Anyone who likes shooters is going to hate me for saying this: the best game of the 2000's for me was Psychonauts by Double Fine Studios. It came out in 2005 for the original Xbox, achieving critical acclaim, but never selling very well due to its sheer kookiness and poor marketing. Over the ensuing years it has become a cult classic, with downloadable re-releases on Xbox 360 (sadly no longer available). PC has allowed gamers who missed out on the original to bask in its ageless glory.
What sort of game is Psychonauts?
That is a tough question. At its heart, Psychonauts is a third-person puzzle-platformer chronicling the adventures of Razputin (Raz for short), a young psychic with a heart of gold on a quest to save the world. Most of it is set at a summer camp for psychic youths that Raz attends, and over the course of the game he will find himself playing a strategy board game against a miniature Napoleon, running from bulls in a city that looks like a Spanish velvet painting, and climbing upward through a seemingly never-ending circus tent made out of meat. It is a little bit of everything, is never boring or repetitive, and oozes charm from nearly every second of gameplay.
Double Fine apparently still isn't satisfied with Psychonauts' success, so they've decided to do the impossible: improve it. They released a new version of the game on Steam last week that features cloud saves and achievements, fairly generic Steam-based features that shouldn't impact anyone's enjoyment of the game too much. The new version is also the first available for Macs via Steam or the App Store for the first time ever, allowing even more gamers to enjoy this masterpiece. To make up for taking so long, Double Fine has also created a Vault Viewer App that allows Apple users to view the in-game Memory Vault collectibles on their iOS devices.
But Double Fine also went back and did something really special. Something that will make anyone who has played any previous version of Psychonauts will leap out of their deskchair and dance a merry jig:
They made the Meat Circus easier.
The Meat Circus is the last level of the game, and is one of the most obnoxiously hard levels ever. It is a vertical platforming marathon with far too many enemies who shoot far too accurately, plus jumps that require absolutely perfect positioning. For a modern game, its difficulty is unmatched by anything I've played. It took about four hours over two sittings for me to get through it the first time, and almost made me hate a game that had consistently enthralled and amazed me for the first 90% of it.
I haven't gotten a chance to play the improved version of the level yet, but if that portion of the Psychonauts isn't so infuriating the game will be all but perfect. My hopes are high enough that I bought Psychonauts on Steam despite already owning an original Xbox copy. At a mere $10, I would buy it five more times. Do so now.