For a 12 year old game, Psychonauts has managed to stay surprisingly relevant in the last few years after a successful crowdfunding campaign for Psychonauts 2 and re-releases of the original game on newer gen consoles. Most recently, the Double Fine team is working to bridge the gap between the two games with their latest entry into the series: Psychonauts In The Rhombus of Ruin.
The Rhombus of Ruin takes the series from 3D platformer to a virtual realtiy adventure puzzler. The story picks up immediately where Psychonauts leaves off, starting aboard a plane on the way to save the kidnapped Psychonaut leader, Truman Zanotto. The returning hero Raz is accompanied by some familiar faces, but the team is quickly derailed after a short training segment, which is where the real story starts. Without going into too much detail, the whole team, including Raz, is more or less incapacitated, and it’s up to him to get them out.
This is where the VR element comes in. To save everyone, Raz must teleport from mind to mind to solve a series of puzzles using his own psychic abilities. As you free team members, your abilities strengthen, allowing you to eventually utilize all of your psychic abilities.
Rhombus of Ruin is the first time I’ve played a PlayStation VR game that makes perfect sense for the platform. The teleporting feels natural and comfortable, as do the rest of your psychic abilities, whether you’re setting things on fire with pyrokinesis or blasting guys in the head with your psyblast. The story gives you a reason as to why you’re stationary, other than the usual handwave that it’s used to cut down on motion sickness, and there’s no need argue with it. Even Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, which is by all means a fun rail shooter, seems forced narratively since there’s no reason for you to be on a rollercoaster. Rhombus of Ruin is a joy to play because of the narrative inclusion, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome with a quick 2-3 hour run time.
The main focus of the game is the various puzzles you’ll come across, running the gamut from environmental puzzles to some maze and item based puzzles. They feel like classic point and click puzzles but in a first person immersive world. Most of them involve you finding objects in the room, moving them around, and figuring out the best way for those objects to work together to reach a solution, whether it’s dissembling and reforming objects into different objects to meet a goal or figuring out how to power a bus.
Solving each puzzle feels slightly nostalgic since the idea is an update to the formula that drives games like Day of The Tentacle and Grim Fandango, and solving them is always enjoyable, as the solutions and the game itself are brimming with character. As with any puzzle game, the solutions can be frustrating from time to time, causing you to throw cupcakes at a fat rat for a half hour for example, but they never seem overwhelming. Even if the solution doesn’t click immediately, there’s always a small enough number of items to interact with that you know the possibility is within reach.
The only downside for the gameplay is that it would have been nice to use your abilities more than once. During the intro, Raz is able to use all of his abilities, which is immediately exciting as you’re able to fling flaming rolls of toilet paper around the cockpit of the plane or blast storage compartments with your mental prowess. These powers are quickly stripped away though and only resurface once or twice to solve a specific puzzle. Had they not been available in the intro segment, the limitation would have likely been more bearable because you wouldn’t feel like you were missing out.
Seeing the world from Raz’s perspective is great and something anyone with a PSVR headset should jump into. It feels very much like the original Psychonauts but updated for 2017. The environment is colorful and inventive, taking place mostly in the ‘real’ world with some minor detours for mindscapes. The sound design is excellent too, working well with the headset to form an immersive environment.
Being a fan of Psychonauts helps you to get everything out of the game, but you can definitely play Rhombus of Ruin by itself and fully enjoy it. Double Fine has done a good job bridging the narrative gaps in the story while creating a self-contained episode that needs no further explanation. Plus, at a palatable length and having easy to learn mechanics, Psychonauts In The Rhombus of Ruin is a solid addition to the PSVR library.