You're in a mind. A dream, but it's not yours. You delve deep inside and traverse bizarre alien geometry, fighting off the projections of whoever's subconscious you're in. You open safes to look at their deepest hidden memories, and get to the heart of their deep-seated fear and anger to solve their problems, and in the process, fundamentally change the dreamer themselves.
No, Psychonauts isn't Inception: The Game, released far before we were talking about dreams and cool stunts. It's much more inventive, much more imaginative, and much, much more fun.
Raz is a kid gifted with telekinetic and telepathic powers. His father doesn't approve of him using those powers, but he sneaks into a children's camp for Psychonauts anyway.
What are Psychonauts, you ask? A Psychonaut is like an astronaut but, predictably, specializes in exploring the mind. A Psychonaut can kill your personal demons, or can render you catatonic and paralyzed. A Psychonaut can remove any external invaders from your mind, or can be an external invader themselves. A Psychonaut is like James Bond, if he had Dominic Cobb's tools, as well as Jean Grey's powers.
Of course, with such a scene set, there are infinite possibilities for plots to move forward, for things to go wrong as well as be set right. And with such a conspiracy brewing at the sidelines with mysterious brain stealers, it's up to Raz, our intrepid telepath, to set things right with his attitude and his permanent DreamWorks-ish upturned eyebrow.
When you're in the real world, you've got predictable geometry and level mechanics, but in the life of the mind, anything goes. From colourful racecourses to cubes defying gravity, from neon neighbourhoods with surreal imagery to spiral neighbourhoods suspended in space, Psychonauts has it all, and it provides several tools for you to accomplish your goals.
And that's not even it. With a full and colourful cast of varied characters with deep seated psychoses represented through their mindscapes, there's never a dull moment to spare.
And that makes the fact that it wasn't very popular at the time of release all the more sad.
While it was a critical darling, getting great scores by various sites and publications, and it's loved, even today, by pretty much everyone who's played it, the sad truth is that it wasn't played by many at all. Growing up, you'd never find a Psychonauts box set in India, and with the small amount of PC gamers here actually going for digital retail, there are very few people here even aware about it.
So what even is the point of this downer article?
Consider it an endorsement.
Consider it an extremely hearty and willing recommendation from a gamer jaded by the tons of game releases today with no heart, no aim to innovate, and no reason to exist other than to make money.
And hey, Steam and gog.com keep giving discounts on it anyway, so why not take advantage of the savings and get some hipster bragging rights while you're at it?
And if you do end up liking it, the creators just had a successful publicly funded campaign that will help them make a new one, so you won't have any lack of Psychonauts to play anytime soon!
So go ahead. Try it out. Who knows, it may end up being one of your favourites as well.