Zodi Plays: Psychonauts (This One Time, At ESPer Camp...)

Ah Psychonauts. Released in 2005, it’s probably the most famous work done by Tim Schafer and his company Double Fine. And not without good reason, or at least so I’ve been told. While it is a contemporary of games I have played (both personally and as LPs) it’s one that completely bypassed me, so I have like zero nostalgia for it. But it’s a cult classic that didn’t sell well at the initial time of release, so I can see why that may of happened. At any rate, this is going to be interesting an LP (to me at least) because of what all happened the first time I played this. We’ll get into that story later, however. I’m playing the PC version, which has recently (as in twoish years ago maybe?) been updated to have ye olde achievements and the like, and I’ll be doing my best to complete this game 100%, with those in mind. Do note I am saying “try” here.

As always, Monday and Friday updates are how we’re doin’ things here, videos typically 25ish minutes long. Don’t spoil stuff, play nice, all that fun stuff. Without further adieu, lets get this show on the road.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [1] Basic Braining

Video Length: 28:32

We open with a more than literal stump speech by a walking potato man who we’ll learn to know as Coach Oleander, the head honcho of the Whispering Rock Summer Camp that is the game’s setting. In a weird sort of way, this game starts in media res, since our protagonist, Razputin, has already infiltrated the campground so he can learn to master his latent psychic abilities and become a Psychonaut. Mostly as an act of rebellion against his parents and boredom from living in the circus. This is of course very very illegal, but Raz’s mental capabilities are second to none and it seems that they’re probably going to be letting Raz participate even though they all say, constantly, that he cannot. Sweet!

After choosing a bunk (which acts as a profile for your saves, naturally) we begin the game proper, being funneled towards the first level, Coach Oleander’s battlefield of a mindscape. On our way there we encounter a bunch of other campground friends, some of whom are more friendly then others, and all of which have a…distinctly unsettling look to them. I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of this game’s art style, it’s offputting as heck and generally not at any point enjoyable to look at. I get it’s an art style thing, I do, but Raz is the only character who even looks remotely human shaped. At any rate, after trying (and failing) to assist in squirrel murder and meeting the camp bully (and his main victim aside from us) it’s time to actually get this thing started!

I’ll be doing a more complete look into the psyche of the minds we get into after we complete the story stuff in them, but for now I can say that Oleander’s mind is definitely not my favorite by a long shot. While there are the occasional sign that it’s a mental world and not otherwise, it’s probably the most mundane of the levels we’ll be exploring. For the most part, anyway. That’s honestly okay since this IS a mental construct for us to train in, but I’d of liked them to start a little stronger on the idea that since this is a mental mind scape anything can happen. As far as actually playing it goes, this level is occasionally FAR too dark to navigate, but it works as far as tutorial levels go. We learn about all the collectables we’ll have to deal with (for the most part, I don’t beat this level in this video) and we learn the basics of movement. You run and jump and can double jump, and we’ve got poles to swing on and specific walls you can climb on and such. The mechanics are pretty standard for this sort of collectathon platformer game, and that’s fine! Raz can defend himself with psychic slaps and a ground pound move, and that’s it for offensive actions at the moment. All in all, this game plays…decently? The jumps feel a bit shallower than they probably are, and everything just has a slight layer of jank to it that I can’t really describe. It plays well enough though, ignoring that sometimes the jump button doesn’t jump (especially with regards to the pole swinging).

Of course, no collectathon platformer wouldn’t be complete without things to collect, and that’s where this game…not so much excels as it does shoot for the stars. First, the most basic collectable in the various mental worlds we’ll go into; Figments of Imagination! These 2D, glowing pieces of mental paper represent various imagining from the person we’re inside of, and collecting 100 points worth of them (they’re not a strictly 1 to 1 ratio of collection to point) gives us a rank up on our psi-cadet rank (effectively just our level, like in any old RPG). The big problem with Figments are they can just kinda float around however, which makes collecting them a MASSIVE pain. And like, I do mean MASSIVE, if I have ANY difficulty in getting 100% clear on this game it’ll be from this stuff. One up on the list of collectables in terms of importance are the Emotional Baggage, crying bags of various shape and size that we need to sort out by finding their tag and bringing it to the respective bag. Getting all the bags unlocks Primal Memories, which is to say concept art, of the world and the person we’re inside. I feel like the Baggage is ever so slightly a missed opportunity, in that each level has the same five bags. I feel like in a more modern version of this game, the bags would be unique for each mind. It’s not a big deal, and I get why they couldn’t do this, but I’d like them to consider that for the sequel they’re working on right now.

Let’s step away from the mindscape for a second to talk about the second least important collectable in the game, and the only collectable that appears in the real world only. While they’re first presented to you as if they’re as important as say, Mario’s Power Stars, the Psi-Cores and the playing cards that make them up are not actually all that important. They just give you a bunch of points for your psi-cadet rating. I’m not a big fan of them, but they’re fine. The ACTUAL worst collectable however are the Arrowheads. Collectable in both meat and mind, arrowheads are this game’s form of currency and they’re awful and I hate them. I’ll get into them in mooore detail later, because right now we don’t have any context for them, but just keep that in the back of your mind. But enough negativity, lets talk about the best collectable in the game, and probably my favorite part of it, the Memory Vaults!

The Memory Vaults are, as you expected, vaults inside the minds of who we’re in currently. Give em a smack and we get access to one of the level’s memories, in black and white film reel style. Completely silent, no dialogue (spoken or otherwise) and full of actual, genuinely good framing. These memories are the best this game has to offer in terms of presentation, and I feel like a lot of people probably praise the game solely because of how successful these are at presenting the idea of “exploring the mind of another person”. But that’s just me.

Anyway, all that said and done, we end our episode off talking to one of the camp friends, Vernon. He’s…certainly a character. I have…a love-hate relationship with this game’s style of comedy, and I’ll leave it to you guys to decide if any of this stuff is actually funny or not. At any rate, I hope you all enjoyed, this first update is kinda muddled since I’ve got a lot to say about the game’s set up and mechanics. See you all next time for more of this!

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I’m always on board for this game.

You can get past the big gap without using the secret passage - there are blimps that fly around the gap that you can jump across. I recommend doing that your first time through, since you don’t lose “lives” during the tutorial.

I think I also noticed that the Brightness setting was about in the middle when you scrolled through the menus. Have you considered turning it up? I didn’t think the game was so dark that it was hard to see, but your setup may be different.

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I’ll try out the brightness setting, though I can really only see one more stage being as rough as Oleander’s with that specific problem.

Also yeah, I never realized those blimps where a thing, I’ll be sure to show that off in the future when I go around hunting down figments and the such.

And then we started another Psychonauts video.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [2] A Button

Video Length: 24:56

In this episode, we get through the rest of Coach Oleander’s mind. Unfortunately for everyone involved we open with meeting Crystal and Clem, two peppy excitable cheersquad members who have really annoying voices, who cheer you on as you do a punch minigame to progress. Oleander promises us a reward for clearing it as well as going forward, and the reward is blowing up the two children and I feel like this is actually a decent joke. Not worth it though, but a decent joke none the less. This episode also features some of the more…less than stellar platforming mechanics the game has to offer. Mostly in that sometimes the A button doesn’t register if you try jumping too quickly, and sometimes it will register as hitting the B button (or something. Still not really sure why sometimes I just randomly fall off ledges and ropes. I have good button control and I don’t fatfinger them). The worst of this culminates in the trapeze section, but I managed to work it out fairly easily. Also worth noting is the pole swinging part, which has a ton of scary looking flame jets…none of which can actually hit you, and that feels like an oversight? I don’t know, it’s weird.

After getting through all that, plus a really disorienting spinning room of spikes challenge (it’s hard to explain in words) we reach the end of Oleander’s little obstacle course…only to find that no one is there. There is a little room off to the side though, which we gladly go to explore. It gets Oleander’s attention, and he apologizes for being late and rewards us with our first Merit badge! With that done, Sasha Nein shows up and more or less asks us to go to his secret lab for his own personal training course. He gives us a button as a sort of hint on where his secret lab is, and we get to see what the actual bulk of this game will probably end up being: point and click adventure game style puzzles! I’m going to go out and say I am not a big fan of those sorts of games, but these are simple enough to be fine. For one, Sasha gives a pretty good hint as to where to go. For two, Razz can show the button to everyone in the game and they’ll pretty much always just spell it right out for him. So our next destination is the Geodesic Isolation Chamber. But first we explore this part of the camp a bit, showing off a huge log that tells the history of the camp, plus some corkboard notes (we’ll see more of these later). We also start the Scavenger Hunt, another series of collectables that we’ll be working on getting later. All in all, a pretty decent episode if I do say so myself. Hope you all enjoyed, and I’ll see you guys next time. But…we’re not done writing today, at least.

Once we beat a level, I’m going to go over the level and talk about it, from a mental point of view. What does it tell us about the character, what does it all mean, and all that fun stuff. We don’t have all the memory vaults for Oleander, which is a little troublesome, but it should be fine. So lets talk shop about the mind. Oleander’s mindscape is a battlefield, and it’s important to keep in mind that this is all very clearly set up for the students to get through and is not a perfect representation of his thoughts. That said, even Oleander can’t keep everything controlled. This is most expressed in the Figments, showing all manner of horrible mutilation of people, weapons, bombs, and horrifying vaguely germanic soldiers representing what they felt like, if not what they actually where. A lot of people, from what I’ve read, take this and Oleander’s character design and consider it a sign that he fought on that side of things and that’s really really stupid? Like this is a testing ground, he trains by appearing as your enemy, so he dresses up sort of like them to make the mental image of him being your enemy stronger. The one memory vault we did find shows pretty clearly he fought on the other side, and was quite the soldier. And also quite a bit taller than he is now. It’s pretty clear from at least this memory at least (we’ll see more in the second one once we can actually get it) that he went in guns blazing, and left with more metal on his chest than his friends who got cut down by gunfire. Oleander is a rude, crass, and overall potato of a man, but it’s all an act to teach these students how to handle the harsh reality of being a psychic soldier. It’s a little…creepy when you consider the fact that this summer camp is effectively a child soldier training facility, but I’m sure it’s not as bad as it appears, just like our buddy Coach here.

How’s about some more of this.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [3] The Campground

Video Length: 22:20

In this episode, we bumble around talking to most of the other campers, showing them Sasha’s shiny button and otherwise talking to them to get a feel for how they are. As it turns out most of them are jerks, and some of them are KIND OF WEIRD. In the future, when I go get around to clearing out each area, I’ll be doing a lot of editing so it doesn’t take forever, but for this time I’ll let it linger a bit so you can get a feel for how the campground is. It’s surprisingly confusing if you let your mind wander a bit, and is fairly tricky to navigate. The signs are also…less than helpful, as they’re not directly outside the exit to the next location, they’re just sort of vaguely pointing in that direction. This is a bit unclear.

Most importantly this episode, we find the Camp Lodge store, in which we finally find the use for Arrowheads. And I can go over the first major reason why they’re terrible. First off, look at those prices! The cheapest thing here is 10 arrowheads which, lets be fair, that’s fine. It’s also a fairly vital pick up, in that it lets us take those playing cards and make a Challenge Marker out of it. Pretty okay! Then we have the Dream Fluff, a fairly useless healing item that costs FIFTY arrowheads. That’s kind of absurd, and we’re only going to buy one of these, exactly once. We’ve also got the PSI Colorizer, which I’ll be picking up at some point maybe, which costs 250 (which is an absurd price given how useless it is). Then, for 400 arrowheads, we can buy…a passive ability that I’m not sure is even permanently on, because the game provides almost no information on how it works, the Magnet merit badge! This seems like a fairly vital thing given how bouncy the pick ups can be, and if it works the way other psychic powers do and must be EQUIPPED, than it’s basically hot trash.

The most important thing here however is the Cobweb Duster, an 800 arrowhead investment that is REQUIRED to beat the game, it lets you suck up those mental cobwebs inside peoples heads. We will be getting this at a later date and, god willing, I won’t have to show you the OTHER half of why the arrowheads are so bloody terrible. Fingers crossed. The big problem with this of course is that, you PICK UP ARROWHEADS ONCE AT A TIME. Now, for 50 Arrowheads we can “solve” this problem by buying the Dowsing Rod. This of course comes with a slight caveat. One, there are actually a limited amount of the big stores of Arrowheads, so once you run em out they’re gone for good. Two, getting them is actually kind of annoying and finicky, though we’ll talk more about that later. Third, even when you GET a deep deposit of Arrowhead, it’s just like 10ish? I’ll admit I can’t find any documentation on how many arrowheads you get and I don’t actually remember how many it gives you, but I know it gives you a number that feels wrong. This may just be me projecting my bad experience with this entire terrible garbage overpriced mechanic, however, and if all goes well we won’t have to worry about it! Once we’re past a certain point I’ll actually explain what the deal is. Those of you who know the game know what this is, most likely.

After that we make our way to the Geodesic Isolation Chamber, save Maloof (who’s been forced into it by Bobby) and gain access to Sasha’s lab! He tells us we’re going to be doing some Brain Tumbler experiments, but that’ll have to wait until Next Time! I hope you all enjoyed, I’ll see you guys there.

Okay, time for more Psychonuts.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [4] A Victory For Good Taste

Video Length: 29:53

Starting us off today, we begin the Brain Tumbler experiment! It opens us up to the Collective Unconcious, the morphogenetic hub of the mental worlds we’ll be exploring in this game. An interesting idea, if nothing else. At the far end of it we find the door leading to our own mind, and step right in. Raz’s mind is fairly…empty, showing only a Romani caravan and some figments, plus a vault showing how Raz made his way to Camp Whispering Rock. Tragically, we will never seen the world’s smallest pony. Stepping into the caravan, we find ourselves stuck within static. Static that if we hit it, cracks open to reveal that we’ve been in an egg since we went inside. Around us is a horrifying forest, figments and in game objects both being made of horrible imagery and bones, with a rabbit the only nice thing here. Shortly into our exploration we find a horrible yellow eyed tumbler monster and are kicked out of the experiment by Sasha. Well that was fun!

With that said and done, Sasha tells us he wants to teach us how to do a violence, so that we can actually continue the brain tumbler experiment. Of course he cannot ACTUALLY teach us how to fight just yet because otherwise he might get in serious trouble, showing Sasha is the only character who actually remembers the conceit of the plot by the way. He does direct us towards who can get us the Marksmanship learners permit, however, the legendary psychomaster Ford Crueller. Aka the weird guy we’ve been seeing around the camp. In his secret base (which we could of gone to do all of this exposition at any time) we learn a bit about Whispering Rock Summer Camp and why it’s so…very much what it is. Crueller just kinda gives us the learner’s permit and that’s fine, more or less. We return to Sasha, and begin the proper training for our Psi Blasts in Sasha’s Shooting Range, which is our next level. But before hand he also gives us A Piece Of Bacon so he can be a Navi for us. Thanks, Crueller.

Back with Sasha, we’re allowed into his mind. He teaches us about how shooting works, which isn’t that complicated but is a little finicky since the lock on is kind of trash in how it works? I don’t know how to really explain it in words, and I’ve tried a couple times, but the lock on feels really clunky in every single way. Regardless, we blow up the horrific monsters Sasha sets on us and begin shooting his mental Censor’s…until Raz get’s impatient and sets the spawner to such a degree it causes problems! We explode Sasha’s ordered mind in what is probably my favorite level, but also least favorite given that navigating it kinda sucks because you can only access parts of it at a time by hitting switches. This isn’t that bad when you’re going through the plot part, but in going back to it later it can get a little tedious. We mind bullet our way through all the Censors, sealing up every pipe for them…only to realize that’s actually a really bad thing to do, creating a build up of psychic energy that forms into a huge hideous Censor boss fight. And boy, what a boss fight it is! The game is incredibly unclear about what to do, and to be honest I should of realized it given all that’s going on there, but it still feels like a REALLY bad boss. At any rate we explode it, Sasha gives us the merit badge (but it’s signed by Crueller anyway because hah canned animations) and we leave his mind, ready to tumble once more. But that’ll be for next time. Hope you all enjoyed, I’ll see you then!

So, like I did with Oleander, since we’ve finished the plot for Sasha’s brain lets take a look at him. His mind is probably my favorite, and the most obviously framed as a testing ground. His mind is an ordered, (near) unbreakable cube in the void of space. It shows a clear level of control no one else in the game has, even when one of the sides of the cube is cracked open by the Censor leak. Sasha only lets a bit of him out at a time. When he does, it comes out as huge impressions of parts of his life. The first one a massive childhood bed, playing blocks, all that fun stuff. It even includes a memory of Sasha as a child (a tragic one, in which we see him love his mother, only to watch her die…) to really sell home that this first area is comprised of baby memories. It’s truly fascinating, and a good look into Sasha’s character, the idea that each section of his mind is that ordered.

Of course it’s an illusion. While the game does it’s best, it cannot actually maintain that for even one side of the cube, the second one being entirely unrelated to his mentality. It’s a shame, but not everything can be perfect. My best guess on how this one relates (since the figments in this part are all artsy and scholary looking things) is that they’re meant to be something, maybe transistors, from his schooling? I don’t know, as much as I do want to really dive in their and psychoanalyze these worlds the fact of the matter is that the game’s actually not as good as it claims to be about this stuff. It’s a shame because the rest of Sasha’s mind works really well, it’s just this one bit that goes poorly. The next facet of Sasha’s mind shows all manner of cobbler’s equipment, plus of course shoe boxes with his name on them. It’s his Dad’s job, obviously, so this is about his more personal family memories. It also features the first appearance of Repressed Rage, horrible stupid awful enemies that explode violently and represent an inner anger. While we don’t see it this episode, there’s a second memory vault for Sasha that more than explains juuust why he of all people would have this enemy in his brain. It’ll be fun to show off, I think.

The final part of Sasha’s brain looks like a super villain device, and sadly is the least interesting in terms of what they do with it. Maybe the second facet was meant to be a part of this too? It would explain some things. But yeah this is meant to be the side of his brain where all his Psychonauts adventures are, and that’s kinda cool. Ultimately, Sasha Nein’s mind is one of my favorite since it shows the potential this game has for diving into a mental world and really doing something interesting and creative with it. The emphasis in this case being potential.

Okay, lets Psychonaut.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [5] Further Tumbling

Video Length: 29:35

Starting us off today, we get the psychic ability PYROKINESIS. This is…ultimately not even remotely useful in that it’s a little too slow, and has a short range of actual effectiveness. It can be quite useful if you can get it off, but overall is not really that useful as an offensive move. It’s got some uses for puzzles, however.

After that, it’s time for some achievement gathering! After beating Sasha’s Shooting Gallery, but before we do the second dive into the Brain Tumbler experiment, we can go to the parking lot to see how Maloof is doing. As it turns out not super well, and Bobby wants to make it worse. Thankfully Mikhail has decided to defend poor little Maloof, so that’s nice at least. After that (well, before, but whatever) we do a full reading of all the currently posted Bulletin Board stuff, which gets us an achievement and gets us a couple good jokes. Likewise, we read the giant log in the middle of the parking lot to get some history on how Whispering Rock came to be. All in all it’s an interesting bit of writing, and the “Shaky Claim” joke is really funny to me.

Next on our list is returning to the Campfire area and reciting Oleander’s entire speech back to front. This gets us an achievement and wastes a good amount of time. Given all the stuff in this game, it feels a little weird that THIS is an achievement, but I guess someone was just really proud of that speech. Anyway, we pick up some items on our way back to Sasha Nein’s lab (and as it turns out you CAN tree stump to his lab I didn’t realize this!) and begin the next attempt at the Brain Tumbler experiment.

This one goes a lot better, since we have mind bullets, but overall is much the same. We continue exploring further into this strange mental world, fighting Censors of various size as well as nasty plants, all in pursuit of a bunny. Finally, we get to the end of the woods to find…a massive dark tower! And at the tip, we dream of a dentist stealing Dogen’s brain! For some reason Raz decides that this is a real thing that is actually happening so he’s going to…go up the tower to save Dogen. Inside his brain. Look I know nightmares can be vivid and real feeling (I’ve had my fair share of terrible nightmares) but Raz, you’re a psychonaut. You know the dream is just a dream. Yes, it’s a VERY odd dream, but there’s no reason he should be reacting as if this in any way is actually happening to Dogen, and he definitely shouldn’t be acting as if saving Dogen in his dream will save him in real life. You’re not Freddy Krueger kid…or are you? That’d be a twist and a half.

But unfortunately for us, we don’t know how to levitate with our psychic powers! So we can’t get to the top of the tower. Sasha directs us to Lake Oblongata to learn how from Milla, which we’ll be doing next time. I hope you all enjoyed, and I’ll see you all next time. In the meanwhile, do remember the most important thing we learned today: The world shall taste my eggs.

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I feel like I have to put up at least a meager defense of Pyrokinesis as a combat move. It’s tough to use effectively, but the damage it does over time to stronger enemies (like the bears) is considerable, and you can shoot them while they’re on fire. I’m pretty sure it also works on the hand-plants - you can set them on fire while they’re curled up, then approach so they open and take the damage. Those are easy enough to punch, though, so there’s no real point to it.

As for figment values, each mental world has an exact multiple of 100 points’ worth of figments, and each distinct section of each mental world also has an exact multiple. It’s possible, but difficult, to collect them all on your first visit, with the exception of the Brain Tumbler, since you have to leave and return to it later. I suppose having exactly one level in Figments per area could be done, but the early game is intended to provide rapid growth so you can get the Psi-powers from leveling up. Absolutely having to go out of your way to collect all of the figments so you can progress at the intended pace would be a pain.

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I mean a good way of preventing that is changing how psi powers are dolled out or making the pace fit the criteria but I get what you mean.

And thanks, I didn’t realize that was how the figments worked!

Hey lets go do the thing.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [6] Great Balls of Fire

Video Length: 23:23

In this episode, it’s time to make our way over to Milla Vodello, the Mental Minx! First though, we have some exploration to do. We’ve got a lot of people to set on fire (or at least try to). We also buy the Dowsing Rod, and show it off a little. The Dowsing Rod isn’t as bad as I first made it out to be, but it’s still frustrating to use and kind of obnoxious as far as mechanics go. You have to mash the button to see how close you are, though the sound effects also help of course, and you really have to go at it to get the lodes of Arrowheads out. What’s worse is that while yes, the dowsing rod can gather up the single Arrowheads as well, it stops actually DOING that if it can’t detect any large lodes of arrows. Ultimately, there’s more than enough lodes to get all the stuff we want, but actually getting them all can be pretty tedious.

Anyway, off to Lake Oblongata to do Levitation Training! Here, we learn that Raz has a pretty solid excuse for being unable to swim: his family was cursed to die in water! Harsh. This is also the part of the game where the two plot lines of “have fun at summer camp” and “discover the secret of summer camp” start intermixing…and they really don’t mix all that well, to be honest. It feels like all the secret brain stuff should of happened after we did a full loop of the summer camp fun time adventures? It’s paced in a really odd way that doesn’t quite work. But it’s fine. Though it doesn’t…make much sense as to why Raz was dreaming about Dogen getting his brain removed. And why said dream was accurate. Though prescience is a psychic power so I mean sure, I’ll grant it.

Benny dealt with, we can now access the boat to get to Milla. The boat doesn’t control super well but this is also the only time we ever use it so that’s fine enough. More importantly we’re actually at Milla now! She’s got this 70s disco dance aesthetic and it’s pretty cool, and the mental world she’s set up for training kids how to float and roll shares her fashion sense. It’s not entirely fitting with my idea of what a mental world should look like (the closed in walls are kind of a bummer for me) but again, since this IS a training ground it makes sense. Speaking of, Levitation ball! It’s quite a good orb, letting Raz jump far higher and farther than his regular jumps, and lets him move faster as well. With this, we could easily go get everything in the mental worlds and the hub, but we’ll do that later. Additional to the levitation orb, which is a power that must be set to a button, we also get the always on float power, though the fact that it’s got different buttons to levitate causes me some level of frustration as I mixed up the buttons. That doesn’t happen much in this part particularly, but it DEFINITELY does in the next one.

That all said and done, we explore Milla’s brain a bit and…find something quite interesting. This is my favorite part of the game, probably. I they did more things like this, and I get why they didn’t, but I wish they did more like this. More things to show that the nature of a mental world is more than just a construct, it’s a living breathing entity. It’s pretty cool, and also really sad. And with that we’re done for today. I hope you all enjoyed, I’ll see you guys next time!

RIP I forgot today was Friday NEW VIDEO.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [7] Floaty Orb Time

Video Length: 28:06

Starting us off, we take a bit of a journey back to the past to get an achievement I missed while recording; roasting a squirrel and a bird in the same area and eating both. They give decent healing but since it’s in the real world it’s ultimately not that important beyond the little blip on my account that says I did it. Huzzah and such.

Continuing on with Milla’s Dance Party, we really start getting into the mechanics of the float and how you can chain into it using Levitate’s jump. Of course they never actually explain the part where if you hold Jump while Floating, you will automatically be put on your levitate orb. Which is kind of a vital part of this mechanic to make it flow properly in my opinion? It still comes off as good, I think, though the controls still kinda confuse me here and you’ll see me mess up a lot of jumps because of it. I’ll always admit when it’s user error and this time, it’s definitely all on me. That said some of the platforming is a little bleh, especially in the room with the big wall thing. Over all though, this first chunk of Milla’s stage is quite fun!

Then we get to the second third of her stage, THE RACE. This is…a frustrating but not overly hard challenge that we have to win to progress. The two cheerleaders are useless so you can ignore them, Bobby is the only person who will actually fight you for the lead. And fight you he WILL, he’s aggressively rubber banded (a term that means he’s basically connected to us speed wise, if you aren’t clear on that) and as a result will almost always overtake you at certain points just as a matter of course. He’s still BEATABLE mind you, but if it’s say your first time playing and you’re on the keyboard and mouse controls which suck you might spend a good deal of time here. Like me. And if you’re trying to get 100% clear, also like me, you’ll notice that this area is IN FACT HUGE, and has around NINETY FOUR Figments to collect. Figments that blend in with the background because of the colour of the party, and have bad draw distance, and are near opaque as heck in the first place. It’s really really bad!!

After that we have the final little platforming challenge, which is focused more around the floating part of our new powers. Not overly difficult, though this area has Figments that bleed into the background and hide from sight which is always awful. That aside it’s a fun little float up to Milla to get our merit badge, giving us the ability to levitate wherever we want. Hooray! Now we can collect basically everything in every level we’ve been too plus the hub world. And I decide not to do that until later because I am in fact an idiot. But more on that in a couple videos from now.

But before we actually go finish up the Brain Tumbler, there ARE things we can do now that we’ve finished Milla’s Dance Party. For one, we’ve got enough ranks to get our next psychic power, Telekinesis! It’s…about as useful as Pyrokinesis. Maybe a little less. I do find uses for it, and it has mooore uses than I gave it credit for in the actual video, but it’s really not that useful when you can hit things with your psychic hands. Also none of the scenarios the training present ever really show up in game, but then that’s always been a thing with this game (and often teaching entirely!). Then it’s time for cheevo hunting, the first of which is given to us by Vernon telling a story that actually ends. It’s not that bad a story. After that we run around for five hours trying to find the one cutscene in the game that doesn’t trigger when you get within a county mile of it, and it’s a cutscene in which we see Bobby hitting on my favorite side character so that’s a nice reward. Plus the achievement at least. And with that (plus a ton of stuff collected incidentally) we’re done for today. Hope you all enjoyed, I’ll see you guys next time!

So, lets psychoanalyze Milla a bit. Her world is bubbly and groovy, and like with the other two camp counseler’s is actually a construct made by them intentionally to teach the kids stuff. That aside, there’s still a lot of stuff to take from it. Her Figments are all cute fun things, dancing and such, and also the occasional thing that I’m pretty sure is a hookah or equivalent. A strange thing to think about, I feel, given her history, but I can understand it. Milla’s mental world is also the first one to have constructs in it that aren’t just Censors or Repressed Rage. The Dancers are interesting to me in that sense since they serve no purpose but to have fun and dance…unless you look at the memory of Milla’s orphan children being set on fire. They look similar, so these constructs could be Milla’s attempts at giving them a “happy future” at least mentally. It’ll never happen, of course, and she knows that (the mental damage that event caused her is so severe she can’t remove it from her mental obstacle course) but she still thinks about it, to cheer herself up and give some dancing friends for the children who’s training in her head. It’s cute.

Also cute is the second memory vault we get from her, showing her time actually being a badass. We see just how powerful “the strongest levitator” is, and just how strong just being able to fly is, and we get a cute little tease at what could be between her and Sasha. I don’t imagine that’ll ever be reciprocated on his part, for reasons we’ll get into later, but it’s an interesting look into her life. Milla is okay, even with her trauma.

Yo hows about some Psychonuts?

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [8] Taste My Eggs

Video Length: 17:20

Video’s a little short today due to the inevitability of me editing the footage. This was like 35 minutes otherwise and there just wasn’t any footage left to make it long enough to fit my standards. With that being said, lets begin! In this episode, I decide to take a brief moment out to scrounge up the arrowheads needed to get the Cobweb Duster. While doing our hunting we find some cards and scavenger hunt items, meaning it’s not all a TOTAL waste of time. We also find one of the…most odd scenes in this game, of Clem and Crystasl on the lodge roof discussing…SOMETHING. I have no idea what this all means (I do actually but even knowing it, this doesn’t really make all that much sense) and it’s honestly kind of unsettling. And for some reason this ISN’T an achievement, whereas watching Bobby be a stupid person is. Ah well.

After that, it’s off to the Brain Tumbler for further exploration of our weird dream state. Though first Sasha tells us what is wrong with the experiment, the cheap Brain Tumbler he bought is picking up another powerful entities thoughts, mixing Raz and their thoughts together to create that weird jungle pastiche. Dun dun duuun, and such. This was pretty obviously telegraphed in advance, I think? It doesn’t explain all the meat though, especially in other peoples dreams (and by that we mean, exactly one meat flower in Oleander’s head and no one else that we see, though Lili talks about it). Still though, science must be done! We climb the nightmare tower and witness the dream Dogen getting his brain removed, and see that Lili is next!..in our dream, which has no reason to be an accurate representation of what we’re seeing, even if it is getting crosstalk from someone else’s brain. Anyway, Raz decides chasing the brain will be a good idea since it’ll show him what they intend to do with the brains (I…guess this is accurate?). We dive down a chute, and make our way into the enemy mind…

And it is here that we get our next boss fight, as Dogen’s dream brain is attached to the blueprints of a super powerful Think Tank, which is outfitted with all manner of dangerous psychic weapon capabilities! Now, from a pure aesthetic point of view, I do LOVE this boss fight. The area and the tank’s design are all really cool, having a vaguely CG look due to them literally being living blueprints. This is a good use of the “this is a mental world” idea, and one that I wish they did more of. On the otherhand…this boss sucks. It’s tedious and there’s no actual clear way to bait the boss into doing the thing you need so you can hurt it. It’s all basically just one huge waiting game, and that’s never a good thing when it comes to video game bosses. And what’s worse is once this is all said and done, it has a second phase! The second phase isn’t as tricky as the first, but does have some degree of waiting attached to it since it hops around so much. Overall, this game does NOT do boss fights very well, and this is a stellar example of that in action. Eventually, we destroy the dream tank, finding ourselves in the brain that held those blueprints…Coach Oleander’s. Dun dun duuun. Unfortunately, before we can tell Sasha, he runs off on official psychonauts business.

And with that, we’re done for today. I hope you all enjoyed this climactic episode of the game, we’re officially half way done it now if you’re curious. With that in mind, next time is gonna be a little different. Next time…we’re gonna go brain spelunking and clear out Oleander, Sasha, Milla, and the Tumbler’s worlds for all their collectable goodies! Hope to see you there.

With the Brain Tumbler finished, I can finally talk about it a bit more indepthly. It is, as said, a combination of Raz and Oleander’s minds. That’s likely why we saw the bunny (there’s bunnies wandering around the snow area of Oleander’s) and that’s why we’re seeing all the meat everywhere, according to Cruller at least. The forest area itself is an interesting little pastiche of the woods around the camp, a jumble of fears, with some of the plant life taking up a mind of it’s own, or actually ending up being bones and meat like the Figments we saw. We also get to see some hints of what Oleander’s plan is, and we actually got to see that a lot earlier with the episode namer, the memory where we saw that weird bird hatching and riding over the water and then getting into a fun place where it went on a tea cup ride and destroyed everything in sight with brain blasts because oop surprise, it was a brain the whole time and this was Oleander’s plan, hidden away in this little crevice of his mind and abstracted by Oleander! It’s pretty cool! It also explains why we have to fight Censors in that area, they’re likely coming in from Oleander’s mind.

What this doesn’t explain is WHY this is happening, or why the depiction of the nightmare tower and the weird dentist man are accurate portrayals of what is happening, but I guess Oleander is just really details oriented? Who knows, I’m not actually a brain doctor I’m just playing as psychoanalyzing these guys.

Slept in so almost missed today’s video rip.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [9] Brain Blast

Video Length: 24:16

In this episode, we 100% clear the first four levels of the game! We get to collect all the figments and those really really suck to collect since they move around, are barely visible half the time, and sometimes go into the level geometry. I’ve been all over that before, so there’s really not much to say that aside. We also have the Cobweb Duster now, so we can collect the Mental Cobwebs and turn them into cards at a later date. Because that’s all they’re good for, they do nothing else. The emotional baggage at least gets us from concept art when we get all of them. But of course, most important of all, are the Mental vaults. We got most of them on our first run through of these stages, but we missed Oleander’s and Sasha’s second vaults. Oleander’s of course being an intentional miss since oh man it reveals his first vault is a lie! The dude was considered to stubby for any of the military, even the cook staff. That’s embarrassing. I guess the psychonauts must of taken him at least. Sasha’s second vault is also um…really awkward to talk about because it’s one of those inherit dangers of experimenting with psychic powers and I’m glad the game showed it but also not glad because man that’s sure a thing to just put on a character. No wonder he keeps his mind so tightly run.

But yeah that’s all there really is to say on this one folks. I hope you enjoyed my…absolutely chef finger kisses level fantastic artwork I did to make up for the fact that I lost basically all of Milla’s brain’s footage. Don’t worry you didn’t miss anything. Oh, there is one other thing. Stay for the end because the game may of accidentally forced me to start the next plot event so I’ve shown that at the end of this video. Though next time, we’re just gonna run around the camp site at night, so I hope you’re excited for more of THAT at least.

A little late because of rough sleep woop woop!

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [10] Camp Grounded

Video Length: 13:06

Short one today, since we’re just going around the camp ground cleaning up all the cards and scavenger hunt items I missed, which is actually not all that much except for in the Lake area, which hasn’t been explored since we got to it. There really isn’t much to say here, the cool bit about how there’s a scavenger hunt item for each of our basic psychic powers we learn here is pretty neat, though we cannot get the last item on this list just yet as a result of this. Other than that, there just isn’t really much to SAY about collecting in the camp ground. Other than I really, really should of done it directly after beating Milla’s stage so I could do it in the day. Look at this game and how absurdly dark it is. Lightening my screen up itself would likely cause no change beyond making it harder to see in the different direction, and not one single iota of in game options changes how these shadows look because it’s not ACTUALLY shadows, it’s just textures. Adding to that, at night pyrokinetic Bob Cats show up and they’re SUPER annoying since they have a ton of range. Thankfully, once we DO get everything we never have to interact with them or really the hub world in general, so they aren’t MUCH of a threat. But for the times where I must cross paths with then, they’re kind of garbage.

But yeah. That’s it for my collectathon duties! Next time, we return to actually playing stages in this stage based video game…with one of my least favorite levels. Oh boy!

Oh boy, Psychonauts time.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [11] Fish

Video Length: 24:55

Starting in this video, things get a touch more negative than I’d probably like. I’ll try to fix this in the future, but this part of the game is kinda rough for me for a variety of reasons that I’ll get into later. So I kinda lay on the vitriol more than I probably should.

That being said, in today’s episode we use the Batysphere to float our way down to a gigantic air bubble under the water, in search of the horrific hulking lungfish monster that kidnapped Lili, and all the children. We ring the bell of awakening from the old flooded town, and begin the boss fight. The very, very long boss fight in which we have to avoid running into the water walls. We smack boxes of nails so that the lungfish sucks up the nails to hurt itself, and we avoid it spewing out rocks and other boxes at us. A rather simple fight that goes on forever. After that, it’s time for a really lengthy platforming segment where the Lungfish pushes the air bubble around the lake. It’s presented from the lungfish’s point of view and that’s coolish, but for the most part this bit just lasts way too long, and then segues into another nail sucking section that goes into another long running away from the boss part. Thankfully, once that’s done we can fight the Lungfish for real…unfortunately it’s a really finicky mechanic, wherein you must trick the lungfish’s angle to get stuck in a clam, which is far harder than it looks and definitely glitches out at times. Once it’s stuck you can wallop the Lungfish for a bit, until you need to get it stuck again.

After beating up the fish a bunch, we can finally disable it and throw the psychic portal at it to enter it’s mind to free it from Oleander’s control! And what a mind it is…welcome to Lungfishopolis, probably my least favorite level given how increeedibly slow you move. You can’t use Levitation here at all, and all your actions are slow and plodding. Additionally, and this is just me so you’re free to disagree, but I don’t find the comedy in this level funny at all. A lot of it is presented as if this is a real place Raz is visiting, not a mental world, and it just…it doesn’t work. It’s not very good as a mental world and it obviously can’t be a real place, but there you have it. Lungfishopolis. One nice thing at least, we get a “power module”, in fact just the Shield merit badge, and Shield is a super useful psychic ability that can block all damage! We’ll be using it a lot here, and occasionally in the future.

The conceit of Lungfishopolis is that Kochamera, who is very clearly obviously Coach Oleander, is their protector and savior, and we must defeat him to break the mind control this fish is under. We won’t get to it today, but we will rampage through the city killing thousands of innocent not real fish people. I like to think we’ve done good today. But yeah, hope you all enjoyed this, I’ll see you guys next time.

Oh man, more disproportionality angry at fish time.

Zodi Plays: Psychonauts [12] Freedom

Video Length: 26:01

Starting off in the ruins of the prison we destroyed, we finally find our first memory vault! I love the gag that it’s so super duper tiny compared to us…and am decidedly less thrilled about the contents of said vault. The memories are of…the fake construct inside it’s mind that is probably created from Oleander’s mind control device. Which doesn’t make any sort of sense? The memory vaults are meant to be memories…that exist. And I mean yes, I know, we can make fake memories like in Oleander’s mind about his war service. We can make odd, modified, symbolic memories like The World Will Taste My Eggs. But this? This is the memory of…memories. It raises too many questions, and none of them are interesting or good.

Anyway, we stompy monster Raz our way through the rest of the city, fighting all manner of things. Boats with turrets, more hyper electricity, tanks and then slightly more powerful tanks, and of course the thing the Navy is most well known for: their airforce! I actually like this gag, the joke that the Navy has deployed everything BUT boats at us (the news radio never brings up the boats so they’re probably just independent) and it just makes me laugh. This is a pretty frustrating thing to deal with, but since I’ve been diligent about collecting stuff I’ve got upgraded PSI Blasts, which let me ricochet shots! It’s not as good as you’d think, but it is rather effective at destroying these planes.

After dealing with that, we finally make our way over to Kochamera island to fight Kochamera himself. And this boss is…sure a boss. Of all the bosses in the game it is probably the best in terms of taking a thing and executing it, but that feels like a really low bar for the most part. As long as you’re smart with your shielding you cannot be hurt at all. It is…unfortunately mechanically boring, but I’ll take boring and fair over exciting and awful any day. But yeah, we beat up the Jet Jaguar/Ultraman wannabe, freeing the fish from Coach Oleander’s mental prison! We learn the fish’s name, and then dive back into Fishtown USA to get the last bit of figments we need for 100% completion. And with that, the next hub area is unlocked, sweet! Hope you all enjoyed, I’ll see you guys next time for…the level everyone knows about.

In the interest of fairness, here is my attempts at picking apart what the fish’s mental world is like and why. The lungfish running around town are the actual mental image of the fish’s self, split into tiny pieces and sedated by the artifice of the mind control implants. The revolutionaries, terrible at it though they may be, are the parts of Linda’s brain that won’t give up the fight. The Navy are all aspects of this mind control device, defenses attached to it that create psionic constructs within the mental world to combat would be attackers. As for why the mental world itself has memories of a time before the mind control, I have absolutely nothing. Especially given the other memory vault does show the actual reality of our fishy friend. But hey, at least I tried to explain it. That’s more than the game can say.

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I feel like I need to rebut with at least a token defense of Lungfishopolis. Not in gameplay terms - it’s not much fun, and the inability to use Levitation (no doubt a result of the odd physics of the level) is a huge pain - but in terms of concept and style. I haven’t seen enough kaiju movies to know how apt the parody is, but the idea of giant monsters rampaging through cities, random people screaming random phrases, and the giant monsters battling at the end are all well-known elements. As for the meaning of the city and the first vault, that’s what the implantation of the mind control device looked like from within the mental world, just like the Lungfish and Loboto vault showed it from the outside. The mental lungfish lived in a simple forest world, but then the mind control device took the form of Kochamera, which forced the lungfish to build a city with the technology to broadcast its intentions throughout the mental world. The artificiality of it is intentional.

Regarding the slaughter of innocent citizens, Sasha Nein explained what’s going on when Raz defeated his first censor: “It was just a thought I was having.” What you’re destroying doesn’t correspond to anything that exists in the real world, nor are you causing any real damage to the lungfish or her mind.

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I get that it’s just thoughts and not real, but it sure is a lot of blood, is all of I’m saying.

As far as parodies go this is just…fine. I get what you mean with how the city is constructed and stuff, it just still feels WEIRD, but not in a good way, if you get what I mean?

There are a lot of design unfortunate designs decisions, particularly with all the lungfish stuff being a bit too long. The laser tunnel or freighter bit probably could have been cut. That said as a kaiju homage its pretty funny. Out of curiosity did you ever try using pyrokensis on the boats?

I didn’t actually try that on the boats, no. I imagine it would work well (and after certain stages I’ve recorded I think I’m changing my mind on how useless Pyro actually is).

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