Videogame (2005). Double Fine Productions. Designed by Tim Schafer. Platforms: PS2, Win, XBox.
Psychonauts is a three-dimensional platform game (see Videogames) with a strong linear story and vividly drawn characters. The game's fictional world is informed by an absurdist sense of humour similar to the one seen in Ben Edlund's Superhero Comic The Tick (1988-1994) and the animated series Invader Zim (2001-2006); the visual design is often reminiscent of the work of film director Tim Burton. The player character, Razputin, has run away from a circus to join a summer camp for Psychonauts, specially trained children who use their Psi Powers to fight the War on Terror. The camp itself is built on deposits of psychoactive meteor rock which enhance psychic powers and have made the local bears telekinetic. Soon, however, the player discovers that their coach is stealing students' brains as part of his plan to take over the world.
Most of the player's time is spent inside other people's minds, each of which is constructed to reflect their subconscious desires and fears (see Dream Hacking). In one mind they discover a cartoon version of 1950s suburbia, complete with paranoid spies, while the militaristic coach has a mental landscape resembling a first World War battlefield, where even the bushes are made of ammunition belts. In the end, Razputin must engage in direct brain versus brain combat with the coach, after both of their brains have been extracted and stored in tanks. Psychonauts is a psychedelic trip through the minds of a procession of seriously disturbed individuals. Its gameplay successfully fuses Adventure puzzles with the running and jumping mechanics of a platform game; the story similarly mingles comedy with occasional tragedy. [NT]
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