Review: Psychonauts In The Rhombus of Ruin
The Psychonauts use clairvoyance to hop to HTC Vive and Oculus Rift and do quite well from the trip.
Double Fine has become know for its unique approach to creating videogames, which usually boast an individual style and look that makes them stand out. One of its most beloved properties is Psychonauts, which has gained a substantial cult following. Psychonauts In The Rhombus of Ruin came out on the PlayStation VR in March 2017, over a year later it has made the jump to PC, has the platform switch done it good?
Psychonauts In The Rhombus of Ruin acts as an interquel between the original Psychonauts and the upcoming Psychonauts 2, picking up almost directly where the original title ended. The group, consisting of Raz, Lilli, Sasha, Milla and Coach Oleander stumble upon the mysterious Rhombus of Ruin, the location of a long-abandoned Psychonauts facility where our heroes find themselves trapped, forced to solve the mystery of the facility before they can escape.
Knowledge of the original Psychonauts does help, here, but isn’t completely essential, as Rhombus of Ruin has a largely self-contained story, though there are some interesting character insights to be had for fans of the series. The writing is top-notch, containing sharp, observational humour without being mean-spirited. The characters posses a camaraderie which helps build the world and contribute to the sense of immersion.
The graphics maintain the peculiar, almost Tim Burton-esque style of the first Psychonauts, featuring strange and surreal environments that work surprisingly well in virtual reality (VR). The animation is excellent, and everything moves along at a great pace and smooth, stable framerate. The story plants you in an area that causes hallucinations, which can result in some very strange and trippy visuals, though despite this, nothing that cause headaches or simulation sickness.
In fact, its a very comfortable experience to play overall. The gameplay is primarily puzzle-based, with Raz trapped in a chair for the majority of the story, using his psychic powers to body-hop around, meaning that this is mostly a seated experience. The controls are very good, and using the Oculus Touch is decidedly a step-up from the somewhat clunky PlayStation Move controllers, and everything quickly becomes second nature.
As with the first Psychonauts, exploring and playing around is pretty much encouraged, and there are some cute and amusing Easter Eggs to discover – in fact, at least one of those might be new to the PC version, though this is yet to be confirmed. Of course, messing with psychic powers in VR is glorious fun.
The only two real issues are the body-hop mechanic, which works as a means of providing movement, does get tedious later on, and can be frustrating at times and feels a little primitive in a time where an increasing number of titles are using free locomotion. The other is the length. It is very short, at roughly two and a half hours of content and not a huge amount of replay-ability unless you want to hunt for Easter eggs.
In all, there feel like somewhat minor gripes for a well-crafted, if somewhat brief, VR experience that delivers great storytelling and characterisation in a fascinating and funny universe. If it had a proper ended instead of just..stopping, it would be truly sublime.