While the original Psychonauts (2005) is no point-and-click adventure game, Double Fine’s founder Tim Schafer is no stranger to the genre. From the semi-recent Broken Age, all the way back to being a co-writer on that one game starring some nobody pirate named Guybrush Threepwood, Schafer’s been instrumental in bringing a light-hearted touch to the adventure game genre. In Double Fine’s upcoming half-sequel to the cult classic Psychonauts, we now get the chance to revisit the mind of the newly promoted Raz. Except with Playstation VR, now we’re really in his mind. Like a true Psychonaut (or, a spy with psychic abilities), honestly.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin isn’t a platformer like its predecessor. In fact, it couldn’t be more different. Instead, it’s something more akin to just those point-and-click adventures that Schafer got his start on, only twisted for virtual reality. It’s still what we’re used to in that specific classic genre of games: solving puzzles, hearing endearing dialogue, and clicking on things (or in this case: gazing). At Double Fine’s annual Day of the Devs, a public event for fans, press, developers alike to play upcoming independently-developed videogames, I had an opportunity to play a demo of the upcoming Playstation VR-exclusive.
I finally feel like a Psychonaut
The demo begins right where the first game left off, with Raz and his band of Psychonauts now on a mission to rescue the Grand Head of the Psychonauts (who happens to be Raz’s “girlfriend’s” father). So, as eleven years may have passed by in our real world, in Psychonauts it’s merely been the blink of an eye—and now the game has shifted entirely from third-person into a first-person clairvoyance simulator. So it goes.
In the demo, I began as Raz gazing around the Psychonauts jet. I’m able to interact with things with my mind, like opening overhead bins to make a disco-enabled stereo fall out, or to even find a familiar squirrel. Or, I can just telekinetically throw things—an age-old hobby for doing things in VR. Most importantly, I can also enter the minds of other seated acquaintances to get new vantage points, like that of the aforementioned squirrel. There’s no walking or teleporting in Rhombus of Ruin: you remain seated, and so do the minds that you inhabit. It works better that way.
The puzzle solving in this demo is light, resigned to learning to use the variety of abilities at Raz’s disposal (like lighting toilet paper on fire and handing it to the restroom-restrained Coach Morceau Oleander, much to his non-delight). But I imagine in the slightly-longer game that puzzles might grow more complicated, even if Schafer has stated in the past that this will be a nugget of a game, rather than a fully-fledged thing (nor a mere tech demo).
Point-and-click, or rather, gaze-and-click adventures feel like the next logical step for storytelling in VR games. Whether in an already established quirky universe like Psychonauts‘, or in any new worlds. I hope to see other VR games following suit, tweaking narrative and play in a way that doesn’t necessarily have to involve holding a gun or getting jump-scared. In the meantime, Rhombus of Ruin made me finally feel like a Psychonaut, like what Raz always wanted to be. Fourteen-Year-Old Me would be stoked.
Psychonauts: Rhombus of Ruin doesn’t have a specific release date yet, but it’s allegedly going to release this year. Stay tuned to Double Fine for more information.