During a panel at E3 Coliseum, Tim Schafer and Jack Black took to the stage to show off a segment of gameplay from Double Fine Studio’s upcoming Psychonauts 2. Those who played the first game will remember it for having visually mind-bending levels which took place inside a person’s subconscious, thanks to the psychic powers of Raz. With this unique setting, Double Fine was able to create puzzles and platforming sections that gaming had never really seen at the time. With Psychonauts 2, they look to be taking players on even more of a mental trip.
During the Q&A portion of the panel, Schafer explained where the original ideas to create a world where you dive into people’s minds, along with all of the engrossing locales (emphasis on the “gross” in the dental sections) that players explore, stemmed from.
It was always fascinating to me that in a dream, everything you see in a dream is really just some aspect of you. Like your fear, like a big, giant bear comes out and it represents some anxiety or something like that. […] And the thought of being able to go in and wrestle with the bear that represents your anxiety just seemed like a really cool thing to do.
The gameplay demo takes place inside the mind of the villain from the original game, Dr. Loboto. Raz (who has now become a full-fledged psychonaut) and his team are trying to discover who Dr. Loboto is getting his orders from. In an effort to do this, they have constructed a fabricated reality where they all work together in an office space, but Dr. Loboto quickly starts to see through it. His actual reality, where he is a dentist, and the artificial office start to fuse into one, and this is where Double Fine really shows its strength in environment building. Not only do the areas have a beautifully unsettling look to them, but puzzles and traversal fit with the clashing themes of the area. For example, Raz has to shoot a uvula dangling in a mouth door in order to keep it open. There is also a section where you have to replace a tooth that’s fallen out of its socket to create a climbable platform. This looks like it should keeps the player on their toes because they is always a unique way to solve a puzzle, instead of just trying to locate the same switch that they’ve already seen several other times in the game.
Various new tweaks to combat in Psychonauts 2 have been made as well. Raz’s psychic powers have been given more application in fights, allowing him to stun certain enemies who are weak to elemental effects. It prevents enemies from just being punching bags that you approach with the plan to just keep attacking until their health runs out. This causes players to stop and analyze the enemies they are fighting to determine what the best way to deal with them is. It also prevents a one size fits all approach to every enemy that the game introduces to you.
These powers are also helpful outside of combat. The Pyrokenisis ability is used to burn down posters in Dr. Loboto’s mind, which look to have been planted by someone from Psychonauts HQ to help him break out of the office illusion. Telekenisis can be used for moving objects around, as with the tooth puzzle mentioned above. Schafer also let players know that “in future levels, you will be unlocking brand new abilities” to aid in your quest.
There was a whole lot to digest from the Psychonauts 2 panel. Watching Jack Black record a singing number for his character, Brain in a Jar, was a high point (watch it at the 13:35 mark). Tim Schafer also joked that he keeps asking the team to create a Psychonauts 2 battle royale mode, but it’s too much work (55:25). He also talks a little about partnering with Microsoft and how he approached the company, which luckily won’t stop the game from coming to PlayStation 4. Be sure to check the panel out and let us know some of your favorite moments.
[Source: E3 Coliseum 2019]