September 02, 2005

Psychonauts Impressions

by psu

There was a lot of general drooling over this game, especially among the game designer worship crowd. Most original design in years, they said. A constantly creative tour de force, they said. So I picked up the game at nearly full price to offset how I had given in to the man to buy Madden. After a couple of hours of play, here is my microreview: I'd rather be playing Madden.

Let the tar and feathering begin.

Here are some of Psychonauts' major and minor sins.

Minor sin: Long opening cut scenes. At least they were funny.

Major sin: Save anywhere! Just kidding! No matter where you save, you get the last checkpoint. Ha ha sucker!

Minor sin: Camera is only marginally stupid. At least you can move it around when you need to, except when you can't.

Major sin: The controls feel like they are about a half second behind me, and the little avatar dude is just too slippery. He loves to fall off cliffs and jump at ropes and ledges that he should stick to but doesn't. On the up side, the penalty for death is pretty light. Overall, it's like all the jumping puzzles from God of War without any of the fun carnage and with controls that are much worse than say, Jak and Daxter circa 2002.

Minor sin: Repetitive music and dialog when you have to replay sections over and over again because of the crappy controls.

Major sin: A tutorial level that I played for more than an hour and a half and didn't finish. I must just suck. I sat on one platform and fell off for twenty minutes before I noticed that a tiny little fissure in the wall behind me meant that I could punch it. Wow, what a moron I am to miss that staggering visual clue.

Anyway, I guess I've tagged myself as a heathen who just doesn't recognize good game design, but I just can't deal with a platformer with controls that are this sloppy when I could be playing Ratchet and Clank and blowing shit up.

This one goes back in to Gamestop, which makes me sad, because I was digging the whole Nickelodeon Ren and Stimpy sort of visual look. I wish they had put a good control engine around it.

Posted by psu at September 2, 2005 11:14 PM | Bookmark This

"Anyway, I guess I've tagged myself as a heathen who just doesn't recognize good game design"

I hate to be so blunt, but...yup. ;) The control problems do sound quite nasty though. What platform are you on? I've got it for PC and they are fine.

Posted by Tom Edwards at September 3, 2005 04:34 PM

I am playing the xbox version.

I should update my status as a heathen who is letting control issues get in the way of a good game design.

Posted by psu at September 3, 2005 07:25 PM

That's interesting; I have the xbox version and I haven't had remotely the kind of control problems you're describing - Raz had velcro fingers and a pretty tight balance.

The one loss I think is you're missing out on some visually stunning level design after the intro. Black Velvetopia and the Milkman Conspiracy are really impressive.

Posted by Mike Collins at September 3, 2005 09:02 PM

I am totally willing to chalk this up to my lack of coordination colliding with how the controls were tuned in an optimally bad way. I just found it really hard to hit things like ropes and ledges, and I see no reason to spend my life frustrated.

I certainly appreciate the visual design of the game, but visuals are not everything.

Posted by psu at September 3, 2005 09:06 PM

I didn't have that problem with Psychonauts, but I've had it enough with games this year to appreciate the problem. (OT: I'm currently running a controller upgrade every time I buy a GTA game because Rockstar seems to feel the need to have every possible DOF on the Dual Shock mapped to some function - I ended up with mirrored controls and no way to fix it short of buying new hardware)

That actually brings up an interesting thought, though - U8 had a severe jumping problem in its first release, which they fixed in a patch by increasing the generosity of landing. Do you think it might make sense to have a parameterized jumping difficulty for platformers? If you don't want to spend the rest of your life focusing on the perfect jump than narrower ledges, wider ropes and bigger sticky spots?

Posted by Mike Collins at September 4, 2005 11:41 PM

I agree with you in that it wasn't a lot of fun. The visuals were great and the story was too, but I got through the first 3 or 4 levels I guess and just got bored with it. I'm not really big into platform games anyway though.


Posted by Brian P at September 8, 2005 12:46 PM

Haven't played the game, but Tim S. made some great contributions to the industry, so I'm guessing it can't be THAT bad. lol, you and your save feature gripes...allowing a person to save anywhere can cause lots of problems, not to mention theoretically eliminate all challenge from the game. Checkpoints are a way of forcing the player to at least play through a sequence of SOME length without dying...saving wherever you want was what took the amazing, rewarding challenge level of Rainbow Six and annihilated it in Ghost Recon...I can beat any mission in Ghost Recon with just a sniper, simply because I can save anywhere.

Posted by Adam at September 9, 2005 07:09 PM

Funny you should mention Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six. I played a few of the Rainbow Six missions and found them soul-suckingly tedious because, you guessed it, I could not save anywhere.

Meanwhile, I am finding the current expansion pack to Ghost Recon very fun.

I guess there are two types of people. Those who like save-anywhere and those who are wrong.

Posted by psu at September 9, 2005 07:18 PM

> I can beat any mission in Ghost Recon with just a sniper, simply
> because I can save anywhere.


Posted by peterb at September 9, 2005 07:34 PM

I don't get this fascination with 'forcing' the player to do things.

It's a game. Most people play them to have fun. If your way of having fun is to be forced to do things you don't want to, go see a dominatrix. It's what you really wanted anyway.

Posted by Nat at September 9, 2005 08:02 PM

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