“Welcome, true believers and newcomers alike” were the friendly words once uttered by the inimitable Stan Lee at the beginning of Spider-Man, and the same ethos is true here. Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin is likely to be just as appealing to newcomers as it is to long-time Psychonauts fans.
Personally, I fall in to the category of newcomer. Having never played 2005’s Psychonauts critically acclaimed debut, something I’ve always felt I missed out on, I was a little apprehensive about reviewing In the Rhombus of Ruin, but I needn’t have been. The whole time I felt as welcome as anyone as I joined the crew of the Psychonauts – Raz, Lilli, Milla, Sasha & Coach – on their quest to rescue their leader (and Lilli’s father) from a uncertain fate seen only in one of Raz’s visions.
Helpfully for queasier users, the whole of Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin is played in either seated or Batman: Arkham VR-style fixed positions, keeping camera movement to a minimum and providing a less-intense VR experience. This doesn’t hinder the gameplay at all, which is mostly puzzle solving with a little point-and-click action thrown in for good measure.
The bulk of your time will be spent playing as Raz (Rasputin) as he uses his clairvoyance ability to see through the eyes of others, both friend and foe, but he has a few other strings to his psychic bow for when things aren’t so straightforward, such as Pyrokinesis, Telekinesis and his Psychic Blast.
On their way to rescue Lilli’s father, the Psychonauts’ jet crashes and the crew become separated. Raz sets out to find them and from here the game moves at a steady pace, allowing you to view the world from numerous perspectives as the story unfolds and your range of abilities grow. It also gives you free reign to mess around with your new powers, especially aboard the jet at the start, so make sure you take some time to do so as some of the characters reactions to your psychic-hijinks (psyjinks?) can be quite amusing. These opportunities are also relatively rare, so you’ll want to make the most of them when they do pop up.
Muddle your way through the first section and the puzzles begin as you start to piece together the over-arching mystery of the Rhombus. The puzzles start out as more exploratory affairs as you scour the environment for hints of what to do next, and this is where the game really excels, as you get to enjoy the detail and humour of both the writing and the environments. Later, puzzles become a far more arduous and frustrating as you must figure out a more singular, definitive solution with no help from your fellow Psychonauts and without the visual clues from the earlier levels. Fortunately though, they never cross the line from frustrating to irritating and always feel satisfying to complete.
These puzzles and the accompanying bits of dialogue are also wholly amusing, occasionally even laugh-out-loud funny. This will come as no surprise to those who know the previous work from developer Double Fine Productions and the creative mind of Tim Schafer, whose other hits have included the similarly amusing Brütal Legend, Stacking and Costume Quest. Sure, there are times when a joke doesn’t quite land or you’re not totally sure if you should’ve laughed, but on the whole, Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin is a pretty funny game. It may not even be the dialogue but an action you can perform, the way a character looks, or even the solution to a puzzle that sets you off guffawing.
Conversely to the humour, there’s a more drab feeling to the environments you’ll see on your adventure, with a distinct lack of variety putting a bit of a downer on proceedings. I suppose it makes sense in the concept of the game as your team is trapped after all, hence the title “Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin“. That’s basically who and where right there. After a while though, it does become disheartening that you’re not going to be looking at anything drastically different or overly exciting, despite the game offering tantalising tastes of places you could visit within the titular Rhombus, but won’t. A little more time spent in the game’s most vibrant location, a cruise ship, and perhaps a spaceship or fighter-plane or two wouldn’t have gone amiss.
More environments would have also helped extend the mediocre run-time. Like several other PSVR titles, Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin is fairly short, and even if you spend a long time enjoying the areas you visit you’re only looking at two to three hours of gameplay. There’s not a heap of replay value, either, as the story is totally linear and the only real draw to play through a second time would be the few trophies earned for perfecting the puzzles. Despite its short length however, given the overall quality of the experience, it’s worth the investment.
Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin is a remarkably enjoyable romp through some interesting and intriguing environments, with a largely enjoyable story and occasional moments of brilliance. While it lets itself down with a short run-time and a lack of variety or depth, these issues do little to detract from what is otherwise a brilliant VR debut for the Psychonauts series. It may not give your PS4, nor your brain, too much of a workout, but it’ll do enough to keep you interested right to the end. And with Psychonauts 2 currently scheduled for release in 2018, Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin is the perfect way for long-time fans to revisit old friends, and for series newcomers to meet the gang in preparation for it.