Symposium: Psychonauts 2, March 3, 2022

Psychonauts 2 (2021) is the long-awaited sequel to the initially commercial unsuccessful but critically praised game, Psyhonauts (2005). With nearly 16 years between the two, each presents very different approaches to level design, gameplay accessibility, and platformer combat. The second is clearly an echo of the first, but much of the in-game mechanics have been updated for 2021 sensibilities for how encounters should work and with much more attention, for example, to more options for in-game items for health recovery for combat planning and anticipation by the player.

Let’s consider the following questions in regard to Psychonauts 2:

  • One of the more noticeable changes from Psyhonauts (2005) to Psychonauts 2 (2021) is the introduction of additional healing options and items. When playing Psychonauts 2 (2021), did you plan out possible encounters by buying items in anticipation of difficulty? Did you use items? Stockpile them?
  • While the first game was able to dig into the minds of characters using a more metaphorical approach (i.e. carrying items to “become” a persona in the infamous Milkman level), Psychonauts 2 (2021) leaned more heavily into using the perception of space with non-Euclidean geometry and spatial awe. Are the different approaches more a reflection of a bigger budget or from, in part, changing expectations of a 2021 audience? How affective did you find each? Why?
  • One of the central themes of both games is the processing of trauma through community and the idea of finding a place that fits you. How effective did you find the comparison of Raz’s family as compared to the base of the Psychonauts?
  • Bonus: The first game ends with trying to process patriarchal violence and trauma via the Meat Circus level. However, the second game leans much more into queer and feminine spaces. If the spaces are reflection of our assumptions about how people understand (or fail to understand) themselves, what can we infer about the expanded set of experiences the second game draws from? Is this a balancing away from the focus on fathers of the first game, meeting the expectations of a more diverse audience, or a little bit of both?

We’ll meet at the usual time: Thursday at 8:30pm EST / 7:30pm CST / 5:30pm PST.

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