wanting to make sure they make the game as good as players are expecting. Double Fine announced in July 2020 that the game was further delayed to 2021, which will allow for an Xbox Series X-optimized version to be released as well. A release date for the game was officially announced at E3 2021. Double Fine announced on Twitter that the game had gone gold on August 6th, 2021.  On August 23, 2021, Double Fine revealed that the macOS and Linux versions had been delayed to an unannounced future date.
|PC Gamer (US)||89/100|
Tom Marks of IGN gave the game a 8/10, saying: "Even with a few rough edges, Psychonauts 2 is just about everything I could have hoped for from this long-awaited sequel." Keza MacDonald of The Guardian gave the game 5/5 and praised its unique levels and areas and memorable characters, though criticized its emphasis on collectibles they considered dated and its "redundant" upgrades. Josh West of GamesRadar+ gave the game 4.5/5 and praised its imagination, humor, and called it an "audio visual feast for the senses", but thought the boss battles were frustrating and the upgrade system was "ineffectual". Kurt Indovina of GameSpot gave the game 9/10 and praised the writing and approach to serious topics of mental health conditions, the art direction, platforming, and combat, though criticized its boss fights as lacking.
Will Greenwald of PCMag gave the game 4/5, praising the variety in visuals and the platforming and puzzle mechanics, but criticized its combat as "muddy" and the limited amount of usable psychic powers at any one time. Giovanni Colantonio of Digital Trends gave the game 4/5 and praised the level design, visuals, platforming, though criticized its "bloated" story, and while complimenting the upgrade system, they criticized the ability juggling as complicated. Mike Minotti of VentureBeat gave the game 4/5 and stated, "If you ever enjoyed the original, or just like the idea of a psychic-themed 3D platformer, I'm sure that you'll like Psychonauts 2 and find plenty of laughs along the way." Edwin Evans-Thirlwell of Eurogamer praised the game as being "as witty, eccentric and imaginative as the 2005 action-platformer, with a more developed understanding of mental health." Zack Zwiezen of Kotaku gave the game a positive review and stated, "Psychonauts 2 isn’t about gunning down the big boss at the end and cheering over their dead body. It’s about understanding that even the biggest asshole is still a person, and deep down they may just need some help. Psychonauts 2 says that everyone can change."
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I love that game and I would love to do something with it someday, but right now we're not working on that. If the fans keep talking about it, maybe it will happen.
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