Monday, July 09, 2007

Mental Images

I feel like I spent a lot of time tearing down Psychonauts in my last post. While I did feel frustrated during some of the game (especially the later levels), I still found the game very enjoyable. I appreciated the in-game hint system, the forgiving physics (for the most part), and the easy difficulty level. I also enjoyed the story, the characters, and the dialog to no end. There was much in the game that made me laugh.

So I wanted to share a few of my most memorable moments in Psychonauts.
Warning, there may be spoilers contained herein.

Giant Size
The first mind that Raz enters without assistance is that of the mutated Lungfish. Up to this point Raz has been training in the minds of his Psychonaut Mentors or delving into his own subconscious with the supervision of Sasha Nein. Everything so far has been basic training, a slow introduction to the controls and the skills needed to progress through the rest of the game. Then the plot kicks in and suddenly Raz is on his own, and after defeating the Lungfish under the lake he must go into its mind to free it from psychic oppression. As a giant monster in the town of Lungfishopolis.

I loved the reversal as Raz takes on the role of hulking, scary monster. I loved the campy monster movie theme. I loved being able to wreak havoc across the landscape. After the relatively ordinary gameplay in the first few levels, this change was an unexpected and welcome one. One of the most fun levels in the whole game.

Twisted Landscapes
The mind of Boyd Cooper, security guard at Thorney Towers Home for the Disturbed, is a twisted place. Literally. The bucolic suburban landscape is given a sinister twist (pun intended) not only by the universal surveillance, but by the way everything has become twisted. This made a perfect introduction for the Clairvoyance power, and the puzzles that use it. I also loved the dry humour of each type of "secret" agent as they talked about their cover job. Every one is identical save for a small item that identifies what they are. They all talk in this FBI monotone and say the most obscure things relating to their "jobs".

Deep Nightmares
As I neared the end of the game I went back into the minds of Sasha Nein, Coach Oleander, and Milla Vodello. I has missed things the first time though because I was unskilled or didn't have all the tools needed. So back into the minds I went, looking for the vaults and emotional baggage I missed. Milla's mind was an eye opener.

I got one of the two vaults the first time through. It had a pleasant little reel about her first mission with Sasha as a Psychonaut. It was pleasant and matched very nicely with the upbeat and dance club atmosphere of her mind. It was what I expected. The second vault was harder to find.

After consulting a walkthrough, I found the little room off to the side of one of the giant columns. Nearly hidden, easily overlooked. Inside was the vault, some few figments, and a toy chest. Milla's voice encouraged me to continue on, ignore the room and head back to the party. Now I can see why. The vault contained a most bizarre tale of loss and grief from Milla's past, before she joined the Psychonauts. The chest led to a dark room of trapped nightmares. Things from her past that she has locked away and hides from the world. Her mind is a never-ending party, but off in corner is this dark secret, and deep sadness.

I think that the nightmare room was intended to be an introduction to nightmares, a couple of which you have to tangle with in later minds. For me, it wasn't. I found it last. It changed the whole way I saw Milla Vodello. I could see the party for the facade it was; half forced and half necessary to keep the shadows at bay. I could see the strength that she focused into putting aside her loss and becoming a world-class psychic agent. It was enlightening in a way I hadn't expected. I think it was the most memorable moment in the whole game, for me.

1 comment:

  1. I found it later too. In fact, I think we were meant to. When I talk about how Psychonauts used gameplay elements to convey story, that's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about. They used the gamer urge for completion to present a deeper understanding of the story. Brilliant.

    As for some of your issues with the game from the previous post... well, I think I may have a post of my own brewing in response!