E3 2016: Getting My (Psychic) Mitts on Psychonauts in Rhombus of Ruin

The cult classic Psychonauts is one I thought I may not want to see again. Not because it was bad at all—it was fantastic, actually—but because I figured a second game may not be up to snuff given the original material. It seemed too cool… one of those games destined to be experienced once because once was more than enough. But alas, there is another. And this time, it's using a Playstation VR headset to make the experience work.

Enter Psychonauts in Rhombus of Ruin, where a kidnapping has brought the newly-graduated Psychonauts, main protagonist Raz and powerhouse overachiever Lili, off on their first mission. It's Lili's super-important dad that's disappeared, but she's still able to do her duties as a Psychonaut well enough (hopefully). The trailer was light on too many details; instead, it gives a look into how their skills from the original game can work and feel "real" in the VR setting.

These are psychic soldiers, which can be hard to make feel realistic in a controller-centric setting. The VR, on the other hand, can make the minor muscle movement of a button press work with the staring straight ahead visual given through the visor, and creates a real feeling of some kind of psychic control. Once you're used to a controller, it feels kind of like a muscle reaction and less like a conscious effort anyway, so such a small gesture to grab say a roll of toilet paper, then manipulate it toward the bathroom at the back of the ship? It just feels easy, just twitch and turn your head.

In order to complete the first few short controls tests (I hesitate to consider them "puzzles"), the goal was only to take one of those two-ply rolls and telepathically pass it back to the order-barking Coach trapped without enough paper to clean up. But first you have to navigate to another point of view, which is another skill learned before moving forward. It's an easy, non-threatening way to fiddle with the capabilities directly, but damn, it does the trick and in a VR setting it's a satisfying one.



And visually, it's simply a higher-res version of the original's aesthetic, which still holds up today. It's shiny, it's stylized, it's even quaint. Add to that voice acting that seems to fit the look like a glove and a witty script to round things out, the demo seems like a great way to bring back Raz and his companions. Being totally honest though, I really liked throwing pillows at Lili's head and setting the toilet paper on fire, and hearing their associated reactions from my friends onboard the ship. Classic.

There isn't a firm commitment to a release date yet, save for by the end of this year. But could that be enough time to get people interested in and actually buying Playstation VR in big enough numbers, or is this only prompting another underwhelming release for Psychonauts? Let's hope not, because after the wonderfully original sequel, and the way my demo went down, I'm gonna wanna get my psychic mitts on a copy.