Psychonauts doesn't reinvent the platformer, but it still delivers an experience that feels wholly original in every aspect of its execution.
It also helps that the game has more to it than just a lot of jumping around. There are puzzles to be solved in Psychonauts, as well as battles to be fought, and both require use of Raz's list of crazy psychic powers. You start out only with a basic melee attack at your disposal, but as you play and collect items scattered about both the real world and mental worlds, you'll be able to upgrade Raz's rank and earn new powers, like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, levitation, invisibility, and clairvoyance. The best part is that there will be crazy situations constantly thrown at you where you'll have to change your powers regularly (as you can only have three assigned at one time). Got a piece of wood in front of you that's blocking your path? Just set it on fire with your mind. Need to get an object from one place to another? Just get your telekinesis on. Again, the game itself is rarely all that difficult, so it's not like you'll have to work too hard with these abilities to beat enemies or solve puzzles, but they're a lot of fun to play around with, regardless.
Psychonauts' main story isn't exceptionally long, and it should take players somewhere between 10 to 15 hours to finish the game. However, if you're the kind of player that likes to dig around and find hidden stuff, or just get 100 percent on everything, then Psychonauts could certainly provide you with a much longer experience. The game is chock-full of scavenger hunt items, crazy unlockable memories from each entered mind, collectible figments, and all sorts of other nutty stuff that will likely take you a long time to find and will also help you upgrade Raz a lot quicker. Plus, there are all sorts of random dialogue and story bits to be found everywhere. You'll get pretty much all you need to out of the story if you just stick to the straight and narrow path of the main plot, but you won't see it all.
Psychonauts' greatest achievement, perhaps unsurprisingly, is in the realm of its presentation. Graphically, this is one of the nicest-looking platformers on the Xbox or PC. The whole game has a remarkably polished look to it. The characters animate smoothly, the textures and set pieces all look excellent, and the game almost always performs well, with nearly no slowdown or other such problems to speak of. However, pure performance isn't where these visuals shine; artistry is really where they come together. 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. Everyone has the sort of kooky, misshapen look of The Nightmare Before Christmas characters, and each are hysterical in their own way. We've already raved about how all the different environments, both real and cerebral, look totally unique and amazing, so we'll spare you any further details on the subject. There just aren't any other games of this type that look like Psychonauts does and it seems near-impossible not to fall in love with its sense of style.
The audio is another area where Psychonauts excels. None of these characters would be worth a spit if they weren't acted well, and thankfully, they're downright brilliant at times. Raz is voiced to perfection--to the point where you just couldn't envision another voice coming out of that kid's giant head--and every other character feels similarly on point as well. The fact that the dialogue is just so goofy and fun also helps. It's simply impossible to count all the chuckleworthy moments and the flat-out hilarious parts, as there are so many of them in this game. The soundtrack and sound effects are just as excellently produced. The music is so wonderfully suited to each specific environment that is just blends perfectly into the ambience of the level, like the Spanish flamenco that echoes off the walls of the velvet-painting level and the battle-charged theme of your fight against Napoleon. Though the sound effects rarely ever transcend the usual goofy sounds you'd hear in any given platformer, they all fit into the context of the game nicely and never sound out of place.
The one issue with the audio is that it does have its technical problems from time to time--mainly on the PC version. On our main test PC, we found that certain lines of dialogue, as well as some specific sound effects, just came across as much too quiet, like they were on a different audio channel that couldn't be turned up or something. We tried the game on another PC and found a different issue. The dialogue would actually slow to a crawl in some situations, making the characters sound like the spawn of Satan or something like that. The problem itself was infrequent enough (at least on our main test system) to where it didn't intrude on the overall play experience, but it certainly was annoying. The Xbox version had almost no technical problems at all, save for a couple of bouts with slightly off-kilter pauses where the soundtrack loops, as well as some occasionally overlapping dialogue. Otherwise, the audio is pretty much perfect.
Especially for a game that has gone through four-plus years of development and two publishers, Psychonauts turned out remarkably well. It's pretty evident where all that development time was spent, as each and every moment just seems so carefully crafted and polished, to the point where you can't help but feel a deep appreciation for the whole experience. Players looking for a stiff challenge or an exceptionally lengthy adventure won't find it here, and those who specifically want to play the game on the PC aren't going to get the best version of the experience. However, anyone just looking for a fun and whimsical adventure with a brilliant presentation and a fantastic story will find just that in Psychonauts.