Nearly fifteen years after the release of Psychonauts, Double Fine Studios is finally releasing a sequel. The much anticipated Psychonauts 2 has been creating a lot of stir in the gaming community recently. While the gameplay seems to resemble its predecessor, Psychonauts 2 has something a little different. Instead of focusing on Raz uncovering the secret conspiracy behind the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp, Psychonauts 2 is much more intent on demonstrating how Freud was right.
Psychonauts 2’s obsession with Austrian neurologist and founder of modern psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud is immediately evident from the title screen. While the original game places Raz on a 3D brain to walk around and select an option, Psychonauts 2 places Raz on his mother’s nude body. As you navigate around Raz’s Mom, Raz loudly sucks on his pacifier, mumbling something about “fixations.” Right from the get-go, Psychonauts 2 wears its Freudian influences right on its sleeve.
There are a few gameplay changes from the original title. In the original game, smelling salts were used to leave the psychic realm and return to the overworld. In the sequel, smelling salts have been replaced with cocaine. Additionally, there is no health/damage mechanic anymore: instead, psychic trauma that Raz endures manifests as a series of fixations and compulsions. As these accrue, Raz slowly devolves into a stunted, child-like version of himself, unable to do more than smoke cigarettes, and shit.
While many favorite characters are returning for the sequel, Psychonauts 2 is completely devoid of any female characters. When asked about this, Doublefine’s founder Tim Schafer claimed it was an “unfortunate byproduct of [Psychonaut 2’s] new Freudian focus.” Tim clarified that Freudian psychology was “by dudes and for dudes” and that “this game isn’t really for chicks anyhow”.
In addition to exploring the subconscious worlds of other characters, Psychonauts 2 introduces dream exploration. The dream levels are purported to have a whole different playstyle than the traditional Psychonauts levels. Instead of platforming, the dream courses (as they are called) are more of a Pokemon Snap venture, taking pictures of images that represent repressed trauma and other various phallic objects.
The original game grew to become a cult classic partly due to the varied and detailed backstories you’d uncover from the depths of the camp staff’s brains. In Psychonauts 2, however, most of the story uncovered in the various minds Raz travels through is about how they either want to fuck their mom, or are jealous of their dad’s penis, with very little in between.