The Game Awards may celebrate the incredible accomplishments of the industry every year, but its show in 2015 captured the attention of fans for a different reason, and it started with an unexpected trailer.
Because of the enthusiasm of Psychonauts' fans, Double Fine Productions announced a sequel to the cult classic platformer. There was a slight catch though: the studio needed a little help from fans to make Psychonauts 2 a reality.
Instead of taking the usual approach and crowdfunding the game through Kickstarter, Double Fine did something slightly different. The studio chose to create its own crowdfunding platform known as Fig, where a fan's investment can earn them exclusive rewards and even shares from a game's sales.
With the goal of raising $3.3 million to fund development, over 24,000 backers pledged towards the campaign to raise over $3.8 million in total a month after it was announced.
But even with this success, the game was far from being a reality.
The story so far
Following Razputin "Raz" Aquato, Psychonauts was set in a fictional government training facility under the guise of being the Whispering Rock Psychic Summer Camp. Raz gets caught up with the Psychonauts, a group of characters that are gifted with psychic abilities like telekinesis among several others.
What unfolds is a tale that would make most go, "how do they even come up with this stuff?" Like a few classic cartoons, Psychonauts definitely has the vibe of being created under a drug-induced trip.
After learning of a plot to harvest the brains of other Psychonauts to create a psychic-powered army, Raz delves into his friends' minds to free them of his enemy's clutches. The end of the game sees the Psychonauts—Raz included—rushing off to save the leader of the Psychonauts, who has been kidnapped.
Last year, Double Fine released Psychonauts the Rhombus of Ruin, a virtual reality game developed for PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. Rhombus of Ruin picks up where Psychonauts left off and follows Raz's journey to save Grand Head of the Psychonauts Truman Zanotto.
Where Psychonauts 2 picks up
Psychonauts the Rhombus of Ruin was meant to act as a bridge between the first and second game's narratives, but so far Double Fine has been pretty tight-lipped about Psychonauts 2's narrative, aside from a few tidbits of information.
Double Fine founder Tim Schafer held a Reddit AMA a couple of years ago where he noted that Raz would be heading to the Psychonauts' headquarters, his lifelong dream. While there, however, he ends up finding "several things strange about the organization."
"While Truman Zanotto was missing, several changes to the direction of the organization were made by his second in command," said Schafer. "Funding was cut from traditional psychic research and peacekeeping, and redirected to unorthodox, fringe endeavors, including the discredited practice of necromancy. Raz soon uncovers sinister things at work in the shadows of Psychonauts headquarters, including double agents and evils of the past. Raz's own family history plays a pivotal part in the story, and Raz must confront the roots of the curse placed on his family once and for all. And also deal with this whole "girlfriend" term and what it really means."
Once again controlling Raz, players will use several of his new psi-powers to explore the minds of others and take on its 3D platforming challenges. We don't know what its levels will contain yet, but rest assured they'll likely be just as eccentric as those in the first.
A taste of the action
Dubbed the First Playable, the gameplay seen in the video above is an early look at what Psychonauts 2 will end up being. Commonly referred to as a "vertical slice," this is an area created to fully test the game with all of its assets working together. These include art, animation, tech, design, cinematics, and more. This way the team can view a playable chunk of gameplay as intended in the final product, aside from any tweaks that will come along during the development process.
The First Playable isn't meant as an advertisement for fans so much as it is for the development team themselves. Double Fine gets to view everything working harmoniously to see what needs to be adjusted as they continue to develop and iterate towards the end goal. This isn't a polished build by any means.
But if you can't take my word for it, take Double Fine's: "This doesn't mean that we now have a final area made to shippable quality, there's still a lot of work to be done. It does however represent a fully playable area that has all the things a level of the game should have: elements like player movement, combat, quests, experience, UI all working together with scratch dialogue and audio, some rough visual effects, textures, lighting, even a cut-scene. This means we can iterate on these systems so they can be as good as possible for the final game."
As for its art style, Psychonauts 2 is more of the same. It's retaining the series' aesthetic while modernizing its visuals for a release on current-gen platforms. You're still getting the cartoony stylized graphics, they'll just be sleeker at a higher resolution with better texture quality.
It has become fairly well known that in June 2019 Double Fine was bought by Microsoft and added to the ever-growing Xbox Game Studio. You needn't worry. In a YouTube video as well as a Twitter post, Double Fine has promised that Psychonauts 2 will still release on all platforms, including PS4, despite the company joining Microsoft. This does mean Psychonauts 2 will more than likely be the last Double Fine game we see on PlayStation.
When can you play it?
Currently, Psychonauts 2 doesn't have a firm release date other than sometime after this year, which is about as vague as you can get.
The only way to pre-order Psychonauts 2 so far has been through its Fig crowdfunding campaign. By pledging $39, you would get a digital copy of Psychonauts 2 on Windows, Mac, or Linux via Steam. For an extra $18 on top of that, you could have gotten a digital download for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. And if you wanted to shell out some more cash, you could choose higher tiers to receive extra rewards and content.
Unfortunately, since the Fig funding has ended with all the tiers sold out, there have been no other pre-order options so far. The newest target for release simply states 2020. We know it's coming, if slowly.
Updated June 2020: Sadly, we don't know the exact release date for Psychonauts 2 yet. 2020 has not been an easy year for game releases so far. This might be a good time to replay the first Psychonauts in preperation.
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