Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas and Psychonauts

Happy Christmas, everybody!
I'm about to graduate, I guess. But I don't know if this blog will necessarily end when I do. I actually quite like having a special 'games design' blog.

For Christmas this year, my friend got me a copy of Psychonauts! It's generally considered an underbought cult classic game. I've only played a couple of hours, but I can already see why it gets so much praise. It's one of the most quirky and original games I've played. It's also totally immersive. Everything about the game world seems to have a strange but consistent logic to it, including the visual style. When you play, it feels like you've entered a new world. This is how a game should be. This is why games are such a fascinating medium. Watching a chase in a film is exciting, but it's nothing compared to the opening of Halflife 2, where you're living that frantic chase. This factor of having the player character's situation reflected in the gameplay is what sets games like Psychonauts and Half Life apart. Even as a huge Final Fantasy fan, I have to admit that it's kind of a shame when something really cool happens and you just watch the cutscene of it. In Psychonauts, for example, there's this bit where you get stuck in a weird white space, and you're in in-game gameplay stuck in it while the dialogue goes on over the top as you try to work it out. When you work out you have to smash it and smash your way out, it seamlessly changes to a cutscene to show the consequence of that action. It captures the character's feeling of being stuck and unsure what to do, because the player is stuck too!

Overall, Psychonauts feels like a game where every cool idea the design team came up with got stuffed into it rather than dumbed down or left out by executive meddling. There are issues with the gameplay. The camera and controls can be glitchy, and it doesn't always clearly show where you're meant to be going. The level designs aren't bad, but often the lack of use of colour and lighting to draw attention where it needs to be (as seen put to excellent use in Portal) causes things to get confusing. One good thing I'll say about the gameplay is that it's impressively seamless. It runs very smoothly between 'modes', areas, menus and cutscenes. Oh, and as a final note, it has the same writer as Portal, so, obviously, it's hilarious and full of dark humour.

My friend got it off (good old games) which I hadn't seen before, but it's awesome. They sell good classic pc games from the past 15-odd years for low prices. They have a lot of good titles there, so I'd recommend a look! Especially as there's a sale on! ^_-