Retro Game Wednesday #5 – Psychonauts

Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam. — Title: Psychonauts Genre: Platformer Developer: Double Fine Productions Release Date:  Apr 26th, 2005 Price (at time […]

Every week, Retro Game Wednesday reviews a well-aged game available for digital download on Steam.

Title: Psychonauts
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date:  Apr 26th, 2005
Price (at time of review): $9.99

This is a landmark occasion for Retro Game Wednesday – it’s the first ‘old’ game I’m reviewing that I haven’t actually played before at least fifteen times. In fact, I hadn’t played this one at all going in, barring a five minute stint on the XBOX several years ago. I’ve been told for years that I really should have played this one –  luckily, writing this column has finally given me the chance to correct that mistake, although not as thoroughly as would the invention of a time machine.

If you invent a time machine, please send it along. I want one.


A boy named Raz (short for Razputin) escapes from his family and life at the circus and ends up at a secret summer camp for psychic children, which is convenient because it turns out he is one and they decide that he might as well stick around and have an incredibly dangerous adventure while they wait for his parents to come pick him up. This is why we don’t let the US Government babysit.


  • It’s a not-terrible 3d platformer, and those are hard to come by.
  • It’s definitely unique. It’s well written, it has an interesting art style, it’s definitely memorable, and god is it funny.
  • Just to provide an example, the main character escaped from the circus to become a psychic secret agent at summer camp.
  • On the world’s smallest pony.
  • This is all backed up by an outstanding voice-cast, including Richard Horvitz (Invader Zim, Angry Beavers) as the main character, Raz.
  • Almost every character ends up getting at least one moment in the spotlight throughout the course of the story.
  • You play as a psychic kid who ran away from the circus, damn it. That means you should buy this game no matter what I say.


  • I don’t personally like platformers very much, and I feel compelled to whine about this in my review.
  • The levels involve jumping with a degree of precision. And other platforming elements.
  • It’s a platformer and I’m bad at those.
  • I died so much.


Okay. So I don’t like platforming games. But I think I can forgive Psychonauts for being one. Because at the same time, it manages to feel like an adventure game. You explore a world, discover the story, solve some puzzles and yes, along the way you have to jump around a bit and die a few times. Or, if you’re me, a few hundred times. But the sheer uniqueness of the game makes it worth it – this really isn’t an experience you can compare to anything else, except maybe hard drugs. And you’ll get way more Psychonauts for ten bucks.  9/10


I have to say, everybody who told me this was right – this game was definitely worth playing. Not many games actually succeed in making me laugh, and fewer still do it consistently. This isn’t cause I’m a humourless old man, at least not yet – it’s because most games only have one or two memorably funny moments. Psychonauts has at least a couple per level. You play as a kid who hops around the minds of the people he meets at a summer camp for psychics in an effort to sort out their various mental problems and get closer to stopping the villain. Who is also psychic. Yeah, most of the characters you meet in this game are psychic like Raz – the whole game takes place at a thinly disguised training camp for psychic children maintained by the US Government.

The camp itself is totally explorable and serves as an open world ‘hub’, but the real levels are inside the minds of the people you meet there. And yes, they involve platforming elements, requiring you to jump, double jump, and do other jumping related activities. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad. It’s a very solid platformer, and the addition of various psychic powers to the mix keeps that more mechanical side of the gameplay interesting. But that’s not as far as it goes – the gameplay is balanced out by the inclusion of adventure game elements – you have to wander around, talk to the right people, and solve puzzles. For example, inside the mind of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, you need to find various objects to blend in with the thin cover stories of the shadowy, trenchcoated agents who inhabit his brain.

Yeah, this isn’t the kind of game that’s easy to explain to people who haven’t seen it. It’s weird. Every little piece of the game contributes to that – the character design (sometimes as lopsided and misshapen as the objects that surround them), the incidental sounds, and especially the voice acting – every bizarre little neurosis is convincingly portrayed. Everything feels just slightly wrong, which is what makes the game so perfectly right.

As a whole, it’s not quite my perfect game. I’m a fan of old style point and click adventures and I could have got behind a whole lot less jumping and a whole lot more talking and puzzle solving.  But you know what? It’s alright. I didn’t go through this game for the gameplay, in the end, although I don’t hesitate to restate that I’m just a whiny baby about platformers and there was absolutely nothing wrong with it (except keyboard snapping, monitor punching difficulty in a few places). No, I went through this for the experience. And I’m glad I did. It’s weird. But it’s the good kind of weird.


I didn’t run into any difficulties playing this game, but if you run into any you can let me know at and I’ll either attempt to fix them or verbally abuse you, depending on my mood.

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