With the release of Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, anyone who's fallen in love with the original Psychonauts in the past 12 years will finally get the chance to dip back into the unusual world of Razputin “Raz" Aquato and his friends. As long as you happen to own PlayStation VR that is.
In this PlayStation exclusive, the third-person platforming of the original has been replaced completely by a first-person adventure game, which sees you interacting with its world by using a number of psychic abilities. Unfortunately, there's no PlayStation Move support, so you'll be interacting with objects purely by looking directly at them and then using a controller to trigger your powers. While the absence of the immersion improving Move controllers is always disappointing, the way the game's mechanics have been implemented not only work perfectly well from a VR perspective, but they also gel nicely with Psychonauts lore. After all, if you could move items with your mind, would you use your hands?
The shift towards an adventure game structure is also understandable given that this title supposedly acts as a story bridge between the first game, and the sequel – due out at some point next year – and it picks up the story exactly where the original ended, with Raz, Milla, Sasha, and Lilli all jetting off to save the kidnapped head of the Psychonauts: Lilli's father, Truman Zanotto.
After ending up in the titular Rhombus of Ruin, Raz must use his various psychic abilities to work his way through a number of linear puzzle environments in order to get to the bottom of just who has Truman in their clutches. Solving each puzzle will generally involve using clairvoyance to shift Raz's viewpoint to other lifeforms – there's no free movement available to you – while using his powers to poke, move, blast, and set fire to any interactive elements until you work out just what you need to do.
Generally these puzzles are extremely easy as the game makes your objective abundantly clear via frequent dialogue prompts. They also fail to take advantage of the unique opportunities that the shift to VR provides, and when a tired old box shifting puzzle arrives on the scene, your suspicions that there's nothing exciting in store on the puzzle front will only be confirmed.
While this title is a distinct letdown from a gameplay point of view, the presentation and writing at least manages to recapture the style, personality, and humour that was a key part of the original game's appeal. The heavily stylised design of the both the environments and characters looks great up close in VR, and it'll come as no surprise to Psychonauts fans that a door to the damaged psyche of someone's mind results in the most eye-catching and visually arresting sequence in Rhombus of Ruin.
Complementing the distinct art direction is the game's dialogue – brought to life by the strong voice cast – which delivers some great lines, not only in terms of amusing observations about the crazy setting but also some nicely constructed character moments that'll give Psychonauts fans a definite kick. While it probably won't make you laugh out loud – and your level of familiarity with the original game will certainly influence its impact – the script is clever and amusing enough that it'll probably end up being the carrot that entices you to get past the less than satisfying gameplay.
With the story lasting a mere two hours, it's easy to blast through the whole thing in a single sitting, and when you also take into account that there's very little replay value – outside of going back to pick up the odd Trophy you might have missed – the value proposition for Rhombus of Ruin is a shaky one.
Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin delivers a passable tale that manages to capture the quirky aesthetic and humour of the original game. But its high price point, pedestrian puzzles, and failure to do much of interest with VR makes it something of a letdown overall.