I had always planned to watch PsychOdyssey. I'd been aware of it since the start of 2023, and only heard good things about it, but it just kinda faded into the background. Recently, though, when me and my partner were stuck for something to watch, I remembered this documentary and suggested we give it a shot. Having now seen all 32 episodes, I can safely say it's the best thing I've watched in ages. If you've any interest in how games are made, you need to watch PsychOdyssey. It's practically required viewing.
Created by 2 Player Productions, which previously documented the creation of Broken Age in a series called Double Fine Adventure, this is a similarly comprehensive look at the development of Psychonauts 2. The series begins by recounting how the original Psychonauts came to be, then kicks things off proper just as work begins on Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, the PSVR stopgap. From there, PsychOdyssey runs chronologically through every step of Psychonauts 2's production, from the very first notes in Tim Schafer's notebook all the way to the finished game.
It's an astonishing achievement. Filmed in Double Fine's San Francisco studio over seven years, it's by far the most insightful look at how a game gets made. You see countless meetings about level design, characters, and art; numerous staff members joining and leaving the studio; troubles with funding; extremely WIP footage of the game at every stage of its development; demoing at E3; and so much more. Every step of the journey is captured, and it's a fascinating fly-on-the-wall perspective that's all too rare in the industry.
I loved it from start to finish. What I love most about PsychOdyssey is that it's more than just a making of Psychonauts 2. Obviously that's a big part of the documentary, but it's more about the people building the game, the creative process, and how the studio collaborates to craft a very complex thing. It's very real, and very honest.
Without spoiling too much, I admire how willing it is to show the low points as well as the highs. Here's a game that's a sequel to a much beloved cult classic that's close to Schafer's heart, and being developed by a combination of team members who've been at Double Fine since the beginning and new hires with their own ideas. There are clashes, not everything works out, and it can get surprisingly emotional.
That being said, it's not just some huge bummer; there's a lot of laughter and positivity throughout the series. The warts-and-all approach presents viewers with a surprisingly turbulent development process that sees Double Fine go through a publishing deal imploding, being acquired by Xbox, the cancellation of E3 2020, and of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Even through all of that, as well as difficulties with staff, meeting deadlines, and ensuring the game is "Psychonautical" enough, it's amazing how optimistic and positive the team remains. It's pretty inspiring.
The only reason you might not want to watch it is if you haven't played Psychonauts 2 yet, as the documentary is obviously full of spoilers. However, before you let that deter you too much, I'll say that I hadn't played the game before watching PsychOdyssey, and I wasn't bothered by what was shown. Much of what's discussed and displayed is of course a huge work in progress, and some of the things you see don't make it into the final game. If anything, I feel as though the insight will enhance my time with the game itself; I'll be able to put a name and a face to nearly every aspect, down to even the camera system.
The entire thing is free to watch on YouTube, and it comes highly recommended. Again, if you've any interest in game development, it's the most incisive and transparent documentary on the subject you can watch to date. I'd also argue that even if you're not particularly interested in how games get made, it's still a compelling and well-told story of a team's multi-year journey to see something through. Get this watched.
Have you seen PsychOdyssey? Do you agree with Stephen, or are you incorrect? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.