Psychonauts first graced our screens in 2005, and while it's not usual for a game to get a direct sequel 15 years later, that's exactly what it's getting when number two rolls around next year. After seeing a brand new trailer at the Xbox press conference after Double Fine was revealed as an Xbox Game Studio, we got to sit down and witness a hands-off demo with founder Tim Schafer himself, an industry veteran who was very excited to show us what's coming.
The demo took place at the game's opening, and the premise is that you're trying to delve inside the mind of the first game's antagonist, Dr Caligosto Loboto (and the bad guy of the Rhombus of Ruin spinoff too), to find out some key information. Schafer explained that the Psychonauts think Loboto couldn't have acted alone in kidnapping Truman Zanotto, so they're heading into his mind to find clues about who his boss might be.
It's clear from the outset that this will feature the same style and humour as the first title, as the gang - including protagonist Raz - try to give him an Employee of the Year award, with the only condition being that he needs to get a signature from his boss to win the tropical vacation. Loboto soon cottons on to what's happening after you follow him though, and that's when the office space of before transforms into a weird and wonderful play area.
You see, since Loboto is a dentist, teeth are the main theme of this opening area. From walls that require you to unzip teeth to platforms made of braces - teeth and dentistry equipment appear everywhere as the mental space of Loboto changes. What's more, these provided their own unique platforming and puzzle-solving opportunities. It all looked very odd, but impressive nonetheless, and it's just as weird and wonderful as we wanted to see from a Psychonauts sequel.
As we went through we saw different abilities being used, like telekinesis, pyrokinesis, levitation, and rolling on thoughts, and Schafer explained to us that the old abilities have been rehauled and polished, while new abilities will also be coming in for fans to see. Raz got to use these abilities in various puzzles, but also in combat against the game's different enemies, like flying teeth. Other enemies included visual manifestations of Loboto's inner turmoil, like Censors looking to stamp out thoughts, Doubts holding onto a heavy weight, and Regret that slows you down with heavy sludge. It's all very metaphorical but executed in a fun and interesting way as you battle these foes.
As the demo wrapped up and we got hints of who Loboto is working for, Schafer explained some of the overarching ideas for Psychonauts 2, one of which he said was empathy. Schafer said that the game is all about seeing the inside of someone's thoughts and how that can differ from someone's external behaviour, and how to help people through psychology. Obviously, this won't be as heavy as other mental health topics we've seen in media recently since there's a lot of comedy in this game.
With Schafer promising more polish and improvements in terms of the execution when compared to the first game, we're interested in seeing where Psychonauts goes from here. The first game has established itself as a cult classic in the last 14 years, and with hindsight to aid them, we're hopeful that Double Fine can deliver a sequel worthy of the wait.