Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin Review – PlayStation VR

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It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 12 years since the original Psychonauts; arguably one of the best third-person adventure games of all-time. And as the much-anticipated sequel looms ever nearer, Double Fine Productions decided to put themselves in a “psycho mood” with a nifty little VR title to not only help bridge the gap between the two feature games, but also get everyone back onboard with the characters and the unique gameplay style…well…everyone with a PSVR.

There is very little I have negative to say about Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin other than its VR-only design is instantly going to limit the number of people who can enjoy this gem, and when combined with the relatively high price of $20 for a two hour linear adventure…well; let’s hope nostalgia counts for something. It’s been at least ten years since I’ve played the original, but it was like instantly coming home the moment this game began. Tim Schafer and his crew didn’t miss a beat when it came to capturing all the same loveable charm, character design, witty banter, and seamless psychic gameplay from start to finish.

The game opens with a slick musical number ripped right from a vintage James Bond movie, or perhaps more accurately, an Austin Powers or even a No One Lives Forever game for any fans of Cate Archer out there. Once the credits have finished you’ll find yourself (Raz) onboard the Pyschonauts private jet along with Lili, Sasha, Milla, and Coach Oleander after having just taken off from the summer camp in the original game. You’re on your way to rescue Truman Zannotto when you link up with Lili’s father who is being held captive in an abandoned research base in the Rhombus of Ruin – a mystical location that is home to countless plane and ship disappearances. You’ll have a few minutes to get acclimated to the unique VR control scheme and various buttons that access your mental powers before your own jet crashes into the Rhombus of Ruin.

Double Fine shows their cleverness with the best possible control scheme for a VR game; especially if you want to avoid any chance of motion sickness. Raz is immobile throughout the entire game, either seat-belted into the plane for the tutorial, or strapped into a dentist/torture chair for the rest of the game. Using his mental projection ability he is able to move about the various levels by highlighting any creature with a brain and projecting himself into that body…even a flea if need be. His other powers like telekinesis and pyrokinesis are stripped away at first then slowly added back to his arsenal as he begins to rescue members of his trapped team who all lend their mental support.

While the game can be played standing or seated the designers were extra careful to always have at least one character in any scene looking back towards the opposite direction so you could always transport back the way you came without physically have to turn or twist around. The game also made subtle use of head movements when using your telekinesis ability, so you could easily fling items across the room with a casual head motion. Another nice touch to getting around in the game was that much of the movement consisted of bouncing around from various fish and other aquatic life forms. You would always see your next “target fish” swim into position so there was never any guessing on where to focus and go next. The controls are flawless by both VR and non-VR game standards.

Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin is pretty simple, especially compared to the original game. Part of this, I am sure, is due to VR limitations. There is only so much you can do with hot-spot travel in the way of exploration and puzzle-solving based on limited items and no inventory system. Puzzles are pretty basic, even for casual gamers and veteran adventurers will easily tear through this game in less than two hours. That’s not to say the puzzles aren’t refreshing original and fun to solve, and if you do get stuck for more than a few minutes there will usually be a verbal hint to get you back on track.  Of course much of the fun and additional longevity with the game is trying to do all the stuff that isn’t game-critical. Just messing around with every possible item and psychic power can add precious minutes to your experience, but it is a linear game with no real reason to replay other than nabbing any missed trophies or just the sheer joy of experiencing it again or watching somebody else play.

The presentation is pure perfection.  The stylized art design is perfect for VR, allowing for rich colors, fantastic details, and exaggerated model designs while maintaining a smooth framerate.  There are cool psychic effects that kick in to distort your vision and there are some great moments of scale; one when looking into a domed lab from the view of a giant whale; another from a toy ship in a bathtub, and my favorite, diving into the troubled memories of the villain to see how his troubled childhood instigated his misunderstood life of villainy.  Combined with fantastic voice acting and some incredibly authentic 70’s spy music with all those signature guitar twangs – it doesn’t get any better than this.

This is easily in my top three of all PSVR games to date. I really wish this was going to be an episodic series because that is what Rhombus of Ruin felt like – the debut episode of a multi-part series. $20 is pretty steep, but honestly I’ve spent more for games not nearly this much fun or fiendishly charming, and despite its short runtime I enjoyed it infinitely more than Broken Age. I’m still going to recommend it even at full price, but if the game ever goes on sale or gets a PS+ discount it’s a no-brainer for anyone who owns a PSVR. You must play Psychonauts In The Rhombus Of Ruin.

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