Double Fine Productions’ Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruins is a follow up to their critically acclaimed 2005 release Psychonauts, as the main cast of the previous game return in a continuation of the story, picking up where the original game ended. Double Fine have switched the game play style from a third-person platformer to a first-person point and click adventure, in order to better suit the PlayStation VR’s capabilities.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruins begins with a recap of events leading up to the adventure, with the player cast as Razputin “Raz” Aquato, as psychic spy or Psychonaut who, along with a team of other Psychonauts, is hot on the trail of the kidnapped Grand Head of Psychonauts – Truman Zanotto. Following the recap, the point of view switches to Raz’s aboard a spaceship with the rest of the team as they search for their mentor and leader.
This first portion of the game acts as a tutorial, giving the player a chance to get to grips with Raz’s psychic abilities, which include telekinesis, pyrokinesis and a type of clairvoyance that allows Raz to “leap” into a nearby being’s mind to see the world from their point of view. The controls are well laid out, with each power assigned to either a shoulder or face button. The left and right thumbsticks are used to move an object you’re levitating. The left moves the object closer to you or further away, the right rotates the object 360° through its axis. Raz’s field of vision is based on where you look, which literally be a pain in the neck as there were points when I had to look directly behind me to find the next body to leap into.
I found that the tutorial gave ample time to become acquainted with Raz’s powers, as well as an introduction to the supporting cast of characters: Sasha Nein – a powerful Psychonaut, Milla Vodello – a glamorous Brazilian Psychonaut, Coach Leander – Raz’s teacher, and Lili Zanotto – Truman’s young daughter. The game teaches you one technique at a time, letting you interact with the environment; which is as simple as looking at a specific object – if it’s outlined in a white glow it can be interacted with. Once you’ve had an opportunity to play around with each ability, the story forces Raz to involuntarily leap into Truman’s mind, where you learn that he is being held in the Rhombus of Ruin – a Bermuda Triangle-like area with a comparatively spooky past.
The team plots a course for the Rhombus, although due to the powers of the area, they end up crash landing and becoming separated. Raz must use his abilities to locate and reunite the team, and rescue Truman from his captors. The game follows a linear plot, rescuing one team member, and then moving onto the next – all having been ensnaring in a distorted version of reality due to the presence of Psilirium – the Psychonauts equivalent of Kryptonite. Raz himself only retains the powers of telekinesis and clairvoyance, although he regains an ability for each team member he saves. The additional ability can then be used to progress through the Rhombus and the next member of the team.
The puzzles presented in game require a little thought, and it’s worth checking the environment and different point of views for clues on how to solve them – it’s definitely worth double checking to see if there’s something you haven’t interacted with or a being you haven’t leapt into yet, as nine times out of ten it’ll be the solution you’ll be looking for. Later in the game, some puzzles require multiple powers in order to solve them – again it’s a good idea to try one ability or another to overcome them.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, like its predecessor, is presented in a cartoon style – with the characters and their surroundings looking like a Dreamworks animated movie. The game pokes fun at the spy movie genre, with James Bond-style opening credits between the tutorial and main game; complete with underwater rippling backgrounds and Shirley Bassett melody. The animation is smooth, with no noticeable flaws in either the characters or the scenery. In keeping with the Dreamworks aesthetics, the voice work and musical score is very cartoon-like. The main characters have distinctly different voices from one another – Sasha has a Teutonic accent, whilst Milla sounds like she’s come straight from the beaches of Rio De Janeiro. The music keeps up the spy theme, with plenty of suspenseful yet jaunty ditties.
The only thing that lets the game down is its length, as the game is meant as a bridge between the original and Psychonauts 2, which is scheduled for release in 2018; and will take the series back to its platforming roots. I played the game over the course of two afternoons, including the time I spent working out some of the trickier puzzles. The game is priced reasonably for its length, so this shouldn’t put you off what is an enjoyable experience.
Despite its length, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is a great addition to the franchise and is by far one of the easiest games I’ve ever picked up and enjoyed straight away in terms of playability. The characters are likeable and the plot is easy to follow. Unlike other VR titles, there’s no motion sickness due to the clairvoyance mechanic replacing movement – which equates to being able to play for extended periods and no post-VR nausea. If you want a few evenings of easy-going puzzling, give Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin a whirl – you won’t be disappointed.